Divorce not the answer, living smart is - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Divorce not the answer, living smart is

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Posted: Saturday, September 24, 2011 4:15 am

Most of us come from broken homes. That doesn't seem to mean much anymore. Luckily, I was the oldest at home when my parents divorced, thus I didn't suffer as much as my younger siblings.

For me, what hurt the most was the poverty. I'm sure we missed our dad, but more than anything we missed good foods to eat and something "store-bought." There was just no money. As a teen, I once begged mother for something fresh to eat. We were eating canned and bottled food. She searched the house and found 50 cents in dimes and pennies. I walked to the store and bought a tomato. Not candy; a tomato to eat with our canned potatoes.

Like most people, dad went on to remarry and have more kids. Only in recent years have I learned his new family was not much better off in regards to happiness.

Since then, divorce has become a cultural norm. Strangely, when two people part ways, looking for a better deal, they rarely think of the dollar cost to set up two households. And they rarely compute the deeply tragic sacrifice paid by their latchkey children, shuttled back and forth between adults.

It's a national sorrow, a national statistic, yet family after family gets sucked into the vortex.

Recent reports put Arizona 10th in the nation for divorces (U.S. Census). That, as our state ranks near the top in poverty, is reason enough to alert couples to tread carefully when their marriage is stressed.

Within my own social reach, multiple marriages are going down; too many, including right here in our own East Valley. The causes are assorted, but the sure results are this: The financial health of the couple takes a nose dive and the harm is multiplied.

In the overview, most often the problems begin with selfishness. Intelligence has little to do with it; in fact, it's often the bright and beautiful who find themselves on the road to hell that destroys love and trust.

America's national poverty level is over 15 percent. Arizona spikes above that number: 18.6 percent live below $22,314 (poverty line) for a family of four. Single mothers and divorced families easily dominate that demographic.

Recently, FoxBusiness issued this short list of preventive points during financial trouble: Remember, debt is the enemy, live within your means; quit the blame game; be sure to take time out to spend with your family; and resist financial infidelity - lying to your spouse about money expenditures.

What's important for restless couples to remember is this: Reality really is down and dirty. Without a good roof over our heads and nutritious food on the table, fantasy relationships via Web or the office are as helpful as the proverbial one-night stand.

Tending to the family corporation is as important as a national, balanced budget. With a nation of broken families looking to Uncle Sam to keep them fed, no wonder we suffer extreme instability. Then, our children are set to repeat our behavior. The bog gets wider and deeper.

We beat the drum over elected officials' failures to produce jobs and fix the economy, but if we aren't willing to protect our world from the bottom up, how can we expect more from others? Life is hard, marriage is tough, but living smart offers promises divorce rarely does.

Too idealistic? I think not. Clearly, the distressed economy is a burden to families, but divorce is a compounder. This is one area in which we citizens have some power to stabilize a nation, not to mention protect the birth right of our children.

• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (turleyhansen@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.

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