Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

The Tragedy of Tiger and Elin

  • Sarah Jennings Family Editor
  • 2010 25 Aug
The Tragedy of Tiger and Elin


Major news outlets are reporting that Tiger Woods' marriage to Elin Nordegren officially ended on Monday. I am so sad for this couple and their children, ages 3 and 1.

In their joint statement, Tiger and Elin state, "While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness has been, and will always be, of paramount importance to both of us. Once we came to the decision that our marriage was at an end, the primary focus of our amicable discussions has been to ensure their future well-being."

Sadly, the demise of their marriage was a major blow to their children's future well-beings. It's not that the kids can't learn to cope with their new reality. But couples so often make the mistake of compartmentalizing their children into a separate category from their marriage.

Divorcing couples often don't comprehend that statements like, "Mommy and Daddy may not love each other anymore but we still love you" send incredibly confusing messages to a child. Because a child comes from both Mom and Dad. A child shares Dad's eyes and Mom's nose. Dad's tenacity and Mom's kindness. At their very core, children cannot split Mom and Dad in two because that is like splitting their own selves in two.

How can Mommy not love Daddy and still love me when I am just like Daddy?

Kids are not only genetically intertwined with both parents but emotionally they are fiercely attached to both parents. So it is confusing and distressing when the two people they adore, the two people who define their very existence, don't adore each other and don't want to exist together. 

I love Daddy. I need Daddy. But... should I? Mommy doesn't. Is he trustworthy? Is my mom trustworthy? Who is wrong? Me? Mommy? Daddy? Who is right? Anyone?

More than anything else, divorce demonstrates the sacredness of marriage. The shattering of a family reveals the incredible bonds that were never meant to break - that no man was to separate (Matt 19: 6). The child will spend the rest of his childhood - perhaps even his life - doing the hard work of reconciling the two worlds his parents chose not to reconcile (a reality Elizabeth Marquardt articulates so well in her book Between Two Worlds). Splitting may make things simpler for the parents but inevitably complicates things for the kids.

Many may say, "Well, when you look at what Tiger Woods did, how can you advocate staying married?"

You're right. What Tiger Woods did was awful. I don't know all the details of their marriage or reconciliation attempts. Perhaps this is a case where separation truly was the least damaging path.

Still, I think sometimes we give up on people too quickly. We make assumptions. I've seen so many articles claiming Tiger Woods doesn't have an addiction. That he is just a rich jerk. My honest opinion here: there is no way for these writers to know if Tiger Woods has an addiction or not.  So often people demonize others in an attempt to feel safer themselves. Oh, that would never happen to me because I am not a bad person like Tiger Woods. I am not rich and famous and greedy.

Newsflash: Sexual addiction does exist, and you don't have to be rich and famous to destroy your marriage.

My biggest fear in labeling Tiger Woods as "the worst husband ever" is that my words may dash the hopes of a couple struggling with this very issue. Because there is hope. Meg Wilson, author of Hope After Betrayal, is one of my favorite writers on this topic. She and her husband not only overcame sexual addiction but have a strong marriage today. And they aren't the only ones.

In my line of work, I come in contact with great Christian marriage counselors all the time. They share some incredible resurrection stories. You would be amazed at how many issues can be worked through with a heavy dose of God's grace, accountability, forgiveness, and some solid therapy. Even something as serious and daunting as sexual addiction.

I was praying Tiger and Elin would be able to work it through. They chose divorce instead. I can't judge them for that but their unhappy ending doesn't have to play out the same way for other couples. My prayer is that more struggling couples find help and healing.