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The Divorce Mindset

The Divorce Mindset

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“We’re getting divorced. But we’re doing it amicably, with mutual respect.” When ex-spouses (or ex-es) describing their divorce sound like “we’re withdrawing our offer on the house we looked at Thursday,” you can get the idea that they never invested enough to be hurt by the loss. But listen again: you’ll hear emptiness in the voice; pain in the heart. Yes, the stigma is lost. Yes, some koffee-klatch and water-cooler conversations have an “everybody’s-doing–it” attitude. No. No one who went through divorce thinks it’s painless.

But if pain-free divorce is a myth (in the shattering), divorce is a reality, an option more than it ever was. To be sure, the option was always there. But as my father puts it, so was a tourniquet. When the body is facing death you use the tourniquet; otherwise it can do more damage than good. (Many first aid courses no longer teach tourniquet application because of its overuse.) Complementing the legalization of divorce by the Torah is the frustration of the Talmud: “When husband and wife divorce, the Holy Altar sheds tears.”

Why bother with gut-wrenching screaming matches when you can just stroll away? Husbands and wives are not the only things getting divorced. Divorce is not just a legal proceeding; it’s a way of life, a mindset. You got in a fight with a friend? Send them a letter telling them why you’re not going to have anything to do with them anymore. Your family gives more sting than honey? Don’t feel bound or stifled by them. And divorce, disengagement, isn’t always such a bad idea. But when to walk and when to talk is not a question that gets a lot of attention. It can’t. It‘s too easy to walk: Why bother with gut-wrenching screaming matches when you can just stroll away?

There is no pat answer as to when to hang up the phone or when to give back the ring. But the tourniquet overuse is worth reflection. For marriage to work, divorce cannot be considered a possibility. Call it the D-word. The ineffable, unthinkable. Forget that it exists. Relationships can’t work when breaking-up is knocking on the door. Not with spouses, friends, cousins, brothers, in-laws, grocers or gardeners. (Tip: Treat everyone as your most important client.)

And a fight does not necessarily mean a break-up is on the way; it can just as soon (if not just as easily) be a stepping-stone to a balanced, strong, fulfilling and happy relationship. Better an acrimonious relationship than a non-combative drifting. Not always, but when in doubt throw out the tourniquet. And remember tears are being shed.

Rabbi Shimon Posner is the director of Chabad of Rancho Mirage, California.
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Anonymous Anchorage, AK March 25, 2015

My story After 30 years in a marriage that actually ended 10 years earlier, I am divorced. My ex suffered with bi-polar depression (I’m still not sure if this is true). Even after years of all kinds of doctors, vacations, therapy, and family intervention, he would play along just enough to get back to his bed and sleep for days on end. When he was awake, he was abusive and dishonest. Our youngest was in the sixth grade when my ex stopped caring. I worked two jobs and parented the children, all the while praying for him, our marriage and our family; doing everything I could think of to help him.
In 2013, his father died and my ex awoke as another person, a very angry, hostile, volatile, wild and abusive person. He did horrible things and was openly unfaithful to me and to our family. My health suffered, I lost my job and the children (now young adults) pleaded with me to divorce him as they in their younger years had seen glimpses of this anger when I was away on business travel. Our four children are very loving and supportive of me and they are respectful yet realistic of their father. I am grateful for this, as it is a testimony of my efforts to allow them to love him without the weight of my painful situation. When I filed for divorce, I was fearful of the unknown, yet resolved that I had given it my all.

He is now living in another state with his family and I am in a good place, I’m learning to live and love again. I am getting to know who I am without the weight of sadness, deception and darkness in my home and in my life. I regret that my marriage failed and that there was nothing I could do to help him, but I am at peace knowing I endured many trials to try to make it work. I concluded that marriage requires two people who are willing to strive to make it work and he had stopped 10 years earlier. During the divorce process, he admitted to me that he was just using me; he cares for me in his way, but he just really wanted a free meal ticket, a nice home to live in with no responsibilities, free lavish vacations and to see his children every now and then (not too often). I agree with the writer of the article that correlates divorce to amputation, I needed to amputate to save my own life and my soul. No one will ever know the hell I went through to get to the point of amputation. I have learned a powerful lesson in judging people, as no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. Reply

Anonymous August 16, 2013

The truth is told As a single person, it is very difficult to find and keep friends. My ex left after 22 yrs of marraige. We have two children who are now adults. Neither one of my kids talk to me and I have no contact with my ex. The divorce was not my choice and it has destroyed my family.

I have friends but they leave if you say the wrong thing. I had a so called Messanic friend who quit keeping in contact becuse my life has been very challenging this past year.

