One of the biggest movie hits over the holiday break has been "Little Fockers" the third in a series of movies offering a comedic spin on typical dysfunction. I haven't seen it yet, but if it follows the theme of the first two, it is likely filled with Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) bumbling around making a fool of himself trying to please his in-laws. What makes these movies so funny is that we all relate in some way. Truth is, we all have a little dysfunction.
Our quirks, our pet-peeves, our habits all rub someone the wrong way. Our loved ones have learned to put up with them, strangers may judge us by them. No one is perfect. But we have this nasty habit of focusing on ourselves, so someone else's peccadillo become more pronounced when related to our own. Grudges build. Differences divide. Until suddenly the relationship is considered "irreconcilable" and the relationship ends.
Too many relationships this time of year end in such a way. Two couples close to us are ending their marriages this season, two others are on the verge. This isn't unusual. In fact, the holiday season sees one of two annual peaks in divorces and breakups according to a recent study. I can see why, the stresses of the holiday season, the prospects of the coming year, the romanticized image of ringing in the New Year in slow motion surrounded by music, champagne in hand, and a kiss from a beautiful person you just met.
But the long term effects are devastating. There's the holiday shuffle, where you shuttle between families on Christmas Day to visit each of your divorced parents, in-laws, and new step families as they each fight over who gets the prime times of opening presents first thing in the morning or having dinner in the evening. Kids bounce from home to home on weekends, holidays, and birthdays to the point of not being able to identify which is truly "home".
Another consequence is that the cycle repeats. One of the couples we know getting a divorce right now has parents who are divorced. Single moms beget future single moms. Teenage parents often become grandparents by their 40s.
I'm not intending to cast stones here. But highlight the reality of the world in which we temporarily live. Family struggles, dysfunction and division add another stressor to an already crushing season. It is a reality for many of us, yet we must persevere through into the next season of our lives.
"Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Mark 10:9)