Divorce: What It Is

Question: If you had just 2-3 minutes to offer advice to a couple seeking divorce, what would you say?

Michael: “If I had a choice, I would say do not get divorced. I would have done anything to save my marriage. She was unwilling to. It was by far the hardest thing I ever went though.”

Robert: “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE find a good counselor that wants to save your marriage. (There are bad ones who basically lead you thru the steps of divorce.)

There is no such thing as “IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES.”

Mark: “The consequences are long lasting, and in some cases irreversible.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking “not in my case” or “my situation is different”.  Many relationships beyond the marriage will be either damaged, permanently altered, or lost altogether.  Divorce is a destructive force!

Understand that marriage is not about your happiness, but is about loving another person through sacrifice and service to them.  Marriage is a covenant, not a contract.  Breaking a contact has legal implications, but breaking a covenant has life-long spiritual implications.”

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A few weeks ago we wrote a brief introduction to this series we wanted to write on the subject of divorce. While the subject of Divorce can be a sensitive one, we believe it’s worth addressing, as the subject is often glossed over by society as a whole.  Be honest – when is the last time you read anything or heard a message at a church that was fully focused on the subject of divorce?  Yeah, we don’t hear about it often either. But with an average of 2.3 million couples getting married annually, and 1.2 million getting divorced¹, how can we remain silent?

Throughout the series there are three aspects of divorce we would like to focus on. They include:

  1. Divorce: What It Is
  2. Divorce: What It Isn’t
  3. Divorce: What It Does

As you can tell from the opening comments, we’ve reached out to a number of friends who have experienced divorce and asked them some questions. Many were gracious and took an opportunity to respond. We won’t share their actual names throughout the series, but some of the comments you’ll read in each part of this series come directly from those who have experienced divorce, and it’s our hope that you, and others are able to learn from their experience. With that said, let’s take a short opportunity to understand this subject of divorce.

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Divorce: What It Is

In his book, “The Meaning of Marriage”, Timothy Keller writes a great chapter on the marriage covenant. He notes that throughout the Old Testament we read about two different kinds of covenants. There are horizontal covenants made between two individuals, and there are vertical covenants made between an individual and God.

The marriage covenant, is perhaps the most unique of all, because it incorporates both the horizontal and the vertical aspects of the covenant. Two people make a binding agreement with one another, and they do so before God. Obviously, this is of far greater significance than two people signing a contract with one another.

Think of it this way. Today we live in a world of contracts. Buy a house, sign a contract. Buy a car, sign a contract. Get insurance, sign a contract. Cell phones…sign a contract. With every other major purchase or agreement requiring the signing of a contract, it’s no wonder Marriage is often treated as a contractual agreement between two parties. If something goes wrong, just pay the early termination fee and move on to another carrier, right?

Wrong. Marriage isn’t a simple contract. It’s a covenant. And a covenant is to be seen as a binding promise.

Here’s a picture of what a covenant between two people looked like in the ancient near-east. Two people would make a binding promise with one another, and to affirm their agreement they would slaughter an animal, lock arms, and walk between the pieces. There was blood all over their feet and clothes. Essentially this was their way of saying, “You will hold up to your end of this agreement, or may you become like this animal.”

Sounds graphic, right? It was. Very graphic. But here’s the thing, exchanging rings isn’t any less significant of a covenant today. It’s just as meaningful. Just as powerful. And just as messy. Two people are making a binding agreement. A horizontal covenant to their spouse, and a vertical covenant to God. It’s serious stuff.

A very basic understanding of divorce, then, would be this:

What is Divorce? – A husband and/or wife breaking a binding promise with their spouse and God.

Some may be reading this and thinking to themselves, “That’s right! Divorce can never be an option! I mean, God hates divorce no matter what, right? It’s right in the Bible!”

Well, yes it’s in there. God’s hates divorce. It was never his intention.

But divorce is permissible in some circumstances.

Take a quick opportunity to read some additional responses we received from others who have experienced divorce.

Question:If you could pin it down to just one thing, what ultimately led to your divorce?

Chris: “Her habitual, repeated, unrepentant abuse of our covenant vows and our relationship.  She treated me not as someone to love, honor and cherish, but as someone to use, abuse, dishonor, and inflict with deep wounds.”

Rebekah: “Abuse. I lived for 20 years with an abusive spouse who never repented, never asked for forgiveness and constantly blamed me for all that was wrong with our marriage.”

Outside of these responses, we’ve known others who have experienced physical abuse, emotional abuse, multiple affairs and even polygamy. While we’ve never recommended divorce to those experiencing such awful circumstances, the Bible does make it clear that divorce is permissible in such circumstances. In these situations, it is the abuser who has broken the marriage covenant. They are the one who has already declared divorce. The abusee will certainly need counseling (as many will blame them for the divorce.) But in these drastic circumstances, their divorce is permissible. God, indeed hates divorce. But He does not at all hate those who have been the recipients of abuse, nor does He expect them to continually live in it.

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We realize this post is fairly short for such a big topic. Truth is, it’s not a topic we study in depth as much as some others have. That said, we wanted to close out this first post by sharing some additional thoughts from some friends who have experienced divorce.. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, please read these words and learn from their experiences. Professional counseling can do wonders for a seemingly broken marriage. And if you think divorce is an easy way out…well, we’ll cover that in our next post.

Question: Did you attempt to get marital counseling?

Michael: “Yes, we did go to counseling in the beginning, but she was not completely honest with the counselor or me about everything that was going on. Once all of the truth came out, I suggested it again with nothing coming of it.”

Mark: Yes, after the first time my wife confessed an affair. I found it very helpful. But…she had made up her mind long before our counseling.

Rebekah: “Yes. I begged for years for him to go with me to see someone so we could try to save the marriage.  My ex agreed one time in 20 years to see a counselor.”

Chris: “Yes, we sought marriage counseling…multiple times with multiple counselors across multiple years.  The counseling was beneficial in that it helped me learn a lot about myself and helped me learn to communicate and listen better.  It also seemed, for a time, to help the marriage relationship.  However, ultimately, she used the tools learned in counseling to hone her skills of manipulation and deceit.  Ultimately, counseling can only help to the degree that BOTH partners WANT help.”

If you or someone you know is considering divorce but is not a recipient of abuse, take an opportunity to re-read the statements at the beginning of this post, and we urge you to seek counsel and reconciliation for your marriage. If you believe you are experiencing abuse, seek professional counsel at your earliest convenience.

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 Footnote: (1) Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot – marriagementoring.com

 

Boundaries: Unity

Yesterday we took an opportunity to write about boundaries, and how implementing boundaries can actually help your marriage-friendship grow. Today we’d like to continue the focus on boundaries, but instead of writing about your friendship with your spouse, we’re going to focus on your relationship with God. And instead of focusing on what boundaries YOU think you may need to implement in order to grow your marriage-friendship, today we want to focus on you giving your SPOUSE permission to recommend boundaries to you in order to keep your relationship with God going strong.

We refer to this as the “Unity” aspect of marriage. Unity is living in such harmony with your spouse that they can help you become the person God made you to be. Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast.

What it means is that you give your spouse full permission to lovingly call you out. You give them permission to speak the truth in love. You give them permission to help you become the person that deep-down-inside you want to become, though you may cringe when you consider what you need to do to get there. Sound familiar?

Regarding the topic of boundaries, it means you give you spouse permission to recommend boundaries that will keep your relationship with God strong.  It also means that you have an opportunity to do the same with them.

Before reading on, take five minutes to do a little bit of self-reflection. Write down 2-3 boundaries that you believe your spouse would recommend for you to implement that would improve your relationship with God.  And yes, just limit it to 2-3.

