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Thursday, December 12, 2013

"The Christian Divorce Advocate"

I am the pastor's daughter who filed for divorce and have happily remarried the most wonderful husband this world has to offer.  I enjoy a good relationship with my bonus daughters.  My children are well-adjusted and happy.  My former spouse and I co-parent and cooperate well much of the time.  Because of this, some people may assume that I am pro-divorce.  Some might think I would encourage women in difficult relationships to take this way out and sign up for a better life.

I want to alleviate any chance that I promote divorce as solution or quick-fix.  I can only describe experiencing divorce like trading one set of trouble for a different set of trouble.  Afterall, the Bible did say we would have trouble in this world, there is no avoiding it.  Learning to accept discomfort, trouble and hardship part of maturity.  Divorce is not an escape from that.

As a follower of Christ and His word as set out in the Bible, I understand the acceptable reasons for divorce as 1) adultery and 2) abandonment including when 3) an unbelieving spouse wants out of the relationship and finally 4) breaking of marriage vows including abuse.  There are many variations of these which must be interpreted.  Does emotional abandonment count?  What if the adulterer is repentant?  How do we handle cases of mental illness where abuse may be unintentional?  At what point does adultery take place, since Jesus said to lust is to commit adultery?  It's all so very complicated and I've included some verses below if you are interested in these.  However, I want to share from a human, personal perspective why I would say to any friend that if at all possible, stay married.  Fight for your marriage, fight for the history you share and for the future you dreamed when you took your vows. 

Still, I have first-hand knowledge that even when you've done everything you know to do, things unravel. 
  • Divorce will diminish your standard of living and may catapult you into poverty.
  • Grieving happens at a deep and guttural level.
  • You will analyze your relationship history for clues and wonder what was real? when did it get so bad?
  • Insecurity will wrap around your confidence making decision making a challenge. 
  • You will doubt yourself.
  • The ability to trust is damaged and a cynical note takes up residence in your heart.  Disappointment is the new expectation.
  • You will face decisions without a partner who has a vested interest in the outcome.
  • You will experience change and stress. The complete implosion of the life you had and imagined for your future will create a void that you will need to fill.
  • If you have children, you will spend less time with them because of additional work and time with the other parent.
  • The time you do have with your children may be more stressful because of the demanding and repetitive nature of parenting without a partner.
  • In most cases, you have less say in the lives of your children as you no longer hold influence over the other parent. 
  • Loneliness is real.
  • Your understanding of God will shift.
I do not regret the decision I made to file for divorce.  I could no longer survive emotionally in the situation.  Yet I understand that it wasn't a quick fix or an easy solution.  When I count the Christmas mornings I have yet to experience with my children, I have to cut them half...because half of those mornings will be spent in another home.  I do not yet know what wounds they will carry because mom and dad couldn't live in the same home together. 

Often I feel like a great deal of my personal history is just lost, or disappeared because the person with whom I shared that is no longer in my life.  There are moments when I interact with the father of my children that I catch a glimpse of the normal that could-have-been and it causes grief.  It completely catches me off guard, and makes me uncomfortable, so I avoid it.

There are so many layers to grieve when marriage-ties are broken. 

I am happier now than at any time in my life.  There is peace.  There is joy!  I have never been so loved.  Still, I tell any person that divorce is not the way to get their joy and love.  Divorce is one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I'm thankful for today yet would fight for the marriage I had the first time again and again. 

Other words on the subject here and here.  And I firmly believe that part of the mystery and wonder of God is how he uses sinful disobedience to accomplish great good...making all things work for good. (Rom 8:28).  Have you experience positive results from a negative situation?  Has your view of divorce changed if you experienced one? 

Academic Study on Divorce & Christians: What God Has Joined

  • Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
  • Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)
  • Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)

    1. I tell people that instead of having to think someday that you may have a very valid reason for a divorce....what you REALLY need to do is examine the marriage vows long BEFORE you take them with another person. And don't take them lightly. You need to really know what 'for better or for worse' means. There will be many, many days that are worse than better. Can you stick it out? You need to examine and understand what it means to say 'for richer or poorer'. Marriage will bring you both. Through no fault of your own sometimes. It means when jobs are lost, and debt is made that times will get tough. And sometimes when you have suddenly become richer it might be hard to sustain a marriage. And most importantly the words 'in sickness and in health' because at sometime in every marriage this will happen. And you might be the caretaker 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it will be the hardest thing that you have ever done. Or you might be the one who is sick and will need to be taken care. And that, too, might be the hardest thing you have ever done. And remember 'till death do you part' could be a very very long time. So if people will REALLY examine the vows before marriage then maybe, just maybe there would be far less need for divorce lawyers. Sorry this is so long, but it is a rant of mine.

      1. Thank you for sharing, Paula. I often feel conflicted regarding thee issues. What I desired isn't what happened...the ideal vs. reality, I guess. Thank you so much for reading!