The rejection of divorce cuts deep

A little more than two years ago I experienced a pain unlike any other pain I’ve ever felt. The symptoms had been there for years leading up to this moment in time when my world went momentarily black and my knees bucked under me. The next 30 minutes was, quite literally, the most physically painful experience I have ever felt.

I tried to address the symptoms, but nothing worked. My wife at the time had no interest in remaining married and so, with nothing more than her signature, a court stamp and a bunch of money she absconded from our bank account, the divorce papers delivered by paid courier that dark morning were official.

It’s not just my pain that lingers. The ironic pain I feel when I read or hear stories of couples on the brink of divorce who, through a miracle of God, decided to work things out, or the pain of going home once again to an empty house with nothing more to do but maybe read, or simply stare into space. For the most part it’s not even the pain of seeing others happily married or the sappy affections of a young couple that hurts, though all these do hurt. If it were simply my own pain of lingering rejection that I had to contend with maybe I could bear it a little better. But it’s not. It’s the pain I see that has replaced the smile on the face of my 8-year-old daughter that hurts the most because I can’t seem to make that pain go away. It’s the absence of joy that once permeated from her very being that is most disturbing and worrisome.

I think the pain of rejection is far worse than any other pain a human being can experience. Rejection is a pain that says: “you’re not worthy,” or “you have no value.” It’s not merely that someone doesn’t like you anymore; to be rejected by a spouse is almost indescribable.

I also think that rejection causes an almost paranoid fear of it happening again; so much so that it causes one to fear situations where you could once again place yourself in the vulnerable position of trying to date again. It’s a terrible place to be because folks who’ve experienced divorce truly need someone just to talk to. They need another human being who will listen and not judge; they really need someone to validate their absent sense of self worth, not in a physical sort of way, but in a much more intimate and emotional context.

This morning my pastor read from a letter he said he received from a fellow pastor. The letter was written by a 31-year-old man who unsuccessfully fought against the divorce that his ex wife sought. In this letter the man describes the poverty of friendship he has, and the absence of another person with whom to share his pain, to cry with or simply to talk to when he goes to his empty house. In his frustration the man writes about spending the rest of his life “in the penalty box,” which in my own experience can be interpreted to mean that the dark place and loneliness that I now suffer through is part of that “penalty box” that I too have been sentenced to as a result of my own mistakes in life and particularly in my former marriage. While I know this bit of “theology” does not bear truth from what I know in God’s word it’s still a very real battle within my soul that I must wrestle with on a constant basis. This is more common than you’d think.

The following excerpt comes from the Web site: http://www.divorceinfo.com/suicide.htm#EffectOfDivorce. I find it poignant to the struggles that men go through post-divorce. If nothing else, it illustrates the vital role that a solid friendship can play in helping men recover from divorce and preventing them from becoming another suicide statistic.

“One recent study by the National Institute for Healthcare Research in Rockville, MD indicates that divorced people are three times as likely to commit suicide as people who are married. The Institute says that divorce now ranks as the number one factor linked with suicide rates in major U.S. cities, ranking above all other physical, financial, and psychological factors.

“A study of 13 European countries by the regional European office of the World Health Organization found that divorce was the only factor linked with suicide in every one of the 13 countries. The study showed that factors like poverty, unemployment, and disability were associated with divorce in some of the countries but that disruption of the family was the only factor linked with divorce in all 13.

“Anecdotally, the coroner of Butler County, Ohio told UPI in the late 80’s that he thought the high rate of suicide in that area was traceable to men’s inability to cope with divorce. Dr. Richard Burkhardt said he thought women were more likely to feel needed after divorce because they needed to take care of children. But men, he said, felt cut off from their role as head of the household and felt they had no reason to live.

“Statistically, women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to succeed. Suicide is more likely among men over age 65, among young people, among disabled people, and among people in lower socio-economic groups.”

Again it’s why I believe church is such a vital place for people today. Not simply because we ought to be somewhere on Sunday morning worshipping God with songs and listen to the teachings of the pastor, but because we’re human beings, and human beings crave relationship with one another. You would think that the best place for people to find a Monday-Saturday kind of friendship would be on Sunday in their local church. However, such is not always the case. It’s sad when people can’t even find significant friends from within the church to be there and help them Monday through Saturday.

If you know someone going through divorce, or someone who’s been through one, my recommendation is to be purposeful, almost to the point of being pushy, in a very personal effort to befriend them. I say this cautiously though. Guys should not ever attempt to be that shoulder for a woman to cry on since she is obviously not going to be YOUR wife. Similarly, men should not seek out the comfort of a woman’s advice, even though women seem to be wired more effectively for emotional conversations. While this may be more difficult for men to find emotional support than women, men in this situation need to find a church where the pastor or someone leads a men’s group and can point you in the right direction to find the help you need.

