Thoughts on Divorce
This is not a complete work, but a few observations. It is not all personal, but it is all
true. It is about the parts that move,
and the ones that don’t. The issue, at
its core, is that of failure. Failure to
listen, failure to tell. Failure to hear
what is not said, and to do things that drive you to the edge of hope or fear. The church doesn’t know what to do with
it. Society doesn’t know what to do with
it. Those that are adamant about how
correct they are, are the most afraid of it happening to them. Our friends are unclear about what to do with
it when it happens. Most of the time it
is only a trail of loss and the crumbs of our past strewn along as we go. The rending of the fabric of our
relationships and lives is a sound you cannot not remember. You can imagine the lamb that has it's tail docked and has to re-orient its life and adapt to the new reality. No one wins,
but some have hope of the pain stopping, and the possibility of something more.
To know the smell of the death of dreams and the acrid smoke of
the fire that consumes hope is only achieved by standing at the fire. Others can “know about it” but they will not
“know” it. I have had many friends that
went through it and I was always trying to understand the parts that went into
it, but there was a glass that kept me on the other side of the thing
itself. It is as it is. Those that have been through it, have not
gone through what you have gone through, so it is still singular in all truth. Even the estranged partner, now ex, will have
had a different journey than your own, so they cannot know your story any more
than you can know theirs. The fears and
the turmoil and the sorrows. The hope of
a future, of healing and perhaps not running free, but walking with a limp is
what is instore for you. Only now, at
this point is the darkness and fear so strong.
Be there fully. It is the fastest way to heal. Lean into the wind that assails and has the hail and rain. Let it spend its energy. Let it wash your tears.
The world is full of the numb that have severed their past
relationships and jettisoned their histories.
They have “moved on” … but that is not healing. I have a friend with a friend in New York
that has been married 6 times… I can appreciate the idea of not wanting to stay
with someone incompatible, but perhaps there needs to be a new list of
qualifying questions after the second or third failure? On the other hand, I have many relationships
with friends that have “endured” their marriage for many counted years, even
though it has become as dried leather rather than the supple and flexible
version of their earlier days. Endured
much in the realm of struggle and dryness, of separate lives in the same
home. I am not to say which is better,
for there is a cost to each, but I will say that the cry of the lonesome is
forlorn and lamentable.
The church is all over the place on this. Some will kick you out and withhold Communion,
the very symbol of redemption. Some are
little better than the world and will let you change partners until you have
worn out the gene pool of the willing.
You can be held out of the role of Pastor for the discretion of divorce,
regardless of the reasons, and for other communities, there is a time of
counseling and support in the midst of the turmoil which is restorative. If you are in need, this is worth the search
to find it. Divorce is a tearing of the
fabric of the community. To some, in the body
of friends that make up the church, it seems that it could be seen as permission
for another couple to take the same step.
This is the law of the first follower, meaning it acts like permission
for you to follow in the same way. This
is a curious human barrier to some activity, and it works whenever there are
humans involved. “Well, if he can stay
with that one, I suppose I can stay with this one” is the line of thought that
prevents you making the change. Until it doesn’t. The question though is this; did you simply
change your circumstance or did you learn something about your own part in the
failure? To change partners without
changing your own understanding of what idiot thing you did to ruin it simply
resets the clock that will bring an end to the next one as well.
The world is no better at this, of course. They will provide the permission to flee pain
at the first signs, so they can justify it in their own journeys. There are a bunch of justifications, and all
will seem to be sensible at the time, but in the end, you are still simply
hollow, alone and older. There is a path
in the midst of struggle that will bring an awareness that to have not had that
struggle will have not taught you. So
too, I would and do wish to avoid pain and suffering as much as the rest of the
world, but when the journey in marriage is hard, there is much good that can be
brought to the surface, and hopefully it will bring changes that last, and help
make the marriage better. That is not
always the case. Here is an interesting
statistic that caught me off guard: 80% of the people that go to Alcoholics
Anonymous and it works, will end up divorced, but it is the same for people
that get Gastric Bypass surgery for weight loss. Why?
Because the one that went in is not the one that came out and if the
marriage has lasted a while when this took place, the one that was the
caretaker of the addict is now left with a change in identity of purpose and
relationship. What then are we to do? Not get better, to stay an addict and stay
married? Or perhaps to go into it with a
full understanding of the changes that are going to come with it?
So it happens that we American Christians like to have a
weekend gathering called a “marriage retreat”.
