Once upon a time, I did not believe in the “D” word. I always believed once I got married, I was in it for the long haul, come what may. I look back and shake my head at myself every time I remember emphatically saying “I don’t believe in divorce.” (Oh yeah… you did know I was talking about that “D” word right?) As well intended as I was, there was simply so much I didn’t understand. Marriage is hard work and I learned many lessons the hard way. I made some mistakes, failed at a few things but I expected those things would happen. I always figured I would learn from each obstacle, jump over every hurdle and overcome each obstacle. I imagined I would eventually have the opportunity to apply all that I had learned and would be the amazing wife I knew I had the potential to be. In fact, I am certain she was already emerging but the lens through which my first husband viewed me had already been tainted. In the end, the dreaded “D” word became a very real part of my world. During the course of separation and divorce I learned more clearly why divorce should never happen.
These are in no particular order but here are…
1. The two really do become one. No matter how difficult or troubled the marriage may be you truly become one with the person you marry so the tearing of the “one” during divorce feels like you’re literally being ripped apart. It is one of the most painful things to endure. When you are married your very identity changes. You become wife or husband and losing or relinquishing that position can leave you feeling like you do not know who you are any more. You have to learn to think and live as a single person all over again. This takes time. Be patient.
2. Divorce can be financially devastating. When you get married people bring you gifts and money to assist you as you start your new life together but when you get divorced no one comes. Of course, no one gets married believing the marriage will end. We come in hopeful and expectant of a beautiful, happy life, until “death do us part.” I can tell you from my experience that it is much harder to go back to being two separate individuals than it is to go from being two individuals and becoming a married unit. No matter where you are financially joining together adds to you. When you divorce, not only are you ripped apart emotionally but financially you lose the security of the additional income your spouse brought in. It really does not matter what your income is, when there are two of you you have joint resources, you live a life-style according to the joint income and whether you make $50,000 or $500,000 when one of you is gone, that income is missed. That can leave one or both of you sinking in a sea of financial chaos.
3. Divorce doesn’t mean you don’t or didn’t love each other. Have you heard the saying “love isn’t enough?” Well, there is a lot of truth to this. To be clear I think the problem is in how we love. The Godly love the bible speaks about is always enough and “never fails.” The problem is most of us have not learned to give or receive that kind of love. We are flawed and fragmented, and give broken love filled with unrealistic conditions. We bring far too many expectations to the table and when they aren’t met we give up. We each learn at a different pace and are not willing to wait on the other. Love does not run out, our patience does!
4. Divorce is a long and painful process. What took place at the alter doesn’t end because a judge stamps a paper that says you are now divorced. The day you sign on the dotted line is not the “end.” Sure, on paper, it is officially over but – the unraveling of the marriage and of your life is still happening. Often, there are many things that keep you connected such as, children, mutual friends, cell phones, bank accounts etc. Months after the finalization of my divorce, I was still taking my first husband’s name off of my health coverage. The unraveling continues…
5. Divorce takes great courage. Walking away from oneness, from financial security, from the shared identity, from love, takes courage. Divorce is not a decision one comes to lightly. Often, you go back and forth, you list the pros and cons, you pray and you plead with God, you speak to counselors, friends, family… well, those are some of the things I did. Ultimately, I felt unloved, abandoned and disrespected publicly. I knew the line had been drawn and that we had reached the point of no return and yet, I grappled with the decision. I was afraid. I knew it would hurt my kids, confuse my finances, and break my heart but I had to remind myself of my self worth. I had to be brave and do the thing I feared most. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.
6. Grieving is necessary and healing takes time. Divorce is much like death. In fact, it is a death of a marriage, union, family, spiritual covenant. It is the breaking of a promise. Much like when someone dies, you may become numb, and busy yourself with the “stuff” that needs to be completed. People show up in the midst of the crisis, they call and visit. It is in the aftermath that the real grieving takes place. When everyone is gone and all is said and done, months later, you begin to feel things you had forgotten. You begin to play back the good times, the laughter and wonder “could it have worked out?” In my case, my answer always remained “no” but what my mind knew my heart didn’t always understand. I found myself crying in the most random places and couldn’t explain why. It was as though my heart and my spirit was grieving but my mind could not make sense of it. Many believe pain heals over time but I believe it heals with intention. You must be invested in your own healing process. Take the time you need but be intentional about healing.
7. You can’t heal without forgiveness. Anyone who knows me personally, anyone who has worked with me, anyone I’ve coached, counseled or spoken to, knows that healing is the area that God has gifted me in. My entire practice is based on healing old wounds, changing thought patterns, and reframing old stories so we can enter a place of healing and wholeness. I learned early that forgiveness was attached to healing. I have been on my own journey of forgiveness and I have walked many through their own terrain. I was doing pretty good…then the man I married left me. He left in a way that was harsh and hurtful. He stopped speaking to me and pretty much stopped speaking to my kids. He hurt the kids!! Most of you, especially mothers, know this can make the sweetest and most forgiving woman a crazed killer — but I had to forgive him. If you’ve worked with me you know that forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t happen over night and often you find yourself angry all over again, after you are sure you have already forgiven. At any point that you recall a memory or an emotion is triggered, you can find yourself in the same emotional place you were when the offense first took place. You have to take the thought captive and make it do what is right. You have to forgive… again… and then again. I am still going through my cycle of forgiveness. It is getting easier. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said we are to forgive 7 x 70 times. Perhaps he knew that the pain, the thoughts, wouldn’t just vanish after the first time. Either way, just like God’s mercies are new EACH morning we too have to wipe the slate clean each day. I won’t tell any one to forgive “quickly” because while that would be ideal, I prefer you take your time and forgive genuinely and fully. If you do this prematurely, you won’t be right inside.