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19 thoughts on “The rejection of divorce cuts deep

  1. wow…this cut right to the quick. I am hurting right now from the very things you mention.

    A friend told me that 80 percent of divorces among believers are intiated by women. That’s huge.

    Men got the picture a few years ago with “Promise Keepers.” Does a similiar revolution need to begin among women?

    • Reply to David from April 5, 2010

      Saying that 80% of divorces are initiated by women may be statistically true but it is misleading. My friend’s husband abandoned her and their 7 year old daughter. He maxxed out their joint credit card, took all their cash, and stopped putting his paycheck in their joint checking account. My friend had quit her government job after their daughter was born. She waited 5 months for her husband to come back but then she had no money to pay the mortgage or car payments so filing for divorce was – unfortunately – the only way to avoid foreclosure and repossession.

      While it may be true that my friend “initiated” the legal paperwork, was she really the “initiator” of the divorce? She wants her husband back.

      • Thank you for your response. While I can speak only of my divorce in accurate terms, I’ve heard plenty of stories of the man being the cause in one form or another. Either he leaves with his new blonde toy or he is abusive and she is forced to leave to protect her life and the life of their children. The point is: there is plenty of blame to go around in both genders.
        The point of my blog is the pain it causes the “victims” in the divorce. I’m an adult, so I can process a lot of this stuff. I still fear for my daughter, who is NOT an adult and who’s brain is not fully developed to process all of this that has happened.
        I’m so sorry for your friend in this story. In the process of hoping that her husband comes back I would encourage your friend to get professional counseling help from a good, qualified counselor so that she can try to heal from this tragedy and the obvious depression she is going through.

  2. This is an issue that my wife and I will fight until the day that we die. Divorce does hurt not only those involved but our contry as well. Those that have been divorced have to work hard with their children to help them understand. My parents divorced and when I had the affair on my wife I thought it would be a simple solution, but God had other plans and I am so thankful for that I give him praise everyday for my marriage and my wife. It was not until all this happened that I realized that my parents not being together and the fact that I don’t even know where my real father is has had a huge impact on how I lived my life. This is not to say that a step parent can’t be great because I call my step father DAD but there is still a void there that can’t be filled by my step father, that is what I mean by if you have divorced you have to work hard on that relationship with your child and never let them go. Yes divorce hurts and it is killing so many men in the Christian world (we do have what they are calling the “walk away women”) this is why I am trying to stand up admit my mistake and save marriages. Thank you for sharing this blog it is important

  3. Thanks Mike. I struggle every day with decisions related to career and my daughter. California is very depressed economically and the region in which she lives with her mother is one of the more economically depressed areas in the United States, yet I stay because I can’t bear the thought of leaving her to wonder, become bitter and suffer even more than she already is.
    You have a story to tell that illustrates how the absence of a father can affect a young boy and later a man as he walks in this world. My daughter will have her own story to tell growing up in a broken home. God never intended this to happen this way, yet God can work all this for good — His good — for those who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). That’s no excuse for sin, but it does present some comfort as I try to focus on my commitment to stay here and be physically and emotionally available to my daughter, in spite of her mother’s hatred for me.
    Through it I’ve learned that there are many women today who have simply walked away from their marriage and that promise they made because they simply wanted to give up. For some, they found the excitement of more money from careers and then the overwhelming thought that “I can do this without you” pushed them to file the papers. Then, in an ironic twist, some of these women learn that the courts will tap the fathers for large amounts of child support, which in some cases isn’t about supporting the child as much as it is “getting even” with the ex-spouse and subsidizing a more expensive lifestyle.
    David: I have not heard the 80% statistic before, so I can’t attest to it, but it wouldn’t surprise me. A buddy of mine had his wife walk out on him after 20-plus years of marriage for no other stated reason than “I don’t love you anymore.”
    How has the world been allowed to infect the church like this? I know the short answer, but it still puzzles me.
    Mike, let me know how I can help you save marriages.

  4. My wife and I have been together now for 28 yrs and the hardest thing I have ever done is to stay in my marriage because of my wife’s desire to control my life…The only reason that I stayed was because I was determined not to destroy my son’s childhood like my parents selfishly destroyed mine which gave me the strength to fight my wife’s urge to control my life to a stalemate…Certainly living with her has been like having a fully loaded gun placed up against my temple with the hammer cocked back and her finger on the trigger…Should my marriage come to an end I will never ever marry again nor even so much as engage in an intimate relationship with a female and avoid contact with the opposite sex as far as possible…

    • Dabir: Great word picture of the cocked gun. That trigger was pulled on me and, unlike a real gun, which would have killed me instantly, I live in the constant pain of watching my daughter struggle now through life. She was 6 at the time and is now 9. One of the outcomes of divorce is it steals a childhood. That is very painful to watch.
      As for the desire to never marry again if divorce should come, I know that feeling too. I’m there my friend. There’s a lot of complicated and intertwined reasons for this in my own mind, not the least of which was the control that was exerted upon my life by my wife during our marriage. I never want to be “controlled” by a person like that again. I’ll go to my grave lonely rather than risk succumbing to another controlling relationship.

