how Christians get divorced

y’all know i usually don’t make my blogs faith specific, but today i’m making an exception.  sort of.  what i have to say applies to everyone, but is exaggerated in those who live by a system of belief that includes God making frowny faces when it comes to divorce.

i’m a Christian, so i will be skewering the brethren today.

how do Christians get divorced?  more like how do chickens get divorced.  Craig and i have watched this happen several times over the years.  “this” being one person in the couple wanting out, but being too cowardly and proud to just leave.  so what do they do?  they say things, do things, behave in a way that drives the other to make either commit the big A or leave out of frustration.  that way the person who really wants out can look like the victim and blame other for the end of the marriage.

shitty.  that’s what that is.

is there ever an excuse for committing adultery?  nope.  that’s a grown up choice a person makes and needs to take responsibility for.  if that choice is made after 15 years of marriage where the wife has withheld sex except for a couple of times a year as a reward for God knows what, while constantly telling her husband he’s worthless and will never be good enough to satisfy her in anyway?  that choice, while still wrong, becomes understandable.

however, in Christian circles, that scenario, which is real btw, is all too common.  know what else is common?  the one who cheats is crucified while the one who spent the entire marriage being hateful gets a get out of marriage free card; along with the house, the kids, the friends and the support.

again, shitty.

this happens on both sides.

men will withdraw.  usually in ways that are fairly extreme.  taking a job out of town that requires a second residence because he’s there so much.  completely checking out using video games or other hobby that doesn’t remotely include his wife and/or family.  if that doesn’t work and she still stays, usually because she believes he’ll still come through for her, a man will eventually just sin boldly.  generally in the form of an affair that “just happened”.  he didn’t mean for it to, really.  he just fell in love and it couldn’t be helped.  ugh.  oh and bullshit.

with women, it’s much more subtle.  or at least appears so on the surface.  inside the home it may as well be painted in red on the walls.  a woman withholds sex.  then makes him feel like a neanderthal/selfish bastard for wanting to have sex.  she alienates him emotionally by picking petty fights or making demeaning accusations about his capabilities as a man.  often the man never tells anyone this is happening until things are already falling apart.  why?  he’s embarrassed.  but more than that, he’s spent the last how ever many years hoping to work it out, because even after all the crap she’s put him through, he loves her.  but once he actually messes up, she’s jumps at the chance to end the marriage.

now you tell me who’s really to blame.

Craig and i have noticed one other thing that happens in these situations.  the one who wanted out all along, will never talk to us.  the one who is being pushed away will come to us, confess his or her role in the break down and ask for help to fix it.  the other one, not a word.  i suspect because he/she knows we won’t be like everyone else and believe it was all one sided.  remember when i said the people who do this are cowards?  yeah.

more than once we’ve been the only friends left for the person getting blamed.  eventually the truth does come out and the one who did the manipulating gets what coming to them in the form of a massive friend defection.  the only people who stay with them are the ones who either would or are doing the same thing to their spouse.

friends, readers, Christendom, lend me your ears.  before you judge someone for how a marriage ended, talk to them first.  ask the questions that give him or her an opportunity to explain their side.  those who end up on the short end of the stick in these situations feel very alone.  and you know what else, they are decent enough to not go around telling everyone how things really are.  they won’t tell you unless you ask.  the other one, the one who is really to blame for the majority of the pain, will be telling everyone who will listen what a schmuck their soon-to-be-ex is.

for those of you have done this, are doing this…grow up.  you will win in the short run, but time will out you for being petty, selfish and a coward.  either man up and move out or get some counseling and try to save your marriage.  because you are married to someone who actually loves you and if he or she is still around, it’s not too late to make it right.  but for God sake, stop trying to be the victim.  and by “for God’s sake”, i mean don’t think you’re fooling Him.  you’re not.  He knows your heart and He knows exactly how it’s all going down.

the end.

i’m not sure i have any questions…

okay, i do.

have any of you ever seen this happen?

have you ever judge a divorce and later found out you were wrong about what you thought you knew?

have you ever been through this?

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48 comments on “how Christians get divorced

  1. Jason says:

    You speak a lot of truth.

