A Few Words About Divorce

This seems to be a major theme ripping through parts of my little blogger circle (See Desmond, Christian Husband,  Desperate Husband and Aphron) and since I can’t help but think I’ve sort of inspired some of their thoughts, I’ll speak more directly to it.

 

First off, I’m in agreement with most of what most of the the gentlemen above have written on the subject.  I believe marriage is intended for life.  I believe God hates divorce.  I believe it is harmful to children.  I believe it is rare that an intact marriage is more harmful to children than a broken one.

 

And so it is that divorce has never been option #1, #2 or even #3 for me.  But let’s be honest; it still makes the list only it doesn’t place high enough to put money on it.  There are many things I’ve tried and still many I have yet to try.  At the same time I’ve entertained the thought in my mind and tried to imagine what it might be like and tried to carry the scenario through.  I just have a hard time seeing good come out of it.  I suppose anything can eventually come out for the good just as things that start out good can eventually turn to shit.

 

I see divorce as a nuclear option in the marital relationship.  Liz Taylor and Richard Burton aside, filing usually results in fantastical feelings of feverish fury.  For some reason, at least one person in every couple seems to have the need to be an asshole.  There are feelings of hurt and betrayal and perhaps envy and jealousy.

 

I like to have a blog or two in my blogroll where the folks are going through a divorce just as a reference.  Right now, Artful Dodger is the lone holder in that category, although Desperate Husband, Always Aroused Girl and Freebird are all moving in that general direction.  I have tracked several bloggers over the past couple of years as well as people I know in real life.  It is NEVER as easy as it looks and it always takes longer than you think before it’s over.

 

Arwyn’s father is going through his second divorce.  It’s been over a year and they are just now wrapping things up.  It really was a very nasty affair with the woman trying to dig into his pockets as deep as she could despite the fact that she was able to put her entire paycheck for the last 25 years into savings because he paid all the bills. 

 

Donald and Gina have given a little better look as they were married a week after we were.  Donald, despite making a 6 figure salary plus having all expenses paid, is being a savage heathen when it comes to his ex-wife and son.  He basically tried to empty the house of its contents and leave them with nothing.  As it is, they both sleep on mattresses on the floor in a modest ranch style house, while he just bought another big house and has all the furniture.  Except for the purple couch.  They are still fighting over a purple couch and they are each paying large sums of money to an attorney to get a judge to rule on who gets custody of a purple couch.

 

Divorce robs people of whatever sense they had before and they end up being petty, mean and spiteful.  Children end up getting the short shrift.  There really is no way to spare or shield children from it.  In Donald and Gina’s case, the poor boy is used as a pawn to gain leverage or advantage.  Donald wants joint custody simply to not pay child support.  But it isn’t joint custody at all as Gina has the boy most of the time.

 

As far as Arwyn’s dad, it still affects the kids.  For one thing, his X  put a lien on all the property so she gets it before the kids do.    There goes their inheritance.  He has a lien on property she owns but she doesn’t have any kids.  The sad thing is, they each are hoping the other dies first.  Let’s see, he has a history of heart problems and is 15 years older.  OTOH, she is a full-fledged drunk which is sapping her health.  Bets anyone?

 

Arwyn’s parents divorced when she was a about 15, and her mother never remarried.  Her mother lives in Florida in government housing, and now can get along with her father fairly well.  I think they do talk on the phone on occasion.  Back when they were together, Arwyn’s father was the one who was the alcoholic. 

 

Anyway, the seeds of our problems were likely sown in the wake of her parent’s divorce.  My parents have been married for almost 44 years.  Can you imagine?  My Dad’s parents were married for almost 65 years before Grandpa passed away.  My mother’s parents were married for about 50 years before Grandma died even though Grandpa’s parents were divorced (in an Irish Catholic church, no less!) when he was very young.

 

This is the thing: I know a lot of people who have been divorced.  I’ve dated a few of them.  Divorce does not make people bad and it is not a sign of some special weakness.  Shit happens.   It only takes one person of the two to be determined to make a divorce happen for it to occur.   It’s like involuntary celibacy; one person gets all the power.   It’s actually more of a wonder that there are not more divorces than there are today.  Why aren’t we all more like Britney Spears or other people in Hollywood? 

 

God does not like it, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who got married with the intention of getting a divorce later.  A lot of things happen in the world that God doesn’t like but they happen anyway.  We are weak and frail beings and prone to temptations and mistakes.  It’s such a part of our flesh to not want to commit and sacrifice and struggle and go through pain and suffering.  But we end up putting ourselves through more in an attempt to escape and avoid it.

 

With a 50% divorce rate in the U.S., it is something that has touched all of us through parents, siblings, children and friends.  It cuts through the entire fabric of our society socially and economically.

 

I’ll go ahead and extend the divorce topic a bit more by talking a bit about couples who have children with disabilities.  The divorce rate there is at about 80% for these parents.  Indeed, an intact family with children of disabilities is a much rarer thing.  I do know a few, but even among them I can tell you that there are problems and struggles.  Talk all of the problems associated with raising a normal child and multiply them many fold.  Think about the additional financial stress, the physical drain of the extra time and work involved and just issues of acceptance and denial.  The president of the Autism Society of America, Lee Grossman, is a member of the divorce club.   Look at some of the folks we know; Celibate Husband, Cinnamon, Cat, Summer and Confused.  I think there are a few more, especially among the lurkers.  All of us dealing with similar issues of health and behavior of our children.  Most of us have fairly young children under the age of 10.  Will those of us still married today remain so 10 years from now?  According to statistics, perhaps one couple might still survive intact but even then the odds are even that that couple will suffer a great deal more dysfunction if not marital dissatisfaction.

