2006 Smart Marriages keynote: "Breaking the Cycle of Divorce"
Pat Love, EdD

It is not an exaggeration to say that since I have been here I have been through the most difficult year of my life. If you had told me this time last year that I would be going through a divorce, I would have said “I’m sorry you have me confused with someone else.” And yet, here I stand. My heart has suffered; my health has suffered; my family and friends have suffered. I thought seriously about not coming to the conference this year; and there are those who believe I should not have come. People who love me believe I should not have come because it would put undo stress on my already stressed condition. Others believe I should not have come because my divorce has undermined my credibility. So why did I come?

I came for the same reasons I’ve been coming every year for the past ten years.
I came because the institution of marriage is extremely important to me.
I came because I believe in marriage.
I came because the soul-healing love that Bev and Tom Rogers speak of is still the longing of my heart.
I came because I believe that marriage is the best environment to raise children.
I came because I want my children and grandchildren to have healthy marriages.
I came because I want a happy marriage to be available to anyone who wants it regardless of social or economic status.
I came because marriage is much bigger than the success or failure of one or two people.
And I came because I am in hopes that my experience, as well as my research can be of benefit to you and those you touch.

As John Van Epp just said: “When pain is our teacher, the question is: are we good students?”

In this spirit, I am here not only to offer you the findings of my research, but to offer my pain as a teacher. I have learned a lot in a year; some things I’ve learned from experience, other things I’ve learned from my study—I’ve come to share it all with you. So what have I learned?
•    I have learned that people who say divorce is the easy way out—probably haven’t been divorced.
•    I have learned that no-fault divorce is an oxymoron. First of all, whether you are at fault or not, people will ascribe fault to you. Also, in this day and age if one person wants a divorce—you will be divorced. You can slow it down if you have enough time, money or credit—but you will be divorced.
•    I have learned that when you do your best, it doesn’t prevent pain but it does prevent remorse.
•    I have learned that love is blind—but the neighbors aren’t.
•    I have learned that during rough times your belief will get you through—and this is ultimately what influences your children.
•    I have learned that there are some things in marriage one person can change—and some things that take both people to change.  One person can change communication patterns; one person can stop an argument; one person can pour more love into the relationship; one person can be a more receptive sex partner                                                                                                                                                              
•    One person can do a lot, but one person cannot do it all.

You can’t take insulin to change your partner’s diabetes.
You can’t take an antihistamine to clear your partner’s allergies.
You can’t take Prozac to lift your partner’s depression.
You can’t stop drinking for your partner.
You can’t make enough money to satisfy a compulsive spender.
You can’t create enough sexual pleasure to satisfy a love or sex addict.
You, nor the kids, can be perfect enough to prevent the rage of a rage-aholic.
You cannot be interesting enough to distract a work-aholic.
You cannot reason with an unreasonable person.

•    I have learned that we still have a long way to go in teaching The Truth About Love; simple truths such as:
•    Infatuation is not love. From my experience I would say infatuation is the cause of 70% of all divorces.
•    Chemistry is not love.
•    Sexual desire is not love.
•    Sexual desire has as much to do with hormones as relationship harmony.
•    We don’t know the truth about love; that you can be with the perfect partner and have little or no sexual desire depending upon your physiology.
•    And if your thyroid is imbalanced your partner can’t give you enough love for you to feel it.
•    Once your stress level reaches a certain point you cannot be intimate. The primary source of stress, by the way is multi-tasking (and women are some of the worst offenders.)
•    Another truth about love is the deepest moments of intimacy and connection occur when you are not talking.
•    In fact talking makes many matters worse not better.
•    Another truth about love is: relationships are about so much more than communication. Sociopaths are great communicators!  
•    Additional truths related to love:
•    One in 25 people have no guilt about lying and deceiving.
•    One in 25 people have no guilt about being physically or emotionally abusive.
•    That one in 25 people has no guilt about keeping the family in fear because of unpredictable mood swings
•    One in 25 has no guilt about exposing their partner to sexually transmitted diseases which can cause gynecological and urinary problems, not to mention cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS
•    The truth is one in 25 people has no guilt about gambling away the family’s financial resources
•    One in 25 has no guilt about depleting the other person’s retirement account for their own person gain.
•    The truth about love is: without proper guilt of ownership there will be no change.
•    Truth is: love is not enough. 80% of couples who divorce say they still love each other. Commitment to marriage has to include a commitment to being a decent human being to live with.