  5. The problem with no fault divorce is that it allows one person {usually the wife} to unilaterally destroy the marriage against the wishes of her more often then not innocent husband. No fault divorce was created by feminists and divorce lawyers with the express purpose of destroying the institution of marriage who then rewrote the divorce laws with the express intention of financially rewarding the ex wife for the immoral betrayal of her husband. This is why most divorces are filed by women and not by men who have absolutely no incentive to divorce and every reason to avoid it at all costs. It was Ronald Reagan (that conservatives worship as god) who as Gov. of CA signed into the law the very first no fault divorce law and then as President signed into law the federal statute that allows a women to take up to half of her ex husbands pension and retirement benefits after a mere ten years of marriage.

    By accepting no fault divorce instead of punishing by removing the one {again mostly women} who is guilty of willfully destroying their marriage by seeking a divorce for any other reason then a Biblical one {Adultery} from the congregation. The Baptist church not only betrays Christ, the Father of us all, their own principles and the society at large but the innocent spouse {mostly men} and the children who are harmed by their own mothers sinful selfishness.

    • I’ve heard anecdotally that it’s typically the woman who files for divorce. I agree that the whole notion of no-fault divorce is a bad one, but you may agree that this is simply another result of our fallen world and the spiritual battles in which we’re caught. That’s not to defend it, but to try to somehow explain it.
      I guess the question then becomes what are we going to do about it? Not that I think we can single-handedly prevent divorce, but what are we going to do in light of it and in light of God’s call on our lives?

  6. I dwelt with it by having nothing more to do with the Baptist Church, neither will I hesitate to call a Baptist preacher a liar to his face, just as I informed one of my coworkers {who is a member of the Baptist Church my Grandparents attended for many until their deaths bought an end to earthly existence} that I don’t like being lied to from the pulpit or in the Sunday school class I used to attend.

    I also met my wife for first time in the Seventh-day Adventist church both her uncle and I attended when he introduced me to her and then a second time at the Baptist Church she attended when I was with another friend. Which led to our dating and then being married in the chapel of the SDA church my mother attended at the time. Unfortunately finding a wife in a church in these days and times is just as risky as finding a wife in a bar setting as my dad found out with my mother and first stepmother since both of them attended the same church as he did at the time of his marriages to him.

    Incidentally it was my first stepmother who caused my fathers death many years later {about sixteen years ago} when she came back into his life after his third wife had left and divorced him. She talked my dad into entering an intimate relationship with her then intentionally infected my dad with the STD that eventually destroyed his liver and left him stone cold dead about three years after he broke up with her.

    Today I keep my wife at arms length while concentrating on writing my poems, short stories and essays {which I also use to vent my own anger} that I post on my own blogs in my free time. Even as I watch my back and my bank accounts {Just in case she should pull the same stunt my first stepmother pulled on my dad when she raided both their personal and business checking and savings accounts when she also absconded with my dad’s prized coin collection the first time she left him.} even as I continually strive to learn to live with my painful past.

  7. Perhaps one day after the false consciousness of feminism has been eradicated and its adherents have been put to the sword there will be time to heal. Until then I will keep on fighting the good fight in my own way….

  8. I would love to post this on my blog for wives soon. Would that be ok with you? I believe Christian wives need to hear this message. Thank you for sharing your heart and perspective. What you are doing here is important!

  9. If women initiate divorces, it’s because men are failing to initiate the love that would keep a woman there. You all have only yourselves to blame for your wife leaving. Women are wired to want intimacy, and no woman ever gives up that dream easily. Your wives longed for love from you and no doubt made excuses for your lack of love and your cold hearts for a long time before they finally gave up and left. Promise Keepers? Part of the problem. The world doesn’t need more macho posturing, it needs more genuine humility and love. Christian gender roles is a dead end. Only agape love can keep a woman in a marriage if she has the means to escape the daily rejection of disinterested, cold, self-pitying husbands, and by that I mean the man waking up and starting to live agape love. No daughter of the Most High deserves to live in a state of constant rejection. You divorced men are merely reaping what you so fastidiously sowed for so long.

    • Women leave marriages, by and large, as has been well documented here, because they are “unhappy”. The honeymoon period is over, the tedium of domesticity has set in, the “spark” has gone, however you want to put it. And I’m talking about marriages where there is no domestic violence or physical abuse involved which is a different story altogether.

