Have you ever encountered a season with your child when your efforts just weren’t getting through? The behavior or the attitude was problematic and it wasn’t getting better, despite creative, varied attempts? I remember a couple times in Logan’s life when it was Trash Bag Time. What that meant was that Junior pulled some garbage on me and he found himself receiving a major response from yours truly—Mom. We bagged up all of his stuff into black trash bags. All of it. He had a bed, a pillow and a dresser.
To earn back his stuff—blankets, stuffed animals, etc.—he had to correct his problem behavior—whatever it was at the time. Every time he made the right choice or gave me the right response, he got something back. He learned the high value of getting it right. It worked. It was a lot of work to get everything bagged up, but the end result was well worth it.
Enough is enough
When I decided enough-is-enough as a mom, it was Trash Bag Time. Today, we’ll be walking through something much more serious—the enough-is-enough time in a marriage—The Turning Point—from marriage to divorce.
Maybe you’ve reached the enough-is-enough place in your marriage. I hope you’ve read the article by marriage expert Gary Thomas called “Enough Is Enough.” I mentioned it in part 1 of this post. Over the course of many months, I realized the truth that my first marriage was over. I knew in my heart that I gave it my all and there wasn’t a positive solution available. We didn’t want the same things. In our case, I wanted healing and Greg wanted destruction—self-destruction and marriage destruction. I wanted in and he wanted out.
After I told my sister—Pam, The Almighty; I mean Pam, The Narcissist—about Greg’s affair, she dogged me out for staying with him so long. Her comments didn’t help me. She wanted retaliation. I wanted the right thing at the right time.
If you’re currently in a difficult marriage and other people know about it, they’ll most likely give you feedback. Some of the feedback may be helpful and some of it won’t be.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you know most of the facts and your relatives and friends don’t. You’re the one who took your marriage vows with your spouse. They didn’t. If relatives or friends have your best interest at heart and have reasonably-healthy marriages, feel free to listen and take their comments into consideration.
The relationship that matters most
But this is the bottom line. Ultimately, the decision to get a divorce is between you and God. Also, the timing of your divorce is between you and God. It is a subject for much prayer and reflection. It is not a subject for an extended family or Circle of Friends vote. Your marriage covenant and vows were made in the sight of God. He is your creator and the creator of the marriage covenant itself.
Obviously, if you’re seriously considering divorce, you’ll need to communicate with your spouse about it. What I’m saying here is that you need to seek wisdom and guidance from the Lord.
The only almighty
While your extended family and friends may have witnessed your marriage vows, they weren’t and aren’t a part of the marriage covenant. As much as they may enjoy weighing-in on this issue, they don’t get a vote on if or when you should get divorced. Listen to their input—if they’re emotionally healthy and have your best interest at heart—and consider it. But make sure that God Almighty—the only almighty who matters—is the one you believe in, listen to and follow. If you love Jesus and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, listen to the still, small voice. Call out to him in prayer throughout the day and ask him to show you what he wants from you and when he wants it. You’ll read about one of my still, small voice encounters—a very beautiful, powerful encounter—later in this post.
You may receive conflicting advice from various people in your life.
God will not give you conflicting advice.
His voice is the voice that matters.
He is faithful and he will not steer you wrong.
The decision to divorce
Sometimes a divorce is thrust upon you by your spouse. Sometimes spouses agree on the divorce together. Other times, you’re the one who must make the decision because your spouse refuses to. Your spouse may have made it crystal clear that he or she will not honor you or your marriage vows, but he or she also refuses to make the decision about the divorce. It’s easier to blame that on you. In my experience, this position—this You Decided; I Didn’t lie—is characteristic of spousal abuse/neglect. (For a refresher on The Destroyer and The Divorcer, read part 1.)
If you find yourself in the position of being the one who has to make the decision to divorce, I can certainly sympathize with the weight of this decision. My first husband, Greg, made it clear that he didn’t want to be married to me. He also made it clear that he would do whatever was necessary to force me to end our marriage. I had to choose the divorce and I had to announce the divorce. He wouldn’t make the “Let’s get divorced” decision even though he decided long ago that he didn’t want our marriage. Mr. Irresponsible wouldn’t be responsible for that—or anything else.
Rehearsing the speech
As a matter of fact, Greg planned his Divorce Excuse Speech long before our divorce. It went like this: “We went to counseling and it just didn’t work out. Frankie Ann filed for divorce.” He was hoping to end his speech with this Hollywood mantra: “But we’re still friends.”
Shock of the world—I wouldn’t go for that last line of his rehearsed speech. I drew the line in a place Greg had never experienced before. I said no to his “Let’s be friends” expectation. To say the least, he was shocked by my strength and savoir-faire after it was all over.
How did Greg plan his I’m A Free Man Now speech? Hmmm. Let’s back up a chapter.
Wild Ones R Us
Greg experienced some negative fall-out at work for having an affair with one of his coworkers. I’ll call her Gabby. Gabby had friends at work and Gabby talked. Her friends talked. Everyone at Wild Ones R Us was talking about Greg and Gabby’s affair. And the talk wasn’t so good for Greg. You see, Gabby was married too. Her husband was kind of scary. A very tough guy. Even after their affair was over, the talking wasn’t. The fall-out wasn’t.
The weight of the lies
When people are gossiping about you, you know it when you walk in the room. They turn their heads away. They won’t look at you. We were both on the receiving end of that. It’s hostile. Greg hadn’t expected that. He lost a lot of weight. He felt anxious. He had dark circles under his eyes. Gosh. Party Time Central in the Sordid Affair Department wasn’t so fun in some ways.