  2. not the other one..... says:

    My best friend from college, I’ll call him Jack – (he was my best man and I was his) went through a divorce that looked a lot like what you described. It was totally the “she nags, and he withdraws”, with the difference being that I don’t think she actually wanted out of the marriage, she just wanted him to be different. I have no idea whether she actually withheld sex or not, but I know he slept on the couch…. a lot.

    I actually found out what was going on because the wife called me after Jack started cheating with the girl he met at the office — the girl at the office was getting out of an abusive relationship and my friend helped “rescue” her, which is something he was good at. (In fact, he met the wife when he helped her picked up pieces after her first marriage where hubby cheated.) The wife asked me to talk to Jack, which I did via e-mail (we lived in other states.) I wrote long e-mails about being true to your commitment, yada yada…. what about the kids, etc., but Jack wouldn’t reply other than with short e-mails acknowledging he received the e-mail.

    A few months in, Jack had to come to my town for business, and the wife called and told me he was there. I gave him a call, and joined him for dinner and we talked for about 5 hours…. He gave me the low down on how the wife had basically nagged him to death, even calling him that “selfish bastard” phrase (except I think she said “f___ing”) when he agreed to a volunteer position (withdrawing) at the kid’s school after she asked him not to. Jack has always been stubborn… he wants to do what he wants to do, and if you tell him “no”, it just strengthens his will…. not a good mix for a wife that nags, ya know?

    Jack’s been married to the new wife for a number of years now, and I really like her a lot. The bad thing…. Jack and his new wife are basically non-church people now, even though Jack had been active, helping run the sound board, serving on committees (he totally has a servant’s heart, just don’t tell him how he is supposed to serve) and now he’s sort of reverted to the “party guy” like he and I were in college.

    When Jack and I had our sit down/talk about what was going on, he acknowledged that he knew according to the Bible, he should try and make things work with the wife that wanted to reconcile. He said two things that cemented the deal for why he didn’t reconcile: 1) he wanted a relationship where the person loved him for who he was, not what he did around the house, and 2) if he looked 30-40 years to the future, if he stayed in the marriage, he was really afraid he’d look back and realize he’d been miserable, and he didn’t want that. So, he chose “door #2”, and now he’s in a happy marriage.

    I wish “the church” would reach out to Jack and his wife…. they are good people, and I have a hunch that Jack is avoiding the church because he doesn’t want to experience the “judgment” that would likely come. Truth is, it’s been enough years… I think God is more interested in restoration with Jack and his new wife than punishing him for his “sins”, but I’m not sure if Jack will hear that message……

    • i agree. sounds like he could use the stability a non-judgmental church could provide. they do exist, those kinds of churches.

    • That carries with it one very tough call. Does Jack actually believe he made the wrong call, or does he still think he was right even though he acknowledged the Bible said something different? If he believes he was right to do something he also believes the Bible told him not to do…then I’m not sure you have grounds for restoration, do you?

      You can’t restore without repentance. Absolutely God can forgive and build something good after divorce. But God doesn’t forgive what we don’t confess, either. I don’t get the impression that he has repented from what you’ve said, at least.

      • it is not for us to decide who is repentant and who is not. we can not know what is in a person’s heart, only God can know that.

        sitting in judgment over someone’s repentance or lack thereof could hinder the restoration process. some people need a to know there’s a safe place to confess before they will do it even if they are already sorry.

        saying things like “God doesn’t forgive what we don’t confess” does not provide that safe place. sometimes you have to back way up and just listen.

        • Maybe we’re saying the same thing. I’m not sure. Absolutely the church should be a safe place to confess sin, and those who do should be restored to the fellowship with full recognition on our part that we’re not a better person than them.

          Someone who says “I know the Bible says not to do this but I believe I should do it because of X and Y”, you don’t have to make a judgement of what’s in their heart. He’s openly telling you that he knowingly went against what he believed God said and he still believes it was the right call. That’s open rebellion. If this person has since recanted those words, then absolutely he should be welcomed back in. As long as they maintain that position that it was okay to go against the Bible, then for the church to welcome them is to place a stamp of approval on that premise. It’s only because of his stated position on the matter that I was questioning grounds for repentance. If he’s since reversed himself, I absolutely would not maintain the objection. The church should be the first to be reaching out in that case.

