Frequently Asked Questions about Family Restoration
- My husband and I are unhappy with our marriage, but unconvinced about divorce. What can we do?
- How can we protect our children during divorce proceedings?
- I know someone considering having an abortion. What can I do to help them?
- Is it realistic for me to expect my teenager to practice abstinence?
- How can an attorney and counselor at law help families be rescued from marital breakdown?
Q. “My husband and I are unhappy with our marriage, but unconvinced about divorce. What can we do? If we want to try reconciliation – where do we begin?”
A. It's no secret that you and your husband are like most Americans, living in a culture inundated with divorce - and that might make you feel like it is the only option. Even within Christianity, the divorce statistics are staggering. It is not, however, something you and your husband have to endure. The key is, how can it be avoided? How can we regain our original marital joy?
You both are already at a good point of recognizing there are options, and that you don't want to quit on your marriage too soon. It may also, however, be a reality that you have lost trust in each other, and that may have led to lessened positive emotion in your marriage.
Emotions are the result of actions. So here are some steps to take:
- A good first action is to meet with a marriage counselor. Get your emotional and practical issues out on the table for full view. Only then can a positive plan be put in place, and the healing can begin. There may be things you each need to turn away from to turn back to your marriage.
- Consider working through "The Love Dare," either separately or together, or even starting with watching the movie "Fireproof." It may sound cliche, but it could be a good non-threatening beginning (especially if Step #1 was too intimidating).
- Consider tools to help you work through your issues. This blog has several pages at the top of the home page (e.g. NoDivorceToday, WhileWeHeal, etc.) that are there for your assistance. Click on them; use them; make them work for your situation.
- Consider a legal tool to hold yourselves accountable to each other and to your own objectives. One such tool is the reconciliation agreement. The reconciliation agreement is similar to a typical separation agreement with one glaring difference – the focus of the agreement is to see the married couple reconcile their issues rather than cut their losses and get out of the marriage. No one ever enters into a marriage hoping it ends in separation and divorce. When two people get married, there is hope that the union will last until death parts them. The reconciliation agreement is about restoring the hope that was a foundational element of the marriage in the first place. See our past blog post by guest blogger Julie Maxey where she writes about a lawyer's perspective on these reconcilation agreements.
- Consider services that may assist you and your spouse. Marriage Savers is one example. Marriage Savers offers a program called Retrouvaille that has been known to bring couples back from the brink of despair. To learn about this program go to www.retrouvaille.org, or to learn of a Marriage Encounter program near you call 1-800-795-LOVE (795-5683), or United Marriage Encounter - 1-866-483-8889. Marriage Savers also offers crisis marriage alternatives with a DVD series called "Choosing Wisely…Before You Divorce," which saves more than half of marriages in crisis, and offer “Marriage 911” option for separated couples. This program is so effective that reconciliation happens 50%-70%. All of these options are available at www.MarriageSavers.org.
Finally, Jesus Christ is the great physician and healer in all matters - physical, emotional, marital and even legal. No matter a person's religious beliefs, divorce is never a sought experience. Marriage is a sacred institution given to man by God and it is something you can fight to protect. These steps unapologetically promote staying together and working out issues in a marriage instead of throwing it all away. Jesus Christ has something very unique to offer you – hope.
A. Children are indeed the most harmed by their parents' divorce. "The kids will be alright" is an outright falsehood. In fact, studies have shown that kids suffer greater risks in substance abuse, earlier sexual activity, teen suicide, even earlier death when their parents divorce.
If you have already begun the divorce process, the best you can do is work to spare your children the worst. At the top of this blog is a page marked "Spare the Child." This 20 minute video will give you first hand results of divorce - from kids who experienced it - and are still feeling the effects decades later in their own lives. It will also give you the beginnings of professional advice of how to help your kids make this transition as smoothly as possible.
Also strongly recommended is the page at the top of this blog entitled "UpToParents," which will provide you and your children's other parent with the most hands on practical assistance possible. Please remember that if you have children, your divorce is not just between you and your spouse - it is changing the lives of your children forever. Understanding that is the beginning. Helping them cope will last the rest of your lives. It is possible, however, to help your children be spared as much as possible, if you take these simple steps, and consciously keep these facts in mind in the days, months and years to come.
Q. “I know someone considering having an abortion. What can I do to help them? Where should I send them?”
A. It sounds like you know someone who is surprised and upset by a pregnancy. That is nothing new - as half of all future parents feel that way initially. Having a legal chioce to end that pregnancy is somewhat new, and presents a challenging choice to the lives of the child's parents. Whatever choice they may, they will all will carry the repurcussions of that choice with them for the rest of their lives.
The first thing you can do is be understanding, a good listener, helpful, and considerate of all the changes they are facing.
The next thing you can do is be available to help them to think and talk through the options. They have five options: abortion, parenting, foster care for a time, adoption, or open adoption. Four of these options do not terminate life, and do not end in long term emotional trauma. Connect the person to a good pregnancy counseling center, that can provide sound services, both emotionally, and practically, and for both mother and father, and even extended family if needed. I highly recommend Bethany Christian Services (www.bethany.org), as they provide a pragmatic array of services for both parents, their families, and the child, no matter what option the parents choose.
