“We never say the ‘D’ word in our house,” the older woman informs me with pride. “We both know it’s not an option so we make it work. We’ve been married over thirty years now.”
As I listen, I’m obviously happy for her. I also wonder if she and her husband are “good fighters.” Does one partner always get his or her way? Does the other concede and stay secretly resentful? My therapist mind kicks into action, but I decide it’s none of my business to ask…maybe another time.
The “D word” is pretty common in the church, the not-so-secret code for divorce. It’s a religious script repeated by couples through the generations. The message is clear: Divorce is unacceptable, one of the worst things that could happen to a person. The Voldemort of family issues, we shouldn't speak of it. In fact, don’t even think about it!
Most of us don’t, until our own relationships are in major trouble or somebody dear to us falls victim.
Counselor confession: It used to, but the “D word” doesn’t make me flinch anymore. Most of the ladies I work with aren’t flight risks or philanderers, but they’re definitely scared and overwhelmed. Not all, but most. They’re women enduring unhealthy, unfulfilling marriages—due to a fear of punishment, conflict, judgment, being alone, and/or scarring the kids.
The fear of the unknown leaves them paralyzed. Many try living perfect versions of wifehood at the cost of their spiritual lives, physical and emotional health, and unfortunately, their children’s wellbeing. At some point, they become too exhausted to keep up the front.
As we dive in, please know where I stand on marriages:
Crazy story, but did you know that God left the Israelites at one point? Yep, up and walked out. As it turns out, Christian marriage is a metaphor for Jesus’ relationship with the church. In Jeremiah 3:8, God sends Israel packing for all the adultery the people had going on (idolatry and other god worship).
In today’s terms, it would sound like, “Are you sure you love them more than Me? Then go be with them. Here are the divorce papers.”
He’d guided the people and provided water, food, and land--everything they needed. His patience endured, as if He wasn’t quite ready to throw down the D-word either. Yet, they refused to acknowledge the weight of their wandering.
Contemporary marriage is no different.
God finally said "enough is enough," and in the modern day, we still need those boundaries. While His love is unconditional, the institution of marriage is not. We don’t get to behave in any manner we please and still enjoy coupledom. We don't date our coworkers, abuse our partners, and drink ourselves into oblivion while our spouses quietly drift through life holding onto the thought, "Gee, I wish there was something I could do about this..."
God already took the stand when He disciplined the tribes all those years ago. He's the same One who lives with us now. And while He allows His stubborn kids to learn lessons the hard way, He also loves us way too much to leave us lonely and rejected. In Hosea 2:14, He called Israel back.
“…I will allure Israel and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly to her (to reconcile her to Me)…” (Amp)
As it turns out, it was only a temporary separation. To teach. To reflect. To reconcile.
Church, we can’t be afraid to talk about separation or divorce. God wasn't. In silence, shame gains power and problems remain unaddressed. We need to see separation for what it's supposed to be:
When it comes to divorce, everybody loses. There are no good sides to take. We owe it to our God, our families, and to ourselves to do whatever it takes...even if it means letting go of pride and control for the sake of saving something precious.
If you're going through a tough time in your relationship, you're not alone.
Is there anything that you and your spouse need to talk about this week? How can we pray for you?
Drop us a line if there are any other resources that we can provide you with, other than what's already available on the Resource Page.
With you and for you,
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:18-19
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M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.