Marriage Missions International

What I Wish I Had Known Before I Got Divorced

MARRIAGE MISSIONS NOTE: At the end of this article, we will have a web site link to a related article that you might benefit from reading, as well.

Photo credit: Jeton Bajrami / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Jeton Bajrami / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Five friends and I were having breakfast one morning when our conversation turned to our friend Cindy*. She was convinced divorce was the answer to her problems.

“I wish Cindy would listen to us,” I said.

“She made it clear she doesn’t want to hear anything from us divorcées,” said Betsy. “She’s made up her mind, and she’s not changing it.”

That morning, in utter frustration, my friends and I compiled a list: what we wish we’d known before we got divorced —the things we wanted Cindy to know before she made her final decision. Each of us had experienced the upheaval of divorce and watched 12 of our close friends’ second marriages end.

We all knew Cindy wasn’t casually deciding to end her marriage —few people do. Divorce is one of the most agonizing choices a couple makes. We understood the anger, panic, abandonment, and feelings of being trapped that lead many people to divorce. But we’d also experienced the “other side” of being single again. We’d seen the lives of our children changed forever. Years later, we continue to live with the ongoing pain and complications of a destroyed marriage.

As a licensed psychologist, I’ve heard many people consider the possibility of ending their marriage. They look at divorce as a solution to their marital woes, a viable answer to their pain and frustration. Ultimately, however, it creates only different problems. In a recent study by the Institute for American Values chaired by sociologist Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, researchers asked, “Does divorce make people happy?” They found that those who ended their troubled marriage in divorce weren’t any happier than those who remained married. In fact, two-thirds of those who stayed married reported happy marriages five years later.

Here’s the list we compiled for Cindy.

1. Life will change more than you realize
“I thought I’d enjoy being alone,” says Lori, who has never remarried. “But I’m lonely. Whenever my friends complain about how needy their husbands or children are, I say, ‘Try living without that.'”

Andy, like Lori, hasn’t remarried. “I didn’t expect to miss odd things like the towels folded neatly, shopping for groceries together, or the Saturday routine we’d established,” he says. After his divorce, Andy realized how much the familiar, everyday things of married life meant to him.

Add children to the equation, and the result is even stickier. Instead of two people parenting your children, if you have custody, you’re left to do it all —alone. You become the sole breadwinner, spiritual adviser, disciplinarian, housekeeper. The stress levels of this responsibility can become staggering.

Then there are the scheduling dilemmas. Recently, my friend Betsy and I were discussing how complicated it can be to see our sons during a short college break. Although we both cooperate with our ex-husbands, we still ache as we watch our innocent children bear the heavy responsibility of carefully doling out their time between the families in an effort not to alienate either parent.

Although the everyday occurrences can create plenty of challenges after divorce, the special occasions are worse. Every birthday, holiday, wedding, or funeral is a potential nightmare. Allison told me, “At my future daughter-in-law’s wedding, she’s planning to walk down the aisle by herself because she has multiple fathers and is torn between her allegiances. My heart breaks for her.” These problems don’t end when the children grow up and marry. The hassles continue with the grandchildren.

Even if you remarry, the consequences of your divorce continue to impact your life. Jan Coleman, author of After the Locusts, was single —again for 12 years before marrying Carl. As good as her present marriage is, she doesn’t hesitate to say what a dramatic change it made in her life.

“Yes, you can love and trust again,” she says. “But the first marriage is God’s best, his design. We weren’t meant to give up on it, but to work through all the struggles to God’s glory and our best. The tearing of the flesh may heal, but the scars are always there. Remarriage can be great in many ways if you marry for the right reasons, but it’s still not the same.”

2. Your life won’t be more carefree
As a self-confident, independent woman with a fast-moving career and no children, Stephanie couldn’t wait to be free of the pain of her dying marriage.

“I would no longer have to put with up his problems,” she says. “I’d be able to do what I wanted when I wanted. But after the divorce, it was my career and my home that began to hold me hostage. I was imprisoned by all the things I thought made me look good.”

Divorce never brought the carefree lifestyle Stephanie had expected.