•    As I said, I have learned a lot this year. I have learned that divorce is not the enemy of marriage; in fact divorce protects the integrity of marriage. There are those who are not married because they refuse to make a mockery of the institution or to live without integrity.
•    I understand how threatening a statement like this can be. No matter how you slice it, the divorce rates are scary. We are living in fearful times personally and globally. In fearful times, black and white answers can be a comfort. If you are against the war you are against our country. If you are for the troops, you are for the war. Demonizing anyone who disagrees with us creates a sense of order and safety; however, as a mother of a son who was an Army helicopter pilot during the Persian Gulf War, I’d be happy to take you to lunch and explain how a person can be for the troops and question any war. As far as I’m concerned my son laid down his life for my right to take issue with black or white thinking.
•    I contend that divorce is not the enemy of marriage, lack of accurate information is the enemy of marriage—and we are not through learning. Even research can be misleading because marriage and divorce are multi-variate. You cannot reduce either to one common denominator. Statistics predict for groups better than individuals and correlation does not equal cause. For example statistically speaking, married people are fatter than single people. Does this mean that marriage makes you fat? Or is being fat a constraint that makes you stay married?
•    Do we have all the answers? No. There are still important areas for research. For example:
•    Marriage can be greatly influenced by factors other than your partner. Do you know that the Gottman’s four predictors of divorce: criticism, defensiveness, withdrawal and contempt are also classic symptoms of depression. When you lack serotonin, you cannot hold a positive thought and your partner doesn’t drive you crazy, it’s a putt. And these behaviors are not during the infatuation stage.
•    If you are familiar with Steven Stosny’s work you know that the greatest predictor of male spouse abuse is unemployment. Did you know that 40% of males who experience a career or job loss or major set-back never get over it. The most common coping mechanism is compulsive and/or addictive behaviors to elevate self-esteem. Now every two out of three college students is female, which greatly increases her earning power. In thirty-three percent of marriages, the woman makes more money than the man.
•    Another influencing factor in your marriage is the internet. Kathleen, Jon Carlson and I just completed a 23-hour DVD course entitled Love: What You Need To Know, and the last segment we taped was specifically for military families. The internet has enabled military couples to stay in touch during deployment. But the internet is also a factor in 50% of relationship problems. Fifty% of people on the internet lie about their age, weight, job, gender and/or marital status. 20% of the people going on-line will experience a clear negative impact to their life and consequently their love life. 11% of people on-line become compulsive or addicted. Again, does this mean that the internet causes the problem or are certain people predisposed to addictive behaviors?
•    Another factor that influences marriage is basic demographics. For example, there are only 89 African American men for every 100 African American women. Fifty percent of African American males do not graduate from high school; of those 72% are unemployed. You do the math.
•    We still have so much to learn about marriage. As we continue to learn I suggest we borrow a phrase from Frank S. Page, the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention who recently said “I believe in the Word of God, I’m just not mad about it. Too long Baptists have been known for what we are against. Please let us tell you what we are for.”
•    I love that and I suggest that we follow this advice.
•    Let people know what we are for.
•    Let people know the joys of marriage.
•    Let people know the comfort marriage offers.
•    Let them know how wonderful it is to be with someone who knows that you like the down pillow instead of the foam.
•    Let them know that holding your wife’s hand gives you the courage to go forth and do great things.
•    Let them know that your husband’s snoring can be music to your ears.
•    Let them know what it is like to go through chemotherapy with a loving person by your side every step of the way.
•    Let them know about the supportive spouse who sleeps in a hospital chair so you won’t wake up alone during the night.
•    Let them know the joy of having another person in this world that loves your children and grandchildren as much as you do.
•    Let them know that love is about making someone happy, not someone making you happy.
•    Let them know that there is a love so deep, so strong that it survives death.
•    Let them know marriage is not just for perfect people but it is a perfect solution for a world that longs for peace and love.

Breaking the Cycle of Divorce
By Kathleen McFadden

Many people have asked me over the years, “What’s it like being Pat Love’s daughter?” I’ve always said something like, “It’s awesome and I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful mother.” Ask me that same question today and my reply is a little different: “I’m the luckiest daughter in the world and so grateful to have Pat Love as a mother because she saved my marriage. She saved my life.”

I’m quite new as a professional in the field of Marriage Education, but I’ve gained invaluable experience learning from all of you in this field and through my own 12-year marriage. Never before have I been such a devoted believer in marriage education, and furthermore, I have never been so thankful and blessed to have learned first-hand through the wisdom, teachings, heartache and love of my mother.

Today I’d like to share with you a little bit of the knowledge and life experience I’ve gained over the past several years, and how dedicated I am to helping other young couples enjoy the many rewards of marriage and, even more importantly, break the cycle of divorce.

