Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, along with his wife, MacKenzie, announced in a joint statement on social media Wednesday plans to divorce after 25 years of marriage.
The world’s richest couple suggested the split was amicable, expressing gratitude for their quarter-century union. The Bezos’s have four children – three sons and a daughter who was adopted from China.
The Bezos’ outward facing amicability notwithstanding, divorce is a gut-wrenching development in anyone’s life. The late author Pat Conroy once compared it to the death of a small civilization, and I think he is exactly right. In my decades of counseling and ministry, I have seen the pain and anguish that couples face with the demise of once happy marriages.
Divorce is not just a transaction, it’s the loss of a dream, the implosion of plans to grow old together and live happily ever after. I have often compared a marriage to a ball of bunched-up fishing line. Husbands and wives, especially those who are also mothers and fathers, are entangled with one another, and separating one from the other is extremely difficult. It’s not like an apple, which is easily sliced and separated in two.
As a Christian counselor, I view divorce as the severing of a sacred union and pledge. There are biblical reasons to divorce, specifically infidelity and abandonment – but my heart breaks for every couple mired in the misery of a relationship gone bad. And yet divorce is rarely the best solution to marital discord. Most couples who stick together through tough times later report being happy they did so.
But when two individuals like Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos have decided to split, is there a right way to do it?
In my counseling, if every available means to potential reconciliation has been exhausted, I advise divorcing couples to concentrate on four main things:
1. Honor the Other Person
Regardless of the animosity that might exist between divorcing spouses, it’s critical to remember that the other person is valuable and worthy of dignity and respect. It’s not uncommon for angry and hurt spouses to gather up support against the soon-to-be ex-spouse. Piling on may feel good at first, but it diminishes the other person. Resist the urge to do so.
2. Grieve Well
It’s critical to find emotional and professional support in the form of a qualified and credentialed counselor. Friends also play a vital role, but find ones who will be candid with you and hold you accountable. You want someone who will see a Facebook post that you wrote in frustration and say, “Hey, that’s not you. You’re better than that.”
3. Model Handling Difficulty for Your Children
Children are the innocent victims of divorce, but it’s important for them to see how you navigate tragedy and trial. They’re watching and learning. Whenever possible, be gracious.
4. Deal with your own issues
It’s easy to place all the blame for the dissolution of a marriage on the other person. But marriage is the union of two imperfect people, so there are always areas you need to own. What did you do to bring about the problems? Don’t sweep it under the rug and pin all fault on your spouse. Confront your own shortcomings and learn from your mistakes, lest you repeat the same ones down the road. Grow through your grief.
Couples who are going through divorce need our prayers, understanding and support. They need to know there is hope and redemption available to them in even the darkest hour.