When I was a little girl, all I wanted was to grow up to be a mommy and a wife. That was it. That was the dream. I played house for as long as I can remember and was constantly imagining what my husband and family would be like.
Marriage, to me, was supposed to be forever. A lasting, committed relationship between me, my spouse and God. I believed that if God was at the center, that it was a bond that could never be broken. That my husband was commanded to love me and I was commanded to respect him.
At the ripe age of 18, this was what I went into marriage believing.
My wedding day was perfect. The dress, the venue, the décor, the family and friends – it was everything I had ever imagined and hoped it to be. I cannot lie and say that I wasn’t nervous….that I didn’t have doubts and reservations….but those around me told me it was a good match. They said my feelings were “normal” – just the pre-marriage nerves. So, I trusted and I went all in.
I was told that the first few years of marriage would be the hardest. That I should expect difficulty in communication as we “learned” eachother. This was certainly the case.
Without going into details of my first marriage, I will say that I had no clue how to navigate the waters we ventured into. I didn’t know about dark secrets, anger and violence – I didn’t imagine that intimacy issues and spending nights crying alone would be part of the story….but, whether I wanted it to be or not, that was where this marriage brought us.
A marriage is long gone before someone files for divorce.
I think that is one of the truths I had the hardest time telling. Because, my husband in many ways, had left years before I filed. But because I left publicly, I was ridiculed and blamed for abandoning my marriage and God’s will.
I was asked to leave my church.
Friends who I had loved and cherished for years all acted as though they didn’t know me.
I was now the person “to be prayed for”.
I was the subject of loads of gossip and shame.
I was angry. Angry at him – so angry that I said and did many things I now regret. I felt abandoned, forgotten and alone. I blamed the man who I believed was supposed to have loved me and protect me….
But, now, nearly 15 years later, I see the reasons for his hiding and secrets. I see the reasons behind his anger and shame. I understand the reasons behind our intimacy issues. I see the damage that was done long before he and I ever met – and my heart can look back and break for the both of us. And, in his own way, he tried to protect me from a world he didn’t want me involved in. And, did his best to control any damage that could land on our front door.
In our own ways, we were both trying to be what those around us wanted us to be.
After the dust settled, much damage had been done. But, with a little one in tow, we split ways and attempted to rebuild our lives. I formed new friends, a new community and tried to “re-start”. (But, how much did I really know about starting over? I was only 23…)
What I did know (or thought at the time), is that good Christian women have families. They have marriages and children….
I met and fell head over heels for my soon to be next husband. He was young too, but was willing to take on the responsibility of a young single momma and her little girl. Again, I had reservations, but I was in love. Crazy, wild, hopeful, in-love.
I thought this would be when everything clicked. When I would finally have the family I had dreamed about….
We married and had 3 beautiful daughters. But, after 10 years, with a tired and aching heart, I filed for divorce. I wish I could tell you that the damage in that relationship was repairable. I wish I could tell you there was a possibility for a happy ending. But, there just….wasn’t.
Often, people like myself, don’t want to believe their dream of their family is dying. We want to believe things are better than they actually are. We want to believe that things will one day change for the good. We want so badly to believe…
But, after years of what felt like trying to force someone to love me, I just cracked.
The shame around divorce inside Christian circles is awful. Down-right close to abusive. We are shunned, looked at as “fallen”, shamed and cut off. There is gossip and rumors and accusations of who is at fault. We are branded as broken.
But, I would argue that divorced families are not unlike many Christian married families. All of us are hurting and broken. The only difference with divorced families, is that (at least one person) is willing to expose just how broken their marriage actually is.
The person who files is typically the one who waves the white flag and surrenders. They are not necessarily saying they are hardened, bitter and unforgiving. They are simply saying, “I’ve tried everything I know to do and at this point, I am exhausted. I simply can’t do this anymore”.
I have faced a lot of scrutiny over the years….and, I would be dishonest if I didn’t say it has been painful.
Yes, I filed for divorce.
(Everyone knows that)
But, what people don’t know, is that for years I fasted and prayed for my marriage to be saved.
I filled up countless journals with tear stained pages of my broken, bleeding heart. Although my heart was weary and tired, I continued to do my best to forgive and choose to let go of betrayals and hurts. I tried.
What many also don’t know, is that I did all of this behind closed doors. I didn’t wear my pain outwardly, nor did I invite many into these struggles. Because, I deeply loved….with everything I had.
However, I too am not perfect. I didn’t do everything right. And I made many mistakes along the way. But, I didn’t want divorce….no one wants divorce.
Divorce is awful.
But, for some of us, it is the only option we have for peace in our home. And for our hearts to be able to heal.
I don’t expect everyone to understand, nor do I blame those who don’t. After all, if you have a spouse who you connect with and can work through issues with, then I completely understand your confusion by those who choose to divorce. To you, it looks like giving up. It looks like we just aren’t “trusting God” enough.
I don’t judge you for thinking that way. But, I simply want to offer another perspective. One where the person has trusted God, forgiven and chosen to cover their spouse with protection. And, yet, the pain of feeling unloved is nearly crippling.
Instead of choosing to numb their heart, they choose to allow God to walk them through ending a painful relationship. With the hopes of them each finding healing and peace.
Another stinging argument I often hear is that those who file for divorce are being selfish and not thinking of their children.
I believe that to be very much the opposite. At least it was for me. The environment my children were growing up in, was the number one motivation I had for choosing to divorce. I would argue that sometimes, not choosing to end an abusive, toxic or unhealthy relationship is incredibly selfish when there are children involved.
I made a tough call. And, truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have made it either time if children weren’t involved. To me, they deserved a peaceful, loving home. At whatever the cost. Even if it meant ripping my own heart out, they needed peace.
What I have learned through all of it, is that good Jesus loving women don’t have to be married to be respected.
They need not do anything but speak their truth with dignity and grace, in whatever form that takes. They extend love towards those in front of them – even those who speak unfavorably about them behind their backs.
Jesus loving women don’t have to “be” anything other than themselves. And, if they are brave enough to battle a divorce alone, they are certainly some of the strongest individuals you will meet.
So, if you hear of or learn of a family going through divorce, please love them. ALL of them. Please do your best to not shame them or treat them like damaged goods. Those who bravely face the reality of their broken home are battle worn soldiers. They are tired. And they are craving peace.
Please do not send them messages telling them of a new “series” your pastor is teaching about marriage, or shame them for being “selfish” and not thinking of the kids. Trust me, they have most likely exhausted all possible roads before coming to the point they are at.
Simply, embrace them. Love them. And, help them rebuild.
Proverbs 30: 21-23: “Under three things the earth quakes, and under four it cannot hold up: a slave when he becomes a master, a fool when he is satisfied with food, an unloved woman who is married…”