As a daughter of divorced parents I always promised myself I would never put my child and family through the pain and loss I have endured. I wanted to be as certain as possible to pick a man with whom I could spend my life, because divorce would never be an option for me.

So I made a very conscientious choice in choosing my husband, Devin. In fact, upon meeting him in college I told my best friend, “He’s the kind of guy I’m going to marry!” I would like to take credit for having a keen judge of character and discerning ability for weeding out undesirable mates; my mom would later enlighten me and explain “It’s no wonder you’re attracted to Devin because he’s just like your father.” (Luckily that’s a good thing and not at all a bad thing for me.)

Thank goodness my mom could see what a perfect match we were for each other because it took a little positive intervention from her to keep me from making the huge mistake of letting him get away. Looking back now, it’s no surprise to me that current research says parents have the best predictive validity in determining a successful match for their children. Couples themselves don’t have predictive validity after 6 months or even a year together. So if you marry for love, be sure to consider how your family and friends feel about your mate.

It takes a whole lot more than good mate selection to make a marriage last. In a recent study, researchers reported the ideal time to marry in terms of relationship longevity is between the ages of 23 to 27, which has been surprising to sociologists. This is a vital piece of research because the growing trend among the 20-to-30-somethings is that they are focusing more on career and accumulation than long-term commitment. They are waiting longer to get married

But here’s some advice to the young and wise: the longer you wait, the more you lower your odds for finding your idea of a perfect mate because the pool of available and desirable partners diminishes with age. In your early 20’s you may be in school or at least socializing with other singles. Everywhere you look there are more potential mates.

But by your mid 30’s half your age group has found a mate, and you are now in a pool of 20, 30, and 40-somethings looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. Many individuals are finding themselves in the “Whoops, I forgot to get married” position. This certainly isn’t a life sentence for single-hood because you can marry at any age, but it is a loud wake-up call for young adults who do plan to marry and want statistics to be on their side for a long marriage.

Although my husband and I did get married during that ideal time in our mid-20’s, we unknowingly made a big mistake during those critical first years that almost cost us our marriage. When couples marry it is so easy to get caught up in the whole engagement process and wedding festivities, only then to be consumed with the ensuing accumulation that comes with starting a new life together. So many couples get distracted by daily living and lose sight of what’s most important: making their relationship the priority.

I certainly got stuck on that speeding treadmill—we got married, bought a new house, filled it with furniture and electronics, traded in old cars for new ones, bought a new boat, newer cars, had a baby, and then moved into a bigger house and filled it with more stuff we didn’t need. All of this, of course, came only at a huge cost of both of us working long, stressful hours in high tech just so we could earn and spend more money to buy things we didn’t need, and spend less time together.

I’ve learned the hard way that money can’t buy the happiness that comes from feeling close and connected with my husband, and couples who don’t focus enough on each other do so at the expense of their marriages. It almost cost me my marriage because what I didn’t realize at the time was all the stress from working so hard and not spending enough time together slowly drove a wedge between us.

Our disconnect wasn’t noticeable for a long time because we got along well, didn’t really argue or fight much, and our communication with each other was just fine. On the outside it looked like we had the “successful life” anyone would want. But the cost of this so-called good life was dear. Our distance and disconnect inevitably led me to a place of complacency, an inability to feel anything positive from our relationship. We had definitely grown apart, which is the cited cause of 80 percent of divorces.

It’s no wonder I found myself spending more and more time with my friends, on the computer, chatting and texting. And it’s no wonder my husband and I would spend our free time on weekends and evenings doing our own thing, separating us even further apart emotionally and physically. And it’s also no wonder I ended up in my mom’s office sobbing because I was so unhappy. I couldn’t believe this was my marriage, my life. I really believed I would be able to escape the legacy of divorce in my family, but at that crisis point in time, I finally understood what it must have felt like for my parents.

No one wants to go through life unhappy and stressed out, second-guessing all of our choices, and no one wants to feel trapped in an unfulfilling relationship, only staying for the sake of the kids or due to financial constraint. That’s not the marriage I signed up for; I don’t think that’s a marriage anyone signs up for. Despite all the relationship advice I’d read and learned, I knew what I felt in my heart—or rather what I wasn’t feeling in my heart—and I was terrified to think divorce was the only path back to happiness.

At that time I really started to understand why the divorce rate in our country is about 50%, and why almost half of all divorces occur within the first five years of marriage. Marriage is tough, and we are a nation plagued by a sense of entitlement that always keeps us looking for a better option. And when you feel so unhappy, your marriage and your partner are the easiest things to blame.

