For Part III of the Marriage Series I interviewed a 40-something (ask her and she’ll tell you she hasn’t reached her 3oth birthday yet!) mom, writer, teacher, entrepreneur, and woman of God. What is unique about this interview is she shares her perspective as a woman who does not believe in divorce, and therefore fought for her marriage even when the handwriting was on the wall. She shares insight into her relationship with her ex-husband from the time they met up to when she received a revelation that she will be alright! Please take time to read every word of this very candid account of life after divorce.
How long were you married? How many of those years would you say were good years and what made them that way?
I was married for 15 years. I remember the first year being a really good one. I was still excited to be married and we did a lot of date nights and traveled so the element of fun was still there. We had intermittent good times over the entire 15 years, such as the birth of our son, the purchases of homes, and couple’s moments. The sex was also great so many of the serious problems were trivialized or pushed to the side. We were stuck in the newness of our relationship.
When did you begin to notice signs of trouble that would impact the longevity of the marriage?
If I could be perfectly honest there were signs of trouble before we even got married that weren’t properly addressed by anyone. I said properly addressed because they were noticed and discussed but not in the right way. Things that I noticed about him that I felt needed to be changed I would bring up but to the point of nagging (they were frustrating) and not really seeking real solutions for change. The problem was that he didn’t want to change so his issues remained. The issues he had with me he was perpetually nonverbal about. He basically ignored them and repressed them in his mind and allowed them to ultimately turn into resentment for me (he had a huge passive aggressive personality). Furthermore, certain issues that I brought up during our premarital counseling sessions with the pastor of our then church were dealt with so lightly that I began thinking maybe the problem was me and that maybe I was being too sensitive. That unfortunately was not the case.
At that point were you fearful that things would continue to spiral or felt that they would pass?
It was ongoing. Our marriage was troubled from the beginning. We argued about everything. At the end of the day we were just two different people who viewed life differently. When I met him he expressed a desire to get baptized (he wasn’t a Christian) but in retrospect I think he only did it to please me. His heart wasn’t in it and his walk with God showed that. Towards the end of or relationship he was really degrading about my faith; making fun of me, calling me a dreamer, and vetoing any ideas I had for a better life for us. He finally took off his charade of “Christianity” and stopped praying and going to church. Long before that I started to see that he and I were unequally yoked and didn’t feel the same way about God. How can two walk together unless they agree? He was masquerading as an angel of light yet his heart was so far away from God. I learned the hard way that just because someone goes to church doesn’t mean they love God. I was caught up looking at the outer appearance of the man and never evaluated him the way God does; by looking at the heart.
You can’t just jump into something and think it will work itself out later. My ex-husband didn’t turn into these things. He was like that from the beginning but I only saw in him what I wanted to see. I closed my eyes to the truth for years and made excuses for him until my son too started feeling his father’s negativity and neglect for him. That’s when I woke up. I started to see that our relationship was broken because I was with a person who didn’t want to be a husband or a father. I used to pray for God to change his heart and make him into a loving husband and father until the day I realized God will not go against His own Word. God tells us to not be unequally yoked in any relationship but we ignore His truth thinking that we can pray and make people change their ways. That’s witchcraft. It’s manipulation to use God to try to turn the frog into a prince, especially after not seeking Him first in the selection of that mate. God never said to seek Him second after you try it your way and fail. He said to seek Him first. When we stopped having sex and he began to happily plan his life without me, I knew our relationship was over.
When did you begin to realize that things would not repair themselves?
My ex-husband told me he wanted a divorce and would be filing. That didn’t happen for a year. I thought in the meanwhile things would change. I thought we had a chance. We weren’t arguing and had even begun to co-parent our son better. Even though our relationship seemed to be improving, his attitude towards wanting a divorce never changed. I prayed relentlessly and kept the hope he would change his mind. Even when he presented me with divorce papers I had hope things would change. I wasn’t seeing the truth. Then one day I asked God a very specific question about myself and then went to sleep. When I woke up He had given me my answer in a dream. I meditated on the answer for a month then I told my husband I was ready to sign the divorce papers and did with no regrets. What God had told me let me know that things between us would not repair themselves. So I stopped fighting it.
Since there’s two sides to every story, how do you think you may have contributed to the disruption in the marriage?
I misdirected my focus to my ex-husband making him my God. At the time I worried more about pleasing him than pleasing God. I was an emotionally delicate woman due to issues in my childhood, and I looked to my husband too strongly for acceptance and validation. When he couldn’t meet my emotional needs I felt further rejection and abandonment. I put a heavy burden on my ex-husband that he couldn’t possibly bear. It was not his job to understand me, fix me, or make me whole. I thought it was. Because of that I was hard to live with at times. I was wrong for that. In the time just prior to the divorce I became the wife I should have been from the beginning. I learned about submission, and being a wife and not a mother to him. Financially I supported the household and he was a stay-at-home dad. I stepped back and gave him space to make his own way. Later in the marriage he got a job where, for the first time ever, he made enough where we were able to split all the bills 50-50. I finally had money to spare and could do nice things for my son and me. He couldn’t be lazy any longer because I no longer enabled him. We were finally operating as a team, at least financially. With all these improvements he still felt he would have a better life without me so he continued to pursue the divorce.
