The number one reason you shouldn't get divorced has nothing to do with what the Bible or anyone else says. If you have kids, you should do everything you can to avoid divorce. If you haven't had kids yet; seriously consider whether or not divorce is an option before you procreate.
My church-going parents separated when I was about eight years old. They told us on Boxing Day because they didn't want to ruin Christmas. After they broke the news, we bundled into the car with my mother and went up to the beach for our annual summer holiday.
That wasn't the year that Christmas broke however. It was another 364 days until Christmas broke the year after. I realised there was no way to make everyone happy. No matter which way you cut it, one parent would miss out on the idyllic family Christmas I assumed everyone else was having. There was the miserable handover and the annual battle of who would have us Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve.
That was more than 20 years ago and every Christmas since has fractured along the same old lines; not for lack of trying to hold it all together. Because we all end up with ideas about how Christmas 'should' be and spend our lives trying to make it so.
It's us, the children of divorce that bear the brunt of Christmas pain. Here's how it works—in case you're lucky enough to have escaped this increasingly common scenario. We try, we negotiate, we strategise—but eventually we give in and realise once again Christmas is broken.
As children, whether you are responsible for the negotiation of how to spend the Christmas break or not, you're still aware of the impact. The trade-off between Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and multiple sets of grandparents quickly becomes a weight you must carry without speaking. A desire to try and please or appease the pain that's reflected in the adult lives around you. You carry this weight into your adult life. Sometimes the weight doubles when you have to negotiate not just two family commitments, but three and sometimes four if you form a partnership with another child of divorce.
I've seen parents try and fail, try and succeed to ensure that the focus remains on the kids; but even that can turn nasty if you look to your kids to fulfil your emotional needs. Maybe you've felt the pressure of a parent and their expectations to complete the ideal Christmas or family celebration.
I have a plea: seriously consider divorce before you have children.
Are you ready for the lifelong commitment to loving both your partner and your children—or are you wondering if you can make it work? If so, stop. Go no further. While divorce is never the solution anybody wants, it's still better than having kids without the serious commitment to make your relationship work. The hard graft business of love and forgiveness along with the romance. Either get help and work hard or get out now.
Here's the thing: Christmas lost all its romance but I'll spend my life trying to make it magical again. Trying to fix the family dream that broke. Trying to make stolen moments with each of my parents feel like special memories and endeavouring to find my own peace and solace on a day that just reminds me of all the pain, loneliness and sadness we live in each day.
My favourite Christmases are those I've spent alone travelling or ended the day with friends who are orphans, ex-patriates or with friends who've been alone for many reasons, including their own divorces. They are the best because there's a kind of truth in people who share their vulnerabilities being together by choice.
Here are the lessons I leave you with this Christmas.
Marry well, do it once. If you must start again, then do it by not giving up, choosing to let go of your pride and getting help to learn how to communicate.
If you break up, realise it's broken. If you have kids and your relationship disintegrates for any reason; don't let your kids become the negotiators or the burden bearers. Take responsibility for your own emotion and don't try to make your children responsible for fulfilling any of your grown-up emotional needs. Kids need parents; parents need to look out for their kids not use them. Realising that something is broken is the opportunity to reinvent how Christmas will look in your family, without the grief of constantly trying to erase the cracks. The cracks are permanent; you must fill them with gold.
Let go of the romance. Christmas is full of ideals and dreams about family togetherness, miracles and wonder. It was all made up by hopeless romantics and dreamers. The real Christmas story is about hope through pain, fear, despair and aloneness.
My prayer is that your Christmases are full of hope and empty of shallow romance.
Tash McGill wants to change the world by helping people to think differently. Sometimes described as courageous by her friends, she frequently says aloud what no-one else is brave or stupid enough to say. She also finds writing third-person biographies uncomfortable.
Tash McGill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tash-mcgill.html