 

Faith in God is one issue that many have brought up.  However I have come across some sources that cite and even higher divorce rate among those identifying themselves as evangelical Christians than those who do not.    Clearly there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and what we actually do.  And don’t be all that surprised.  I think the more vociferously we assert our opposition to a habit or choice the more vulnerable we are to it.  Just like the head of Evangelical Christians and various clergy people leading double lives as far as sexuality.  Now they are judged by the same measure they judged others, aren’t they?

 

And so it is with divorce.  I do entertain the thought sometimes.  I am not in favor of it for a variety of reasons but I am so not condemning others for finding themselves in that circumstance.  I don’t condone every choice, and but I’m not clubbing a body for it.

 

Desperate Husband is the best example I can think of who seems to have inspired the best and worst in people on several of these levels.  Do I think he’s making the best decisions?  No.  The man is hurt, wounded and suffering and is just not seeing anything straight.  I identify with so much of it and he’s fallen for an Online Friend who is meeting needs his wife can not and will not.  Various commenters (mostly anonymous women) have verbally ripped him to shreds.  I suspect many of them have been on the blunt side of a relationship like this.  But they can not heal their own wounds by making him feel worse.  And calling him a jackass or a whoremonger is hardly going to help him deal with his pain. 

 

The pain of abandonment and rejection is unlike anything else, and this is at the core of what we’re talking about.

 

While I have most recently entertained separation as a very viable alternative, I do not equate this with divorce.  Divorce is an entirely different thing, in my opinion.  I view separation as actually creating distance while still keeping the door open for reconciliation.  Divorce, with the judge, the lawyers, police, custody…all of these merely add to the friction and hostility.  I’m  curious as to why more couples don’t do separation before going for the big ‘D’. 

 

The prevailing belief is that marriage should be for life.  Indeed, the vows most couples exchange pretty much state that the couple will remain together until parted by death.  And I have more or less mused about this alternative, as well.  In many ways, my smoking was maintained by this very negative point of view that the only honorable way to get out of the marriage was to die.  But even then, I can just hear the harpies opining on about how this is also a cowardly way to avoid responsibilities.  Even in death, a man has no escape from such judgment.

 

-If a man seeks comfort from another woman, he is a cheat.

-If a man divorces, he is abandoning his responsibility.

– If he voices his dissatisfaction, he is whining.

– If he dies, he is abandoning his family and avoiding responsibility.

 

The only way seems to be to suffer in silence, which is the way most men choose.  Living what Thoreau referred to as “lives of quiet desperation.”

 

Divorce is not a good thing, but it exists and God knew that it would exist.  It existed within a few generations of the first marriage.  The first divorce between a gay couple took place less than a year after marriage was legalized in Canada.

 

Perhaps the whole concept of marriage needs to be discussed more.  Because without marriage, divorce can not exist.

 

D.

 

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42 Responses to A Few Words About Divorce

  1. Hazel says:

    Is it toooooo easy to get married?

  2. aphron says:

    Everything you have said I have endured, too. Even the honorable death. There have been times I wished God would give me cancer so I could die. My faith in God and my love for my children keeps me going. In all honesty, I would no longer be married, if no kids were involved. That begs the question: if one isn’t wanting kids, should one EVEN get married?

  3. XianHusband says:

    A few comments (and I’ll try to not be as long-winded as usual).

    I think the Christian divorce rate is high because Christians have a lot more embarrassment and guilt over marital problems than non-Christians do. We tell ourselves, “We’re Christians, we’re committed, we don’t believe in divorce, so OF COURSE it will always work out.” When it doesn’t we deny what we can and justify what we can’t. So, we don’t get help until way too late. Someone with less hang-ups about relationship problems will, ironically, be more likely to get outside help in time.

    We, as Christians, need to get over ourselves. We need to not lose our commitment, but lose the arrogance and the “it can’t happen to me” sort of attitude and learn to get help.

    Second, I think another big problem is that our approach to divorce (and marital problems in general) is to deny it can happen to us, yet, as you said, not necessarily condemning it in others. — very inward focused and full of denial. When it comes to ourselves we need to realize we are fallen people and that we need outside help sometimes. When it comes to other brothers and sisters we need to realize that we are absolutely called to hold each other accountable. Marital problems happen. People need help sometimes. But divorce is not the answer and cannot be the answer. Time was when getting a divorce — much less a second marriage — would get fellowship withdrawn from you in ANY church. Now, we just want to whitewash it and pretend it didn’t happen in the name of “not judging.”

    This dual dynamic is what is leading to so many problems. We deny we could do these things, get scared and embarrassed when they do and cover it up. When others see it (because such things are really fairly obvious) we feel it’s “none of our business” and don’t do our duty to step in and help. So, things fester. And you end up with massive divorce rates and Christian ministers going to homosexual prostitutes.

    We just flat out need more honesty. Honesty with ourselves. Honesty with God. Honesty with our brothers and sisters. As Augustine said, telling the truth is not minimalistic — it’s not that there is a minimum set of standards for what constitutes “honesty” as opposed to “deception” — it is maximalistic. To be honest as God wants us to be honest is to LIVE the truth. To not let there even be a hint of deception — either in what we say or what we don’t say.

