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I Think There Are Irreconcilable Differences In My Marriage
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I Think There Are Irreconcilable Differences In My Marriage

As far as my own marriage goes, the differences are many. I don't think they can all be reconciled, and I'm sure I wouldn't want them to be.

We had a conversation about divorce on Twitter a couple of nights ago. It led to several interesting emails and messages. Here's one of them:

Well this is where I get off, Mr. Walsh. I read your Twitter explosion about divorce and have now come to realize that you really are a hopelessly judgmental person. And arrogant (not to mention ignorant)! I will no longer be following you or reading your tirades...

I agree with you on so much and have appreciated you taking a stand for the sanctity of marriage (not many people will do that anymore!). But to equate divorce with gay marriage and to call all divorced people evil sinners shows that you are just out to feel “holier than thou.” You’re out of your depth on this issue, young man. I was married for almost 14 years before I divorced my wife. You’ve been married for 2. Don’t be so sure that you won’t discover irreconcilable differences in your marriage like I found in mine. Some differences really are irreconcilable and severing the relationship is the only recourse... Sometimes there's no changing the differences you have with a person. Divorce happens. And without no fault divorce I would be held hostage in a loveless and broken marriage. This is not what Jesus would want, I assure you!

...I have been happy since my divorce and my kids are happier. I am still a good Christian and I go to church and help my community in many ways. I might be older now but I have not given up on love or the chance of meeting someone who is the right match for me! Reading your words just makes me realize how full of judgment and bitterness you really are. Son, you have intelligence but no wisdom. I pray for you and for your marriage. I hope you never have to deal with what I dealt with, but we’ll see…

Remember pride comes before the fall!

-A former supporter

Dear Former Supporter,

First of all, call me Matt. My Dad used to call me "son" when I was in trouble for something, but based on context clues, I'm going to assume you aren't him. He would never abuse the exclamation point as you've done here, and he's been married to the same woman for over 30 years.

When I talk about marriage, I draw from his and my mom's example -- and from the Bible, which we'll get to in a moment -- because, you're right, my personal experience is extremely limited (although I've been married for three years, not two, thank you).

Second, I never equated divorce with gay marriage, per se. I equated the effect that our culture of divorce has on the institution with the effect of gay rights propaganda. I'll explain more about that later.

Third, I never said divorced people are evil sinners. I never even came close to saying that. I now submit for posterity the entire content of my "Twitter explosion":





Fourth, maybe this is my lack of wisdom speaking, but it seems odd that you talk about "irreconcilable differences" like they're things that might pop up in a marriage, and when they do they're sure to destroy it. It seems obvious to this arrogant, judgmental fool that every marriage has irreconcilable differences, and that divorcing because of them is a bit like demolishing your backyard pool because it keeps getting you wet when you jump in it.

Irreconcilable: so different that agreement is not possible.

Marriages are defined by the differences. Without them, you'd just be married to yourself, which is a concept that actually exists now because people are ridiculous and the world is insane. So is there ever a point in any marriage where all differences have been reconciled? Will any married couple ever be able to lean back in their comfortable chairs and say, "well, looks like we are in full agreement about everything"? And what happens then? Do they win a stuffed animal at the prize counter? Have they beaten the game? Have they ascended to another plane of human existence?

Are they in a permanent state of marital bliss?


Or maybe marital boredom?

It's fortunate, I think, that no couple will ever in reality achieve the scientific feat of becoming clones of each other. What a tedious marriage that would be. What a horrifying prospect that I might one morning wake up in bed next to myself. Some people spend their whole lives wishing for that day to come, but we have a word for those people: narcissists.

As far as my own marriage goes, the differences are many. I don't think they can all be reconciled, and I'm sure I wouldn't want them to be.

For one thing, my wife is a woman and I'm not. If that ain't an irreconcilable difference, I don't know what is.

Overall, I'm frankly quite happy she's not a man (that's a romantic message I might put in the next Valentine's Day Card: "Thanks for not being a dude, honey!") but the chromosomal incongruities can spawn their own difficulties. Whether we're debating a movie to watch on a Friday night, or she's getting annoyed with the beard clippings sprinkled all over the bathroom sink, or we're having one of those classic "men don't talk about their feelings" communication breakdowns, gender differences create conflicts. Always will. Always have (see: Genesis).

But it also created our kids, which is pretty awesome. And everyday it creates an opportunity for me to grow, learn, and better understand this strange and fascinating species known as "woman."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Of course, our divergences go beyond gender. Along with being a woman, she is in fact an entirely separate human being. I'm frequently reminded of this fact when she says things I wouldn't say, and thinks thoughts I don't think, and has opinions I don't have, and behaves in ways I wouldn't behave. She has her own free will, her own conscience, her own dreams, desires, fears, pet peeves, strengths, flaws, and appetites.

She's an extrovert. She's a small talker. She's a morning person. She likes to watch HGTV and come up with ideas for new decorative thingamajigs to hang on the wall in the kitchen. She puts the Wiggles CD on for the kids and sings along to it. She's unreasonably irritated by the sound of a knife scratching against a plate. She hates long car rides. She gets mad at movies if they don't have happy endings. She loves seafood and eggplant parmesan. She likes wheat beer. She cries at life insurance commercials. She's gets weirdly freaked out by geese. She likes frogs. She bites her finger nails. She's empathetic. She's incredibly friendly. She loves to be around people. She'll laugh with you or cry with you because she can really feel what you feel. She has a sense of style. She knows how to match colors. She listens. She's not afraid to be vulnerable.

