As I prayed and sought an introduction for this post, I was totally stumped. What analogy—much more lighthearted in nature—mimics the characteristics of divorce? What? I thought of one of my customary starting phrases, “Have you ever…?”
Then I closed my eyes and it came to me.
Have you ever been driving on the freeway at full speed (and then some) and suddenly you saw a sea of red lights, slammed on your brakes and found yourself at a complete stop? Divorce can be like that.
Have you ever been taking a customary driving route and suddenly been faced with detour signs? Then you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, taking turns you’ve never taken, driving on strange streets and wondering where you’ll end up. Wondering when you’ll find yourself out of this lost, uncomfortable place. Divorce feels like that—to an extreme degree.
Here’s the big truth to remember where divorce is concerned:
It takes two people to get married
and only one person to get divorced.
The first time I heard that expression, I said something along these lines: “You got that right.” When a husband or a wife decides that he or she doesn’t want to be married to you or doesn’t want to be married to anyone, you can’t change that. You can’t make someone love you. You can’t make someone be committed to your marriage. You can’t make someone stay. You can’t make someone try. They can quit whenever they want to. And as many of us know, they can and sometimes they do.
Facing opposite directions
I’m writing this post from the position of a married person who wanted a healthy, fulfilling marriage and ended up with something else. I didn’t want to get divorced. I wanted healing for both of us. The problem is that my first husband wanted other things—addictions, lies, other women—and an exit.
I wanted in.
He wanted out.
Divorce is a huge deal. It’s extremely painful. Very, very few people enter a marriage thinking Well, if it gets tough, if I change my mind or if I find someone better, I’ll just get a divorce.
Divorce is more than a decision. It’s the breaking of a covenant. Most people seem to understand the severity of this decision. But some people don’t.
There’s a lot of finger pointing in divorce. Blame abounds. There’s shame; there’s regret. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings come from within—from inside you—and sometimes they come from without—from other people.
I hope you find today’s post helpful in this area.
What divorce means and doesn’t mean
Hear me when I say it. Getting divorced doesn’t mean that you weren’t committed to your marriage. It doesn’t mean that you took your marriage vows falsely or lightly. It means that The Big Truth entered your life: It takes two people to get married and only one person to get divorced. We’ll dive deeply into that one person aspect of The Big Truth during the remainder of today’s post.
The bold sentence below is important. It may or may not make sense to you now, but it will soon.
Just because you filed for divorce and/or moved out
doesn’t mean that you’re responsible
for the divorce or that you wanted the divorce.
Get ready to learn about The Destroyer.
But first, Peaceful Readers, please read this excellent article by marriage expert Gary Thomas. It will strengthen and encourage you on a powerful level. The article is appropriately titled “Enough is Enough.” Isobel, my dear friend—my true sister—shared this article with me. You’ll read about your value to God. And that’s a healing thing.
Differentiating between normal conflict and spousal abuse
There are customary marital conflicts and failings that need truth, basic problem-solving efforts and forgiveness to remedy and heal. Sometimes, couples don’t know if what they’re facing is normal or if it indicates severe “irreconcilable differences” (a familiar legal term used as justification for divorce). Older, wiser couples and/or a great marriage counselor can speak truth into these situations. Gary Thomas covers this issue in his article.
The relationship between child abuse and spousal abuse
Sadly, many husbands and wives don’t understand the difference between normal marital conflict and abuse. If you were raised in an abusive home, your parents probably never admitted the abuse. They acted like it was all normal. At the time, you thought it was normal too (and/or you thought you deserved it).
Brandon’s parents were abusive sociopaths. They taught him that they were good and he was bad. And he believed it. Until he didn’t. My parents were emotionally abusive and neglectful—a narcissist and a codependent. They taught me to smile, ignore problems and never ask for help. That was my life growing up and through most of my adult life. Until it wasn’t.
For those of us who were raised in an abusive/neglectful home, we were conditioned and trained that abuse is normal. It is customary. It is to be expected. It is “the way things are.” So an abusive/neglectful environment feels like home. Abusive and neglectful interactions feel like home. And these childhood realities vastly impact who we’re naturally drawn to for marriage. Because we were surrounded by abuse and neglect growing up, we can’t identify spousal abuse until its severity and/or impact has escalated—possibly to an extreme level.
A better way
But here’s the good news.
For those of us who were raised in an abusive/neglectful home,
we can eventually identify and stop spousal abuse/neglect
based on the truth and strength we’ve gained on The Healing Journey.
We can learn how much God loves us and how he views us. We can receive truth—and love—from God’s word, the Bible. We can learn a new normal. A healthy normal. A loving, truthful, respectful, forgiving normal. And that, Peaceful Readers, is a healing thing.
Divorcer and divorcee
Regardless of who moved out and who filed for divorce, in most marriages that end, there are two roles: The Divorcer and The Divorcee. The Divorcee is the person who wanted in—the person who wanted a healthy marriage. The Divorcer is the person who wanted one of two things—either
1. to continue unhealthy, neglectful and/or abusive behavior without consequences, or
2. to be out of the marriage altogether.