    We can’t be so prideful as to deny our own faults. We can’t be so afraid of confrontation. We can’t be so uncertain of the Truth we should know and live. We can’t be so afraid of offending someone else. We have to take a stand for the Truth — to be it’s pillar and support as St. Paul said — to put the Truth above ourselves, above even others. Only then can we overcome this tendency to ignore, deny, justify, and cover-up that is the root of so many of these problems.

  4. XianHusband says:

    Aphron: interesting question, but I must disagree. I would not say that the only reason to get married is to have kids. I WOULD say that one should not even consider having kids unless one’s marriage is in the right place.

    Marriage is about that oneness. That cleaving together. It is about companionship and mutual support and togetherness. It is about commitment. It is about faithfulness to that commitment. That is the heart of marriage. I would say that, if one of the parties in question cannot make that sort of commitment then one should never even consider marriage — much less kids.

    That’s also why I have a problem with separation. Marriage is about presence (emotional, mental, physical, sexual), fidelity, support (especially in terms of the man providing for his family), providing for children, etc. Not doing ANY of these is breaking the marriage vows. No longer providing your spouse your presence is just as much a breaking of the vows as adultery. In fact, one can see it as a type of adultery. So, to avoid divorce (and the possible adulterous rammifications of that) by separation is to trade one form of a breaking of marriage vows for another.

  5. Val says:

    Great post — if you to hear one more opinion on the divorce issue: IT NEVER ENDS, not if you have children together…
    I’m speaking this as one who had divorce shoved down my throat (or up my a** to be more crude yet honest!) by our “wonderful” no-fault divorce state. Stupid of me, perhaps, but I can’t help but wonder if we might have reconciled if divorces weren’t so damned easy to obtain?!? (then again, he is still with his girlfriend — hasn’t bothered to legalize that union! — so that IS stupid of me)

  6. Would you say that separation generally ends in divorce? I have never met a couple who actually went through a long term (more than a month) separation that were able to work it out.

  7. Cat says:

    Hubby’s parents have been married for 40 years and my mom was never married to my dad. I am absolutely positive that holds weight on how we respond to conflicts as a couple.

    My son being autistic and finances are a whole other can of worms. For one thing as a couple we were pretty much cut out of any services for him. I can tell you it is impossible to take that kind of financial burden AND do your child any good. Then the stress just the day to day stress coupled with the normal every day stress any couple has.

    But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that even now with all the other stuff I have going on. I am hoping to still be married in 10 years. I hope to be past this stage of yuck and traveling with the person I picked out in the beginning. Yep there is still that in the center of all the other stuff. Is it because of my christian upbringing? Maybe. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that even now, with everything that has happened, and all the negative stuff between hubby and I. I still don’t like the idea of divorce. I am resigned to it, but I wish I didn’t have to face it…

  8. FTN says:

    Funny, I posted something that fit with these theme probably about the same time you did this morning.

    You wrote four options, other than to “suffer in silence”…
    -If a man seeks comfort from another woman, he is a cheat.
    -If a man divorces, he is abandoning his responsibility.
    – If he voices his dissatisfaction, he is whining.
    – If he dies, he is abandoning his family and avoiding responsibility.

    Don’t you think that’s leaving something out? You honestly can’t think of ANY other option? I’d tell you what I think, but perhaps I’ve used up my quota of the words “confront” and “proactive.” 🙂

  9. Digger Jones says:

    Xtian, I agree with you with the fact that as a community, Christians are handling marriage problems very poorly. It is a ministry so very ripe. Whether we harvest to the wind or to the whirlwind depends on how Christians respond to each other. Remember:

    “The pain of abandonment and rejection is unlike anything else, and this is at the core of what we’re talking about.”

    Being rejected and abandoned by ones spouse is painful. Now you want the Christian community to reject and abandon divorced people on top of this? Paint them all with the scarlet D?

    As far as seperation, there are so many ways to be seperated without severing all connection. I actually do know of couples that have done it. My mom actually moved out for a month or two 10 years ago or so. She got her own apartment and everything. But she still came home to get stuff and did his laundry while she was there.

    Calling seperation adultery and breaking of the marriage vows is just hubris on your part. It happens all the time in all different forms all the time and did during the time of Jesus. Where was Peter’s wife while he was traveling around and becoming a martyr? No where in the Bible does it say he ever lived with his wife! He seemed to prefer the company of fish and other fishermen.

    Proverbs 21:9
    “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
    than in a house shared with a contentious wife.”

    Proverbs 21:19 states, “It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman.”

    I think living with a contentious man would be equally as troublesome and tiring.

    I actually talked with a woman yesterday who mentioned her ex-husband and how they might still be married today if they had simply chosen to live in seperate houses from each other and raise their kids jointly. I was not leading the conversation at all, and it was interesting because this post was already “in the can” so to speak.

    I’m thinking that having sufficient space for more maturity to take place might not be such a bad thing. In the case of my parents, it helped Dad wise up a bit.

    D.

  10. Therese says:

    The four pillars of a Biblical marriage can be found in Genesis: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed.”

    For either spouse, asking the following questions can be good guidelines for what we individually are doing to contribute to the breakdown of our marriages, because the truth is, none of us are doing everything we can to preserve what we created.