      The reason women leave, I feel, is that there has been a dramatic cultural shift in our understanding of what marriage is and what it is for. Until recently, marriage was recognized as the best possible model of primarily providing a stable environment in which to raise children as well as channeling male and female energies in a way that is optimal to them, their family and society as a whole.

      It was NOT just about “love” and it was NOT about meeting the arbitrary, ever changing emotional and intimacy needs of adults. Your spouse was not supposed to be your “soul mate” to understand you on some deep existential level, whilst simultaneously setting your loins on fire every time they so much as walked past you. Marriage was a practical arrangement based on the hard facts of reality, not a romantic fantasy based on Hollywood generated soft focus “love”.

      Now, women believe marriage is about – and only about – making them happy and fulfilled, specifically romantically. If their husband isn’t whipping them into a lustful frenzy on a daily basis as well as being a constant source of stimulating and entertaining company who understands them mind, body and soul, then, GAME OVER.

      Nevermind if they’ve got kids who’s prospects will be damaged or destroyed forever by enduring the destruction of their family. Because what matters most is that they, the wayward woman, is HAPPY.

      That’s where we get sparkling gems like “my children would rather be with a happy single parent than an unhappy couple!” when, surprising as it is to the egocentric narcissist that is the modern walk away wife, their mother’s or father’s happiness is not children’s first priority. Parental happiness is something most kids give virtually no thought to at all in most cases. Children just want to be with both parents.

      And secondly, there is no evidence, that I have experienced personally through friends or read about that separation & divorce makes people any happier. People usually stay exactly the same, then pick a new partner exactly like the last one, and then get divorced again. That’s why second marriage failure rates are so high.

      But none of this information is any longer in the public conciousness. It used to be taken as self evident that divorce was a shameful tragedy that destroyed lives. But now that has been replaced with the fraudulent narrative that nothing matters or has any harmful effects other than not being “HAPPY”.

      The narsissism of todays modern woman has encouraged people to put far too much emphasis on their own “HAPPINESS” as well as believing in false ways that they can achieve this.

      How can we put an end to this madness? Reducing divorce depends on ensuring people once again understand what marriage is for, what it represents and why it’s important. It’s why blogs like this one exist. It’s listening to what your pastor or priest is preaching about at Sunday service.

      It depends on understanding that you are not “an individual” entitled to chase each and every one of your desires at any cost. You are part of a society and you have a responsibility to maintaining the health of that society which is undermined at every turn by getting separated and divorced. Especially when you have children.

      May God help us all.

      • Very good analysis. The “happyness” quotient is overplayed. Sure, we husbands have our faults. But very rarely have i heard of a man leaving his wife because “he deserves to be happy”. But on the other hand, happiness is the female-god.

        I love what you say about kids. They just want mom and dad to be together — even if they are miserable. Are we really better off after divorce? We have less money, we spend years – if not a lifetime – – pickin gup the pieces. And we spend the rest of lives with the harnass of ‘failure’ strapped to our backs.

  10. Thank you for this article. I’m a wife who is considering divorce and have felt the sadness and guilt because of the pain it may put my son through. I cannot speak for any other Christian wife but for me it’s a matter of never having a honeymoon period, it’s as though my husband decided to stop loving me when we said ‘I do’. I’ve stood by his side through verbal and emotional abuse, a suicide attempt, and drug use. I’ve prayed, recruited others to pray, men attempted to hold him accountable, I’ve tried to approach him about it (he refuses to even look at me), suggested counseling (he refused), sought counseling for myself (Christian, male so I could get a male perspective), waited, and there’s nothing left for me to do. I know it’s up to him to get help and thats precisely why I’m considering divorce, he hasn’t pursued it. We consider ourselves christians so I guess you can lump me into the statistic however, just becasue I might initiate the divorce doesn’t mean I’m the ‘dumper’. My husband has made it clear he doesn’t love me, not just through actions but the words ‘I don’t love you’. A woman is subject to her husband so long as it doesn’t contradict God’s word. God has commanded that a husband love his wife and give of himself as Christ did for the church and this isn’t happening and hasn’t for our entire marriage. I still pray and have hope for my husband that he’ll surrender his pain to Christ regardless of whether or not we’re married. This decision has been extremely painful and difficult and this article made me feel less alone. People seem to treat divorce so casually but it should be a last resort. It affects every person that knows the couple.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I can’t advise you on what to do aside from continuing to be faithful to God and His call on your life.
      It can be a bit trite for someone to tell another “God will make a way” when they’re not walking with you on this journey, or to quote scripture, so I won’t.
      I do believe if you remain faithful to God He will honor that in your life. I don’t know what that will look like, I just know that God is faithful based on His faithfulness in my life.

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