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Welcome back. Now, before running to your spouse to ask their input, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be Sincere:

First, kindly ask your spouse for their input. Remember, the goal of this exercise is for them to help you become the person God made you to be. In other words, the goal is to give your spouse permission to help you become the best possible version of yourself.  Be sincere in your request, and listen to what they have to say without getting too defensive.

Chances are, your spouse may have some thoughts.  Maybe a lot of them!  Listen carefully to what they have to say and then take time to discuss what boundaries you may need to put in place to best follow-through. Some of their suggestions may require a simple daily lifestyle change. Others may be a bit more dramatic. But if you both agree the changes are worth it, begin to take the steps necessary to grow.

Be Specific:

You probably don’t want to give your spouse permission to list 7-8 things you can do. Instead, keep it to two, maybe three. But be very specific in what you’re looking for.  For example, you may want to ask, “What is the one thing you think I can to improve my relationship with God, and what boundary (or boundaries) do you think I need to put in place to get there?”  He or She may want to take a few days to think it over, but the more specific you are in your request, the more specific they’ll be in their response, and the more specific steps you can take.

Be Serious:

Finally, after listening to the sincere advice of your spouse, be serious about taking steps towards growth. If you take this exercise seriously, your spouse will be much more open to listening to you make recommendations for them as well. And your marriage will continue moving forward as it should.

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Feel free to leave or comment of answer the following question in the comments below:

1. What benefits would your marriage experience if you both gave one other permission to recommend boundaries to help you in your relationship with God and others?

Boundaries: Friendship

This weekend Megan and I had an opportunity to do something extraordinary. It wasn’t planned out weeks in advance. It wasn’t even planned out days or hours in advance.  It was 100% spontaneous (and just so you know, we are NOT spontaneous people.) And it was one of the best weekends of our marriage.

Where we went and what we did is relatively unimportant. (Though if you really must know, we took a weekend out of town with our girls, enjoying parks, disc golf, and even swimming in a lake.) What is important, is that we’ve both placed certain boundaries in our lives in order to keep our friendship going strong.

Boundaries.

It’s the one word everybody knows and understands, but few apply it well.  Having boundaries in your life means you have clear lines in place that you won’t cross. Stay within those boundaries and you’ll likely enjoy a healthier, happier life. But if you cross those lines too many times, you’ll likely feel as if you’re doing a lot yet accomplishing nothing. Keep going and some of your friendships may take a hit. Further still, your friendship with your spouse becomes non-existent.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s just to much to do. You’re thinking you’ll let others down. You’re thinking you’ll miss a deadline. You’re thinking…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But here are a few things you may want to consider as well.

All of Life Is Ministry:

With all of the challenges Megan and I have experienced over the past year, this is something we’ve come to understand so clearly. Did you know that swimming in a lake, or hiking on a trail, or playing a board game with your spouse (and kids) is no less Godly than attending every church service every weekend? Did you know that it’s OK to say, “no” to some really good ministry opportunities in order to do something even better with your family?  Did you know that spending true quality time with your family can even be considered ‘ministry’?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in full-time ministry and Megan volunteers a tremendous amount of time and energy. But we’ve learned that we don’t have to be there for every service, every meeting, every…everything. We can say, “no” to some things and remain 100% confident that we’re accomplishing all that God has for us to accomplish.

Emotional Health is Important:

This past year we’ve taken an opportunity to read a great book called, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. If you’re ever feeling a bit overwhelmed, read this book immediately. It’s fantastic.

I know that men don’t like to talk about ‘emotions’, but there’s tremendous benefit in both men and women understanding their emotional health and making decisions to keep their emotional health at the highest possible level.  Why? Well, because when you’re not feeling well on an emotional level then it doesn’t matter how much you’re doing, because the people you’re doing it for aren’t getting your best. If you truly want others to always get your very best, keep appropriate boundaries in place and hold firm to them. Remember, saying, “no” to some things means that others can get more of your very best. And you’ll feel better about what you’re able to accomplish.

