By America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
We arrived in Dublin, Ireland for a week of interviews on the Emerald Isle with successfully married couples. Our journey is part of our new "simple things matter in love and marriage" series and relates to our continuing search for great marriages around the world.
To date, we have conducted our interviews on six of the world's seven continents (only Antarctica is left!). We selected Ireland for the current trip because it is the only country in Western Europe that we have not previously visited.
As our readers no doubt know, Ireland has a rich Catholic tradition. As such, the Irish take their marriage vows very seriously! And the truth is, divorce did not become legal here until November 1995 when the electorate approved the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which repealed the constitutional prohibition of divorce. The amendment went into effect in February 1997.
To quote from the Catholic World News, "Divorce became officially legal in Ireland . . . ending the Catholic nation's ban on the practice which had been in force since the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1921."
The provision to amend the Irish Constitution was only very narrowly passed – a margin of victory of less than 10,000 votes out of 1.6 million votes cast. No clear consensus here!
So, why the history lesson about divorce in Ireland you ask? Well, here's the deal – getting a divorce in Ireland is a relatively new phenomenon. Being married in Ireland has been taken very seriously for a very long time! The vote to legalize divorce changed everything. The question is, "So how's all this working out in Ireland?"
Here's what we have learned over the last week:
Our Irish "marriage interviews" took us first to a little town south of Dublin called Enniskerry, located in the Wicklow Mountains. The tourist attractions in this area include the lovely formal gardens at Powerscourt and the beautiful lakes and mountains of Glendalough (pronounced by the locals as Glendalock). The entire area all around Enniskerry is beautiful by the way and well worth seeing!
Our interview in Enniskerry was with Emma and Sean who have been married for 30 years. They have one teenage daughter, Sarah, age 17. While we conducted our normal marriage interview with them to determine whether they were happily and successfully married or not (they are!), we ended up being particularly intrigued by their assessment of marriage in Ireland since the 1997 law allowing divorce.
Our main question posed to them today following our interview was this – "What has been the impact of the divorce law of 1997?" Their responses were most interesting.
First, they indicated to us that the 1997 law was good for marriage in several very important ways including the fact that it is now possible for married people who don't love each other to get divorced (the obvious and logical impact).
Their next response was really the most interesting, however. They pointed out to us that those who in the past could only have been separated from each other when their marriage was failing or had failed – some as long as 30 years – could now get relief from "having lived a life in purgatory!" In other words, they lived in a never-never land where they couldn't get divorced nor marry someone whom they truly loved. And just imagine the pain caused by laws that wouldn't allow divorce even after 30 years of suffering!
The poignancy of the interview we conducted in Enniskerry really drove home the point we have made for years – most marriages are worth saving and can be saved, but the truth is, NOT all marriages are worth saving! When the arbitrary laws of the land forbid divorce for any reason, the laws need to be changed as they were in Ireland in 1997.
Over the last week, we have driven our rental car nearly 1000 miles throughout this beautiful country – and have survived driving on the "wrong side" of the road in the traditional style of Great Britain. For the first few hours driving on the left side of the road is daunting, but surprisingly, we adjusted after only a few hours.
Ireland is a lovely country with amazingly polite and helpful people. We have been so impressed with them and the positive and productive lives they try to live. It didn't matter whether we were in Galway, Tullamore, Dublin, Enniskerry, Newgrange, Athlone, Howth, or in the Wicklow Mountains, the Irish are wonderful people.
We concluded our last interview today with this simple question – is marriage alive and well in Ireland today? Their answer is an unequivocal, "yes!" Young people still aspire to marriage, long-time marriages are still the norm, and the divorce laws of 1997 turned out to be a good thing in the minds of most all of the Irish folks we interviewed along the way.
Simple Things Matter in love and marriage. Love well!
By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
For more tips to enhance your relationship get the Doctor's best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the Mom's Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships
As America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With 27 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 43-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.
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