He asked what I did to create the issues. I was diagnosed with leukemia? I was assulted? My daughter had a baby I have yet to see...well that is my fault. I told her off for treating me poorly, my sister was diagnosed with Breast cancer, a position I worked for 8.5 years to train for was given to someone else w/out experience. I now train her. Anyway, friends should stand by each other but if things hit the fan they run. People don't value friendship or marriages anymore. I don't understand it at all. Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg August 16, 2013

I have been fighting a husband who wants a divorce and have a strong belief that if the problems between us are not sorted then the children will carry the burden with them - we are currently seperated but I still think that the work has to be done and then it is up to Hashem to decide if he wins we get divorced and if I win we stay married but are more compatible than we have been - I guess I believe in working through the tumor so to speak and making it well rather that amputating the arm. Reply

Scott Cunningham Boca Raton, FL August 15, 2013

A feeling of lack... Divorce is a feeling of lack that one is suppose to feel as this is judgment in a loving way by G-d. It's negative energy that we as humans send out into the universe that is now biting us in our hind quarters. As I did today with my girlfriend I eructed my negativity into the universe by feeling hurt in turn I hurt another and failed my test. I should know better by not falling into Satan's trap. Sending negativity is so final, like gossip. How do we retrieve it, we cannot, well maybe some but not all of it. I spoke bad of another human being, one of G-ds creations, I must realize by doing this I have spoken bad of G-d the Creator. When one is in a relationship of any kind we should not speak or even think ill of others. As in a marriage we should give unconditional love and not disparage each other or face what the Holy Zohar teaches, it is what it is. Divorce is life's lesson from sending negativity into the universe, something we all must try hard not to do to anyone. Reply

ND london August 28, 2012

which parsha is this connected to? Please can you connect this to the parsha. thank you. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI July 28, 2011

The Divorce Mindset Some people get divorced either because they think it's the ONLY option or they don't believe in marriage counseling.

Divorce is NOT always the answer, and husbands and wives need to talk about their situation. Reply

Hava NY, NY September 9, 2008

So true and so unfortunate that in our society today so many people are walking away from relationship difficulties ( even with close family) rather than trying to fix them.

My Parents are war survivors and our relationship due to the trauma they sufered in he war and afterwards can be difficult and from my point of viewas their only daughter , even abusive. Thank God, though the dark moods don't keep us from communicating with each other daily. And after all, the Torahis very clear that I have to honor respect and take care of the Parents who nurtured me to maturity regardless of what they say. I'm very glad I followedthe Torah's guidance on this because in the past there were times I was suffering at their hands and was tempted to turn my back ( and urged to do so by some well-m,eaning friends) . But even a few weeks of coldness felt so wrong in my heart - I could not do it- and when I read the Torah on the subject I knew I m ust not. Now our relationship is so much better Reply

mike ibeabuchi Lagos, Nigeria September 9, 2008

The Divorce Mindset Many people get married because they have been made to understand that its the Right Way, not that they Believe it is! After a traumatic or unfulfilling Marital experience, they just wan't out because they need the fresh-air being Single again promises. But soon they realize they are exposed again! So they consider going in, with the same or with someone else. But this time, they'll look, not jump! Its all about learning. And we are all different. Reply

Chaiya Philadelphia, PA September 9, 2008

Divorce I was once told that if there a difficult decision to make, to sit in prayer and connection with God and if there is great angst about the decision, to wait and work on the problems. If there a sense of peace with making the decision, this is a God directed decision and to go ahead and make it. Even with the difficulties and upheavals of the divorce process, and even with a decrease in the material life style, I am peaceful with my decision. Reply

Moishe September 9, 2008

Divorce I, too, enjoyed the tourniquet analogy.
We're married 21 difficult years. At times I don't know if its the best thing. I guess that at these times the reason I stay married is because I don't know if it's the best or worst thing. I tend to think that its not the worst. And anyway, since I'm never 100% certain one way or the other, it just seems easier to stay. The complex set of problems a divorce causes where there are kids should give everyone major pause. Reply

Chaiya Philadelphia, PA September 8, 2008

Divorce After 40+ years of marriage and the continuing decline of my health from a vacant, empty and abusive marriage, I am in the process of divorce. There is a great grieving. My children, my daughter in particular, is just beginning to talk with me again. My grandchildren, 13, 10 and 6 ask their innocent questions and I answer as respectfully to their grandfather as I can. No, this wasn't a capricious decision. It was made with lots of prayer, meditation and counsel. It was made to save my soul and my life. Don't be so quick to judge. Most people, even my doctors, are cheering and expecting my health to now improve. My friends and family ask, "Is it rude to say congratulation?" Still I grieve. Whatever material losses occur, I am saving my soul and my life. Reply

Nelly Rabinowit bethany ct, ct September 8, 2008

divorce. tourniquet...great analogy...I had one, and after 30 yrs I didnt have a term for it....Great job!

DO an article on people who have trouble getting married. I would love to get your view. Reply

Matthew Hirschhorn Hollywood, Florida September 8, 2008

divorce i have been married over 31 years. i loved every minute of it -- my wife is a special person and we have 4 fabulous now grown) kids and four absolutely fantastic grandsons age almost 1-5.

My wife is now a Family Therapist trying to hold families together--she is one of few who are family friendly (most family friendly therapists are either Orthodox Jews or Christians).

Their religious commitment to family values helps things to work out in favor of the family.

Commitment is a BIG issue. Our next door neighbors who pray at our shul are getting divorced after less than a year--her 4th marriage his 2nd.

They are still "friends" they say have dinner together etc.....they just had no commitment to marriage or each other!

My wife has spoken a few times at a local Chabad about this. Reply

George Pugh September 8, 2008

divorce I have been married for nearly 40 years, and it has been a delight. It simply takes time to make the investment to simply get to know another person.

On the otherhand never forget that many marriages are not at all, and what you really get is a contest where the harder and less needy person prevails and the other endures, what often can be close to a living death.

I would think that it would be less common if people showed more care, rather than going into it with the idea of just getting a 'starter spouse'. Reply

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