Separation and divorce have helped me understand more fully why God’s plan is one man for one woman for life.
My Journey of Change
Update 10/7/2015: Our email support group at Yahoo was privileged to help hundreds, if not thousands, of women and their families for well over a decade. That group is no longer active due to the many newer resources that are available online now.
I never expected my marriage to collapse but, after 33 years, it did.
We were married on March 5, 1967. I was a Christian, but I was not as committed to God’s way as I once had been. Six years into the marriage, I recommitted my life to Christ and my husband made a profession of faith in Christ as well. Through the years, my husband struggled with following God’s way, just as I had not always followed.
After my re-commitment to Christ, God began teaching me how to be the wife he wanted me to be. I often drifted from God’s plan, but God always brought me back to this one question: What is God calling me to be and do in my present situation? At first, I thought God wanted me to submit to his changes to improve my marriage. But, while God holds marriage sacred, God’s concern is always for the people in the marriage. God didn’t create the husband and wife for marriage, he instituted marriage to join the husband and wife he created. God is committed to helping people. He is committed to helping me become the woman he created me to be.
Lacking Perseverance and Consistency
I wish I could tell you that my submission to God paid off, and that my marriage blossomed into everything God meant it to be. But it didn’t. We both failed in many ways. My greatest failure was lack of perseverance and consistency while there was still time.
I tried to find ways to show my husband that he was the most important person in my life, but it just didn’t work. Well, actually, the problem is not that it didn’t work. The problem is that I became discouraged too easily. I’d do the things God convicted me to do for a few weeks, then I’d become discouraged when my husband didn’t react to things as I though he should. It was hard to consistently do the right things with the right attitude, and sometimes I failed or even gave up for a time. I’m sure my husband could tell when I tried to hide my wrong attitudes behind right actions.
It’s difficult to admit that, even though it’s been over nine years since our marriage fell apart. The only reason I’m sharing this is that I don’t want you to make the same mistake. God has forgiven me, and he will use even these circumstances in my life for his glory. But that doesn’t put my marriage back together.
In 1999 there were new developments in my marriage that made our remaining together in any type of mutual relationship almost impossible. My husband moved out in November of 1999. I experienced all the emotions of shock, resentment, anger, forgiveness, numbness, intense emotional pain, inability to think, sorrow for him, fear for me, loneliness, and anxiety of indecision.
But I also experienced the undergirding stability of peace, knowing that God would see me through even this. On Christmas Eve, I was able to write the following to a friend:
I have found that our God is able to see us through the most traumatic experiences in life, and not only see us through but give us hope and joy and peace in all the pain and hurt we experience. Though this Christmas will be difficult because of the loss, yet it will in many ways be more meaningful to me than any previous Christmas because of having had God so near me through the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had.
It was devastating to have my marriage torn from me. But from the beginning God gave me assurance. That assurance was not that my marriage would be reunited. What God showed me was that he would meet my need and use this terrible situation for good as I looked to him. That I could trust him to deal with my husband in response to my prayers. That I could trust him to work in my own heart as I looked to him. That I could love my husband and do all I could to help them find his way. But that even if my marriage was never put back together, I could still trust whatever God brought forth in my life. That God would still bless my home because of my faith and trust in him.
The Birth of ‘Hope in a House Divided’
My friends were all married. They cared, but they couldn’t understand the pain I felt. My grown children understood to a degree, but they suffered a different type of pain than mine. It was a lonely journey that no one but God could comprehend. I found almost no resources on the internet to help. In January of the year 2000, Hope in a House Divided was born out of that need. God planted a tiny dream in my heart to make a place where hurting women who experience such loss, or live in homes tottering on the brink of disaster, can find help and hope. God has multiplied this dream beyond anything I could have imagined, reaching countless women and families for almost a decade through our Hope in a House Divided website and our email support group.
Legal Separation: Bed and Board Divorce
In December of 1999, seeing that my marriage had crumbled and I could not piece it back together, I filed for a legal separation to prevent financial destitution. Even then, I was willing to face destitution if I could have redeemed my marriage, but I could not. Our separation, also known as a “bed and board divorce,” was granted in March of the year 2000. It was the same as a regular divorce in that we were legally single, not living together, and not sharing a home or any property together. The difference is that neither of us could remarry.
Is Divorce Stronger Than Marriage?
My husband filed for and was granted a full divorce on August 5, 2009. I won’t debate with those who say this does or does not grant me the right to remarry by Biblical standards, because that is not a an issue for me. Though it’s been almost ten years since we were separated, I understand more fully now than ever why God’s plan is one man for one woman for life. I feel a stronger commitment than ever to the vow I made when I accepted this man for better or for worse till death do us part, and divorce certainly qualifies for “worse.” Death has not parted us. As long as he is alive, I cannot imagine any other man fulfilling the role of husband that he filled for me so long. Marriage is a commitment that no divorce decree can break. Legally I am divorced, but spiritually I am committed to being true to the sanctity of God’s creation of marriage.
How does this commitment play out in light of our divorce? We’ve maintained a friendship through all these years we’ve been apart. Divorce has not changed that. I am committed to honor his legal right to remarry, to continue to pray for him and be a friend to him, and to keep his best interest at heart. I cannot say that this is God’s plan for every divorced woman, for I do not know how God deals with others on this matter. Others’ circumstances may be different. I only know that this is how God is leading me at this time. I am content to leave the answers with God.
Tools to Help
I first realized the strength and value of perseverance as I watched some of the women in our email support group relate to their husbands with consistency of care. But I didn’t really see how short I came of what God wanted me to be until I read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge last September. Whatever the state of your marriage, if you husband is living in your home, I encourage you to click this link and print the challenge, then commit to do it daily.
I watched the movie Fireproof (Click to watch the trailer) with my nine-year-old grandson a few weeks ago. Tears came to my eyes as I realized how I might have thwarted the situation that broke my marriage if I had been more consistent in my efforts to make my marriage work before it reached its fateful collapse.
I purchased The Love Dare (the “Fireproof” companion book) a few months ago. I don’t have the opportunity to physically do these things. But I can pray. I am praying God will accomplish his desires for me, and that God will also accomplish what he desires for my husband. I’ve also asked my husband to forgive me for my inconsistencies, and he has done that. We’ve remained friends through the years. But there are complicated situations and our paths have twisted during the past nine years.
Final Recommendations and Encouragement
Ripping apart a marriage leaves a wound that never completely heals. In the last years my husband and I lived together, I read many books on how to have a healthy marriage. But a lot more help is available now. Take advantage of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge, the movie Fireproof, and The Love Dare book. Do all you can to make it work, so you don’t have to look back and wish you’d tried just a little harder.
One caution though: If you are living in an abusive situation, this may not apply to you at this time. If you need help in an abusive situation, please click National Domestic Violence Hotline. Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You never get over the loss of a marriage but, if you are in the position that I’m in, there is still forgiveness and hope. God understands that our humanity is not perfect, and we can learn and grow from our mistakes. We can still find purpose as we ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to be and do in my present situation?”
God bless you as you seek his will for your marriage and your life.
[Update: My husband was granted a divorce in August of 2009, and has since remarried. I wish the best for them. We continue to be friends. My prayer is that God will work in his life and marriage, as well as in my life, to help us all be what he desires us to be during this new phase of our lives.]