Since you do not believe in divorce, explain the spiritual dilemma you experienced trying to make things work when your husband was ready to give up.
Well, it felt like a nightmare. I was trying to respect God by honoring my wedding vows (for better or for worse) and he was literally hell-bent on doing the opposite. I felt like I was being forced into a divorce and into a life I did not choose. Spiritually there was so much conflict. Would I be punished for participating? Would my blessings be cut off? Worse yet, how could I explain it to my son that his dad was divorcing me and not him (kids take divorce so personally) and that we would no longer be a family? That was the hardest part. Remembering how my son cried when my ex-husband told him we were getting a divorce. Now he would be a child of divorce. How would he handle that? After thinking about how divorce would affect my son I also started thinking about how it would affect me. I got into the Word and started studying what it says about divorce. From what I read it looked like I was being forced into becoming an adulterer if I ever remarried or worse, that I would have to be single forever to prevent from sinning. That was a horrible thought. I felt I was being punished. I cannot say that I am very clear on the biblical rules for divorce. My only concern was if I would be able to marry again biblically. After directing this question to my pastor and key people in my life, and also studying divorce as it pertained to mixed marriages (union of a Christian with a non-Christian) I felt at peace in knowing that I could in fact remarry without guilt.
How did you come to terms with the dissolution of the marriage?
As I said before I knew a year in advance that he would be filing for divorce. That helped a great deal. I got the opportunity to learn to live without him while we were still living together. We had moved into separate rooms and became more like college dorm mates. I could grieve for the loss of my marriage without the inconvenience of experiencing the accompanying physical loss. I found a new church and committed to membership. I grew closer to God as my faith increased. That church became my marriage counseling and anger management all wrapped up in one. It became my destiny. I was using God’s word to help me heal and it was changing me at the same time. I became alive again. I saw me as an individual for the first time in 15 years and not just the identity-less silent partner I had become in my marriage. I started pursuing my own dreams. I quit my job so I could homeschool my son full-time (I had already been doing it part-time), started my own business in media, wrote my first novel, bought my dream car and made plans to move back to my home state where my family was. As my faith in God increased I got stronger emotionally. I stopped making my divorce about me and rejection and hurt and pain and fear.
The divorce was uncontested. I showed up to the trial and made up my mind that I was going to leave out the court room the same way I came—at peace. My ex-husband was bitter throughout the entire trial, which was surprising to me since he was the one who filed. While waiting for the case to be called I excused myself to feed my parking meter, gave a homeless girl $3, fed his meter, came back, got divorced, threw him the deuces sign and went and got my hair done. There were no tears. So to answer your question, I came to terms with the dissolution of my marriage by losing dead weight and growing taller.
What spiritual counsel did you receive regarding your situation and what impact did that have on the outcome?
I received spiritual counsel from the Holy Spirit Himself. I never went to marriage counseling. I went to church. I went to every Sunday service and every midweek service for 12 months straight. I jumped into the Word of God with both feet. I recorded my pastor’s teachings on the gospel of Jesus Christ and the topic of faith and I listened to the recordings practically every day for a year. I made my situation more about my relationship with God and not my divorce. It was always in the back of my mind but there were so many wonderful things I was learning about my walk with God that I stopped paying attention to it directly. Jesus became my friend and counselor as He said He would, and when I did feel like crying I would cry to him and it helped. I didn’t cry a lot though. I am one of those people that get up quickly when they fall. I don’t nurse heartache and I never feel sorry for myself. I had to go on living for my son’s sake and the new life I had forged. By renewing my mind, I became transformed. The rest is history.
If you knew then what you know now, what might you have done differently during your courtship with your ex-husband?
Hindsight really does have 20-20 vision. If I knew then what I know now I would have outrun Forest Gump!!! I would have never married him. I would have seen through his nice-guy act and would have been really honest with myself that I deserved better. Not that he was a bad person but he was needy. I would have not taken him up as a “project” to mold and make him into a man. That was not my job to do. He was one of those really co-dependent people that never took the opportunity to take care of himself. I had told him before we got married that he needed to get his own apartment and live on his own for a year (he was living with his mother at the time) before we got married. He would have learned about responsibility and accountability. I should have stuck to that plan. We got married only after nine months of courtship (no premarital sex) and he moved directly from his mother’s house to mine. He went from being her problem to being mine.
As life always goes I have a good friend with a really goofy laugh who told me back then not to marry him but I didn’t listen to her. As a matter of fact, we kind of didn’t talk for a few years after that. We lost years but we’re back on track now and If I could I would tell her I am sorry for not listening to her. And that I blame her (just kidding).
Explain how you thought of yourself as a wife and woman when you realized divorce was inevitable.
