For the Married, Engaged, or Nearly Divorced

Perhaps you’ve noticed, friends, family, church family,

I have felt lost of late.

I have seen a great deal of evidence that the one thing I feel pushed to do by God has been fruitless, and thus…I’m a bit confused on what God’s purpose for me is. I’ve been working on it, praying about it, and frankly I believe at this point, caution is best, at least until I have some measure of certainty back about how to proceed in talking about this to people.

So this post will possibly, probably be the last you hear from me on the subject for a while. Not that I’m important or perfect, but I do feel like I have a handle on how to enter into a Godly marriage, how to follow God’s desires in how to conduct your marriage, and how to keep that marriage together. The most common thing I hear when I try to tell people either to not get divorced or keep their marriage together or communicate so that their problems don’t lead to divorce is “doesn’t the Bible say not to judge?”

The oft quoted text they refer to is Matthew 7:5:

You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.

I don’t know where people get the idea that the meaning of this verse is to not point out sin. The point of it, and maybe I’ve taken it too seriously or literally, is to remove the sin from your own life so you can show others how. I can safely say I have removed the sin of divorce from my life. There was a time when it was firmly rooted and frankly, an inevitability. I was coached by someone who removed their own beams and helped pluck the speck from mine. Thank God. Since I’ve been hell bent or heaven sent, not sure which at this point, on passing that blessing along. It’s been in the form of honesty, tough love, disagreement, and sometimes outright pleading.

It seems like the popular thing to do is get divorced now. We have divorce parties for one another where women or men rejoice for their newly single friend, and have a night of debauchery to re-introduce them to the dating world.

Maybe they get divorced and don’t have a party, but I bet they at the very least posted a #lovinglife hashtag on facebook shortly after they got divorced. It’s the same thing, just a bit less flamboyant.

It’s everywhere. So to you, the person considering divorce I say: I understand. I get it. It has gotten so easy to be divorced. People even take the stigma out of the harm it does to your kids by concocting this “co-parenting” movement. It basically means, sure, we’re divorced, but that in no way diminishes our capacity to be excellent parents to our kids.

Well, I have seen the results of co-parenting, and while the social media message may be one of success, the reality I have seen is something different entirely. Broken homes are absolutely never the best thing for a child. That’s why we have to believe in co-parenting…the alternative is that we’re being selfish and trying to make sure we get what we deserve, freedom from this bothersome person, this nagging wife, this passionless husband.

It’s just another mechanism to enable the sin of divorce.

And if it’s not the co-parenting enabling you, or the supportive, godless friends, it’s probably your own family, or God forbid, your church.

It’s insane to me. I was going to say shocking but it’s beyond that, it’s insane to me, that a church could support a divorce, but they do. All the time they do. Either by looking the other way while it’s happening, or worse, feigning support for God’s will by saying “we’ll keep yall in our prayers.” Aren’t you supposed to care about each other? If you see a man’s house is falling down, and you have a bag of tools at your disposal, do you simply say “good luck, I’ll pray for you?”

Maybe so. But if you’re a good man, and I’m looking directly at you, MEN, spiritual leaders of your houses, you will roll up your sleeves and get dirty. Whether it’s a man’s house or a man’s marriage, you will not just say “I will pray for you,” you will ask “what can I do to help?” You will be dogged in your pursuit of a solution because the people you’re trying to help are your brothers and sisters in GOD.

And most people don’t even go so far as to address the situation. They’ll just gossip about it and be done with the two getting divorced. I can’t imagine a more cowardly and evil thing, than to ignore divorce.

That’s why I’m writing this. I’m re-evaluating how I handle these things as clearly I’ve made some mistakes. But I want this to be here in case anyone needs it. So they know how to avoid divorce, and they know what to do if it rears its ugly head.

Before Marriage: How to Prevent Divorce

You prevent divorce first and foremost by picking a good partner.

A godly partner, who does not view the will of God cavalierly. A husband who is prepared to lead, or a wife who is prepared to let her husband lead, and doesn’t consider that some type of slavery or subjugation. I mean roll the dice if you want on the pretty so called Christian feminist but you will indeed be rolling the dice. Notice I said it shouldn’t feel like subjugation to them. They should submit to God’s will willingly. Don’t take any hostages, and don’t trick anyone. Be as up front and honest before your wedding as possible, and remember, it is 100% valid and OK to bail at the alter, even up to the moment you say “I don’t.” And if you’re my friend, I will personally bounce for you and drive the getaway car. I would rather a thousand angry glares than one divorce.
Do not marry anyone you are not prepared to die next to.

It should go without saying but so many people simply consider marriage the “next step” in a relationship I feel it’s vital that I point out, marriage is forever. Do not pick someone you’re settling for or who has a lot of caveats. There’s give and take in every marriage but there shouldn’t be self denial or resentment and settling, caveats, that’s what those produce. Resentment and self denial. Self denial is necessary sometimes after marriage, but you want to minimize it as much as possible.

After Marriage: How to Prevent Divorce

Value

You need to regard that person you married as your best friend above all others. You need to be able to cast aside the entire world if it endangers your marriage. Any person that’s bad for your marriage, dispose of them. And they should all be disposable in the face of your marriage.

In fact there’s one last person who should be disposable to you: yourself.

If the person you are is the person your spouse wants to divorce, that first ship of picking the right partner, that’s sailed. You’re now going to need a retrofit, if you want your marriage to work. It can work, it has worked, I’ve seen it work, I’ve been it working. People can actually change. You just set a goal and you never give up on it. You say I want to be here, you decide where “here” is and you’ll get there. At the very least your spouse will see progress. And to those who have the undeniable issue with a spouse that requires them to change, be cautious. Denying one’s self is in my estimation a healthy exercise in humility, but if you see them making progress, please just be happy with the fact that they’re trying, and stop pushing. Do not, I repeat do NOT continually move the goalpost.

Talking

I was going to say communication but specifically I think talking is what you need to get good at. Texting, body language, all confusing forms of communication that can be misinterpreted and lead to hardship. Learn to talk to each other, with your mouths, really well. As this is your best friend, or should be, talk to them about anything and everything and beyond all else, keep no secrets.

Address all your problems together, as a single unit, and you will come closer. Try to solve them separately and separately you will go. I promise you that. Consider your spouse an extension of your own body. You are after all, one flesh in God’s eyes.

Empathy

This is huge. You need to not only learn how your spouse feels about everything, you need to learn how she communicates. Use the language she understands to communicate your love and affection for her. It’s corny but there are 5 love languages, and they matter. Their problems may seem stupid to you, especially if there has been hostility for some time, but that doesn’t matter. Because to them it may be the end of the world. You need to know if that’s the case, and act accordingly. And if you value yourself as a stoic man who doesn’t commiserate or show emotion, you carry on doing that right on through to losing half your stuff. Have fun with that stoicism. This door swings both ways ladies, as men tend to do things women find completely and utterly stupid. Does your husband value this idiotic thing? Then if it isn’t interfering with his walk with God, love him, love that he loves it, and show him that.

Basically you should never say “I just don’t get him(her).” You should only say “I need to understand him(her) better.”

Sex

Have it. Have lots of it. This one issue has ruined so many marriages. I’ll amend that, have as much as you both require. Never deny your spouse unless you are actually ill and unable, or you’re setting aside some time to grow closer to God outside of sex.

Do whatever you’re both comfortable with, excluding bringing in new partners and pornography (pretty much the same thing). Pornography is another of those things that everyone does and no one talks about and it’s OK because of that. Well, it’s not OK. Porn is an addictive substance like any drug on the market. I think it most closely resembles meth, because it slowly destroys your body and mind, and you never don’t want more of it. Please avoid porn. Please abstain from three ways and polyamory. It will wreck your marriage and though yes, people did it in the Bible, they weren’t exactly praised by God for that decision. He valued men with one wife above others, as it was a requirement for being the leader of a church.

Do whatever you and your spouse want with each other outside of that, and enjoy it. Feel no shame for it. It can literally make or break your marriage.  Check out the Song of Solomon for advice on how to conduct your sexual affairs.  It’s the steamy romance novel part of the Bible.

How to Avoid Divorce: In Crisis

Maybe you’ve already begun divorce proceedings. Maybe you’ve got a spouse that’s decided they want a divorce. It’s the worst place to be. Here are some tools to help you out of that situation.

1. List grievances – Let this happen without judgement. Chances are if you’re here you have some communications issues, so without any reservations, without any talkback, let the spouse who wishes for the divorce (usually it’s just one and another agrees to it) list why they want a divorce.

2. Say you don’t want a divorce, say you didn’t realize things were this serious (clearly you didn’t) and say you want to fix these things. Make sure your spouse knows that they are so important to you, you’re willing to change to mend your marriage. Most importantly, say you’re sorry. Make an apology without reservation because if your spouse wants to leave you, you have indeed failed them in some way or another. There is the odd freakout where someone just bails without reason, but those folks aren’t usually in a talking mood.

3. Get others involved. Namely your pastor or spiritual leader, and so help me if they say “we’ll keep you in our prayers” instead of “when can we and your spouse meet to discuss this?” you pull your membership and you RUN to another church.