Friendship First:

Your friendship with your spouse is far more important than any other friendship you may have. It’s more important than any meeting or deadline. It’s more important than coaching your son’s soccer team or driving your daughter to her dance recital. Your friendship with your spouse is the rock on which the rest of your marriage is built.  If you hold firm on boundaries to keep your marriage-friendship strong, everybody will get your very best in everything else you do.

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Feel free to answer at least one of these questions in the comments below:

1. What are some things you have a really hard time saying, “no” to?

    Would saying, “no” bring you more joy?

2. What are 2-3 things you do to keep your marriage-friendship strong at all times?

The Mid-Summer Marriage Amusement Ride

Awwww summer. Swimming pools. Mountains. Oceans. Hiking. Walking. Cycling. Roller Coasters. Driving. Here one day…there the next. And if the day allows it, you may even be able to relax a little. (Yeah, right!)

Yes, summer is a busy time of year. In fact, the past 4-5 summers for me have been busier than the other nine months of the year.  With all this busy-ness going on, how can a couple regularly focus on their friendship?  And why start now?  Why not begin in September, once the Summer officially ends?

Well, there are a number of reasons for a couple to focus on their friendship. We’ve already outlined some reasons on how to focus on Friendship all year long (this includes the summer months as well.)

But now that we’ve reached the 1/2 point of the summer, we thought it may be a good idea to have a fun Mid-Summer Checkup.  Here are a few suggestions that we hope will provide some Mid-Summer Amusement in your marriage.

Create a Summer Bucket List:

starsMaybe you haven’t gone hiking yet, or you’ve only had an opportunity to do it with the kids in tow, not on a friendly date.  Or maybe you’d like to stay up late stargazing one night.  Whatever it is, take a brief opportunity to write down three things you would each like to do before the end of the summer.  That’s SIX Bucket List ideas for the two of you.  Then be sure to put dates on the calendar as to when you can schedule them in.

Read a Marriage Book Together:

If you’re planning a week-long trip to the mountains, beach, or some other kind of travel plans, take an opportunity to read a Marriage book and discuss it. It doesn’t have to be a real brain-burner, and there are some options out there even hubby wouldn’t mind reading.

Begin Fun Conversations:

Take a few opportunities to answer some of the following questions. By simply answering one or two a day one day a week will help you both remember why you’re already best friends.

  1. The most fun I’ve ever had together was when we…
  2. The last time I laughed so hard that I cried was when…
  3. The one thing I love most about the time we spend together is…
  4. The one couple that has influenced us the most is…
  5. If I could travel with you anywhere in the world I’d go…
  6. If I could get you to join me in something outrageous (i.e. skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.) I’d ask you to…
  7. What I enjoyed most about our wedding day was…
  8. What I enjoyed most about our wedding night was…
  9. If I could do one thing to bring a smile to your face this week, what could I do?
  10. If we could have sex someplace other than the bedroom this summer, it would be…

Remember, you and your spouse have lots of time this summer to create purposeful opportunities to enjoy life together. Play together. Learn together. Love together.

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Feel free to answer at least one of these questions in the comments below:

  1. The most fun my spouse and I have had this summer is when we…
  2. The one thing I’m most looking forward to doing with him/her before the end of this summer is…
  3. Our friendship is important to us because…

 

Divorce: What it is, What it isn’t, What it does (An Introduction)

Megan and I walked into our first pre-marriage counseling session having a little bit of an idea what to expect, but the very first question our pastor asked us caught us a little by surprise.

“Have either of your parents or grandparents been divorced,” he asked?Angry couple

“Yes. But but the ‘d-word’ just isn’t an option for us,” we replied.

“Ever?”

“Ever.”

That’s the foundation on which we began our marriage, and we continue to hold to it. And years later, we have met couple after couple who didn’t begin their marriage on that kind of foundation. Yes, some of them were extreme circumstances. Yes, some of them only agreed to divorce after doing their best to reconcile. And yes, their divorce was much more emotionally challenging than they ever thought it would be.