There are those seemingly hidden emotional wounds that can pop open when we least expect or which we learn to expect on special anniversaries. Jan Coleman says, “Every Christmas, I become depressed. After 20 years it still hits me suddenly, without warning. I was first married in December, and my childhood sweetheart left me for another woman 15 Decembers later. Every year I have a weepy week.”

Jan’s second husband understands and gives her the space “to grieve again for the loss of that ideal family I spent my life imagining. There are times when it hits him too. You’re never free from the effects of that broken first marriage.”

I know this truth from personal experience. Recently, I began dating someone who’s divorced. Because of our pasts, we have several barriers in our current relationship —one of which is the fear of trusting and loving again.

3. You trade one set of problems for another
Even the most amiable break-ups bring deep wounds. There are always consequences to divorce.

“What I didn’t anticipate,” says Brad, who hasn’t remarried, “was the way my friends perceived me. All of a sudden I became damaged goods. One couple, who’d been my close friends for 20 years, became cool toward me after the divorce.”

There’s a ripple effect. Your divorce doesn’t just affect you and your spouse. It affects everyone around you. Friends often feel as if they must pick sides, so they keep their distance. Relationships with those who do remain loyal change abruptly. Church friends may stay away, feeling uncomfortable. And family members who’ve grown to love and care for the ex feel forced to “divorce” as well.

Then there are the financial ramifications. Dividing the assets isn’t always done equitably. Vern was left with only 31 percent of his retirement account even though his ex-wife worked and they had no children together. At the age of 49, this circumstance was a blow to his retirement plans.

If there’s a remarriage, blending children from previous marriages brings problems that can range from emotional chaos to stoic tolerance. A recently remarried friend said, “My life is more complicated than ever. I’ve put all this effort into a new marriage, but we’re struggling. My new stepson ignores me. His attitude is, ‘I’m here to be with my dad and that’s it.’ I feel horrible —like a second class citizen in my own home.”

4. Feelings can be deceiving
Kathy, who was in her twenties and newly married, learned that following her feelings can have tragic consequences.

“My husband was away a lot, and most evenings I was home alone. I felt lonely and empty. Many nights I cried myself to sleep and wondered why I ever got married.

“When I met a man who made me feel alive and passionate about life, I concluded these feelings of excitement confirmed I was no longer in love with my husband.

“Rather than praying and giving my concerns to God, I took the situation in my own hands and moved out. I was convinced I’d made a mistake in getting married.”

Still single five years later, Kathy wishes some wise woman would have come alongside her, prayed with her, and gently reminded her that love is a choice and a commitment, not an emotion.

When my son was 6 years old, he’d complain about being disciplined for disobeying what he called my “stupid rules.” Over and over I’d repeat, “Kyle, I’m being short-term mean, but long-term nice.”

Like children, we sometimes allow our desire for momentary pleasure to pull us from God’s best. Rather than doing the hard work it takes to invest daily in our marriage, we make seemingly innocent decisions thinking they’ll do no harm.

Our friend Cindy didn’t listen to us. She opted for the divorce. Sadly she wasn’t willing to persevere and uncover the lost treasures that first drew her and her husband together. With God’s help, her current pain or discontentment could have been transformed into long-term joy and abundant blessings. Like my son learned many years ago, short-term pain can indeed lead to long-term gain.

*Names have been changed

The above article appeared in Marriage Partnership Magazine, (Summer, 2005). We truly loved this magazine, when it was being published and wish it was back in publication.

Georgia Shaffer, author of A Gift of Mourning Glories: Restoring Your Life After Loss (Vine Brooks), is a speaker and licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania in the United States of America. Visit Georgia at www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

— ALSO  —

To read a related article, please click onto the PreachItTeach It.org link provided, where Dr Roger Barrier answers the question:

• Is it true that I can’t remarry after my divorce without committing adultery?

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77 Responses to “What I Wish I Had Known Before I Got Divorced”
  1. Kathy from United States says:

    My spouse was argumentive, drank much, gone often, and looked at porn and women. He turned his family, my only family against me as I was ill and had chronic pain and he didn’t like it. All medically documented illness that I never let stop me from intimacy or caring for home and family, but did complain at times as overwhelming. I’m sure he did tire of it. Nobody ever prayed harder or longer than I did for our marriage and healing. He wanted a divorce in summer saying we argued and I didn’t get along with family, although I broke my back pleasing them and writing cards, gifts etc, but never felt loved. He has five wealthy sisters.