When I was at my lowest point, I didn’t think I could ever be happy in my marriage again. In fact, it was so bad that I didn’t even know if I wanted to be happily married to my husband again. Logically I knew that didn’t make sense, but my feelings were so powerful and overwhelming I didn’t think I could ever change my heart. I thought, this must be my legacy as a child of divorce.

Well, thanks to my mom’s incredible help, support, and hard love, and my husband’s unbelievable courage, I am living where I believed I could never live again—with the same husband, my daughter’s father, in an amazing, happy 12-year marriage.

So how did I climb out of that deep, dark hole to get from there to here? My mom and I go into great detail about this in our Hot Monogamy Program and Love Education Certification training, but here it is in a 3-point sound byte:

1.    Family support
2.    Faithful husband
3.    Information

Family support came from every side of my family. My in-laws, God bless them, could not have been more supportive or helpful. I believe their support was quite unique and eminently loving and helpful. As for my mom, I don’t know where to begin. A huge part of my mom’s support came from her making an impression on me about the remorse I would feel if I left.

She really helped me take my blinders off and focus on the big picture rather than just how I was feeling. She helped me break out of my own emotional isolation and put myself in my husband’s shoes to better understand what it must be like living with me.
She didn’t shame me; she didn’t blame me; she didn’t give me cliché’s but instead gave me long, long conversations of accurate information about love, marriage, and divorce.

Family support ultimately left the ball in my court. I had to think long and hard about the question replaying over and over in my mind: Would the heartbreak I would cause my daughter and my family outweigh the satisfaction I would get being single or what I thought I might later find in another relationship?

Then I began to see my husband put his faithfulness into action. For 11 years, Devin worked a very high-stress job at a Motorola plant 54 miles away from our home. The time and energy demands of his job gave us very little time together, and when we were together he was always irritable and stressed out. I didn't enjoy being with him and one day found myself saying, “I love him but I'm not in love with him.”

To his credit, he recognized how bad a shape our marriage was and made a very brave and loving decision. He quit an 11-year senior management position with a 6-figure salary, without having another job or financial safety net in sight. He came home to fight for our marriage. Even I, in my distant state, couldn’t miss the love and commitment in this decision.

The third transforming part of my way back to happiness—the information—just might surprise you. Now that I'm on the other side of all this, I can see how my physiology played a huge role and basically "set me up" for failure. My mom always said that she "unraveled" at the age of 35 and would be watching me like a hawk to offer help if I did the same. Now I know first-hand this unraveling had more to do with hormones than relationship harmony.

I didn’t realize at my age that physiology would play such a huge role in my own personal happiness and my marriage. Nor did I realize the toll of stress and how damaging it can be; how it literally changes your body chemistry. I knew the information as written in my mom’s book “The Truth About Love,” and I could even lecture on it myself, but I didn’t really “get it” until I went to my practitioner and sat in her office looking over my own tests results. There it was in black and white, just as my mom’s lectures had predicted. As I said we will go into a lot more detail about this in our trainings, but I want to emphasize how changing my physiology helped bring me back to my marriage, my family, and my life.

Since I’m almost out of time I’d like to conclude with some advice from research and reality:

You do marry the family. Family needs to be a vital part of mate selection and the support system of the marriage.

If getting married is a priority to you—you truly need to make it a priority sooner rather than later, and then work every day to keep the marriage a priority.

Having divorced parents is not an excuse for divorce. If you do come from a family of divorce like me, the only excuse you do have is to fight for marriage. We are grown-ups, and we must take personal responsibility. We don’t have to do as they do or did; but we can do as they say.

My mom said so succinctly just minutes ago, “Divorce is not the enemy of marriage; lack of accurate information is the enemy of marriage.” Don’t be quick to throw in the towel—throw out a lifeline instead. I know first-hand that saving your marriage will save your life.

Well, it was a long, hard process to get where I am today. But I can honestly say that I love my husband more than ever before and we now have a beautiful, passionate relationship. I really didn't think it was possible, and there were many, many times that I didn't even want to try.

So now, one of the primary goals of my life at this point forward, is to break the cycle of divorce in my family, and to help as many others as possible to do the very same.

Copyright CMFCE/Smart Marriages 2006.

Visithttp://www.patlove.com for information on Pat and Kathleen's Certified Love Educator and Hot Monogamy workshops, couples intensives, consulation and speaking engagements or to order Hot Monogamy, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, and The Truth About Love.

Order this keynote,  #756-P7, which also includes presentations by John Van Epp on "How to Avoid Marrying  Jerk"  on DVD, CD or MP3 at 800-241-7785 or at http://www.iplaybacksmartmarriages.com

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