    If I ____, will I be giving another relationship a higher priority than my marriage?
    If I____, will I be undermining the permanence of my marriage?
    If I ____, will I be violating the physical, emotional, or spiritual oneness I have with my spouse?
    If I ____, will I be able to face my spouse unashamed?

    I know many of you husbands feel you have tried to talk to your wives, and I’m sure some of you have, but almost always one spouse is much more dissatisfied with the relationship than the other. From what I can gather from many of the stories you husbands have told, your wives just don’t get how miserable you have come to feel. If I were in their positions, I probably wouldn’t realize the extent of the problems either. Your wives NEED to know just how bad things are. They need to know how mistreated, unappreciated, an UNLOVED you feel. Not sugarcoated, not played down, not smoothed over. Don’t be afraid of your wife’s anger. You are angry too, and rightly so! Imagine how angry she’ll be when you leave her or she finds out you cheated on her.

    I know that it seems your wives really don’t care about making any changes, but chances are, they are unhappy too. Yes, there is resentment and anger on both sides, but I think (without knowing any of you or your wives personally) that your wives probably do care deep down and truly don’t want you all to be miserable with them. I wish I could remember who said, “It is the grand ambition of woman to inspire love.” The worst moment of my life was when I came to the belief that I had lost my husband’s love. I would have done anything to have prevented it. Anything. I can’t imagine a wife being content and refusing to change if she knew that she were losing the love of her husband or her husband no longer felt he was loved.

    I also truly believe that God doesn’t want anyone to live their lives out in a miserable marriage. I believe that He will provide a way, even if it isn’t crystal clear, to help you find happiness with the situation you have been given. I completely concur with FTN’s point. There are more options.

    And finally (I know this is long!), absence rarely makes the heart grow fonder. An uncle of mine and his wife have been separated for about 5 years. They live in separate houses, but spend the holidays together, and go on trips together a few times a year. I can’t tell you how much he hates the situation because it denies him of any sort of spiritual and emotional intimacy with another human being, which we all need. He wants them to be living the married life again, but she is unwilling and so they both live in this other dimension, not even working at finding happiness together but unable to find it anywhere else. I would hate to see you trade one sort of misery for another.
    Whew! Now I’m the long-winded one!

  11. XianHusband says:

    “Being rejected and abandoned by ones spouse is painful. Now you want the Christian community to reject and abandon divorced people on top of this? Paint them all with the scarlet D?”

    When Christians divorce their spouses, THEY are rejecting the church, not visa-versa. If someone leaves their spouse, they prove they are an unbeliever, because we are called to commitment and fidelity. Now, if your spouse leaves you, you are not their slave and don’t have to follow them around, but you are called to remain unmarried until such time as you can be reconciled to your spouse. (I Cor 7)

    If someone is feeling pain and abandonment, they should seek help immediately. From their brothers and sisters and pastors and anyone else who can help. To not do that and to, instead, break the covenant is to reject Christ and His church and His teachings. To do so and then cleave to another — whether in marriage or not — is adultery. Unrepentant sin of any kind — especially continual public sin like living in a 2nd marriage — is and has always been grounds for excommunication.

    The church absolutely has a responsibility to its members (and all others) to help them cope with the pain of this fallen world, but its first and greatest responsibility is to God and His Truth. To take a stand for Him. To be holy as He is holy. So it cannot in any way condone unrepentant sin. Even in the name of compassion. God is love, but God is also Just — and more than that, His love and His Justice are one and the same. One cannot be loving to one hurting without first removing the sin from their lives.

    Second, separation IS a breaking of the marriage vows. In both the OT and NT the words we translate as “divorce” are literally “to put away” or “to send away.” Separation was the essence and still is the essence of divorce — not whether or not the state taxes you as married or single. When you are married you are bound together — literally “glued” in the Hebrew. Becoming “un-stuck” and being separated is what divorce IS.

    Now, Christ’s disciples are an interesting story. We know Peter was married. We know he still had contact with his wife — as he brought Jesus to heal his mother-in-law. We also know that later he brought her with him on his journies — I Cor 8 tells us that. For the rest of that 3 1/2 year period? I don’t know. I do know that Christ told them in Luke 18 that anyone who has left “house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God” would recieve “many times as much at this time.” So, I believe that, although they may have left home (but who says their wives weren’t some of the many women wandering around with them? They never went very far.) that Christ promised that it wasn’t permanent. A soldier going to war, or a guy like me going on business trips isn’t “separating” from his wife — because it has a definate end and was not done because of a lack of commitment to the wife. Separation that is because of marital problems — the “I just can’t live with her anymore” sort of thing — IS from lack of commitment and is open-ended. So, it is being un-stuck. It is divorce.

  12. Digger Jones says:

    Dr. Laura wrote a book called “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” a couple of years ago and I bought it. I read it. I wrote in it. I highlighted and underlined stuff in it. Dr. Laura had voiced so many of the things I felt so well. I wrote little commentaries within it, revealing more of myself and told what I agreed with and what I didn’t. dr. Laura was certainly speaking my language. I felt like she understood. There was a woman who got it. At least for me, maybe not all men.

    Then, I gave it to Arwyn. I told her that if she really cared about our marriage, she would read it.

    She skimmed it in about 10 minutes and refused to crack it open again. Ever.

    She may have cared at one time, but that feeling has been spent and gone.
    D.

