The first business day after the New Year is commonly called D-Day (Divorce Day). It’s the busiest day of the year for people to call their attorneys and start divorce proceedings.
The holidays are hard on a lot of people and families. Believe me, you’re not alone. It was Christmas when I thought my marriage would end. When everything I thought I’d known about myself, my husband, and our marriage had turned out to be a lie.
It was Christmas when I put a smile on my face that never reached my eyes, numb from shock and grief, and pretended that everything was all right for the kids and the family members that happened to be visiting at the time.
Those are raw memories that can sneak up on me at Christmas if I have a crack in my armor for satan to get his talons in. At the beginning of the month in our prayer time together, both of us prayed about those memories and being aware and sensitive to them.
But we also praised God for the many blessings we have and the miracles he’s worked in our lives–the most incredible one being that our marriage didn’t end at Christmas. It’s strong and whole and healed. Can I get an Amen for that?
I tell you this because I want you to know I understand where you’re coming from when thoughts of divorce begin stirring in your soul. My first marriage ended in divorce. My marriage to Scott very well could have ended in divorce if not by the grace of God. So I can tell you with vast experience and knowledge that divorce isn’t the answer (unless you’re being abused, there is habitual and unrepentant unfaithfulness, or your spouse has abandoned you).
Scott and I are advocates of marriage. We love marriage, we celebrate it, and we cherish the blessing that it is. Marriage is God’s design. He wants you to stay married. He wants for your family to be whole. Period. End of story.
This blog post has been on my heart this week because of two different couples who are in the midst of divorce. Our hearts break for them because we know something they don’t know. We know the pain and heartache they’re about to experience. We know the devastation they’re about to bring down on their children.
Here’s the truth about both divorces…there’s no good reason for them (unless one of the three things listed above comes into play). And no, you being in an “unhappy” marriage isn’t a good reason. That’s probably stepping on some toes because I hear that excuse a lot.
Couple #1 loves each other. They have four small children. They’ve been married more than a dozen years. Their reason for divorce is they just can’t live with each other.
I’ve been praying for this couple every day this week. Because here’s lie #1 that satan tells us (and that we tell ourselves to lessen the guilt).
1.) We can be civilized. We’re adults. We can make this as easy as possible for everyone involved.
That’s a selfish statement. Just like getting divorced because you can’t live together is a selfish act. Marriage isn’t selfish. It’s two people serving each other better than they serve themselves. It’s two people choosing to work at the covenant they made.
Scott and I are big proponents of marriage counseling. We’ve been there, and we’ve got the t-shirt to prove it. This is something that’s usually a lot harder for the husband to submit to than the wife. There were many times Scott didn’t want to go, but he did anyway because the alternative was the destruction of our family.
Go to counseling. Save your marriage. Save the legacy of strong and Godly marriages for future generations. Seriously…you have no clue what you’re doing to your family and how it’ll affect you and your children the rest of your lives.
This leads me to couple #2, their upcoming divorce, and lie #2.
2.) We don’t love each other anymore.
“Love is not a feeling; it’s a decision. It’s not something you experience; it’s something you choose to do. It’s not an emotion; it’s an ability. It’s not something that happens to you; it’s something you nurture and orchestrate and develop.”
-Jimmy Evans (The Right One: How To Successfully Date and Marry the Right Person)
That’s a fantastic quote from Pastor Jimmy Evans, and it’s true. There comes a time where the “feelings” of love will stop and the “work” of love begins.
When the “feelings” stop is when it’s time to dig deep. Here’s this word again…unselfish.It’s putting the needs of your spouse above your own. It’s taking their needs into consideration. It’s respecting them, even when they don’t deserve it. It’s a depth that goes so much deeper than “feelings” could ever take us. It’s about honoring the covenant you made to each other and God.
The second couple who have decided to divorce also said this, which leads me to lie #3.
3.) The kids are really adjusting well.
Let me tell you…no they’re not. But that’s a lie we tell ourselves and that satan perpetuates because it eases our own guilt. You’ve just broken their home apart, split their family in two, and changed everything they’ve ever known.
The reason I can say this with authority is because that’s what I said after my divorce.
We’ve got great kids. I taught school long enough to know how blessed we are in the children department. They’re well adjusted, smart kids who want to do the right thing and please the adults in their lives. They hate disappointing anyone. They go with the flow of almost any situation.
So guess what happened when I told them their father and I were divorcing? They listened thoughtfully and nodded their heads in agreement, absorbing it like mini-adults. One of them even cracked a joke. Their school work didn’t suffer. Their behavior didn’t change. They seemed…normal.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that we started seeing some of the trauma a divorce can cause a child. Anxiety attacks. Self-harm. Counseling was needed.
That’s the trick with good kids who don’t want to disappoint anyone…they keep it all to themselves and we as parents don’t know how deep the wounds go.
Don’t fool yourself. Your children will have scars from your divorce. They will always be the children of a broken home.
Let me ask you a question…
Do you want your kids to take divorce well?
