In the eight years I have been writing about divorce, it amazes me how similar the stories are. Names, faces, and specifics change, but I see commonalities in most every situation.
“I finally filed for divorce myself.”
“I didn’t realize he was using pornography so heavily.”
“I really think he (she) must have some type of mental illness.”
“He (she) is blaming me for the divorce even though he (she) was the one having an affair.”
“It is so hard to forgive when he (she) is constantly pushing my buttons!”
I have been leading a support group via Zoom for six months. Our very first meeting, these were all statements that were made by multiple individuals within the group. They also reflect my own story.
I know as Christians, we must protect the sanctity of marriage. However, as I have said before, most Christians are not divorcing because they are squabbling over money or other minor issues. Most Christians divorce only after major problems caused by one spouse’s abusive, addictive, adulterous behavior. I hear the stories every day, and these threads seem to run through most every story.
Refusing to file for divorce. My husband left our marriage long before we divorced. His affair (and refusal to repent) ended our marriage, but we continued to live under the same roof. I fought long and hard to save our marriage, but I finally realized I couldn’t save it alone.
I finally made the decision that I could not live in the dysfunctional environment. I finally decided I could not tolerate the abuse of ongoing adultery. I finally decided I needed to be brave enough, strong enough, to stand up to the abuse.
So I filed for divorce.
And do you know what happened? He used that to blame the divorce on me. After all, I was the one who filed. I was the one who kicked him out. He could somehow ignore the three years of ongoing adultery and make it my fault because I was strong enough to stand up to the abuse.
It happens all the time. The abuser makes life a living hell, but refuses to end the marriage. Eventually, the victimized spouse decides it is time to legally acknowledge what has already taken place in the marriage. And, the abuser uses that to draw sympathy from others.
Which leads to another common theme in divorce…
Playing the victim. As I said before, my ex-husband used my actions to blame the divorce on me. Multiple people have told me the stories of how I just woke up one morning and didn’t love him anymore and wanted to marry someone else. Somehow, the years of his adultery and ongoing abuse are glossed over. It was all my fault.
Some of the stories I have heard; others, I just have to imagine. I am absolutely certain I was controlling with finances…even though I begged him for 17 years to join me in budgeting. I know I treated him like another child…even though he refused to help with any adult activities around the house.
Over the years—and especially after the divorce—I was the cause of all problems, the cause of our divorce. And I hear it repeatedly. There is a sickening epidemic of victim mentality, of refusing to acknowledge shortcomings. When it comes to divorce, it is yet another common theme.
Pornography addictions. I always knew pornography was in our home, but I had no idea how pervasive it was. When the internet first entered our home, I happened upon some unsavory websites in our browser history. He would promise not to look again. We would use a filtering browser. We would do everything in our power to keep the filth out.
And yet, he would find ways around it.
Multiple computers were destroyed by malware because of websites he looked at. Yet, I had no idea how pervasive it was in our lives until after our divorce when I began to dive into the truth about pornography. As I reflect on our marriage, I see the many ways pornography affected our lives. Most importantly, I see that I was an object to be used for his gratification—not the treasured gift a wife is supposed to be. I was never treated as an equal but instead simply used to benefit him. When you read about the effects of pornography on the brain, our relationship epitomizes a pornography addiction.
Sadly, pornography is rampant in our culture. It is available with a few clicks. It is in our pockets 24 hours each day. If the desire is there, it becomes an addiction that requires ongoing treatment. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit that can remove the desire and the long-lasting effects of pornography.
Mental illness. I know that narcissism has become the in-term of our culture, and I struggle with labeling people. I am convinced, however, that we have an epidemic of mental instability in our culture.
I use the term “mental illness” somewhat loosely. The truth is that many people are struggling with unresolved issues from childhood, issues that lead them down a path of depression, anxiety, or just looking for something—anything—to soothe the pain they feel inside.
God is the only Healer, and anything else we use to heal our pain results in emptiness. And that’s where the mental illness (as I am using the term) comes in. It is an instability of the mind, an inability to effectively cope with life and the stress that comes with it. It can be characterized by fear that prevents us from surrendering to the Savior. It can be a feeling of hopelessness that causes us to lose our desire to live. It can be a lack of the perfect peace that the Father promises to those who hope in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
I truly believe mental instability is a factor in many, many divorces.
Ongoing insults and injuries. Sadly, most divorces do not end the bickering and fighting. The mud-slinging, blaming, using the kids as weapons, false accusations, etc. continue. I have seen the courts used as weapons to try to vilify one spouse. I have experienced child welfare investigations because of false accusations. I have seen attempts to take the kids away to avoid paying child support. The list just goes on and on.
And this is one of the reasons it is so incredibly hard to forgive. You have lived with this person. He/she probably know you better than anyone else. He/she know how to push your buttons and make you angry—and he/she never hesitates to try.
These attempts to manipulate the situation could be financial. They could be attempts to win the hearts and sympathy of others (including the kids). They could be simply to punish you. Whatever the reason, they continue long after the divorce papers are signed.
I truly wish everyone could grow up and put aside differences for the sake of the children and the good of one another. Unfortunately, the inability to do so is often a factor in many divorces. How can we expect someone to suddenly become others-centered, to instantly gain mental stability?
Yet another common problem with divorce…
I hope if you see yourself in any of this issues you realize you are not alone—it’s not just you dealing with the immaturity. Please know that if you need a listening ear, I am here. I offer support groups. I offer individual coaching. I offer email support. Sometimes it helps just to know you aren’t alone.