For Christian Women Who Have Never Been Divorced
Let me start by saying that until 2009, I was one of you.
I know that there are plenty of women at your church who are deeply in love with fantastic partners, and they could never comprehend the possibility of divorcing. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you found a wonderful man who supports and encourages you, who makes time for you and for the kids, and works hard to make sure your family's happy and well-cared for. Sure your husband has his faults and shortcomings, nobody’s perfect. But he’s a great guy, and you made a commitment before God that you'd live together, forsaking all others, until death do you part. And you hope that your husband lives for a very long time. You wouldn’t want anything to steal the 40+ years of happiness you signed on for. And I get that. I’m happy for you.
But for every one of those relationships, there is one who is the exact opposite. Every marriage between two Christians who love God is not like your marriage. There are couples who make that same promise to live together forever, forsaking all others, vowing to love, honor and cherish one another for as long as they both shall live. But they don’t get what you got. Not even close. These couples don’t just have bad patches. Their whole marriage is one bad patch. There aren’t ups and downs. There are days that are bad, and days that are awful. They never learned how to have a healthy relationship, and these two sinful people just keep becoming more and more toxic to one another.
Image: Ronald Repolona via Flickr
You think you know that other people don’t have a great marriage, but really..? Do you really know that there are bad situations right in front of you every Sunday? There are women in your church who are not just unhappy, but whose spirits are dying. Women who for all the world seem like perfectly normal, suburban housewives, because they can’t tell anyone what their marriage is really like. But do you see the pain in their eyes? When you ask how they're doing, do you listen? Chances are good that you do know these women, you just don't hear what they're not saying. The signs are there, you're just busy with your own life.
I know because I became that woman with the vacant expression. I was honest for a while when people asked how I was doing, and no one really heard me.
Many of these are women just like you, who waited on God to give her the man she’d been praying for her whole life. She prepared her heart, she didn’t settle for less than God’s best for her, just like she was told. But she didn’t get the fairytale. Maybe she didn’t even get the amusing dysfunctional sitcom. There are women for whom there is no partnership, no support, and no encouragement. There is only disappointment, failure, fear, and pain. She has no dreams or aspirations for herself, she pours everything she has into the children, her only source of joy. She has no hope for happiness or fulfillment in her relationship, because all she can do is survive. She promised forever, before God and everyone, and that means there is no escape.
And that's how I felt. I vowed the words "Till death do us part", and I meant them. I was already living my "happily ever after".
So much for that.
She has to keep it together for the sake of appearance. No one can know the failure she’s made of her marriage. She works so hard to serve and give and love and do, because all the books she’s read on being a Biblical wife and helpmeet tell her that if she just gives selflessly and respects her husband, he will love her. Her best just isn’t good enough, though, and she’s ashamed. The church tells her that divorce is not only sinful, it’s tantamount to law-breaking, and not an option if you’re a “real Christian”. Unfortunately, despite being made aware, the church won’t actually help her fix the problems in their marriage. The pastor and/or his wife might recommend couples therapy, but no one in the church actually wants to get their hands "dirty" providing real wisdom, support, and encouragement.