Divorce is breaking up their family. It’s changing something for the rest of their lives. The chances are higher of them being divorced as adults. They’re being set up from an early age to have broken relationships. These aren’t my gut feelings. These things are statistically proven true.
I have the generational sin of divorce in my family. Every single person in my family has been divorced, going all the way back to my great-grandparents at a time when divorce was unheard of. Every. Single. Person.
Generational curses exist. Don’t start one for your children, your children’s children, and so forth. Be the people who can say, “We fought for our marriage, and the generations that come after us are blessed because we did.”
If your kids are taking the divorce well (at least in your eyes), does that mean they see divorce and broken relationships as the norm? That should give us pause. It’s heartbreaking.
When Scott and I told our friend we were praying for the restoration of their marriage, the woman told us not to pray for that. She told us to pray that God would end it swiftly and peacefully.
4.) Divorce is the best thing for everyone involved.
Nope…it’s not. Really.
Going back to the woman’s statement about not wanting us to pray for restoration, I have to say, my jaw hit the floor. First of all, God doesn’t want your marriage to end. He hates divorce. He says so in Malachi 2:16. Second of all, why would you ask us to pray for your family to be broken? God is not going to answer that prayer.
We’re continuing to pray for complete restoration of that marriage, because Scott and I are living proof that God still works miracles.
Here’s Lie #5.
5.) My spouse expects too much of me. I’ll never change. They need to love me for who I am or find someone else.
Part of this is true. Your spouse absolutely should love you for who you are. What were the things that made you fall in love with your spouse in the first place?
It’s also important to remember that you and your spouse are most likely opposites. These are things that will drive you crazy the longer you’re married. If you let them.
Scott and I have core values that are the same. We love and worship the one true God. We share the same political ideals. We value family. We have a strong work ethic and drive to succeed. We believe in education. There are many things we have in common.
It’s the day to day things where we’re different. Scott is very structured and I’m very relaxed. He’s a saver and I’m a spender. I love lists and calendars and he’s spent his career having a secretary to keep him organized. I like to get to things when I get to them, and Scott likes a more immediate response. I like to confront and he doesn’t like confrontation.
These are all issues that have the potential for disaster if we let things get out of hand. If we choose not to be selfless and understanding. If we choose not to dig deep. If we choose not to love.
A wise friend once told me that when we want to change something in our spouse, we need to pray that God makes some changes in us first. That prayer works. Because when I pray to become the wife God wants me to be, my husband can see God in me. His behavior changes because mine did.
In Marriage on the Rock, pastor Jimmy Evans also talks about praying to be the kind of spouse God wants you to be. But he also says there are times when your spouse’s behavior isn’t acceptable and Christ-like. Are you behaving in a Christ-like manner toward your spouse?
In situations where your spouse is not, you should pray for changes in them. Again, counseling is a wonderful tool. Use any avenue you can to save your marriage. Look to what changes you can make in yourself first. And pray. God loves marriage. He wants to heal yours.
6.) There’s been an affair. Our marriage is too broken.
Satan loves to make us think that there’s no hope. He likes nothing more than to fill your head with destructive thoughts and darkness. He hates marriage. He wants it to fail. Because he knows divorce is the beginning to a path to destruction.
God can heal anything, even when your broken pieces are so broken they’re no more than dust. There’s nothing more painful than the betrayal of an affair.
Affairs bring a multitude of emotions and problems into a marriage. There are the emotions that are going on inside of you–grief, loss, betrayal, anger, depression, shame, emptiness, and a number of other things that can crop up randomly that make you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut.
For those of you who are going through this or still in the recovery process, I know exactly what you’re feeling. I’ve been there and done that. You’re going to be okay. And with some work, your marriage can be okay. Not only can your marriage be okay, but it can thrive and prosper and be better than it was before. Yes, I know that from experience too.
Once the personal numbness starts to wear off you’ve got to address the marriage itself. Everything about the life you’ve been living is questioned. Was it all a lie? Who are you? What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you good enough? What did you do wrong? What does the other person have that you don’t? How long have you been living a lie?
The questions are endless and they can drive you mad. Trust has been completely broken in your marriage, and you don’t see a way for things to get better. It’ll get better.
Affair recovery is an emotional journey that takes time. And it takes help. You can’t do it on your own. God is closest to the brokenhearted, and you need to call out to him in your brokenness. But you also need to reach out to a pastor and a counselor. Even if your spouse won’t come with you, go see someone for you.
This is a time to be very careful about the friends you keep. Be careful about the people you tell. Keep friends closest to you who are going to fill you with God’s word, who are going to love and support you, and who love marriage.
If the unfaithful spouse is truly repentant, asks forgiveness, and wants to save your marriage, I encourage you to seek this route. It’s painful and it’s not easy, but there is definitely something there to be saved, and God makes beautiful things out of the ashes.
If you have a spouse that’s unrepentant and chooses another path, I still encourage you to seek help. For you. God still has a plan and a purpose for you.
Don’t let The Deceiver deceive you out of one of God’s greatest blessings. Fight for your marriage. Fight for each other. Generations will thank you.