This usually ends up bringing up pains that had been stuffed below the
awareness line, but are now brought up just enough to have to know about it but
with not enough time to deal with it in any meaningful way. This is why men hate to go to a second one,
because we like to “resolve things” and we don’t get resolution there. What we get is the awareness of things that
we were pretending we could ignore or simply didn’t know how to confront and
still live. Now we are angry about what
we know and can’t deal with completely.
This is what dry leather looks like.
The snarky comments and the stomping out of the room, but not the
confrontation that can bring resolution.
It then builds layers. Quiet
layers of solitude and seclusion.
So here is the hard part.
Who goes first and for how long, before you really are the “walking
mat”, that you don’t stand up for “yourself”.
It isn’t about “rights”, that is the wrong position. It is about respect and communicating the
hard bits that you would rather not have to deal with. You will know a time that it changes, then
will come the choices that are harder still.
I had an uncle that got a divorce at 60 and I thought that was
curious. To have stayed that long and
finally end it. What could have finally
changed that made the difference that moved the gate to open… My own came in
not much of a different time, and I would say that I still don’t have the
answer. Each is singular in the why and
what of details, but they make sense when you do it, at least to yourself at
the time. Like everyone else I can tell of the things that contributed, but
others, better ones perhaps, could have worked through it and not simply
survived, but thrived… Mine did not. It
is curious when couples get remarried to the partner that they parted
from. Perhaps they learned some things
that will help this time around. Perhaps
they found that they didn’t have it so bad after all… again it is singular to
This is what I know now; that hard things are hard things. Your
Doctor or nurse will ask about the “level of pain” but that is a subjective
measure. Only those that have stood over
the fire, watching their hopes being consumed, can know this level of pain. Yet again, it is singular. To the spouse that was surprised that level is different than the one that left years before the departure. Only the journey to forgiveness and renewal
will bring them to confront their part in it.
Letting go of the blame is harder for some than for others, but it is
always required to get to the next level.
To expect the church or the world to understand is the path of needing
to gain approval from those that cannot give it to you. Perhaps when we stop asking those who cannot
give it, we will then realize we didn’t need it anyway.
Divorce is always messy and filled with struggle. It should always be the end in the cases of
abuse and emotional hostility. When you
get past the obvious levels, it gets subjective and only you will know. To heal requires you to accept how you
contributed to it. To take ownership of
the part you played and that you may need counseling to point out your
blindness. To think that your partner is
obligated to stay when you mistreat them is a real thing, but it is not true. To get them to stop is hard. To be scared is real, or you would have acted sooner. Scared and the feeling of being trapped, by finance or
social status or family obligations is to force the path of the fire into other
areas. Adultery, or drugs, are only the
beginning of the outlets. Workaholics
are just as common as the indolent and slothful, but they get more awards. But perhaps they simply didn’t want to go
home. For some, suicide is a more appealing
option. It finishes, rather than prolongs,
the aftermath. If it is done with some
thought it is a “believable accident” rather than a mess in the bathroom, but
you are still gone. The spouse gets the
insurance and the sympathy. Society is
better to the widow than the divorcee, or so it seems.
The need to finally confront your sorrow and struggle
requires a lot of grit and resolve.
Friends are good as well, but some well intentioned friends would speak
guilt and obligations that keep you in places that you need to remove yourself
from. Friends that have been moved to
the sheep pen of the docked tails will know better to listen than compel. They have been through the knothole and
survived. They know the taste of the
salt of the tears that come. This is not
a call to get a divorce, but a call to get some help. It is a call to see those that are your
friends, that have been through it, differently.
To see the friends that need to go to a level deeper about their pain
and then to go with them. Not to solve,
but to hear. We learn as we speak, so
let them speak so they can learn for themselves the power of the pain to heal. This is an appeal to make your friendship
more than it was before. You will be
better for the journey. So will your
friends. Do the “buddy check”, you may
never know who is needing to talk.
Know this; cheap answers and small Band-Aids will not heal a
wounded relationship. Regardless of the
commitments to the long term, it doesn’t get better with time alone. It is work. To stay married, to make it
better than yesterday, to make it a pleasure and not simply survival. But you have to both want to. This is not one-sided. Life is filled with things that will kill you,
choose to fight to survive and to get on top of the pain and the problems. Everything needs maintenance. You, your marriage, your friendships, your
“self”. Keep things fresh. Start today. Start with you.