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Thinking About A Divorce? Think Again.
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 also heard these pain-filled words from a family member or friend and found yourself at a loss as to what to say. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be passing to you some ideas others and I have used to help our friends make wiser and more biblical choices.

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 my response to this statement; “I just want to be done with it (or her, in this case) and move on.”

I know what they mean when they say that, because whether they are the primary cause of the divorce or their spouse is, the pain, the cost, the sleepless nights, the emotional rollercoaster and relational limbo they find themselves in often just becomes too much. They no longer have any hope that the relationship can be put back together again and so they just want “to be done with it”. But, here’s the “rest of the story” I want them to hear.

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 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 lost the moral high ground to encourage your kids do the tough spiritual, emotional and counseling work necessary to save their marriage. 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. 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 and perhaps even an eternity long decision. (I’ll explain why next week.) Urge them to verify these stories with another divorced Christian, if they have any doubt about this future reality.

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 (2)
  1. Yvonne Wensloff said...

    Claire, I’m writing this to you, not necessarily as a comment. If you’d like to discuss some of this… I welcome it. I’m divorced… and while some of this is true, some not. I spent almost a decade studying biblical marriage and have remarried a beautiful soul of a man who is walking the same path with me that God has placed us both on. I am hoping that the influence of this example to my 16 year old son, and his 17 and 19 year old sons will have some positive impact. We were both left in ruins, along with the kids, with non-believer Ex spouses. That said IT IS heart breaking to both of us the price that have been paid by our sons… and no matter how amicable, how necessary, how cooperative the parents are during and after a divorce, the price tag IS MUCH LARGER than anyone admits to beforehand; or a majority of the marriages would put in the effort to work it out instead of divorce. It’s JUST AS HARD, if not harder to give up, than fix ourselves (note the person that we need to fix, OUR SELF) and stay in!! And for sure it is harder on the children. You are so right about this.

    Some of this has been true in my life, some not. My Ex and I divorced after 17 years – and his addiction issue had been treated with two inpatient visits, lots of various counseling, etc. And I felt I had no choice, that was 10 years ago. During that time he spent 3+ years homeless, completely wrapped in addiction and awol from our lives on an off. I’m pretty sure my son and I would have been homeless with him. So it’s a trade off… WHICH difficult road was the only choice.

    But I will say the entanglement you talk about ‘that never ends’ is something most people do not understand. It’s true, it NEVER ends if you have children. NEVER. No matter if you work it out, or divorce, you HAVE TO learn to deal with this person you no longer want to be with. FOREVER. To heal, you have to learn to forgive. To be healthy you have to fix whatever landed you in that situation to begin with. There is NO EASY OUT. You were forever joined, and no matter what the world says about separating, you will never be completely disconnected. It just doesn’t work that way unless one parent completely turns their back on the children and exits their lives. That is not the case 99% of the time, and people just do not understand that the problems have to be dealt with regardless of if the marriage remains or you divorce. Why is this not obvious??

    This is a wonderful publication and much of the things said here are what I raise during a “take the woman out to lunch” date I offer when someone I feel close enough to has ‘divorce rumblings’ and I nod my head and say “yes, that problem will be solved – but it will be replaced with this problem” sort of things. The grass is NOT greener on the other side of that fence, it’s greenest where you water it. That’s just a basic fact of life… where the effort goes, so do the rewards.

    There are times when divorce is the better option. I really believe that, but it is much, much less often than people think or what really happens in life.

    My son has been in counseling for a decade of his 16 years. I made sure he had Godly people and trusted advisors to turn to when working through things because I knew that I had cost myself credibility, reliability and security when I decided that OUT was the only way through the mess. For a multitude of reasons, divorce destroys the relationships entangled in that marriage – parent and child, parent and parent, grandparents, aunts, uncles, ALL of them are broken. All of the relationships that are supposed to support our children through life are broken, and there is NOTHING you can do to keep that functional. Many people talk of ‘keeping it in tact’ after a divorce, but reality shows that plays out differently. People take sides, and no amount of ‘doing it for the kids’ makes that healthy. One is determined to be wrong, one is chosen to be right and the child belongs to the one who is assigned ‘wrong’ just as much as the one who is ‘right’. That does not ‘process’ well in the childs heart. No matter how flawed as people we are, our children love us and their identity is tied to us. When we fail, they feel like failures. I worked SO hard to avoid that, and most of what I did to mitigate some of the acknowledged consequences had very little benefit.

    If you are thinking about a divorce, put it at the bottom of the list of options and try ANYTHING else first. Try ALL the alternatives, personal development, counseling – couples counseling. A program called Retrovaille is excellent for marriage ‘repair’. A course called Marriage on the Rock is one I highly recommend. It’s both for marriage prep, and for fixing marriages in trouble teaching biblical marriage skills. And he speaks the truth when he says that almost any marriage can be made to work… IT CAN.

    I look forward to the next publication on this subject.


    • Clare said...

      Yvonne, thank you for your honest, raw and biblical thoughts! As a man married to the same woman for 50 years, I cannot imagine what it is like going through a divorce you did everything possible to avoid, and still have to deal with it for the rest of your life.
      I know not everything I said in my blog is true for everyone, but I beleive it’s a fair composite of the stories I’ve gathered over the last half century.
      Bless you for your faithfulness, courage, wisdom and recommendations!

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