Abuser = divorcer
Let’s look at The Divorcer and The Divorcee in an abusive marriage. An abusive husband will often say “My wife divorced me,” when—in reality—he wanted to continue abusing his wife and she finally developed the strength to say no.
An abusive husband is always The Divorcer—whether he filed for divorce, agreed to the divorce or wanted the divorce or not—because he was the one who didn’t want a healthy marriage. He wanted an abusive marriage. He wanted to kill his wife’s spirit. He didn’t want a true marriage—a loving, truthful, healing partnership and covenant. He wanted control and/or escape.
He was The Destroyer.
Destroyer = divorcer
Obviously, The Destroyer is also The Divorcer—the one who ended the marriage—even though he won’t admit it. His insistence on blaming the divorce entirely on his wife serves as yet another example of his abuse and lies.
This scenario reminds me of both my first marriage and my friend Isobel’s first marriage. Isobel’s first husband was a sociopath. I call him Ice Man. He was literally sucking the life out of her—physically and emotionally. Who got blamed for their divorce by Ice Man, their adult children, their extended family and their church family? Isobel, 100%. The sociopath—The Destroyer—continues his abuse and his addiction to control with calculated skill. The Destroyer is alive and well. And remarried. Isobel remarried too. She’s been shunned. Ice Man has been celebrated. The Destroyer’s evil lives on.
Don’t be surprised. If you read my first series about sociopaths or The Trauma of Child Abuse post in this series, you know that sociopaths—people with Antisocial Personality Disorder—play to win and they hate the truth. The only way to win with a sociopath is to terminate all contact and to remember my mantra:
You play, you lose.
Sadly, Isobel can’t terminate contact with Ice Man because they have six children together, college tuition to pay, insurance to deal with, weddings to attend and pay for, etc.
Clearly, The Destroyer and The Divorcer in an abusive marriage can be either the husband or the wife. Simply because a convincing wife is going around bad-mouthing her husband for leaving her doesn’t mean that she wasn’t The Destroyer and The Divorcer. Abusive wives and husbands will rarely admit their true role in the death of their marriages. And if you’re dealing with someone with a personality disorder? Not happening.
When my brother-in-law left my sister—Pam, The Narcissist—he was falsely labeled The Divorcer. My mom—the poster child for Codependents R Us—declared that my brother-in-law moved out one weekend “out of the blue.” Right. Since Pam wasn’t speaking to me, I didn’t hear her drama first-hand, but you can be sure that it was Academy Award-worthy. In truth, Pam was The Destroyer and The Divorcer because of her chronic emotional abuse and her addiction to control. She treated her husband like dirt. Big time. You could call their abusive marriage Humiliation Central.
Addiction = abuse
Abuse comes in many forms. Addiction is one form of spousal abuse. I’m not talking about an addiction to Diet Coke. I’m talking about these kinds of life-draining, time-draining and/or finance-draining addictions: pornography, alcohol, prescription or non-prescription drugs, smoking/vaping, body mutilating, gambling, over-eating (and other eating disorders), video games, social media, TV and/or other forms of screen time, work. Obviously, many other activities can cross the line into addiction, but you get the idea.
While each addiction affects the addict the most, it profoundly affects the spouse. Addiction keeps a husband and wife emotionally and physically apart to at least a moderate degree, and sometimes to an extreme degree. It keeps sickness alive and acts as a potentially-aggressive barrier to healing. It’s like the sea of brakes on the freeway from the beginning of this post. At some point, addiction halts healthy forward movement.
Addictions can keep a husband and wife from experiencing and enjoying a true marriage.
A true marriage is a loving, truthful,
healing partnership and covenant.
The trauma-addiction cycle
We dug into the cycle of trauma and addiction in the Traumatic Grief post. Let’s reread these sections from part 5.
In this five-part post, you’ve probably noticed the close relationship between trauma and addiction. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s common for traumatized people to use drugs and/or alcohol to deaden the pain and hide the memories. While they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they’re more likely to traumatize others—emotionally, physically and/or sexually. And the cycle continues….
You’ve probably heard this saying: Hurt people hurt people. So true.
We choose addictions to avoid feelings, memories and/or the truth. People minimize certain addictions by referring to them as escapism. Sure, people who play video games or view social media for hours a day are obviously escaping from life in general and from various responsibilities. But isn’t there more to it than that?
For more on addictions and healing, read more from part 5 of Traumatic Grief.
The darkness and the light
Abuse is sinful. It is contrary to God’s way. It is darkness.
We need the light. The light of love. The light of truth. The light of God. The light of Jesus Christ, the Savior.
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about a swirl, a continuum and a waterfall.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: John 8:12
Song for Healing: “O Holy Night” by Josh Groban
If you haven’t already seen The Nativity Story—the movie depicted in this music video—I highly recommend it. Even if you have seen it, maybe it’s time to sit quietly, watch it again and ponder the many miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth.