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The Rest of the Story
Posted by Clare
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“I’ve had it! Our marriage is a sham. I really believe it would be better for the kids to not be exposed to the constant tension in our home. I just want to be done with it.”

I’m guessing that you’ve heard these pain-filled words from a family member or friend and found yourself at a loss as to what to say.

Setting aside for a few minutes what the Bible has to say about divorce, and who’s to blame for the disintegration of the marriage, here’s what I tell anyone who is contemplating initiating a divorce and is saying; “I just want to be done with it (or her, in this case) and move on.”

The Rest of the Story
“The truth is as long as you live, if you have children, you will never be done with it. For the rest of your life, every holiday, every birthday, every graduation and every wedding involving your children will be a negotiation. You not only will have to negotiate the shared custody schedule with your spouse, as your kids get older they will be increasingly reluctant to continue to be pawns in this game and will generally want to spend less time with both of you. While this is difficult for you to imagine, it occurs with enough frequency, particularly among teenagers, that it is almost always detrimental to your relationship with your child.

They will feel guilty on holidays because one of you is alone. They will feel pumped for information about your ex and violated if that information is used by you against her. They feel helpless and they resent being put in that position. As a result, they will talk less to both of you and you’ll truly wonder – “why?”

The Remarriage
Let’s take another look at the future. Someday your ex-spouse, your wife will remarry a guy we’ll call, Bill. Bill may not be a bad guy, but the truth of the matter is he’s with your children 80-90% of the time more than you are. In essence, he will have more time to influence your children than you have, both for good or bad. If he’s a great father and loves God, then that might actually be an advantage. It may help your children to heal. On the other hand if he’s not, it will be a significant disadvantage because subconsciously your children will be thinking, “I would not have to live with this guy, if my father and mother hadn’t had a divorce.” Resentment almost always occurs over this issue in children of divorce.

The Blended Family
Let’s assume Bill has two children from a previous marriage, not from a divorce, but perhaps his wife has died. The chances of your children getting along well with his children are very slim, so not only is there a new father in the house, a new man in the house, but there are now other children that either live with him permanently or occasionally on the weekends. Your kids now have to share “their” bedrooms either with each other or with this new blended family, which they will resent; and, eventually your children will be dragged off to Christmases and Thanksgivings with Bill’s family, which is even more foreign and uncomfortable for your children.

Now Back to You
Let’s leave Bill and your ex for a few moments and think about your life… Someday you are likely to meet and marry the new love of your life – Mary. Mary has one daughter from a previous marriage, but that’s OK because you’re fully in love with Mary and you actually like her child.

But, one day you try disciplining that child she will look at you and say, “You’re not my father.” Once you get over the shock of that rebuke, you’ll go to your wife Mary, and demand that she talk to her daughter about giving you more respect, which of course she really can’t do and probably won’t do because her daughter has already been traumatized enough by the past divorce and remarriage. She doesn’t want to risk damaging her already fragile relationship with her daughter, so she tries to reason with her and the daughter slowly realizes that her mother is not willing to risk her relationship with the two of them and she now has POWER! Now, you begin to resent your wife’s unwillingness to back you up and you feel powerless and disrespected by her.

On top of the tension with your new stepdaughter, you get your children every other weekend, which they are not happy about, leaving their friends and familiar bedrooms and toys, and they’re watching their new stepsister – the premadonna, do pretty much what she wants. They, too, eventually discover that they can disrespect their stepmother because like her, you won’t risk your relationship with them either. While all of these scenarios may not play out, many, if not most of them will.

If you hear yourself saying to others, “I just want to be done with it” realize that you never will be, nor will your children. Will time heal some of these wounds and relationships? Generally, after the kids leave home, “yes.”

A Final Thing
Unless you are the victim of a divorce you never wanted, another comment I hear very often from men and women who have divorced and whose married children are now contemplating divorce themselves is this; “Don’t give me your advice. You couldn’t save your own marriage.” Once you choose to end your marriage, you’ve lost the moral high ground to encourage your kids do the tough spiritual, emotional and counseling work necessary to save their own marriages. While the experience you went through because you were divorced may be helpful in helping them think about the dangers that await them, it’s like giving others advice about how to exercise when you yourself don’t. They know it’s probably good advice, but it will seem shallow coming from you.

As you contemplate this decision, these are just a few of the unintended consequences that you probably intuitively know are true, but you’re in such pain you’re trying to convince yourself they will not happen to you or your children. You and they will be the exception! For the sake of your children and your relationship with God, commit yourself to doing whatever it takes to reconcile and heal your relationship with your spouse. Trust me; your children will love you forever for loving them that much.”

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Your Next Step
Consider sending this blog to a friend contemplating a divorce (I’m not talking about someone who is trying to save their marriage). But, please pray before you do, that the Holy Spirit will pierce through the pain, weariness, or the infatuation with a new love to remind them this is a lifetime long decision. Urge them to verify these stories with another divorced Christian, if they have any doubt about this future reality.

My final warning to men or women choosing to divorce, “You may get what you want, but lose what you have!”

Question: If you have been divorced, or are close to a divorced person, has what I described been your experience?

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Comments (6)
  1. Carol Hamilton said...

    I would say you are about 100% accurate and if someone is in a difficult or disappointing marriage they need to work diligently on restoring their marriage, if however they are in a destructive marriage they need to take appropriate steps to save themselves from the emotional, physical, and or sexual abuse. Leslie Vernick has written some excellent material on knowing what kind of marriage you’re in and what to do about it.

    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Carol, I agree! There are some marriages so dangerous, or toxic, the church should never “guilt” people into staying in. My only point was to remind everyone, of the true longterm cost of ending a marriage. Perhaps it’s the only option. But some of the issues I raise will still be there.

  2. Tom said...

    There are also the happy years that you will miss with your wife (husband.) My wife and I struggled through several painful years some time ago–and if we had not been Christians, almost certainly would have divorced about 25 years ago. Instead we trusted God and followed His commands about marriage (difficult as they were at the time.) He is faithful! He and we rebuilt the marriage–and the last 15 years in particular have been just wonderful beyond our expectations. We would have missed all of this. So our advice to every struggling marriage is, don’t divorce. Trust God to work His power in your marriage–and husbands, love your wives, and wives, obey your husbands.

    • admin-3kr5M said...

      Tom, words of great wisdom! My wife and I had some very tough years, as well and I praise God that we never gave up.

  3. Stacey said...

    The only addition I would offer is this: don’t stay together for the kids, stay together for your marriage! If a couple chooses to stay together “for the kids” and bear with one another, that tension and resentment can be felt. I have known some people that experienced their parents’ divorce as adults, because the parents chose to stay together until the children were older. The children dealt with a lot of trust issues after this and felt much of what they “thought” of their parents to be a lie. I think if couples contemplating divorce choose to re-focus on themselves, and their marriage, that this reconstruction will flow from them and into their children, and their children will have such a strong foundation to know what a great marriage looks like, and how beautiful hard work can truly turn out to be.

    • Clare said...

      Stacy, I couldn’t agree more. I never advise to just “tough it out.” Why live like that? But commit yourself to praying together, for wisdom to figure out whatever needs to happen to restore the marriage.

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