  13. XianHusband says:

    Which is horribly, horribly sad. It is tragic. It is also sin on her part. It is unjustifiable. It is unloving and all these things. Nobody could possibly question that.

    But the bigger questions is: what are you going to do about it? Stay committed or quit? Try everything to make it work or break the covenant?

    Because it seems to me that you haven’t quite done everything possible to make it work. FTN’s great trilogy of “confront”, “be proactive”, and “counseling” come to mind.

    But more than that, we are each responsible to God for our OWN behavior. Nothing anyone else does alleviates our own responsibilities. We are called to love our wives as Christ loved His church — which would mean to die for them even as they cry “CRUCIFY HIM!” Even while they don’t love us, we are to love them. Even while they show NO commitment to us, we are to stay committed to them.

    The requirement to love your wife and to stay committed to her is not a duty you owe her. She is irrelevant. It is a duty to God and to Him alone. She might not deserve that treatment, but Christ does, and in the end it is Him you are serving even as you love your wife. It certainly wasn’t easy for Christ to love His bride. We are continually rebellious and unloving and desentious and sinful. Yet His love never fails.

    Imitate Him. Perservere. And remember, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” -Rev 3:21

  14. Tom Allen says:

    -If a man seeks comfort from another woman, he is a cheat.

    Digger, did you ask the judgemental harpies to explain why in a movie like “The Bridges of Madison County,” it suddenly becomes “romantic” for a woman to seek comfort in the arms of another man?

    I’m just askin’, you know?

    Tom Allen
    The Edge of Vanilla

  15. therese says:

    Uh,oh. The name calling has started. Tom, as a woman I find NOTHING romantic about “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Unfaithful,” or any other movie that glorifies infidelity (be it a man or woman who is doing it) because they fail to show the devastation left behind. Hollywood generates the idea that cheating brings happiness, but rarely ever shows how much it hurts.

    Digger, there are many ways to get a spouse’s attention. Maybe there are people in your vast readership who could offer some different ways to effectively get a point across?

    We wives sometimes need many reminders and even more approaches to understand our husbands.

  16. […] In reading A Few Words About Divorce at Reality & Redemption it took me back to my own struggles in a once wonderful marriage gone bad. […]

  17. apm says:

    A very thought provoking entry. Sure brought back memories for me.

  18. Emily says:

    Dear Digger,

    I understand why you might see a distinction between separation and divorce, but I do think its kind of false.

    In some cases, I think separation can be a good time to reassess, rebuild personal strength and identity. When I came back to my Big Dude, I came back as a more mature and self-reflective person. I had also had some time to have the experiences I felt I had missed out on and found that they were not what I really wanted. I rediscovered the value of the good things we had together and was much more willing to work to keep it. I came back much more personally confident and able to confront and stick up for myself. And I think our breakup was a very sobering experience for the Big Dude. He also came back much more willing to compromise, more willing to try and keep trying, more concientious about communicating and making me feel loved and wanted.

    But I’m not sure that kind of thing usually works as a deliberate strategy. We broke up completely and I, at least, saw other people. I really was free to decide either way.

    I have seen a few people live in a long-term separation model and I have rarely seen it work in the longer term although it often works for a while. Mainly, I think, because separation has a momentum. One a person lives separately, they have separate bank accounts, they don’t have to account for what they did with their day, they don’t have to fit in with the other person, they don’t have to deal with all the areas of fundamental disagreement and tension. That’s WHY people separate. Most people whose relationship has turned to crap find that they much prefer this separate existence, because its a relief.

    Separation means people don’t have to resolve and learn to deal with the problems of living together and people increasingly differentiate and become more like themselves, including the bits of themselves that were different from their partner in the first place.

    Also, in most cases, at least one of them ultimately falls in love with someone else. Or at least one of them wants the situation to end and for them to reconcile and ultimately feels cheated by the others’s unwillingness to lead a shared life. Or they realize the relationship has come to an end in reality and just want to get on with the next phase of their lives. They can’t remain in suspended animation forever.

    If you will forgive me for saying so, the episode you describe, with the book you gave Arwyn, is making me think of a few incidents you have mentioned before, where attempts to reach out to her come across as lecturing her on how she is a bad wife and must do better. It may be true, it may reflect your feelings, but not many women would go for it.

    I think the only real way you could realistically appeal to Arwyn is to acknowledge that the state of the relationship is a SHARED problem. That probably neither of you have fully lived up to your responsibilities as partners or fully undestood each other. And you are now in a shared bind of an unhappy marriage that just seems very stuck. Only the two of you together can fix it, not one or the other, however much one of you tries.

    And I’m sorry to press the counselling button, but the complexity of your issues around Arwyn’s apparent emotional check-out, your children’s disability, the apparent failure of your sex life (including possible medical and hormonal problems of Arwyn’s part) and your mutual tendency to avoid the issues etc suggest very strongly to me that you need an experienced and knowledgeable third party to make you both confront the issues and work through them in a systematic way.

  19. Desmond Jones says:

    You know, Digger, it’s a little bit funny – FTN posted about Marriage Counseling, and, gosh, Molly and I have done a couple brief rounds of marriage counseling, and they were reasonably helpful for us. And now, you mention the Dr. Laura book, and, oh, maybe a year or so ago, I gave a copy of that book to Molly, in the spirit of, ‘gee, you might find this interesting’, and she took some good stuff from it. It’s starting to seem like all this stuff works better for strong marriages trying to get stronger than they do for troubled marriages trying to get healthy.

