I love to use responses from real people in my sermons and my posts. Not too long ago I preached a message called, “What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?” The week before I sent out some private messages to a handful of people I know who are divorced and I asked them each two questions: 1) What did you wish you had known before you divorced that you know now? and 2) What would you tell others in the early stages of the divorce process?
Wanna know what they said?
1. I wish it had known how much it affects the kids emotionally as well as my own self-esteem – even years later.
This is probably one of the biggies that people face when dealing with divorce – there is an unseen ripple effect that washes through people divorcing and any kids who are products of divorce. There are often identity issues with both adults and kids; people who had their identity wrapped up in notions of “family” or “child” or “spouse” suddenly find themselves cut loose and wandering.
2. You will struggle with resentment, hurt, and anger towards your ex.
While some couples can maintain a friendly interaction after a divorce it is rare. By the time a couple gets to divorce things are usually so fractured and fragmented that an amicable relationship is not possible. And a broken relationship most often causes people to feel hurt and resentment towards the other.
3. It’s not always easy “fun-n-games”; you can’t just get married and check out. You always have to put into it and you’ll only get out what you put in.
One of the biggest problems I face in marriage counseling and marriage classes is that people wait WAY TOO LATE to begin working on their relationships. If we take the time when things are good to set ourselves up for success we’ll have the tools to make it through the rough patches later on. Think about it like driving a car. If you hold the wheel in a fixed position the car will eventually go off the road as the road shifts. So we make constant adjustments in order to stay in our lane. Relationships stay on course when we work to make little adjustments here and there rather than try to jerk the wheel back as the car is careening off the road.
4. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side – you’re gonna take your baggage with you and sometimes that makes the next shot harder.
Ah, yes, the “Things have GOT to be better next time” mentality. Relationship guru John Gottman notes the divorce rate for 2nd marriages is 10% higher than in 1st marriages. So we don’t really learn from previous marriages and improve. We take the same junk from the past and move it into a new relationship. It’s like paying off one credit card by transferring the balance to another card. YOU’VE STILL GOT THE DEBT! And every relationship will have baggage. I once heard it said (for the life of me I can’t remember where I heard or read it) that, since any relationship will have baggage, marriage is simply deciding which set of baggage you want to live with. Things don’t improve if you don’t improve.
5. Divorce is not as easy as you may think.
Yup – that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
Some people don’t realize that the Bible speaks a good deal about relationships and divorce. In one sentence: God takes marriage seriously and expects that we take it seriously as well. One time Jesus was asked about divorce. They asked: “Why did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He answered: “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
Funny thing – expectation of longevity is an indicator of successful long-term relationships. When couples have an expectation that they’ll stick around as long as things are good and as long they are “in love” they tend not to go the distance. Couples who have an understanding that the relationship is a life-long commitment and plan to stick it out no matter what speed bumps come along fare much better in longevity. When we take marriage as seriously as God does we have better odds of successful long-term marriages.
So what can I tell you about making things better?
First – God can heal all broken relationships. Don’t give up all hope – he works miracles.
Second – If you are married, never argue using the word “Divorce” as ammunition. Couples who keep that in their back pocket will always see it as a way out.
Third – Put in effort to make things better rather than throwing in the towel. Read books. Find a pastor or counselor to talk to. Do something.
Fourth – When you’ve exhausted all options sometimes your spouse gives up and walks away. Know that God still loves you, and that no relationship status is going to cause him to turn his back on you.
So…what about you? What do you wish you had known then that you know now? What would you say to those in the rough spot of a pre-divorce marriage?Follow @chrislinzey