4. Separate – This isn’t ideal. This is really not ideal. It’s a gamble in fact. But sometimes a spouse needs space, to think. Perhaps during this time God will move them. Perhaps you’ve spent so much time around one another they need you to leave to have a wake up call that they can’t live without you around. Keep the lines of communication open, but don’t use them for a time. Leave the spouse their space. On the upside, maybe some of the above happens. But this also runs the risk of letting them see how great life will be without you. Always a possibility unfortunately.

5. Pray – I shunned the “we’ll pray for you” crew because prayer was all they were offering when they could offer more, but do not overlook the power of prayer. I have seen God soften the hard hearted on more than one occasion.

6. Never give up – As your absolute last resort, drag things out as long as possible while remaining as civil as possible. Allow God as much time as possible to work on your spouse’s heart. Do not move out of your house, do not relinquish rights to your children, do not abandon the hope that God will pull you out of this ditch.

 

After Divorce:

This is ground I don’t like to cover. I don’t want you getting to this point but it can be impossible to stop. If your spouse has no connection to God, no desire to follow his will, nothing will stop them from leaving you. First of all I’m so sorry. Second of all learn from this. You more than likely made a mistake either in picking your spouse, or keeping them in God’s will. I will allow for the fact that crazy does happen, out of the blue, and without prior warning. It can be a change of life thing, and I’ve seen it be related to trauma or physical injury. So learn. Learn from this and move on as best you can. Do not continue to quarrel with this person who forsook your marriage, treat them politely and respectfully and with the same indifference as you would a tax collector. Love your children and do whatever the law allows to see them as much as possible. Don’t kid yourself, this is the worst possible thing for them, but you have no choice but to make the best of it. Keep them with God. Help them to learn from your mistakes, make as much a blessing out of this curse as possible. And I’ve seen that happen. Children of broken homes often have a great reverence for the sanctity of marriage. It’s a beautiful thing to see such flowers grow from ash.

That’s what I’ve got. That’s what got me away from a looming divorce, it’s what a lot of people I know should have done. It’s advice countless people didn’t take because I was being “judgy.” It’s what’s lost me family and friends but I still think it can help someone out there. I hope it does.

Know that if you need help in preventing divorce, I am here, and I will do whatever it takes to keep you married to your spouse. I will referee fights for you, I will counsel you, I will watch boring Christian Marriage DVDs that helped me immensely with you. I will cook for you and your spouse if maybe you just need a night off. I will give you back grubs to relieve your tension so that you can fight fairly. Whatever in the world will help you NOT GET DIVORCED I will do it if you only say the word.

And know that if you have gotten divorced, I do not hate you for it. I may be upset for a time, it is indeed gravely disappointing, especially when it’s a person you respect or who portrayed themselves as a God fearing Christian (that last one has happened more times than I care to recall). But I will continue to love you as I know we all make mistakes.

And if you want me to pretend with you that it was for the best, know that I will never ever agree to that, and your best course of action with me is silence on the subject. God hates divorce. Nothing in the Bible is clearer. You defied God’s will. Nothing changes that, and I will not tolerate you being wrong out loud.

All that said, I’m taking a vow of silence on the subject for an undetermined time. Don’t hesitate to ask me anything about it, I’ll be happy to share, I’m just not going to volunteer these thoughts for a while. I need to clear my head, and I need to focus on God’s will. I may even fast.

It’s unlikely but….more likely now than ever.

Why do I care?

I care because God cares and seemingly no one else does.  The Biblical backup is below.  What it says is a when a man marries a woman they become one flesh.  This is the doing of God, and we as human beings have no right to undo what God did.  God hates divorce, Christ reiterates this, and explains the rules in the old testament that allow divorce were concessions for the hard heart of man.  He then allows for divorce in the case of infidelity but states if you marry another after divorce, and there has been no infidelity, you are now an adulterer, because you were not separated in God’s eyes.  Oh yeah.  People really like to ignore that last bit.  What I’m supposed to die alone?

Well yeah.  If you tear apart God’s holy union for no good reason I’d say never getting into another is a GREAT idea.  If you get your teenager a brand new car and they wrap it around a tree, do you get them another brand new car?

I care because…I guess because no one else seems to.  They just want to pretend they’re the victim of their own whims and wishes and that they can’t help but not follow God because the alternative is misery.  Basically I know the world is seriously wrong, not because I’m a genius, or because I’m all knowing, but because God is and he’s told us so,  and it hurts me deeply that people don’t care.  I can’t explain what that drive is or why it’s there but it is and I feel very strongly about it.
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the LORD God of Israel.”

Matthew 19:1-9: Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

 

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