08 Jan When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”
Did you know that January is the most popular month for people to get divorced? Here’s a link that helps to explain why. https://tinyurl.com/yblqsx2f
Many people assume that the person who files for a divorce, is the one who wants the divorce. After thirty years in divorce recovery ministry I have found the opposite to be true.
Typically, especially in the church, it’s men and women who didn’t want to be divorced, they wanted their marriage to survive, that file. They begged their spouse for years to get the counseling and help that was desperately needed. But the spouse refused, or worse, faked their way through a few sessions to make it appear to family, friends or the pastor that they were interested.
Obviously, not every single situation is the same. Sometimes the person who files is the one who broke the covenant.
But I’ve observed this long enough to safely comment that often the divorcing person is married to a spouse who doesn’t love them, their kids, or God, enough to do the hard work to keep the marriage alive. They have a spouse who has chosen to be wedded, and surrendered to, something other than their spouse. Such as: a sexual affair, booze, drugs, pornography, narcissism, abuse, domestic violence, addiction, job, children, etc.
Before I’m bombarded with emails from bible scholars accusing me of being, “soft on divorce” let me share that nothing could be further from the truth. My parent’s divorce, when I was eight years old, deeply scarred me for life. Jesus has healed those wounds, but it doesn’t mean I’m not affected. Plus, I seriously pondered suicide during my own divorce twenty years later.
Therefore, let me clearly state, I HATE divorce. I think a marriage should be salvaged whenever possible. I also know it takes two people to get married and only one to break the vow. (Save your time. You do not need to send me scriptures on divorce. I already know them.)
Consequently, in my opinion, after thirty years of watching people get divorced, I believe the many people who file for a divorce do not want the marriage to end. They file to obtain protection, financial child support, and structured visitation for a child.
Again, let me be VERY clear. There are some who file for divorce to get out of the marriage. But typically, it is the person who doesn’t want the marriage to end, who must take legal action to protect themselves and their kids because the spouse refuses to change or get help.
Even though I detest divorce, I love divorced people. Why? Because Jesus does. He longs to heal and restore them, as He did me.
So during this month of January, I’ll share with you what this injured, grieving, and devastated group of people wishes others understood is:
• Divorce is a Death
Regardless of the circumstances divorces signifies the demise of the marriage. It’s a relationship fatality. It’s the death of the dream, the death of the vow, and the death of, “What should have been.”
• Divorce is Betrayal at the Soul Level
When “I Do” becomes “I Don’t” the gut response is excruciatingly painful. It’s a rejection like no other. The person that you thought would be your lifetime partner, your soft place to fall during the hard times, the one person you could trust when the rest of the world turns its back, say’s “You aren’t worth it.” You often feel it would have been easier if they had died because death is natural. Although excruciating it isn’t a chosen rejection, and there is no shame associated. There is a casket—closure. In a divorce you, and your child, must experience the funeral, loss and humiliation over, and over, and over again every time your child cries
• Divorce is a Soul Deep Accuser
Night and day spousal rejection hauntingly whispers, “You are a loser. You are unlovable. You are a failure. You deserve to be alone. Life is over. You will never be loved again.”
Many people believe this only occurs if the spouse had an extramarital affair. Not true, there are many “other lovers” that destroy a marriage. And the haunting accusations lurk when he or she chooses drugs, alcohol, pornography, abuse, or any toxic habit over the spouse. When a he/she decides other things are more cherished than the vow they made, when they choose another lover over the covenant, and refuse to stop destroying the marriage —it’s devastating.
• Divorce Becomes an Identity
After my divorce one of the most humiliating tasks was marking “divorced” rather than “married” on any form. It was a label I hated. When I was single, that term didn’t bother me. But divorce left me with an imaginary huge red “D” stamped on my forehead for the world to see—and judge.
It took a long time, some great friends, and a terrific church to help me recognize that divorce was something I experienced. It was not my identity. God still sees me, Laura, His precious daughter, who has been purchased and healed by Jesus, when He looks at me.
• Divorce Strengthened and Weakened My Faith
I was a baby Christian when my divorce occurred. On one hand I knew Jesus was the only One who could carry me through the horrific pain. Nothing and no one else was capable or strong enough to bear this burden. But that didn’t stop me from excessively drinking alcohol to numb the pain, and contemplating suicide to end the madness. My life was hanging by a thread. I was certain that He alone could rescue me.
On the other hand, feelings of failure, humiliation, and embarrassment tempted me to run from the Holy One. I was enticed to anesthetize my agony with the things that deadened my pain before I knew Christ.
I was on a teeter-tauter of running to Jesus, and away from Him, at the same time.
Fortunately, my Heavenly Daddy knows my heart. He loves me. He worked overtime to woo me back into His loving embrace. He became the faithful Husband I had lost.
Over me He declared,
“I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20 NLT)
I totally understand that divorce is a difficult subject for the church. We don’t want to minimize or ignore God’s commands, or give the impression that marriage is temporary commitment. Divorce has long term consequences. No one knows that better than I do.
However, it’s important to keep the perfect balance between grace and truth when approaching the subject. We can become so dogmatic about divorce that we wound the very ones God loves. It is possible to love the brokenhearted and not condone divorce.
Legalism is always easier than authentic faith. Loving like Christ is much harder because it takes time, patience and work.
Copyright © 2018 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved
Do YOU have questions about separation and divorce? Laura answers the most frequently asked questions in her book, When I Do, Becomes I Don’t.
Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Laura is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. She has spoken at the Billy Graham Training Center and has been featured on Focus on the Family. Laura and her pastor husband of thirty two live in Cumming, Ga. She can be found at www.TheSmartStepmom.com