Longevity of love


Bayview isn’t one of Sydney’s most glamorous suburbs. Unless you’re a dog. Because Bayview is about the happiest dog place on earth. At least that’s my observation as a non-dog. Everywhere you look there are dogs chasing balls, leaping into the water or running full speed on the sand. Tails are wagging, happy doggy faces are smiling and pure unadulterated canine joy is everywhere on display. 

We have to care for those going through the pain of divorce—mirroring Christ’s grace in act and attitude. But we also have to do a much better job of avoiding divorce in the first place.

My wife and I were wandering happily up to Bayview recently when we came across a most confronting scene. At first, we couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.

Standing next to an open door of a very nice convertible BMW was a handsome man, aged around 30, with a fixed gaze. Parallel to the BMW was a very large, new Toyota Landcruiser. Inside was a good-looking woman, also aged about 30, with a grim expression on her face and both hands on the steering wheel. And in the back of the BMW were two young girls, absolutely bawling their eyes out.

The man turned and told the girls in a passionless voice to get out of the car. I looked at Leisa. She looked back at me as if to say, “I don’t get what’s going on either.” 

One of the girls grasped a teddy bear. Tears poured down her sweet little face. Maybe she was five. Her older sister—maybe seven—was also weeping but gave no comfort to her little sister. After a firmer command, this fragile parade of pain made its way from one vehicle to the other. 

As we walked past the Landcruiser, I heard the sobbing little girl say in the most heartbreakingly anguished voice, “I hate you Mummy . . .” And that’s when it clicked. This scene of misery we’d inadvertently stumbled upon was the “handover”. Dad’s custody was up, Mum’s had begun.

The despair shook me. So much so we had to stop and pray for those precious girls. These poor little souls who didn’t ask to be born are having their hearts shredded by the very people who are most responsible for protecting them. And we prayed for the parents. To find the love they’d lost. To open their hearts. To support and cherish each other. To make their family a taste of heaven, rather than a living hell. 

In 1921, Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University began a long-term study. When he died in 1956, his study, appropriately now titled the “Longevity Project”, was continued. And in 2011, its findings were published. Rachel Clark, writing for Psychology Today, states the study “is, perhaps, one of our very best and most unique scientific studies on health, wellbeing and long-life”.

What this study found is genuinely alarming. The researchers compared the longevity of people who had a parent die when they were young, with those whose parents divorced, finding: “Children from divorced families died almost five years earlier on average than children from intact families. Parental divorce, not parental death, was the risk.”

Death is horrifying. But it doesn’t destroy everything you love and believe in. Divorce does. Death robs us of the one we love. Divorce robs us of love itself.

Eileen Wolpe writes that divorce is  “. . . the destruction of together-dreams, forever-dreams, family-dreams, love-dreams. You cannot leave a marriage without doing violence to all those things, no matter how amicable the divorce”.

Of course there are cases of physical abuse and sexual infidelity. But the Australian Government’s Institute of Family Studies found, when examining the reasons for divorce, less than 6 per cent involved domestic violence. The number one reason? “Communication problems” followed closely by “incompatibility”. Tragically, according to Hawkins and Fackrell’s summary of the research, most of these marriages would have become happy again—if the family had stuck together.

We have to care for those going through the pain of divorce—mirroring Christ’s grace in act and attitude. But we also have to do a much better job of avoiding divorce in the first place. And that begins with talking honestly and openly about God’s guidance for marriage, the enormous emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological and economic toll divorce inflicts on everyone involved and how to have a good relationship. Let’s encourage, mentor and pray together more, and grieve a lot, lot less. Let’s master the art of the longevity of love (click HERE for more).

James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.