    Because of my experience of living through my parents’ divorce, I’m less inclined than I might be to harshly judge someone who’s divorced (especially if they aren’t the ‘guilty’ party, so to speak). Shit happens.

    But, as soon as I say that, I want to say that the basic, fundamental, rock-bottom determination that divorce is not an option is important – it provides us the incentive we need to work out what needs to get worked out, and not sell ourselves, our spouses, and our marriages short.

    And, to go all the way back to the top of the comment string: I agree with Aphron – if you don’t intend to have children (or, I should say, if you intend not to have children), you shouldn’t marry. But that’s been discussed to death elsewhere. . .

  20. FTN says:

    While I agree with a lot of things that a number of commenters have said, I have to single out Christian Husband (sorry!) for a moment. I disagree with a few things, patrticularly this:

    “When Christians divorce their spouses, THEY are rejecting the church, not visa-versa. If someone leaves their spouse, they prove they are an unbeliever, because we are called to commitment and fidelity.”

    I would just like to say: That’s ridiculous. A sin does not an unbeliever make. I could also say that when Christians surf for porn and masturbate while thinking of other women, that they are rejecting the church, and they prove themselves an unbeliever. Does that apply too?

    A church that does not show Christ’s love to sinners is not much of a church. We are called to be holy, yes, and it SHOULD be the church’s job to confront people about sin. But as soon as we start kicking out all the sinners, well, I’m afraid I’d have to be the first one to leave.

    I think Therese’s lengthy comment was definitely worth reading, and perhaps re-reading.

  21. XianHusband says:

    I meant it literally. As in, remember Mark 10

    Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

    “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

    They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

    “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

    When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

    Do you believe this or not? If so, then you won’t divorce. If you divorce, then you obviously don’t believe it. Not believing the words of Christ Himself and not submitting to His authority doesn’t make you an unbeliever?

    You are right that lapses into sin do not imply anything about your faith, but making conscious and deliberate choices about your lifestyle that were condemned personally by our messiah? You don’t think that’s a bit different? Most Christians throughout history have. What I stated has been the default position of most Christian groups consistently across the last 2000 years.

    Excommunicate all sinners? Never, or who would be left? Excommunicate those that in a public way defy the teachings of Christ and His church and deliberately choose a lifestyle of unrepentant sin? We are absolutely called to do that. So that, as Paul teaches, they might repent and come back to the light. To not take a stand against it is to condone it.

  22. FTN says:

    You wrote: “Do you believe this or not? If so, then you won’t divorce.”

    You still seem to be implying that we never willfully sin. I’m not denying that it’s sin, what I’m arguing is that willful, deliberate sin does not necessarily indicate that someone is a non-Christian.

    Jesus also said: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    Haven’t you mentioned before that you’ve had some of the same struggles with porn that I have? If we’re talking about willful adultery (whether via divorce or lust), then tell me, what’s the difference? Was I an unbeliever when I was doing that?

    Sinning doesn’t always mean “not believing.” You say, “If you divorce, then you obviously don’t believe it,” and I think that’s an overgeneralization of people. Sometimes we do wrong even though we KNOW it’s wrong. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Oh, and I mean nothing here personally, regardless of the tone that my comments take. 🙂

  23. I much prefer to be the “cheat”, because at least that way I can find physical solice and still live up to my marital responsibility. It’s the lesser of all evils if you ask me. When a wife withholds sex for any reason then cheating is the only way a man can find peace of mind. Divorce should be out of the question when kids are involved.

  24. Therese says:

    Perhaps this short piece can connect both FTN’s and Xian Husband’s points, which don’t seem to me to be mutually exclusive:

    “Our authentic selves are the uncorrupted, sinless selves, what we would have been had not the Fall occurred. No matter the terrible thoughts that beset a man, they do not represent him truly, unless he pertinaciously and characteristically indulges them. A man’s character, after all, is what he wills of himself. When his will is crippled…….his character has been set aside and he fails himself….Yes, a single bad act, absent repentance, can be decisive; but only absent repentance” – taken from

    http://www.beheremondays.com/Blog.php?eid=218

    A sin or a weakness doesn’t make someone a hypocrite or an unbeliever. It is sticking to that sin without repentance that that does.

  25. Emily says:

    Well, I think excommunication because of divorce is frankly heartless.

    People don’t divorce because they are rejecting Jesus or the church or whatever. Generally speaking, they divorce because they are at the end of their rope.It’s true that some people seem to divorce very lightly, bu most don’t.

    A long term, committed relationship, especially one that involves kids, well, its pretty hard. There is always the potential for failure, no matter how much people believe in the ideal.

    Excommunicating people because of divorce is punishing them endlessly for failing. Failing is a very, very human thing to do.

    God knows who we are. God knows how hard we tried. God knows the secrets of our hearts. God knows the true story of the marriage. People, and the church, don’t.

    I think it is possible to hold up the ideals of marriage without punishing people forever because they miss the mark.

  26. Trueself says:

    Adding to this comment by Therese:
    A sin or a weakness doesn’t make someone a hypocrite or an unbeliever. It is sticking to that sin without repentance that that does.