  3. Sherrie Phillips says:

    Yes to all of the above. Observed it, lived through it. However, it is no different in marriages that are, shall we say, non-practicing Christians. And the divorce rate is the same for both across the board. Mostly, I think that human nature has not evolved as our expectations of marriage have gone from that of survival to that ideal we all aspire to. I have no questions or answers but I do agree with your observations. I’ve said for years that no one wants to be the a-hole that leaves but they sure don’t mind being the a-hole that drives you away’

  4. lady81 says:

    This is the best advice/information about marriage I have ever heard and it goes right along with what you are saying: http://vimeo.com/30688680
    Give it a chance and watch it.
    None of us have a reason to judge because there is no way we could know the whole story about someone’s marriage.
    No matter what state your marriage is in now, there is hope.

  5. Alise says:

    Amen from this corner.

    I have never, ever, ever heard a sermon on 1 Corinthians 7:5. And I have also never heard withholding sex being called a sin in church (I have, fortunately, seen it from a few folks on the interwebs, but never in church). When the list of sexual sins comes out, it’s adultery, porn, homosexuality, but never “not tonight, I have a headache.” And that is total bs.

    We punish folks who have affairs by making sure their sins are known to everyone. And the person who refuses isn’t even confronted with the possibility that the Scripture says that their (non) actions play a part.

    (Which isn’t to say that every affair is precipitated by a spouse who is sexually unavailable. At all. But probably more often than we’d like to admit.)

  6. JBen says:

    Great post. This was super interesting. I read it with my fiance and it prompted a brief discussion about our future sex life. We would like to always be on the same page with each other about how often (hopefully this is the one we are on more!) or not often we will be having sex. We DO NOT want to be the hypothetical people in your post.

    You always have such great stuff, but this is one of the best.

  7. Great, deep truths here Sharideth. I’ve seen it up close and personal as well and you nailed it. This should be required reading for both those who are engaged and who’ve been married for several years.

  8. “and you know what else, they are decent enough to not go around telling everyone how things really are. they won’t tell you unless you ask. the other one, the one who is really to blame for the majority of the pain, will be telling everyone who will listen what a schmuck their soon-to-be-ex is.”

    AMEN! I am watching a situation within the church happen right now where one person wont stop running their mouth to anyone who will listen. AND SHAME ON YOU IF YOU ARE THE ONE LISTENING! STOP ENTERTAINING THE CRAP!

    “you will win in the short run, but time will out you for being petty, selfish and a coward.”

    Yep! I am divorced. Pretty much lived the situation in the blog. Took the blame and just kept my big mouth shut. Lord knows I didn’t want to! 🙂 Two days ago the ex’s current GF contacted me via Facebook b/c she had some questions about why the divorce REALLY happened. That took some kinda balls on her part to contact the ex-wife! So kudos to her for that. After explaining the situation to her, her response was “After reading your email, I feel it will be wise to run. I knew it couldn’t have been entirely your fault.”
    Keeping your head on straight during a divorce is NOT easy. But it takes two people to end a marriage just like it took both of you to get married. Take responsibility for your part of the crap, and, outside a circle of friends who for moral support and advice, its no one else’s business what happened inside the marriage to make it fall apart.

  9. David says:

    Have you read that marriage book about the fear/shame dynamic? You summarized the whole book in one post.

  10. David says:

    Yeah. How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. Stosny. It’s a pretty good book.

  11. Jenn says:

    As a child of divorced parents, I would love to claim I know nothing of the above example of a marriage dynamic… but it is true… yes, I have heard things I do not want to know.

    But I will say in regards to my parents – they were two very messy people who for whatever reason found what they thought was commonality in each other. The problem is messy people together make more messes. I get that we are all broken – let’s not deny that or casually embrace that with warm fuzzies. But there is something important I believe in putting as much of that out there BEFORE you are married, yelling SURPRISE after 30 years of fighting because you just decided to be open about something is not the way to do it… and in the end my parents are better for not being married to each other. I know that there are plenty who believe I am wrong because divorce is against God’s will, but I also think that anger and strife and all the things that happen in nasty marriages are also not healthy – I now have two parents who behave like adults and have healthier relationships with God and their children…

  12. James Martin says:

    It Is A Great Post.I Like Your Details About Divorced Woman.