    I battled back hard in prayer and refused divorce, fighting for my vows, even though ill, giving my all and no complaints on any habits. I had no way to earn an income; he did well, but was tight with money. I hated the way he treated me as I couldn’t help my physical and the drinking became profuse in evenings and weekends. I prayed harder and for a few months I treated him like a King, being perfect, and cast aside my hurt. We were going to church together twice a month and I went weekly as Christ was my first love and also a marriage conference. He was raised Catholic so this was a damper, but he did enjoy some services at my church, but didn’t like to get to know anyone.

    In hindsight it was a conflict for him. As I gave it my all in July-September, he reflected a man who wanted to change and I could see a growth towards me and although gone much and still drinking, I never got a card or rose though, even though I thought he may desire to say he was sorry or loved me. I was Barbie and Jennifer Aniston rolled into one, perfect home, meals, no complaints, etc. I was fervently still praying and others, seeing him for the first time enjoying me and although I made huge efforts to affirm and affectionate, he seemed uneasy, drinking and gone with work as self employed realtor.

    A 25th anniversary trip and paid flights were planned for planned for November and I was polishing up my wedding dress, picking out a gift, and planning a small party, a renewal of vows in the works. He texted one day to say he couldn’t go through with vows as we fought back in a June?!? and the came home to share of a 7 year affair with ten year younger married woman and child, but wanted out of her for sure, and desired me and child and would do anything for us to forgive.

    He wrote nice letters filled with promises. We saw the Pastor and he set up a counseling plan with a Christian pro for six months. I couldn’t hold back my daily anger and within one week and counseling appt. I knew he was seeing her again. I got into his phone and for years he was convincing all family I was mentally ill, seeing attorneys, and closing accounts. He was saying I was not a wife or friend to him. They bought it all to this day and justified his finding his soulmate. His soulmate comes off as the perfect woman, but has been cruel and berating to me. He told 21 year old child he cut it off for sure, stayed home 3 weeks and then said he cut it off, but had to move out to find himself. He was seeing her as I found love letters, long blonde hairs etc. She called him complaining I threatened her son within 3 days breaking up and he took the call! Then he accused me! I’ve never met her 15 year old son who lives with his dad. I didn’t know him and surely wouldn’t harm a person as I love my Lord. Her accusations fell through. He knew of my husband, but not me. Right before he moved out, a text came across the phone saying she couldn’t wait until the roller coaster was over and they could spend lives together and daughter saw it and left.

    I was angrier and he told me all the great things about her and that she was so perfect to him and they had a strong bond after seven years. He had had it with my anger and not immediately forgiving him, wanting the wife I had become and not a six month sentence of counseling and anger. I regret some of those things, but I couldn’t help myself. He left the next day to a newly furnished high rise apartment in a gated community on the water, all decorated weeks before with her help. He made a comment when he first came home that she had not nor would ever give up on him and to be afraid of her. She followed me for years to tell.

    Since he left, my daughter shared she didn’t condone his choice and it hurt, but loves him and they see one another weekly. She’s part of the family. I tried with all I had to get him back, every angle, but in prayer-to reconsider reconciliation and save his family. I wrote the mistress begging to stay away. I prayed, lost weight, got depressed, and couldn’t sleep or live. I missed him and wanted to fight harder for my marriage. His mistress has taken many opportunities to lie about things I’ve never done. All who know my name know I don’t harass or bother her son, but she knows how to play it with tears and then needle me. She is receiving lavish gifts working one day a week, new car, $$$ purses etc, and an apartment for two years prior. She made a remark she would live in my nice home and have my bed. She said she hated my letters on adultery as I pointed out scripture and sin. They both came clean, she’s a born again Christian and I’m not God.

    She claimed recently in another letter to be happy with adultery as she found the perfect person and God had a reason for the wait. When they’re through getting rid of the poison of ex spouses, they’ll find a church to worship. Right now they go around town, with our ok’d mutual friends and family, yet both are married.