Third, see this blog's posts on abortion and its risks. Help this parent consider alternatives to abortion. Connect her (and him) with a pregnancy counselor who fully understands each option and how it works. Talk with them about the abortion choice really being about family life. Read this blog's post about this connection.
Choice is really a battlefield that harms women who are pregnant more than we comprehend. Read more about that here.
Finally, future family relationships will be affected by every decision the person makes, and the ability to have children in the future may be uncertain if the choice for abortion is made. Read more about this here.
As you can see, this blog can provide you with a lot of assistance to help someone considering an abortion. Most importantly, thank you for not condeming this person, but for caring for them through this very real crisis in her life.
Q. “Is it realistic for me to expect my teenager to practice abstinence?”
A. This is an important question. Teens tend to watch a lot of visual entertainment from several types of media, and research has shown that media plays an important role in adolescent sexual socialization. This role may lead to a greater acceptance of minors acting sexually, and an eventual desensitization and acceptance of sexual relationships. Early sexuality, however, tends to destroy childhood ideals of family.
More importantly, early sexuality serves to lessen the importance of personal and relational commitment. A study in 1991 of college freshmen showed that "about two- thirds of men (66.3 percent) and slightly more than one-third of women (37.9 percent) support the idea of sex between people who have known each other only for a short time." See American Freshman annual study. As sobering as such statistics may be, they indicate that not everyone is sexually active, though many are. A 2009 study revealed that “46% of high school students had sexual intercourse and 13.8% had four or more sex partners during their life.” See http://www.sadd.org/stats.htm. Still, that means that more than half of all teens are not sexually active. Everyone is not doing it. Ask your teen to view Worth Waiting For, at www.worthwaitingfor.org. Many teens face more consequences than they realize in early sexual activity, and knowing there are other teens out there making a different choice can be empowering.
Early sexual activity can also weaken a future marriage by preferring cohabitation, or simply "hooking up." Published research in this area is showing more and more the potential for sabotage a person brings to their own future hopes for a happy marriage by choosing cohabitation or sexual activity rather than delaying those relational aspects until marriage. Some of that research includes: Lynne Marie Kohm and Karen M. Groen, Cohabitation and the Renaissance of Marriage, 17 Regent U. L. Rev. 261 (2005); cited in Lynn D. Wardle, What is Marriage? 6 Whittier J. Child & Fam. Advoc. 53 (2006); Nancy Levitt, Pitfalls and Promises: Cohabitation, Marriage and Domestic Partnerships: Bibliography: Cohabitation, Domestic Partnerships, and Nontraditional Families Annotated Bibliography, 22 J. Am. Acad. Matrimonial Law (2009)( noting the exploitation of women and children); Thomas Jacobs, 2 Children and the Law: Rights and Obligations §6:2; Elizabeth Hodges, Private Ordering: Will you “Contractually” Marry Me? 23 J. Am. Acad. Matrimonial L. 385 (2010)).
A parent can only demand a certain amount of behavior from a teen - but the teen can choose to make good choices for him or her self. The parent's responsiblity is to empower the teen to make good and wise decisions, helping that teen toward self discipline and personal resposibilty that he or she chooses for themselves. This personal responsibility is the key. Also, see previous posts to this blog here.
Q. “How can an attorney and counselor at law help families be rescued from marital breakdown?”
A. Not all family law attorneys are predisposed to divorce. Some consider their duty to the public as one of helping a client explore all alternatives to a legal problem, and being part of the client's best avenue of action. Attorneys can immediately put a client in touch with services to assist them and their family members. They can also help you sort through your legal issues, and determine which will be addressed by a court, and which can be addressed by you and your spouse.
Most importantly, an attorney can help you consider a legal tool to hold yourselves accountable to each other and to your own objectives. One such tool is a reconciliation agreement. The reconciliation agreement is similar to a typical separation agreement with one glaring difference – the focus of the agreement is to make it clear that the objective of the parties is to work toward reconciling their issues, and potentially their marriage, rather than simply to cut their losses and get out of the marriage. No one ever enters into a marriage hoping it ends in separation and divorce. When two people get married, there is hope that the union will last until death parts them. The reconciliation agreement is about restoring the hope that was a foundational element of the marriage in the first place. See our past blog post by guest blogger Julie Maxey where she writes about a lawyer's perspective on these reconcilation agreements.
Also see one lawyer's experience in recommending marriage counseling to one couple who thought their only rememdy was divorce, namely Attorney Matthew Sexton’s video on the left side of this blog. These perspectives will help you to see the difference Christian attorneys can make in family law.
Indeed, the entire focus of this blog is to restore families, even in emotional loss, and especially in difficult legal circumstances. Family restoration is not only possible, it is often the best avenue for healing for everyone involved.