In other words, she's the exact opposite of me in so many ways. The list could go on for 10 pages, and I'm sure it'll be a hundred more by the time we reach our 10th anniversary. I'm not like her. I'm different. She's different. And that will never change, nor do I expect or want it to.

Sure, we have things in common. We're both pretty disorganized and forgetful. We both procrastinate. We both drink way too much coffee. We're both hardheaded and stubborn. These are what you might call "irreconcilable similarities," and they probably cause more trouble for us than all of the differences combined.

I know I lack the wisdom and the resume to teach anyone anything -- especially if the subject is marriage -- but I do know that this institution isn't hinged on compatibility and commonality, no matter what Match.com insists. Marriage is a sacrament built on love, sacrifice, and self-denial. Our love for our spouses should mirror Christ's love for us, and I can't help but notice that Christ never said, "Sorry guys, but we're just not that compatible. Looks like I won't be able to die for you. I think I just need to work on myself for a while, you know?"

You say you're a Christian. I believe you. Well, look at what the Bible says about love. And not just what it says, but what it shows. It tells a story of a Love that is painful and beautiful. One that gives, fights, sacrifices, cries, laughs, screams, dies, and lives again. We can choose to have this sort of marriage or not, but it is a choice, either way.

[sharequote align="center"]We have made it easier to sever the marital union than it is to sever any other kind of union. [/sharequote]

Now, if you still find what I'm saying to be so offensive and out of bounds that you never want to read my words again, so be it. If we can't be friends then you have every right to divorce yourself from our reader-blogger relationship. I only wish it wasn't as easy to end a marriage as it is to click the "X" button at the top of this page. That's my radical thesis on no-fault divorce: we have made it easier to sever the marital union than it is to sever pretty much any other kind of union. And that's not good.

There are more protections in place to prevent your employer for dumping you for frivolous reasons than there are to prevent your spouse from doing the same. This might not strike you as slightly out of balance, but, respectfully, I think your judgment is clouded by your desire to rationalize your own decisions.

I would make a joke that perhaps spouses should unionize to protect themselves against a severance of contract without cause, but then I realized that spouses do unionize. That's sort of the whole point of the marriage thing. It's a union. A permanent union. Permanence, indeed, is an essential facet here. It's part of the definition. Don't believe me? Fine, you shouldn't. I'm an idiot. Don't listen to anything I say. But listen to Christ.

But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a 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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. (Mark 10:6-9)

And this is the same Lord who "would have wanted" you to divorce? Here he is quite plainly saying, "no, not only do I not want you to, but you literally can't." You are one flesh. What God has joined, let no one separate. No one. Marriage is not soluble, He teaches.

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Luke 16:18)

Is Jesus full of "bitterness and judgment"? Or is He explaining something about the nature of marriage?

Which is it?

Is He wrong or is He right?

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10)

These aren't vague parables. These are commandments declared directly to us. We might find them burdensome or inconvenient, but there they are nonetheless.

This is how the epidemic of divorce and remarriage eats away at the foundation of the institution. Gay marriage attacks the procreative aspect of marriage, while divorce attacks its permanence. Both dimensions are essential to the whole, and without either, the thing itself cannot exist.

Really, divorce is a greater threat because it is ubiquitous and more likely to scandalize. A person probably won't decide to become gay and marry a same sex partner just because they see other people around them doing it, but they may very well be tempted towards divorce for that reason. Or, perhaps more commonly, they avoid marriage altogether, having been convinced by the previous generation that the institution "doesn't work."

We live in a society where, gay marriage aside, the marital contract has been reduced to something transitory and impotent. Through divorce, we've said that marriage is not, despite our vows, "until death." And it's not, despite what many Christians say, necessary for creating stable, healthy families.

It's been hollowed out, emptied of its substance, and remolded into a pointless little toy. A phase. A novelty. A hobby. Something to complement our lifestyles and personal ambitions, but never to challenge us, or change us, or make us work or sacrifice or compromise or forgive.

This is what the kids who are so "happy" with their parents' divorces are learning and internalizing. Often, the cycle repeats itself. Having come of age in an environment where marriage is synonymous with betrayal, surrender, and abandonment, they are more likely to grow up and make their own kids similarly "happy" one day.

Maybe you're right, though. Divorce isn't a threat to the institution of marriage. It isn't a threat in the same sense that cancer is no longer a "threat" once it's already metastasized on your liver. Now it's a disease actively consuming you. The time to worry about the "threat" has long passed.

But the good news is that divorce is not some external force hunting you in the night and leaping upon you without warning. The chance of getting divorced remains at zero so long as neither spouse decides to go that route. Divorce is chosen, not contracted like a virus. The same can be said for love.

You say that divorce just "happens," which I suppose means love just "happens," and then it stops happening and then maybe it happens with someone else, until divorce happens again. And here we are floating helplessly in the air, blown in one direction and then another and then another. All of these things are "happening," and it's nobody's fault but the wind.

If you can't see how that attitude is destroying you, there's probably nothing I can say to convince you.

I am, as you say, arrogant, ignorant, and unwise. You're not wrong about that. But, I promise you, I will be with my wife until the day one of us dies. I can say that. I can declare it with certainty. My wife comes from a divorced family, so when I knelt to propose to her those few short years ago, I told her that I will never leave her. And when we stood at the altar, I vowed it again with God as my witness. Make whatever insinuations and predictions you want, but I will never break that promise. Never.

And that's not pride, sir, it's just marriage.

Thanks for your support, however fleeting.



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