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  13. JVo says:

    Sharideth, I appreciate what you said. As with many things in life, it isn’t always as black and white as some in the church like to make it. The Bible doesn’t even always have a black and white for every relationship struggle. Wisdom, learning from past circumstances and experiences, allowing ourselves to be edited by people we trust and have invited in to our lives, selflessness, aligning ourselves with the things we know to be true about God, healthy choices, common sense, prayer . . . all these things work together to heal and grow relationships. Some onlookers want it to be black and white sometimes so they can easily say what is wrong or who is wrong. But, we aren’t called to be the sin police.

    • thanks, jon. and no, we are not called to be the sin police. there must be grace in all things and it’s easier to offer that when we couple it with understanding and reserve judgment.

  14. Well, I was in entirely serious mood reading through the comments until the “James Martin” comment. Automated spam on a divorce post for a place to marry divorced women. It’s a funny world.

    But back to serious mood. I have definitely watched this happen, though not from personal family experience, fortunately. I can’t recall ever having gotten a call wrong, but that isn’t a case of brilliant deduction so much as NOT conclusion-jumping on divorces where I was not personally privy to details from inside. It also doesn’t mean there may not have been divorces where I was not privy to the “it all comes out” moment, either. The sad thing is not everyone who jumped to a conclusion will be there when it all comes out; and some of those who are there will find they’d rather refuse to believe the sudden revelation than admit to their own fallibility.

    One other Christian divorce style that really mystifies me is the “we’re still good friends” divorce. I know a couple who did this after a decade of marriage, but I’m not intimate enough with them to feel free to ask why. So I’m left wondering, “What is it that you feel prevents you from being able to continue your marriage but doesn’t prevent you from staying best buds?” I have trouble wrapping my head around that one.

  15. There is a lot of wisdom in your words….when my ex-wife had an affair she was totally afraid of people finding out about it…she feared I would blab her sin to anyone that would listen even though I promised her I would not say a word.

    I’ll be honest, at the time I didn’t want to be silent about it…she was telling everyone we knew (with tears and shaking) that we were mutually divorcing…that we still loved each other but it was not enough to sustain a marriage. Her word of “mutual” made me sick…it was the furthest thing from the truth…I had fought like hell to save our marriage (even while I knew she was keeping contact with her boyfriend) and no one was hearing about that part of it…instead they were hearing that she and I both fought for our marriage but finally couldn’t work it out. I tell you, I wanted to scream the truth to everyone!

    But in my heart I knew eventually her deceptions would trip her up…and you know what? They did….everyone we know now knows the truth of her affair, and I have never said a word about it…she let herself get caught up in the lust of it all and got caught by someone who WOULDN’T keep their mouth shut to anyone.

    That’s the thing, as believers we tend to forget about the scriptures that warn us that our sin will find us out…or we choose to just ignore it siting that, “everything will be alright in time.” The reality is, this line of thinking is about how much control an we want to have over our lives….I’m just not so sure God will ever allow us to have that….

    • thank you for sharing your story, Jeremy. man, it can be hard to maintain the high road in situations like that. especially when you know you have right on your side.

      how are things going for you now?

      • I have to admit, a load was taken off my shoulders when the truth of things finally came out…the difficult part of the truth was and has been protecting my kids from it. There is a part of me that sometimes thinks I would have opted to let the truth stay hidden in order to keep them from hearing negative things about their mom.

        In the end I have forgiven her (or at least sometimes I feel like I have…other times I’m not so sure) and I realize that we all sometimes do really stupid things and act out in really crappy ways. It takes two to cause a marriage to fail so I have had to shift my focus inwards to realize where I screwed up…while my faults did not warrant her having an affair, they ARE faults that I can work on and correct so I do not repeat them in a future relationship.

        In these situations there are never easy answers…just hard work, healing, understanding, and finding the motivation to move on better than you were before….that’s what I’m trying to do.

        Thanks for asking about my progress….and thanks for not holding back truth from your readers…it means more than you might think

    • Applause for taking the high road in a difficult situation.

