I was married for 25 years and divorced nearly a year ago. I actually left my husband a year before that. And in the last two years, I’ve encountered many broken women, some divorced, others contemplating it, primarily because their husbands had affairs. There are other reasons, of course. But the fact is, many women–far more than I imagined–are forging ahead on their own because of divorce.
My neighbor has a classic story. Her husband was finishing up medical school, and she was pregnant with their fifth child, when she found out that he was having an affair with a patient. He left her, and when their fifth child was born, it became apparent that their new son was severely handicapped. He is now 6 years old, and cannot walk, talk or even eat on his own. She lives in Washington state as I do, and her ex-husband lives in southern California with the girlfriend, whom he recently married. So my friend, who is a Christian and actually an elder in her church, has forged ahead, homeschooling her kids, and learning to live frugally off of the child support.
Another friend of mine has a married daughter whose husband confessed about a year ago that he had been having an affair. They are both Christians–yes, Christians do ugly things–and while my friend’s daughter is still struggling with the pain and resultant depression, her husband repented early on and now thinks it’s time for her to get over it. The fact is, statistics show it takes 3-5 years to “get over” your spouse’s infidelity.
There are women everywhere whose lives have been shattered, and men who have realized far too late that the fallout from an affair is something akin to an atom bomb in their lives, and the lives of the members of their family.
Now that I’m a couple of years down the road, I’ve learned some things that I’d like to impart to those of you who may need some help right here, right now. Carrie, the owner of this website, has encouraged me to talk about divorce, infidelity, and similar topics, and I pray that God will use me in this way.
First of all, if you are divorced, or are living in an unhappy marriage due to infidelity or other issues, please realize that God knows your pain. Not a single tear has gone unnoticed. Not one. This is not His plan for your life, but I can promise you that He does have redemptive plans for you. He will bring you out to the other side, out of your current darkness and into His marvelous light. I am living proof.
Everyone’s “other side” is different. It’s determined by each partner’s willingness to repent, go to counseling, and seek God’s help to restore what was broken. If both partners have repented and are willing to work together to heal the marriage, then you are already further down the road to recovery than you imagine, especially in the midst of your pain.
However, if one or both of you are unwilling to repent and seek counseling and restoration, then you must determine for yourself if you feel that there is no future for your marriage. I may get negative comments about this, but I firmly believe that God does not expect us as women to stay in a marriage with a man who has no intention of repenting or seeking God to help restore the marriage. Martyrdom does not make a good marriage.
Let me tell you some of my story. My marriage was challenging from the beginning, but I kept believing that eventually, we would settle into the comfort zone that so many marriages do. By year 20 or so, I began to wonder if we would ever be happy. But then the real problems began. He began to withdraw physically and emotionally, and then the calls from work began to come… “Hey a bunch of people are going to a pub to celebrate so-and-so’s birthday after work today. You don’t mind if I go, do you?” The next time it was, “A bunch of guys from work are going to the pizza joint because John’s leaving the company. I’ll be home about 7:30 or so.” This began to happen one to two times per week, and I began to wonder who these invisible “guys” were, and why their wives were OK with them hanging out so much after work.
But then he began to disappear on the weekends as well. There was always a viable excuse; his hobby is photography, so he would always take off with his camera equipment for 2-3 hours. And then he began to come home late from work with no excuse whatsoever. While I didn’t have proof of what he was doing, I’m not a fool. Over the span of 4 years, as the chasm grew bigger and bigger between us, and he was unwilling to try to make it work, I finally reached my breaking point. Although I had spent that four years offering up hundreds if not thousands of prayers throughout the day and even at times in the middle of the night, believing God would swoop down and restore our marriage, nothing changed. Many prayers had been offered up by friends and family as well.
One day, I realized I simply could not take another step, unless it was “out.” And that was when I learned two things:
First, in order for God to restore a marriage, there have to be two willing, repentant hearts. When two repentant hearts are not present, restoration cannot occur. One person cannot do the pedaling for two on the marriage “bicycle.” Marriage is truly a bicycle made for two. If one person has their feet planted firmly on the ground, and the other is trying to pedal, you will go absolutely nowhere. If wrong-doing or infidelity has occurred, there must be transparency and honesty, and subsequently, repentance. If not, you can choose to leave, or you can choose to stay. No answer is more correct than the other.
Second, God was not mad at me. Throughout that final four years of our marriage, I worked harder than ever to get our marriage on track. I did not want our marriage to be a statistic, or our children to be a product of a broken home. And even though I worked hard, there were many times I blew it and said and did things out of anger, hurt and resentment. But when I look back, I know I gave it my best shot. Many friends told me they would never have hung in there that long. Nonetheless, when I finally got off the “bike,” I was afraid to look up at my Maker. I felt as though I had let Him down. But then He spoke to me, loud and clear, in a way I’d never heard Him before:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)
He loved me. He knew my heart, and how I’d tried. He knew the broken places, the disappointment, the pain. And He was there with open arms to receive me. And since that moment, I have been free of guilt, and free to receive His lavish love and provision.
This is in no way an endorsement for divorce. If you are facing very painful issues in your marriage due to infidelity, addiction to pornography, drugs, or a host of other things, first repent of your own wrong-doing (you are not a saint), and ask your husband to do the same. If he’s unwilling to repent, pray long and hard over him, and ask others to do so as well. If this goes on for an extended period of time, only you–not your friends or co-workers–can determine if it’s time to call it quits. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors except you, your husband and God. Only you will know when it’s clear there is nowhere else to go but out, but know this as well: God will love you no matter what. God may hate divorce, but He loves you beyond measure. And He will carry you through.
If this has helped you, leave a comment, so I can know whether I should write on other divorce-related topics. In my next blog, I’ll talk more about my life after divorce, and what I’ve learned.