At the beginning of my divorce saga I wasn’t feeling very confident about being a wife or a woman. I felt unloved and rejected. Halfway towards the middle I realized that I was a prize and that there was nothing wrong with me. I was aware of the dark path I had started to go down and quickly got back on track. God then spoke to me in a dream and gave me a life changing message that revised my outlook on my divorce. The exact quote is in my upcoming novel so I won’t use it here, but He basically told me not to expect more out of people than what they can give. My ex-husband had very little to offer to me or our son. It wasn’t his fault. He was just deficient. In terms of the divorce he honestly did what he felt he needed to do for him. Things like commitment and perseverance were honestly too much for me to expect from him. It just wasn’t in him. And I’m cool with that. To this day we are not friends (I think it’s whack to remain friends with an ex-husband—let it go!) but we are co-parents and do not hesitate to make decisions on behalf of our son. We text more than we talk and my son has his own cell phone so he can contact him directly without going through me. Preferred!
Did you hold on to the marriage out of fear of being alone or feeling like you may have failed?
I held on to the marriage because I don’t believe in divorce. I didn’t want to be out of covenant with God. Underlying all of that I also didn’t want to be another statistic. Everyone in my immediate family is divorced. I really didn’t want to be the next one. Things like being alone or feeling like a failure made up a small part of my thinking. I love my own company and my marriage had really failed from the beginning. Sad but true. In my heart I really didn’t like my husband and I wanted a divorce, but I was willing to fight for my marriage to the very end. I was willing to work on fixing it. In the end he did me a favor.
What are your thoughts about being single again after 40?
When I hit 40 I’ll let you know. Just kidding! I think being single again after 40 is actually better than being single at any other time. At least for me. There’s less of an urgency for me to get back into a relationship. Been there, done that! Without sounding like a narcissist I really do enjoy my own company. I am a business owner now so that takes up a lot of my time and focus. Furthermore, I already have experienced being married and I already have a child so I am less aware of a biological clock ticking. The motherhood and wife factor have both been demystified at this point. I will remarry again but won’t put myself out on the dating scene—dating a hundred frogs hoping one will turn into a prince. That’s totally random. I am more sensitive to finding a “mate” this time than finding a husband. Finding a husband is something you feel pressured into doing because of age, time, and social pressures. It’s an action. Finding a mate is a revelation. It’s the moment you realize, without any outside pressure, that the guy you’re interested in is the right one, and is the one with all the right spiritual qualities that makes him a great choice. He’s the one you should have married in the first place if you were honest with yourself and weren’t so impatient. You have evaluated his character and see that he would make a terrific father to your already present child. You two appear to have been made for each other. Even with all his quirks you can see how he fits into your life to complement it. Here’s the best part—even though you feel convinced that this guy is the one, YOU SAY AND DO NOTHING! You go on living your life. Building your own dreams. A man that finds a wife finds a good thing… You let him find you this time.
What advice would you give to women who are in a challenging situation and want to fight for their marriage? It’s hard to speak on this because every situation is different and every challenge is different. I would say first and foremost that if your challenge involves physical abuse and a potential loss of life that you have to get out of that situation immediately because God is not in it, marriage or no marriage. Leave first and pray later! No man is worth being beat up for. God did not call you to be a martyr for domestic violence. Now if this is not your situation then thank God you haven’t experienced the worse. Everything else you will get through. Seek God first. Your marriage is in trouble because God is not in control of it. Be honest and open your eyes. If God is in your marriage it can’t fail. It’s failing because you and/or your husband are in control, not God. You manipulate him, he manipulates you, you want your way, he never gives in, etc.
Wives learn to submit to your husband. Submit is a tough word for many woman because we were taught that it means being weak and giving in to everything all the time. That’s not biblical submission. Biblical submission is power for women. It means you learn to shut your mouth and stop telling your husband off every time he upsets you. You stop saying things out of character and giving up your power. Instead when you feel that your husband upset you, you take your fragile heart and your broken feelings and dump everything you were going to say to your husband on God. Get it all off your chest (just delete all the expletives! Lol). Cry, snot, yell but do it with Jesus. Your husband was not designed to be a carrier for your emotional breakdowns. After you finish dumping your heart aches on God pray for your husband that he will learn to __________________ (you fill in the blanks). Then give God space to work. Now when you have calmed down and you are no longer emotional go back to your husband and say, “Sweetheart, when you spoke to me like you did earlier I didn’t like it”. He gets to now process your real concerns and not your hurt feelings and you can rationally talk to a solution.
It’s time to keep your focus on God and stop pretending that He called you to be a wife only. He called you to a purpose in Him single or married. Find out what you were brought here to do and pursue it. Start getting your act together. If you are looking at a divorce realistically start preparing for it. Start paying off your debts, save money, write a book, scale a mountain, hug your children, but whatever you do don’t walk around sad and depressed like you have no hope. Jesus is your hope. Take back your power and start living your life. You never know what could happen in your marriage while you are restoring your focus. He may pull his stuff together too and seek reconciliation or he might leave. Either way you will be stronger.
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