    I was filed against one month ago and had to spend all I had for an attorney. I’m not sure I have the right one, even after prayer, but, I chose. He has wanted me out if our home ASAP and offered little. His family only texts me to say to settle out of court for whatever he offers to keep peace. I told him not long ago he could still try and I’d forgive him. He said he loves her, has committed, and is never coming back.

    I cry for what should have been. I’ve been like a Jesus, traded out for Barabbas, spit on, mocked, whipped, and am being dragged up my own calvery hill to be crucified. I still ask God for him to return, but his pride, his bond, his berating me to me and family and friends is on fire. He doesn’t want me. He’s an attractive man, working out three hours a day and I’ve been told I’m gorgeous, but that doesn’t matter in my world. He has always had problems with lust, but seems committed fully to his mistress now. He has a great career, friends, supportive family and according to mistress, I wore myself thin trying to have his family love me; now that he has her.

    She berates me as a mom in letters. My daughter emailed her and asked her to leave me alone. I responded to both their slams with desiring peace. It’s hard; I’m mad, I don’t like her and KNOW if she was out of picture, he’d been more apt to try. He told me in beginning she has him twisted around her and couldn’t get away. She’s had fabulous plastic surgery. He told her he wasn’t intimate with me all those years, but was. Well, now he really hates me as I had to fight with attorneys, pressing him for years of info costing both of us $$$.

    I may get fees back… the divorce is moving along. My biggest crime was being ill and bickering with a drinker I rarely saw. Before he left, I ignored the drinking too. I’ve heard he cut way back as he only drank due to a double life. He had history of a roving eye twice getting caught masturbating to neighbor women from afar. He was heavily into porn. STILL, I REGRET being vehemently mad when he told me and seemed unforgiving. It was too soon for me and no counseling would have left me fearful. It was easy for him to walk away from that and back into her living arms. She gloats over her win! I dislike her and cannot forgive her as she runs the divorce through.

    I’m crazy I guess, but dream of him coming home to beg me to get back, but instead he is dying to cut me off and all his family tries to separate Kerri and I, although I know she’ll always love me. He will have all the bells and whistles, big family, and I will just survive. I know if they stay together, she will have my life, but better, as he fully commits to her now rather than two women. I have no immediate family and church family. She’d away pretty quickly as divorce taboo in 200 ppl church, so I switched to large church and plug in many places.

    I simply can’t believe even though I’ve been to the best of therapy. This humiliating break up, now six months passed, is leaving me to fight for what I can get and him most likely moving into my lovely home where we created family memories and me in an apartment, ill, at 54. I know God sees and can discipline. I pray for that and his soul. Why can’t I let go and despise this prostitute? So many others say to move on. If I give into his cheap offers, and it cannot work, I set myself up to be a bag lady, but he may be nice. If I fight with attorneys for the best outcome, I may not get much or I may, and the hate prevails. All holidays and occasions I loathe, as it kills me to see him and know he’s moved on. I may not be invited, too. I don’t believe there is anything else I can do, but carry regrets for making him want to pay hard for what he did and see true change in counseling. I welcome thoughts… Kathy

    • John from United States says:

      Kathy, You are in my prayers. Like you I am going through an unwanted divorce and still pine for my wife. My problems are pale in comparison, but the pain and agony seems the same.

  2. RealTruth from United States says:

    If I had really known that my wife was going to cheat on me to begin with, I obviously, never would’ve married her at all.

  3. RC from United States says:

    I’m a 49 yr old man with 4 beautiful children ranging 14 to 23 years of age. My wife (my children’s mother) is in jail right now. She and I have been separated for over 10 years. Our marriage came to be after our second child’s birth. She had given me an ultimatum for us to get married or forever lose my chance to be with my children. It didn’t matter to her that I didn’t love her. What mattered most was that I stayed/lived with her, despite hearing from me that my heart still belonged to my first wife. It was as if I was a trophy or something! I believe to this day that my first wife was truly my soulmate.

    I’m sorry to have gaps in this message. It’s just that I haven’t written this before. And that I’m trying to get through a serious illness. If you’d like for me to write more about my life, I would happy to tell you. Thank you for your time in reading what I have written thus far.

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