We as women must feel in harmony with our surroundings with a certain sense of order and balance, which in turn gives us a presence of peace. This harmony in our lives helps to unleash our creative instincts and allows us to look deep inside for strength and direction. We live by the choices we make. What life choices will you make and what new challenges will your choices bring? Are you willing to risk change, and how will this change influence your life? What if you remain in your present state and make no changes? How will that decision affect the rest of your life?
On the other hand, making a decision to stay can, in fact, bring a sense of control. If you decide to remain in a job, a marriage, or a location because for the moment it is the right choice for you, then by all means stay! Perhaps you have young children, or you have no way to support yourself and need additional education or training. Staying because you feel defeated is the wrong choice. The most important things are, you are in charge and you made a decision. Now the challenge is building on that choice!
Coming to grips with the fact that your spouse no longer loves and cares for you is a painful truth to accept. The security you felt in your old life as a couple has been torn from under you. You may have financial difficulties and suffer lost friendships. Suddenly you have no social life. Many of you will find support and love in your place of worship; however, divorced women are frequently shunned and rejected as outcasts and failures. Once again I will state that it is your privilege to mourn your loss, as long as it is not your life goal! There is healing through mourning and grieving all that we have lost, but until we can accept our loss, it is impossible to move on.
The rejection I was subjected to in my church came as a total shock. The Board of Elders, who were all men, interrogated me. I was the one who sought the divorce; however, they were not remotely interested in my reasons. They even tried to prevent me from explaining why I came to this decision.
My husband was addicted to pornography, and I kept the ugly secret for several years. We had two children, and I made a decision to stay in the marriage until they were grown. He was not remotely interested in a sexual relationship with and for ten years, we had no intimacy. At first, I begged him to tell me what was wrong and why he did not desire me any more. He always had the same answer, “What have you done to turn me on?” I tried seducing him on several occasions by wearing sexy negligees or nothing at all. It was embarrassing and finally I felt so humiliated, I just gave up.
However, I continued to find disgusting hardcore porn magazines hidden in the back of his desk. We began to argue and fight constantly about the children finding such ugly depiction of how one should behave and present their body. How could he teach his children to respect their bodies and risk having them see this smut?
I finally sought counseling from a wonderful Christian man. I was nervous about sharing such intimate details of our life with a stranger, but he immediately put me at ease, and I felt a trust in his discretion. I gave my husband an ultimatum to go to counseling or I would file for divorce. He went reluctantly, but I was grateful and hopeful.
We went individually to our sessions, I went three times and he went twice. My husband complained every time that he did not need someone else to tell him how to run his life. My third session took me entirely by surprise. My counselor told me he did not feel that it would benefit me to continue seeing him. I just sat there stunned, but he continued by saying that my husband was in no way open to change. He felt that his deep-seated problems would take years of therapy.
I was confused and asked what I should do. He said, “Go on with your life, Claire; that is all I can tell you. If you decide to stay in the marriage, you will have to find a way to build a life apart from him. You can do that in the marriage or without the marriage; the choice is yours to make. He is the only one who can instigate change. You cannot change him. Pursue your hobbies and life goals so you do not become severely depressed.”
Tears were now stinging my eyes and he looked at me with sincere compassion. “I am sorry to tell you these things,” he said, “but without his cooperation, there is nothing more I can do.”
When my youngest son was in high school, I finally filed for divorce. I was totally shunned in my church. They said I should have sacrificed myself for the sake of the Bible. I was also told that pornography was a gray area for grounds for divorce, and the church would not recognize my reason as valid. I received a letter from the Elders saying I was not welcome to worship in the church I had attended for several years. They also said I could no longer sing in the choir because I was not a good representative to the church body as a whole.
I was devastated and attempted to attend church anyway, but the shunning was so blatant I could no longer ignore the embarrassment. I finally left the church and determined to find a place that preached love and acceptance, not hate and guilt.
As Claire shared her story with me, I could not help but tell her how proud I was of her stand and what a wonderful encouragement she could be to other women who might be experiencing the same judgmental treatment. She said she actually was helping other women and was instrumental in starting a special class for divorced women. Clair said was difficult to get women to trust that this was a safe place for support and love. Once they attended a class and felt the acceptance, the word spread quickly. Helping other women, who had suffered at the hand of their church, brought a sense of healing for me as well.
Time for You
Many women live with shame and regret and often feel responsible for the failed marriage. Social contacts change, and we must seek out new friendships and interests. Perhaps others have always influenced your decisions and swayed you to their way of thinking. Well, now it is your turn to strengthen your own personal sense of self. This can be a valuable time of examining who you really are and what you, and only you, want for your future. You may be forty or sixty, but you still have dreams of your very own. Maybe you were deprived of desires and passions as a wife and mother, always putting everyone else first. Now it is time for you.
I am reminded of my mother and her married life of physical abuse until she was fifty years old. She blossomed in her later years and did many of the things she had always longed to do. Maybe you, like my mother, were threatened, controlled, and denied a life of love and trust. It is your turn now to live your life to its fullest. You deserve life’s best because you are a princess! What changes and challenges await you?