Going through divorce can affect perspectives on marriage

Calgarian Rebecca Dempsey was a big advocate for marriage, until she began going through the divorce process two years ago.

“I don’t believe in marriage anymore, in the legal sense anyway,” said Dempsey, a mother of three. “To me, divorce just cost a lot of money and was pointless.”

Dempsey was with her ex-husband for 12 years and they were married for seven, and said divorce is something that she never anticipated, as she had every intention of making her marriage last forever.

“I was a big fan of marriage, and to me it was ’til death do you part. It was something you worked at. Nowadays it’s just too easy to walk away without consequence,” she said.

Dempsey blames her divorce on her and her ex-husband not understanding each other, and not accepting each other’s different perspectives. Their three children were born close together and required a lot of her time and attention, making it difficult for the pair to spend time together.

She said the lack of quality time was hard on their marital bond, and made it difficult for them to make it last.

Making a marriage last requires effort from both partners, but what else must we do if we want to stick it out?Dempsey, seen here with her three kids, said she no longer believes in the legal sense of marriage.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Dempsey

Psychologist and marriage counselor Nathan Cobb said we learn how to be married by watching our parents, friends and the media, but suggests that there are flaws in using second-hand experiences as models on how to be successfully married.

“Marriage is hard work and requires a conscious effort to nurture it and keep it strong,” Cobb said. “Successful marriages are built on a foundation of mutual respect, active love, friendship, commitment, being open and unflinchingly honesty with each other. Not acting unilaterally.

“It’s important to spend time together, engaging in rituals of connection and a few shared interests, and having common goals and values.”

So if divorce is the option, what comes after? Cobb said the idea of splitting shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all.

“Divorce is not the end,” he said. “For many who have left unworkable or hopelessly nonfunctional relationships, divorce can represent an opportunity for new rewards and fulfillment.”

Dempsey said that for her, divorce brought positive change, as she joined a divorce group, met people who had gone through a similar experience to hers and gained a huge friendship circle that has opened her eyes.

“I’ve seen that there’s more to life than marriage,” Dempsey said. “There’s more to life than being a couple.”

Can it be possible to take advantage of all that life has to offer, while being tied down?

Grant McDonald also went through a divorce, but said it only caused him to anticipate the possibility of a second, more fulfilling marriage.

He said his failed marriage didn’t taint his perspective on love and commitment, and he ended up finding his soul-mate. Now happily in the 11th year of his second marriage, he said he has a pretty good idea of how to make it work.

“We really understand each other and want the same things. We make sure we take time for each other and support each other’s dreams,” he said.

Dempsey, meanwhile, has been separated from her ex-husband for two years now and admits that she can “never say never” when talking about the possibility of getting married again. But for now, she’s not entertaining the idea, and is enjoying her independence.

“I really don’t mind not having to do the laundry if I don’t want to, you know?” Dempsey said. “I like not having to pick up someone else’s socks at the end of the bed.”

skarg@cjournal.ca