The whole time the gossip-fest was going on at Wild Ones R Us, Greg was lying to me and claiming to be the victim of unjust gossip and lies. But all the lying and the gossip took its toll. Eventually, he admitted the affair to me. He admitted the truth… finally… about a year later. We were standing in our kitchen. Talk about a stab to the heart. Oh, my. Immediate shock. Major trauma. We were hosting a dinner party that night. I went into our bathroom and scrubbed our shower tile for hours. I couldn’t get the feeling of filth off of me or out of my heart. The filth of what he had done. The filth of his lies. The filth of his betrayal.
He agreed to go to individual counseling, mainly to alleviate his anxiety, his inability to sleep, etc. After a while, we started going to counseling together. He said repeatedly, “I’ll go to counseling for a year. I’ll go ‘til June 15.” Then what? He dangled that date over my head like a guillotine.
The whole time we went to counseling together, he never did what our counselor asked him to do. Not once. She asked him not to drink for two days before each session. Ha. Some days he started drinking before lunch. Some of her assignments were simply to think about something and give her a yes or no answer the next week. He wouldn’t do that either. The only thing he would do was show up and pay.
One year and one thing—not
Did Greg actually want to fix anything or change anything about himself? Obviously not. He wanted to feel better about what he’d done and he wanted to be prepared for his Divorce Excuse Speech: “We went to counseling—for a year—and it just didn’t work out.” Of course it didn’t work out, you scum-bag. You didn’t do one thing our counselor asked you to do! Oops. Sorry about that. I couldn’t help myself.
We tried a trial separation in January. Greg stayed in our garage apartment for a week (or was it two?). Neither of us was ready for it to be over yet. We were both agitated. The whole thing was depressing. We kept going to counseling, but nothing was changing.
The month of May
Big things happened in May, the month before the date Greg was holding over my head—June 15. For some reason, I gave him really generous birthday gifts. I guess I knew they’d be the last gifts. Greg complained about one of them. He said he didn’t want it.
And that was the analogy of our marriage.
Greg was given a generous gift
and he didn’t want it.
The biplane ride
One weekend in May, Greg and I went to an aircraft museum. I decided to take a biplane ride, something I’d never done before. And going on that ride was out of character for me. I’m no dare-devil. When I go to an amusement park, I ride the kiddie roller coasters—just my size and speed. Anyway, the biplane ride was amazing. The pilot flew the plane skillfully and I was the only passenger. Or was I?
We soared and turned, and I felt free. I don’t remember anything that I heard with my ears while I flew, but I remember how I felt—the sensations of flying free. The wind blew my hair, I saw the world from a new place, I breathed that fresh air deep into my lungs, and inside my mind, the still, small voice kept saying “Let go.” “Let go.” “Let go.” “Let go.”
How could I reach out and grab God’s hand while I was clinging—white knuckled—to someone or something else? I felt at peace. I knew it was time to let go of my marriage, to hold God’s hand, to soar free into the unknown, and to experience new things and new people.
I knew it was time.
I wasn’t going to march toward that guillotine—toward June 15—with my hands bound behind my back, blindfolded, showing up at counseling every week for no reason, pretending we were both heading in the same direction. It was time. I had walked down this road—praying, crying, hoping, speaking the truth, investing my heart and my life, yearning for his healing. But Greg wouldn’t walk with me. He wouldn’t hold my hand. He didn’t want healing. He wanted escape. He was on a different road altogether.
It was time to end it. I felt at peace about it. During that biplane ride, God told me to let go. I had his permission and his blessing. And I knew that everything would be okay. I knew that I would be okay. The time had come. And it was the right time.
I told Greg to move out—that our marriage was over. He was relieved. In a strange way, so was I. And—like I said in part 5: “Greg took his wedding ring off the day he moved out and he boogied right down to Party Time Central.” Surprise, surprise, surprise!
The right time
Because I waited until it was the right time, I didn’t ever look back and wonder if I did the right thing. I didn’t waffle back and forth. I didn’t regret the decision to get a divorce. I knew that I had God’s permission and blessing, so I could walk forward with a sad but solid stance. Having this solid stance enabled me to lay down firm, unmovable, healthy boundaries, which helped me move forward on The Healing Journey.
Letting go can be scary sometimes, even when we’re letting go of something painful. It’s what we know. It’s familiar. It’s been there for a long time. We thought it would always be there. What will happen when I let go? Who will be there for me? How will I feel? How will I deal with all the changes? Will I be alright? Won’t I be lonely?
So many questions….
It’s natural to be afraid of the unknown, but God tells us many times in the Bible not to be afraid because he is with us. And he is. Your faith in God, no matter how small, will make all the difference as you travel through uncharted waters. Talk to him throughout your days, and experience all the ways he can comfort you during hard times—through a phone call or contact from someone who cares, through a song, through the words in a book, through the beauty and truth of God’s word—the Bible, through the beauty of nature, through the sense of God’s presence with you, through your growing confidence and peaceful assurance of good things to come—through your growing faith.
Is there someone or something you need to let go of? Have you been wishing that somehow you could change someone else? Have you been trying to do things just right, in hopes that your relationship(s) would change? Have you been playing the game by someone else’s unhealthy rules, hoping that someday he or she would really love you or appreciate you or respect you or care about you or want you or understand you or hear you or apologize to you? Do you need to let go of your desire to rewrite the past? Do you need to let go of your unforgiveness so you can enjoy today? Do you need to grieve the painful reality about your childhood and the people in your past? Do you need to grieve your own mistakes and forgive yourself? You can do it.
God bless you on The Healing Journey.
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about martinis, a crow-bar and much more.
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: Ezekiel 36:26-29
Song for Healing: Today I’m listing two songs. I think of both of them as Christian songs—one with words and one without.
“Hands That Are Holding Me” by Meredith Andrews
“Ivory Hymn” by Thad Fiscella—beautiful and so peaceful