      Very well said on your last paragraph. So many of all of our problems come when we start trying to be the ones in control instead of God. In a way, all sin really comes back to that question of who’s in control.

  16. MeeToo says:

    What about the wife who WANTS sex and ASKS for counselling for more than a dozen years and the husband refuses to believe anything is wrong or doesn’t want to share our ‘problems’ with somebody who can help? He was quite content to roll along like everything was fine, when I made clear to him I wasn’t happy, we needed help, blah blah.

    I was tired of no emotional or physical connection to him. I felt like a single parent for a whole lot of years. He worked and slept. No fun, no dates, no vacations….nothing.

    So it was ME who ended up in an emotional affair. But we knew it was wrong and didn’t want to hurt our children and families, so we broke it off after a couple of months. It was then I told my husband we get professional help or I’m done with this marriage. I’m too young to live the rest of my life the way we were going.

    Thankfully, he agreed because he really does love me and after 2 years things are finally getting better. We both agreed to take the blame…me for making a choice to have the affair and him for “driving me to do that” (his words).

    My daughter also went through a divorce. Broke my heart because people at her church talked and pointed fingers and said if she was REALLY praying and REALLY reading her Bible she wouldn’t be doing this horrible thing. But they didn’t know about the abuse and control and for her health and other reasons she HAD to get out.

    There’s a reason why the Bible tells us not to gossip or judge. We just don’t know all the details, facts or story behind why people do what they do, and it’s not FOR us to judge. That’s only for God.

    • sounds like your husband withdrew, he just did it through denial. that happens too. i’m so glad your story ended with restoration. i am sorry your daughter was so judged for leaving an abusive relationship. that’s just not okay. people need to think before they condemn and assume they may not have all the info.

      thanks for your story.

  17. I’m probably in the minority in that I don’t know many Christians who have divorced….but I bet many of these actions take place around me.

  18. I can sure see this happening, particularly women are great at playing this game. Sin is sin and.the Almighty sees it all

  19. One of the difficulties of going through a divorce in the church is that people line up to find out who was the villain. For me I really felt called to stick by my vows of honouring and loving. I was broken hearted when I got a call that ended our marriage. He hadn’t said boo to me, his friends or family. Life was difficult as I have a tough illness. We lost three babies before i was diagnosed. He stood by me during the worst times but eventually he wore down. He was broken and left.
    I chose this man, I had a son with this man and I refuse to bad mouth him to others. I refuse to answer people’s curiosity so they can judge who to condemn. Could he have handled things less brutally? Yes, but he must have hid a world of pain to need to leave.
    I cannot raise my son to love others, love his enemies and curse his father. This is unacceptable. I have my responsibility before God to love him as long as I live. I may never be able to live wih him again but I will always have his back and his best interests with his son. I wish him wholeness and healing. As Christians we are called to be different. We need to mindfully act rather than just emotionally react. We have to live our faith or our words are worthless. Thanks.

    • Lots of respect for the way you handled this. And I pray he does find a path to wholeness and healing in Christ. Loss of a child can be devastating, and those who don’t find a path to peace and healing and release for that pain can be emotionally crippled by trying to hold it in over time. We weren’t meant to hold it all in but we often try to do so. Men are also prone to gain a sense of failure from things we can’t fix in those who are closest to us, and that can be a great burden if we try to keep it ourselves. I pray for his healing and also for your own blessing as you persevere in following God’s command.

  20. katie says:

    As someone who is divorced after my husband committed adultery, it certainly gets old when people assume that it was my fault. I didn’t withhold sex or alienate him. He was tempted and gave in to sin. Like you said, I wish people wouldn’t judge or assume things that they don’t know for sure.

    • i’m glad you commented. sometimes people just choose the wrong thing no matter what the circumstances and cause pain without any provocation. that definitely happens.

      how are doing now?

      • katie says:

        there’s good days and bad days, honestly. it was never part of my plan to be a divorced woman! but it’s getting better!

  21. Been on both sides of this situation, cheating and being cheated on. I like to think it wasn’t my fault, but I had my share of the blame in both situations.

  22. Say, you received a nice weblog post.Truly looking forward to study more. Fantastic.

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