We’ve reached out to a number of our friends who have experienced divorce, asking them to help us out with this series.  It’s our hope that this series of posts will help those who have experienced divorce an opportunity to heal. It’s also our hope that this series of posts will help those who are considering divorce to reconsider, and to work toward reconciliation.

Three additional posts are forthcoming.

1. Divorce: What it is

2. Divorce: What it isn’t

3. Divorce: What it does

But before we get there, we’d like your help. While we’ve reached out to a number of friends to help us with this series, we’re looking for others who have experienced divorce as well.  If you would be willing, please take an opportunity to answer the following questions. Send your responses to us at the email address listed below by this time next week. We’ll then begin writing out the rest of the series.

Our sincerest thanks for anyone wishing to help.

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Below are a number of questions we would love to hear your responses on.  We should note that those of you who do agree to answer the following questions, your answers may appear in one of our posts in the series.  However, we will be sure to change your name for the sake of the post, using a first name pseudonym instead.

Our desire in this exercise is not to bring up any feelings of guilt or shame, it is solely to be an aid to others who may be contemplating divorce.  Therefore, if you find the below questions painful and do not wish to respond, we understand.  Additionally, if you would like to help us out but have any questions or concerns prior to doing so, feel free to contact us at donotdisturbblog@gmail.com – Thank you again for your help.

Questions:

1. If you could pin it down to just one thing, what ultimately led to your divorce?

2. Did you ever see divorce as an easy way out?
–  If so, has your opinion changed in any way over the years?

3. Did you attempt to get marital counseling?
–  If not, why not?
–  If so, did you find it helpful?

4. How has your divorce impacted your relationship with God?

5. How has your divorce impacted your relationships with others (outside of your immediate family)?
– i.e. Were/Are you more or less likely to trust others?  Open up to them?  etc.

6. If you have children, how did your divorce impact them?  (Short term and long term)
How did it impact your relationship with them years later?  (i.e. Negative Result: My daughter did not give me permission to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.  Positive Result: My children continue to respect me as a parent and we communicate on a regular basis.)
If you could attempt to quantify it, how many people were affected by your divorce outside of your immediate family?

7. What has your divorce taught you about friendship and marriage?  (How important is it for a couple to be good/best friends in marriage?)

8. If you committed any wrongdoing that ultimately led to your divorce, did you confess this wrongdoing to others?  If so, what was the benefit in doing so?  If not, do you think confession could have helped save your marriage?

9. What, if anything, could you have done differently to save your marriage?

10. If you had just 2-3 minutes to offer advice to a couple considering divorce, what would you say?

Laughter, Time and Care

It started out as a typical summer day. The sun came up. The sky was blue. The kids were eating their morning cereal.

But this wasn’t your typical summer day. This was the start of family vacation.  As we packed our suitcases and coolers into our cars my mother-in-law looked over at me with a smile. It was a smile she always seemed to wear. “Remember, Justin. Your only job on this vacation is to make me laugh.”

“Is there anything else I need to do,” I asked?

“No. That’s it. Just make sure I laugh.”

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On another summer afternoon I took the opportunity to mow my grandmother’s grass.  About 2/3 of the way through she came out to interrupt me. “Why in the world is my grandmother interrupting me right in the middle of mowing the grass,” I thought to myself.

“Hey, there’s a riding mower in the garage. Would that have saved you some time,” she asked?

“Ummmm…yeah, that would’ve saved me a good hour or more! But I’ve done almost all of the flat part of the yard now, so I can’t use it.”

“OK, well go ahead and finish up and then we can sit out on the porch and talk for a while.”

“Well, I really should get home to my family sometime soon.”

“I won’t keep you too long. But let’s spend at least a little bit of time catching up.”

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On yet another summer morning, I remember having breakfast with Megan’s grandparents. As we ate breakfast they were sure to ask the the normal questions.

