Guarding Your Heart in Your Marriage (4th of 6 articles)

4th Article in Series:

The Truth About Divorce

 

The Truth About Divorce

When the going gets tough in marriage, many people take what they believe is the easy way out.

When the going gets tough in marriage, many people take what they believe is the easy way out, assuming that the answer to finding true joy and happiness is separating from one’s spouse, finding someone new, or divorcing.

When pain, hurt, discord, selfishness or unhappiness make their way into one’s heart, many convince themselves that divorce will free them. Yet exactly the opposite is true. Let’s look at the false freedom we think we will obtain by walking away from an unfulfilling marriage.

What does divorce really look like?

If they can just get through the court dates and all the paperwork, the spouse who wants out thinks it will be incredibly liberating. We fail to recognize the ramifications of divorce until we experience it. For a while, it may seem pleasant or enjoyable to be away from the spouse that “made you miserable.” But speaking from experience, divorce is awful!

We had what you might call a “model” divorce. We shared the kids well, rarely fought and maintained a friendship “for the girls’ sake” during our divorced years.

And it was still awful! Our lives never felt settled. Why? God never intended for our marriage to end or our family to be broken.

” ‘I hate divorce,’  says the LORD God of Israel.” (Malachi 2:16)

How does divorce affect you?

For Jeff and me, a sense of unsettledness permeated our post-divorce lives, which were often characterized by a lack of order or stability. We found it hard to rest. There were constant reminders of how fractured our family was: birthdays; sports and school activities; when the kids got sick; or simply being around intact families.

Parents splitting custody have the constant challenge of working out visitation while balancing the emotions of children. Our girls often mentioned not feeling settled or relaxed, because the next location change was constantly in the back of their minds.

The folloing excerpt from our book, I Do Again, describes the state of my heart the day our divorce was final:

August 21, 1992. The worst day of my life.

Ten years after walking down the aisle as a young, hope-filled bride, I walked into a courtroom to claim a different kind of hope: liberation from my awful marriage. This was the day I’d obtain the freedom to be with my new love, the soul mate I thought I’d finally found. Today I’d hold in my hands the piece of paper I’d been coveting, the ticket to a whole new and much better life. I stood in front of the judge and told him I wanted a divorce.

Earlier that morning, the alarm had gone off and I lay in bed for a moment, groggy with sleep. Something’s happening today. What is it? I tried to clear the fog from my brain and then my heart gave a little lurch as I remembered. Today’s the day!

I waited for the excitement to kick in. You’re free today, Cheryl! You’ve been waiting for this for so long! But I felt heavy and unable to move. What is wrong with me?

The morning passed in a haze as I readied Brittany and Lauren for preschool and got the three of us out the door. I tried to ignore the dull ache in my stomach. Breakfast was out of the question and it was all I could do to sip a cup of coffee.

After dropping off the girls, I sat in traffic on my way to the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas. With a few moments to think, I tried talking some sense into myself. Buck up, girl! This is what you wanted… the day you’ve been waiting for! You’re finally going to behappy.

For the tiniest moment, I glimpsed a truth I didn’t want to see, through a crack in the strong façade I’d built around myself. What if I was making a mistake? What if the warnings from my traitorous stomach were trying to tell me something?

No.

I won’t go there. I’m almost to the courthouse  — I’m about to get what I wanted. I’ve always worked so hard, and getting what I want has never come easily. Right now, what I want is freedom and by gosh, I am going to get it. I can’t allow any negative thoughts to distract me.

The cold institutional hallway of the courthouse gave me shivers as I stood waiting for an elevator. Although the hustle and bustle of people surrounded me, I had never felt more alone. But I had on a classy suit and stylish heels and my patented smile, and I maintained my composure like a pro. Nobody would know I had the least bit of emotion in me, while in reality the feelings swirled about my head and heart and I just wanted to go back home, pull the covers up and pretend my life did not exist.

I met my attorney at the door of the courtroom.

“Good morning.” His voice was low and smooth, all business. His eyebrow raised. “Today’s the day.”

I nodded, uncharacteristically mute.

I don’t remember what happened next. I suppose there were other cases before the judge, other lives being turned upside down. All I know for sure is that my internal battle was raging and I fought to keep it quiet, to disregard it altogether, and make sure the cool detached expression remained plastered to my face.

Finally it was my turn, and I stood trembling visibly next to my lawyer, facing the judge. Words were spoken, questions were asked. Did I want a divorce? Yes.

But at the moment, I couldn’t remember why.

The judge wanted to know why my husband wasn’t there. How could I tell him that Jeff had not wanted the divorce? That he’d fought against it? Through tears and hurt he’d pleaded with me to change my mind. He prayed for reconciliation. He hoped for another chance. He yearned for my heart to soften. But he lost.

