It is twelve years since I was divorced and I still feel sick when I recall the moment that I arrived home from work to find my ‘decree absolute’ on the doorstep. I sat down on the hall way floor of my rented house and cried inconsolably. After all discussions and solicitors letters; the form filling and the data enquiries, how could I possibly be shocked by the news? How could I not have understood what was happening to me? But that was the truth. It hit me forcibly, leaving me completely devastated. There I was, alone in my rented house receiving the news that my marriage was over. How different it was to the church full of people who witnessed and celebrated the beginning of my marriage all those years before. Since that time, I have often described that traumatic moment as the point at which I ‘woke up’ to the reality of what was happening to me. I also began the slow and difficult process of establishing a new life for me and my two children.
Finding that I was divorced was a real challenge to me not least because I thought that my marriage was for life. As my husband and I were both Christians, I think that I also believed that God would be the cement and make sure it was OK: I have since realised that there were many factors in both of our behaviours which ultimately caused the downfall of the relationship and there were certainly several chances to help the situation that were missed.
One key contributory factor in the relationship breakdown was that our marriage had relied on me being the communicator both verbally and intuitively. Without my words and empathy, my husband felt cut off and wrapped himself up in work. When I suffered Post Natal depression with both our first and second child things became really difficult and both my husband and I retreated into our shells. Things were not helped when his mother had cancer and a building project went horribly wrong and put us into financial crisis. However, the one thing we shared was our Christian faith and with our children attended a lively church and felt part of that family. I do remember that there were times when I longed to be able to talk to someone about how difficult things were for me at home, coping with a child and work and an often absent husband but everyone else seemed to be in a perfect relationship, shiny and neat and so I simply felt I was a failure. If there is anything that I have learnt since it is that we are all blemished, we all struggle, there are messy bits in everyone’s family. If I could change anything it would be to have sought help at that stage – but I didn’t.
For some months I avoided Church, feeling that I had failed as a Christian and hoping that God would leave me alone so that I would feel less unworthy. I thank Him that He did not do that and eventually, with counselling and the use of antidepressants I began to see a little hope. I remember the first time I went to church after we were living separately. I moved churches because the congregation where I had worshipped could not cope with the tension of both of us in the same service. The first sermon I heard was about Jonah and about a ‘God of second chances’. At a point in my life where I felt nothing would ever be alright again, I heard God speaking to me very clearly. I, like Jonah, had run away: I had made things more difficult but God had not moved. He was there with open arms, to pick me up, and set me on my feet.
In all this, there have been two especially difficult things for me. The first was to ‘get my head around’ the fact that I believed in the permanence of marriage but was now divorced. For a while I became cynical about my relationship, wondering if it was ever right at all and I also wondered whether those who lived together spared themselves less pain. I know that not to be true now. Time and experience have enabled me to value what I had and to become once again a passionate believer in marriage as ‘a gift of God in Creation’ (from the C of E marriage service) which to be treasured. Sadly, mine did not work out and over time I have learned to forgive myself for that.
Divorce is like bereavement: it is an enormous loss and with children involved the process can be painful for a long time. However, it is possible to learn to live with it and through it.
'Helping Children Cope with Divorce' by Rosemary Wells.
This book offers advice about practical and emotional problems - what the legal terms mean, coping with residence orders, giving a child room to talk and have a say in major decisions, the possibility of step-parents, and who to turn to for more help with any problem. This new edition also sets out how mediation services can help, and explains the role of the new Children Act Family Courts Advisory and Support Service.
'Divorce and Remarriage' in the Church by David Instone Brewer.
A look at what the Bible teaches about these two issues in relation to recent research into the background literature of the Bible.
Some useful websites.
This organisation provides guidance and information around family mediation, connecting you to services in your local area.
Relate offers advice, relationship counselling, sex therapy, workshops, mediation, consultations and support face-to-face, by phone and through their web site.
An independent group of professionals who volunteer their time. Whatever your situation and wherever you are, they hope to provide divorce advice, support and information on any matter. They promote mediation and counselling as well as good, professional legal advice. They also promote collaborative law as a new approach to divorce.
A website offering help with mediation, legal and counselling services.
Organisation which provides support, information and advice about any aspect related to relationship difficulties, via telephone, email and local divorce support groups.Tel: 01892 665524