“How are others in your family doing?”

“How is everything at the church?”

“How is that car of yours running?”

And as we began to clean up and get ready for the drive home, Gram had one final thing to say to me.

“You take good care of that bride of yours, you hear?”

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These are three simple memories I have of three women who had a tremendous influence in my life. One was my mother-in-law, who passed away earlier this year in February. Another was my grandmother, who passed away shortly after my mother-in-law. And another was my grandmother-in-law, who passed away in April.

Each spoke of and received love in different ways.

One wanted to laugh.

Another wanted time.

Another wanted to know her family was being well cared for.

Laughter. Time. And Care.

That’s all they wanted.

They didn’t want nicer houses, cars, cell phones, or anything else. They simply wanted laughter, time and care. But they didn’t see it that way. They saw it as love. They simply felt and received it in different ways.

How many of us want exactly what they wanted, we just keep looking for it in all the wrong places?  We want to know and experience love, yet we try to find it outside of relationships with others.

Maybe if I have a nicer home. Or car. Or shoes. Or a TV. Or a…(you fill in the blank.)

But we keep looking. We keep searching. Contentment runs dry. And the ‘stuff’ we own never brings us the joy we think it will.

This line of thinking always leads me to Philippians 4:13. This passage is quite possibly the most misrepresented verse in all of the Bible.  It reads:

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

But this passage isn’t about having the ‘strength’ to do really, hard, challenging tasks.  It isn’t about climbing mountains, white water rafting, or running a marathon.  It’s about contentment.  Read this passage again, but in the context of the few verses before it.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

You see, this passage is about contentment, not strength.

These three wonderful ladies who influenced my life so much, they were content with many things in their lives. They no longer cared about ‘stuff’, but about family. They cared about people. They cared about relationships.

This week, take some time to think about your level of contentment.  Are you content with what you have? Are your thoughts for ‘stuff’ consuming you? Or are you simply looking to know and experience love from others? Think — What exactly is it that you need in order to experience contentment on a regular basis?

That’s a challenging question, isn’t it?

But don’t stop there.

Take purposeful opportunities this week to bring others to laughter. Take purposeful opportunities to spend time with them.  Take purposeful opportunities to show that you care for them and their family. Provide them with laughter, time and care. Make lasting memories with the people you truly care about.

Who knows? You may just find that contentment isn’t going to be found in what you don’t have.

It’s all around you.

R.U.N. towards sex

Every once in a while there are misleading statements made about sex.  For example, we’ve heard it said, “A sex session can burn about 200 calories. This is like running 15 minutes on a treadmill!”

Even if this statements aren’t always accurate, it’s a lot of fun to think about the benefits a married couple can gain by enjoying sex.  In the spirit of this fact (proven or not!) here is an encouragement for why married couples should R.U.N. towards sex.

R – Relaxation

Days are busy. Nights are often filled with social and family obligations. This is just part of life. Sex provides a reprieve, a healthy escape from the problems of the day. When you are fully engaged in physical intimacy with your spouse there is often a complete disregard for everything else that is going on. The release of sexual exploration and orgasm for both men and women can provide a deep sense of relaxation.

U – Unity

Truly becoming one body during sex unites a couple. They can move forward in strength and agreement. Connecting physically is a great reminder that you are connected in other areas of life. Allow the physical connection during sex to remind you of the unity it takes to move forward in this life together.

N – Nurtures Intimacy

Intimacy before sex or after sex? The truth is it comes both ways. Emotional intimacy often leads one or both partners in marriage to desire sex. On the other hand, sex produces a desire to connect emotionally as a byproduct of the physical connection. Either as the culmination or the byproduct, sex nurtures intimacy in marriage.

So, there you go. Whether you are looking for some exercise or relaxation, unity and nurtured intimacy, sex was designed to benefit your marriage.

Linking with: To Love Honor and Vacuum, Messy Marriage