    I would point you to Romans 7 & 8 where it speaks of sin and human weakness. What it says to me is that as humans we struggle with sin. We are weak, imperfect, struggling continually with sin. That does not mean that we can freely sin without guilt. It simply means that God sent Jesus BECAUSE we fall short, even as Christians we fall short, and through GRACE we are saved.

    If I believed that because I struggle with my issues, and that I sometimes even struggle with God, that I would lose my place in heaven I would be devastated. My life would no longer be worth living because I know that I will always struggle, I will always fall short in some way, I will always be less than perfect. I thank God that He has provided a means for the forgiveness of my sins for I will never be capable in myself of being sinless. I will be first to acknowledge that I am a weak Christian, not a strong one at this point in my life, but I take great comfort in knowing that God has not abandoned me now will He. I also will not turn my back on God. I struggle with sin. I struggle mightily with sin at this particular point in my life, and I pray about it. I pray for forgiveness, but I also pray for help in overcoming the sins that I continue to commit. I do not believe that any of this makes me a hypocrite or an unbeliever. I believe that it makes me human. We cannot know another’s heart. Only God can. I make it a practice not to judge others harshly for I know that I have no knowledge of their relationship with God. Only they and God know that. So am I ready to condemn those that divorce, or those that divorce and remarry? No. That is between them and God. Do I think divorce and remarriage is a good thing. No, I do not, but it does occur because we humans are imperfect. We make mistakes. Sometimes we choose to marry the wrong person. Is it a mistake to try to undo that mistake through divorce or is it a mistake not to undo it and start over? I’m not sure. All I know is that for all the mistakes I make in this life, it will not keep me from eternity with God thanks to His magnificent grace.

  27. XianHusband says:

    FTN: No worries, brother. I know where your heart is and where you’re coming from. Like Therese says, I don’t think we’re really very far off. We’re just taking different perspectives.

    I looking at it from the side of church discipline — which is a must. As she put it, unrepentant sin is the issue. So, if a couple was to separate I (if I had such a role of pastoral leadership, which I don’t) would counsel them to reconcile — and to do whatever it took to do that. If a couple was to divorce — which is usually a sign that reconciliation has been ruled out — I would call them in, get as much info as I could, and take them to task for giving up on their commitment. I would, instead, try to call them back to their responsibilities to each other and to God.

    But couples who refused correction and exhortation from their pastors and divorce anyway are in open and public defiance. There must be discipline in such cases. Now, if one party was in adultery — and that caused the divorce — I would still counsel reconciliation, but would not hold the innocent party guilty if the other refused and left. I mean, you can’t force the other person to stay, you can just stay true to your own commitments.

    But in any case, in any divorce, if there was a remarriage then you have a very serious problem. A problem of a continual state of adultery. Unrepentant adultery. Publically declared adultery. Which, again, must be disciplined.

    You have to admit that private sins like pornography are a bit different as they are not public declarations of defiance to Christ’s commands and the church leadership. If you publically went around declaring your love of porn, then that would be different. If in some way the pastors became aware of your habit and called you to task and you refused to listen, that would be different. Maybe not from a eternal destination from your soul standpoint — unrepented sin is unrepented sin — but from a church discipline, respect for pastoral leadership, church reputation, etc standpoint.

    I mean, was the guy in I Cor 5 sins any worse than ours? Not at all. Why did Paul call for excommunication? Because it was public and was so absolutely against everything the church taught that it caused the society at large to dismiss everything anyone in the church said. It harmed the message. It was open hypocrisy. It was the church saying one thing about sexual purity, but accepting the opposite in its own members.

    This is not recommending deception on any level. Any unrepented sin should be found out, brought to light, and force the person to either repent or be subjected to discipline. It is just saying that some sins are, by their very nature, already public. Discipline those. If the more private ones come to light, discipline those as well.

    Emily: such an approach would not be punishing them for failing, it would be punishing them for accepting failure. For giving up. Failing is human. We are not perfect. But we do not have to accept failure and stop striving to be conformed to the image of God’s dear son. To do so is to stop taking up your cross, daily. To declare that God’s call is too hard, so we must just accept lower standards.

  28. Digger Jones says:

    Interesting.

    There are a couple of diverging views on sin. One is the view that this is a conscious and deliberate act of rebellion which must be punished, purged and eradicated.

    The other is that it is more like an illness that needs to be treated.

    I’ve written a couple of bits on sin:

    http://doctordigger.blogspot.com/2005/12/sin.html

    and

    http://doctordigger.blogspot.com/2005/12/sinners-anonymous.html

    Almost exactly a year ago! And it is even more on message today as we wrap up a week where we light the candle of “Hope” during the season of advent.

    Repentance is definitely a crucial component of the redemptive process but it is still insufficient without forgiveness and the Redeemer.

    Xtian, Jesus said “Feed my sheep” not “Beat them over the head and about the shoulders!”

    D.

  29. XianHusband says:

    Grrr. Please stop trying to assume I’m taking a position that I’m not. OF COURSE pastors are to feed their sheep! Why would you ever think I DIDN’T believe that? It’s not like I’m saying pastors should hide in the bushes so that they can catch people doing stuff and jump out and say, “Ah-ha! I caught you!” Then cackle madly and run off to kick them out of the church.

    That would be insane.

    Yes, of course they are to be shepherds in the truest sense. They are to feed the sheep. They are to help, to counsel, to be involved. To teach, exhort, encourage, rebuke, and all the other things that make up pastoral care. Lay down his life for his sheep in imitation of Chief Shepherd

    But all of these require that the sheep listen. Once the sheep stops listening there can be no more feeding because the sheep is refusing to be fed. That requires a different sort of pastoral action.

