Kathleen Rose Kennedy

Divorcing ourselves from parents’ mistakes

By  Kathleen Rose Kennedy, Youth Speak News
  • December 12, 2014

It is difficult to imagine my parents no longer loving each other and living separately. It would be heartbreaking. At whose place would I choose to celebrate Christmas?

Divorce is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body.” It is a traumatic and often messy way to end a marriage.

People get married for a myriad of reasons, but what it fosters is far more important: children. But in a divorce, the kids don’t always have the opportunity to choose who they want to live with or know when they’ll see the other parent. Kids must then cope with this loss of stability.  

I’ve never been exposed to divorce. As a 20-year-old student, whose parents celebrated their 25th anniversary in September, it is hard for me to fully grasp the idea of divorce. So many of my friends were brought up in a divorced household that now, as 20-year-olds, many almost perceive it to be the norm. It hurts to know your parents are no longer in love, to falsely believe you could have been the cause of their separation or to face the financial trouble that hits families when they split. And emotional scars can be permanent.

On March 29, 2012, Zosia Bielski wrote in The Globe and Mail that the number of new divorce cases has decreased by eight per cent between 2006 and 2011. But that could be due to the decrease in marriages, a rise in single-parent families or an increase in common-law unions.

Common-law unions are domestic partnerships without marriage. In my home province of Quebec, in 2006 a third of couples were in common-law unions as opposed to 18 per cent of all Canadian couples, according to “What makes it fall apart? The determinants of the dissolution of marriages and common-law unions in Canada” by France-Pascale Ménard in the April 2011 McGill Sociological Review. Common-law relationships are preferred in Quebec because they are viewed as easier than marriage. Couples don’t need to make a firm decision or commitment or say “I do” in front of family and friends. Instead, they decide to live together and if it doesn’t work out, they can always leave instead of filing for divorce.    

Since the first Divorce Act was passed in 1968, our society has been more tolerant of separation and remarriage. But the splitting of common-law unions, with or without kids, can be just as traumatic.   

While it’s said that 30 per cent of marriages end in divorce, the dissolution of common-law unions is even higher. Even when a child is present in a common-law union, the incidence of separation is higher than in a marriage, wrote Ménard. Furthermore, when you factor in the economic vulnerability for children — and sometimes women — after a separation, people should return to marriage instead of common-law unions.

Scripture says “man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10: 7-9). Has my parents’ generation forgotten the vows they made? Did we forget what marriage is all about? For people my age, marriage seems to be life affirming and love enabling, truly an idyllic situation maintained by compromise and negotiation between couples.

It is easy for me to lecture about all of the wrongdoings that my parent’s generation and those before them have made, but as a bystander, I would like to believe that the children of these divorced couples have taken away an important message from these incidents: learn from the mistakes your parents made and realize the importance of the sacrament of marriage.

(Kennedy, 20, is a second-year student at McGill University in Montreal.)

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.