At that instant standing in the courtroom, I felt like the most horrible person. I wanted to turn to the strangers around me and let them know I was a good person. I really was. I loved being a wife and wanted to be a good one. I absolutely loved being a mom. Yet I could not go on in the emptiness… or in the dreadful lack of intimacy. I was dedicated and loyal, trustworthy and sweet. But I could not see any other way out of the excruciating pain I had felt for years. I had worked it out in my mind, and saw no other option but to escape and start over. I knew I would have a label now, even in Jeff’s mind, of being an adulterer and a mean person. But the truth was I was broken and hurting. How do I tell everyone this when my actions seemed to say the opposite?

“Jeff needed to work today,” I told the judge, who nodded. I don’t think he believed it for a second.

Jeff was at the office, all right. I stood in front of the bench, wondering what was running through his mind as he sat at his desk attempting to work. Would he cry? Was he angry? How was he dealing with the fact his marriage and family were being ripped apart? How did he feel knowing he would soon officially be a single, divorced dad?

And what right had I to be worried about any of that? I was the cause of it. It was a little late for me to be worried about Jeff’s feelings.

Divorce granted.” The gavel went down with an authoritative thud. Was it my imagination or did the judge look a little sad? Perhaps disappointed. I wondered what it must be like to preside over the dissolution of families all day long. That word—dissolution—so cold and impersonal. I think the judge knew better. I think he knew he was seeing devastation… wreckage… sorrow… and there was nothing he could do but bang his gavel.

The sound of that gavel nearly did me in. My hand went to my chest as I felt my heart explode into a kind of palpitation I’d never felt before. The urge to throw up became overwhelming and it took every ounce of willpower to steady myself and walk to the rear of the courtroom.

My echoing footsteps seemed to pound in my head as I walked down the dreary hallway. Next to me, my attorney was oblivious, moving quickly as always, focused on his dinner plans or his next case. He stopped when we reached the front entrance to the courthouse. At the top of the steps he offered his hand.

“Congratulations,” he said, offering up a satisfied I-just-won-a-case smile.

“Mmm hmm…” I shook his hand, but could not muster up a response.

Congratulations. Did I deserve that? Did he? Something told me the answer was no. But this was what I’d wanted, fought for, worked toward. And here it was.

© 2010 Cheryl Scruggs. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

5th Article in Series:

Putting Jesus First

Jeff & Cheryl Scruggs

Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs are authors, speakers, and Biblical counselors, not LPC's. Their writings include the widely used book I Do Again, which chronicles their thirty-year story of marriage, betrayal, infidelity, divorce, emotional damage and scarring, forgiveness, reconciliation, trust, and remarriage to each other. Jeff and Cheryl are the founders of Hope Matters Marriage Ministries in Dallas. They speak at conferences and weekend worship services in churches across the nation, sharing their love story of hope, redemption, restoration, and God taking hold of their lives. See their website: www.hopeformarriages.com.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Melissa

    Unbelievable….I had the very same experience. The only difference was that I didnt have to go to court. I received the final papers in mail. When I took the envelope out of the mailbox I knew what it was. I sat in my car for a couple minutes looking at the envelope and feeling sick to my stomach. When I did finally open it, I started crying. I cried for about 20 minutes in my car and forced myself into the house due to the fact that my girls would be home from school soon. For the rest of the night, I had to pretend I was happy for the girl’s sake, do homework, make dinner, baths, etc, all with the feeling as though I wanted to get sick. I kept asking myself, why are you so upset? You wanted this. You were miserable. I justified it by once again, going back and blaming my ex for my unhappiness. I NEVER anticipated the amount of anguish that goes along with divorce. I have a friend now in a situation where she is married and “seeing” someone else. I have tried so hard to tell that divorce is not the answer but she wont listen. She is not a spiritual person so that makes it even more difficult. She saw what I went through, the tears, losing 20 pounds, the heartache yet she still continues to do what she is doing. All I can do is pray for her at this point. Divorce is something that I would never wish on my worst enemy!!