    Christ said, “feed my sheep,” but to those who refused to listen to Him and accept His authority He also said, “You do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice…”

    So, those who accept the pastoral “feeding” are to be fed. Those who do not and therefore show they are not of His flock are to be expelled — hopefully temporarily as we hope they will repent and return.

  30. FTN says:

    I guess I should point out that in my own personal experience, I don’t know that many strong Christian, church-involved couples that get a divorce.

    I DO know lots of people that have been through divorces in the past before they become strong Christians or join the church. I DO know lots of people that have remarried other strong Christians, and have wonderful second marriages, while getting involved in the church. So my personal experience is a bit different than what we’re discussing. And I don’t see how these people are actively sinning (although scripture could obviously tell me otherwise). They know they had troubled pasts. Are they continuing to be adulterous? I don’t know. Depends on the situation of how their first marriage ended, according to scripture.

    Do they have a place to serve in the church? Yes, I think they most definitely do. Do you seriously have NO Christians on second marriages in your Christian community?

    XH, obviously, neither one of us likes divorce. You seem to put more of a burden on “pastoral leadership” than I do in my mind, and maybe that’s because I’ve often been in very large churches where the people need to look out for each other more than just relying on pastoral authority (including, perhaps, encouraging and admonishing each other). And with regards to public vs private sin, I often think that private sin is MORE of a problem.

    I’d say that the problem of porn is much more of a widespread problem among men in churches today than divorce, quite honestly. It’s the ones that AREN’T talked about, the ones that are swept under the rug, that we need to be more concerned about.

    But again, I’m just going on personal experience here. 🙂

  31. XianHusband says:

    The issue of the ratio of sheep to shepherds is another issue, but related. In the home-based churches of the 1st century it was, at most, probably a dozen or two to one. In our church it is around there somewhere — certainly less than 50 to 1 (I can’t remember our actual membership numbers). Once you get into the thousands to 1 that many Christian groups have you cannot but expect to have problems. There can be no real shepherding when there are too many sheep for the pastors to really know on a personal level and to deal with.

    I didn’t say that public sin is more of a problem than private sin — I actually agree with you — just that private sin is, by its nature, hidden. We are to help correct the sin we see in fellow Christians — and pastors even more so. When we become aware of private sins we should correct them, but that doesn’t somehow exclude correcting the public sins that anyone and everyone can already see.

    Do we have 2nd marriages in my church? Probably. Most would justify them by saying their partner was unfaithful. I, personally, do not agree with that interpretation of Matt 19, but others do and I won’t say my interp is flawless, so there is room to agree to disagree. Which I must do anyway with my church leadership who DOES accept that interp. But I’m pretty sure that if there were 2nd marriages WITHOUT that caveat, the leadership would say or do something. Or at least I hope they would. We, like most groups, don’t generally get into the excommunication thing much (because we’re afraid of being sued) and I think that is to our detriment. Church discipline is commanded — let the persecution come if it must.

  32. Emily says:

    Well, no offence, XianHusband, but your approach to this is a reminder to me of why I tend to avoid churches.

    Churches, I find, are prone to sticking to rigid rules rather than trying to understand where people are coming from. They often sort of try to be compassionate, but ultimately, it is more important to them that you fit in with their rules – or at least, be *seen* to fit in with them.

    And in my experience, this leads to some pretty stupid and often very destructive situations. A friend of mine, emotionally abused and very badly treated by her husband (who was one of the most horrible people I have ever met in my life), was essentially told to stay home, stay married and just hope like hell he cheated on her so that she could divorce him. No one seriously confronted *him*, because it was her “rebellion” in the form of the desire to leave that was viewed as the fundamental problem. In fact, she was emotionally blackmailed into going through a renewing of vows with him. The whole episode was ridiculous and makes me angry even now, years later.

    I love my Big Dude. I need God. I also need a community. But nothing, *nothing* would make me go back into the kind of situation where such a thing could happen. I am willing to face the judgement of God for how I live my life, because I believe that God is a heck of a lot wiser than some know-all church busy-body who might try to stick his nose into my business and is a heck of a lot more compassionate and realistic.

  33. diggerjones says:

    I realize that my story (which needs to get published tonight) now begins to interface with this discussion more and more. No wonder because my views are derived from my story.

    Emily, some churches are more judgemental and condemning than others. I sense that you are in a precarious position in your faith. A place where they might just as soon stone you as support you is not going to look inviting at all. There are some churches that welcome just about everyone and anyone. I mean *really* welcome them without trying to push and shove a body into a mould. Places of compassion filled with people of compassion. Places that are filled with sinners in need of salvation.

    The world really is in need of a group called Sinners Anonymous, where we can all work on recovery without taking our neighbor’s personal inventory. The reason why churches like to zero in on those public sins is because it helps take the heat off of the dirty little secrets. Every single person thinks everyone else’s sin is worse than theirs.

    D.

  34. Emily says:

    I wish I had ever experienced such a church.

    Now, Sinners Anonymous I would join! Wanna start up a branch?

    Emily

  35. Trueself says:

    Hey, I like that idea of Sinners Anonymous! I would join too, in a flash. Will we have coffee and cookies at the meetings?

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