Without question, divorce can be one of the most painful
experiences in a person's lifetime. The range of emotions, (following divorce) can be enormous and confusing,
leaving even the strongest people feeling defeated, ruined and without hope of recovery. Many of these emotions may
be a completely new experience for a person, thereby leaving them unequipped and ignorant about how to deal with them.
Divorce is difficult on many levels and the damage can be bilateral and long-lasting. Bilateral because it oftentimes
involves children, (who are greatly affected), as well as extended families that have invested time, money, love and emotions
into the couple. Long-lasting because of the effects of destroyed trust, finances and loneliness.
in America, two out of three marriages end in divorce. This is a staggering statistic that reveals that the institution
of marriage is in severe trouble in our society. The pain and suffering that surrounds divorce is very real and not
only extends to the emotions, but oftentimes to the extended problems of single-parent homes, poverty, dealing with
step-parents and step-children and even the embarrassment and humility of having to communicate with new spouses "for
the sake of the children." For most people, this is "uncharted territory" that is extremely difficult
WHY MARRIAGES FAIL:
As a Pastoral Counselor for many years, I've come
to believe and realize that most marriages end for one simple reason...ignorance. Most people simply do not know "how"
to be married. We go to school to learn to read, write, to add and subtract, but we are never taught "how"
to be happily married. The result is that most couples end up doing all the wrong things. Again, to our credit,
it's not that we are unwilling to do the right things, (in most cases, at least), it's simply that we don't know
what those things are. Although it would be easy to blame extra-marital affairs, laziness, growing apart, verbal abuse
and the like for the ruin of marriages...these are actually just symptoms of a deeply unhealthy marriage, rather than the
cause. Again, ignorance is the underlying cause of most divorces.
Because of this, most of my marriage counseling
revolves around "teaching" couples the keys to a healthy and fulfilling marriage. When people are taught
the basics of a happy marriage, I've seen them go from miserable to happy. In fact, I've had people come to
me that were already divorced...that having learned the keys to a healthy marriage...and with God's help are now back
together and doing wonderfully. I credit this success with one thing: knowledge.
Sadly, most marriages that
have grown to the point of divorce are unlikely to find healing in marriage counseling, because...by then, the pain is too
deep, the gulf too wide and the emotions too far gone. Of course, nothing is impossible with God, but in many of these
cases, at least one of the spouses is simply "too far removed" from the marriage to make the commitment necessary
UNDERSTANDING THE EMOTIONAL PAIN OF DIVORCE:
As I mentioned earlier,
the emotional and mental pains that often accompany divorce can be unbearable. It is not uncommon for these types of
emotional strains to lead to further destructive behavior in the form of substance abuse or other addictions, alternative
'soothing relationships,' severe depression or anxiety...and sadly, even suicide.
The reason for this is
simple: Divorce is one of the most internally damaging experiences mankind can suffer, and one that almost no one is
prepared to handle alone. Why? Because it is one of the greatest losses in life that can be experienced.
Divorce not only encompasses the loss of a intimate relationship, but it also involves the loss of a life-long dream, the
loss of trust, the loss of security, the loss of honor, the loss of self-esteem and the loss of our most sacred tie...family.
In short, divorce is devastating...thus the emotion and mental pain that accompany such devastation.
anyone who has personally experienced divorce will tell you that "Loss of a partner through divorce is worse than loss
of a partner through death." How can that be? Because when a partner dies, the marriage ends in the natural
way, while divorce ends marriage in an un-natural way. Most times when a marriage ends through death, both people
still love each other, wherein is great comfort. In divorce, love is lost and that knowledge can haunt every thought
and every emotion for many years to come...wherein there is NO comfort. In fact, although most people can "move
on" following a divorce, I'm not sure they are ever the same as they were.
If we look at the experience
of Christ, we see that He was devastated at Judas Iscariot's betrayal. Although the other disciples failed Him as
well...their failures were unintentional. Judas' was completely intentional and therefore caused the Lord much more
pain. Likewise, divorce is painful because it too is an intentional choice. Although everyone is human and fail
often, we rely on mercy, long-suffering and grace to pull us through. When that is gone, things can get mean and nasty
in a hurry, leaving life-long scars.
MISERY LOVES COMPANY:
As hard as it is to believe,
when we experience something as traumatic as divorce, we find comfort in knowing that others have experienced it as well...and
have survived. Divorce...like most other experiences in life...can only be understood through experience. Unless
you've been there, it's difficult to understand why the emotions can be so raw and the recovery time so long.
However, once you have experienced it, you will often have compassion on others who are suffering likewise.
ROAD TO HEALING:
Divorce is like a major cancer surgery that removes a large part of our former self.
In such cases of great loss, it is to be expected that recovery time will be slow and "daily pain" will often become
an unwelcome companion. The good news is, with time, Talk Therapy, and God, people can be healed from the tragedy of
divorce. The key is to work through these painful times with as much knowledge and healthy action as possible, rather
than delving into thoughts or actions that only make your suffering worse and prolonged.
THE BLAME GAME:
Following divorce, it is easy to succumb to the "blame game." We do this in order to better
understand "what" happened and "why." This is our mind's natural effort to categorize and place
these events into some kind of "acceptance we can live with." However, this type of behavior is usually unhealthy
and, based upon the facts, is usually a wrong conclusion. The truth is, when marriage fails there is usually
enough blame to go around. Again...ignorance is where the blame can usually and rightfully be placed.
is common following divorce, to cast the entire blame upon the departing spouse or to accept the full blame ourselves.
Neither of these is fair or accurate assessments...although their are exceptions to every rule...but generally speaking this
THE FALSEHOOD OF THE FINALITY OF FAILURE:
The word failure seems to imply
total finality. Feeling like an utter failure, following divorce, can lead us to believe there is no hope for our recovery
or for our future. This does not have to be the case. In truth...failure is relative. Failure is
only final when we give up, refusing to learn from our mistakes and refusing to bravely move forward and try again.
Recovering and learning from our failures is the recipe for Hero's.
Although it is not uncommon for someone
to feel like it will be impossible to replace a departing spouse, it is simply not true. There are over six-billion
people on the Earth...and therefore the chances of finding a great and healthy relationship in the future is not as hard as
we lead ourselves to believe. All it takes is healing, personal restoration and courage. In short, there are countless
people who once thought their romantic life was over, (following divorce), only to find someone who completely and (sometimes)
more fully...becomes the love of their life. It's never too late...if you're willing to trust God and try.
Divorce is like a Valley we are forced to walk through. We can't go
over it...can't go around it...must walk through it. The key is to walk with honor, learning, acceptance and faith...knowing
that with each step we are closer to reaching the other side...which is restoration. Many have walked this "Valley
of Tears" before you and have come out whole on the other side. My prayer is that you will boldly do the same...allowing
your faith in Christ to carry you, when you can't walk another step.