  2. Christine

    Sigh…..I remember my divorce day very well. BOTH of them. Yes, twice. Me? Really? Sweet, Christian, Super-Mommy, Love-being-a-wife ME??? My first divorce was, in many ways, necessary. He is Jewish, I was raising my kids in the Jewish faith, and I was NOT allowed to have my faith in any way. I was just another one of his possessions, not his wife and partner.
    I dated one man post-divorce. He was the love of my life. I knew it after our first date….and so did he. Even our 5 (combined) kids loved each other. In fact, they were more like true siblings than “step”. We married after several years of dating. I was on cloud 9! It was the happiest day of my life. The day was filled with love, happiness and what felt like such amazing blessings.
    But very shortly after we wed, we were hit with substantial financial issues, a serious illness in one of my kids, my father suffering a massive heart attack, and of course the stress of being a blended family.
    Sadly, on the day after our 2 year anniversary, he left. Our divorce was filled with anger, hurt and hate. It forever changed me. I will miss our love the rest of my life. And I wonder if he feels the same way. We let the world around us be bigger than what God put together.
    Divorce is sad. Filled with anger. Will fill your heart with hate. And the love you felt for each other will seem like a lifetime ago.

    1. cherylscruggs

      christine, where do u live?

      1. Christine

        I saw you on Friday at Corner Bakery 🙂

        1. cherylscruggs

          That was fun!

  3. Brandy

    I watched your I AM SECOND video just a few weeks after this exact situation happened to me. My husband left, wanted a divorce, and I didn’t want the emptiness any longer. I filed at his request, and this day was the worst day of both of our lives. When he left, I didn’t know what to do with myself, our two year old, and newborn baby. So I started to attend church with his mother. Through the grace of God, I was able to forgive my husband, after his affair and leaving me and our two precious children for over 10 months. He started attending church, made several changes in his personal life, asked me to forgive him, and the rest is history. We had the divorce annulled, went to counceling at our church and with the help of a christian family councelor, we both came to know Christ more and more as the years went by. Looking back, this “tragedy” turned into one of the biggest triumphs in both of our lives and certainly in our marriage. Today, we can honestly say that the last 3 years have been the best years of our lives. Praise God!!

    1. cherylscruggs

      Hi Brandy! What a wonderful story!! Thank u for encouraging those in a difficult time!

  4. Melissa

    That is so inspiring, brandy! I logged onto the website tonight looking for some hope. A week ago I read a very gut wrenching letter to my ex husband spilling out all of my heart. It was one oc the most difficult things I had ever done. We talked for a while afterwards but through the conversation he shared that he is seeing someone. I feel as though all the wind has been taken out of my sail. I had such hope but now I feel I have wasted my time praying for reconciliation. I feel very lost and lonely and have turned to the bible for comfort but sometimes I just still feel so alone. I wonder how to move on and let go. I feel so happy for those who were able to salvage their marriages. I just feel I’m too late.

    1. Brandy

      Melissa, There is always hope. Cheryl and Jeff are a true testimony to that!! A *relationship* with Jesus Christ is the answer to all your problems!! I promise. He will work on your husband through you. 1 Peter 3 tells us that through our submission to our husbands, they will be won over *without words* by our behavior. : ). How awesome is that? Dig in the Word and get stronger in Him day after day. God is so good, girl! He loves us so much.

      1. Melissa

        Brandy,
        Thank you so much. I am trying so hard to stay focused on the Lord and my relationship with Him. I feel as though I am doing everything I can without much success. Just when I feel as though we are making progress and he is letting down his walls of anger, something happens that puts us back again. I feel as though all I am doing is trying to mend, apologize, watch every move I make and word I speak, etc. It’s exhausting especially when treated with complete disrespect. I dont know how things will ever change but I will do my best to just trust in the Lord that it will. Let me ask you this, when do you raise the white flag and face the fact that your ex may never change even when God is attempting to work through him? If he doesnt want to change or doesnt see his part, isnt he going to miss God’s opportunities including his family that wants him back?

        1. Christine

          Melissa
          Let God do His work on you first. Pray that His work be complete and that you find peace within yourself when He has finished. Also pray that He order your steps. I know all to well your pain. But the peace He brought me about a year ago has been amazing. It is MY peace…..not my ex’s. I now pray for him. Within the past month I received an apology email from him. But he is in a serious relationship. (been divorced over 2 years) Why did God do that? I am not sure. But I know in my heart that He is at work….somehow.
          Have faith. Pray. Find peace.

          Best wishes
          christine

  5. Brandy

    Melissa,
    Our God has a devine plan. I say raise your white flag now. Surrender- not to your husband, but to the Lord. Leave it in His hands. When we take a step back, make *Him* our focus, and leave the rest up to Him, LIFE GETS EASY! 🙂 The things that are so hard for us to change (because they aren’t 100% up to us), make us feel hopeless. They make us feel like we’ve lost control. When in reality- that’s what SHOULD happen! You should RELENQUISH the control and give it to the Lord. Put your focus on Him and on your girls. He will make things right in His time and by His plan. Give it time and listen to what HE would have you do. He will change YOUR heart and for that, you will be forever changed.

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