(Part 2 of 2)
God has made me mighty in that he gave me the strength to walk away from abuse – Infidelity is abuse. It just is. Emotional infidelity is almost certainly either a precursor to physical infidelity or a cover for it (i.e. the emotional affair is not an emotional affair, it’s the regular kind).
I had been on PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and in The Washington Post, talking about my marriage to the man who had abandoned me. I’d had interfaith couples writing to me for years, asking me for advice on how to make their relationships work. Do you think I wanted to initiate a divorce? Do you think I wasn’t embarrassed?
If an arsonist sets your house on fire, you get out. It doesn’t matter that you’re going to be standing on the street in your underwear. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t even your sexy underwear, it’s your granny panties. You still get out. There will be contemptible people who will point and laugh and say, “Ha ha, nice granny panties!” The decent people of the world will say, “You just escaped an arson attack, thank goodness you’re all right!” That is what infidelity is. Marital arson.
I stand before you now in my metaphorical granny panties and say: divorce was my escape from that house, and I’m glad that I escaped. No, I rejoice that I escaped from that house.
I didn’t just initiate a divorce though. I drew boundaries and I maintained them. My then-husband still wanted to be “buddies” so that he could tell me all about how fabulous his latest affair partner was. I pulled the divorce equivalent of bopping him on the head with a sock full of pennies and yelling, “Homey don’t play that!” I told him that if he wanted to be with this other woman, then go and be with her, but leave me out of it. (She dumped him before the divorce was even final.) I told him that if he wasn’t contacting me about the kids, then he didn’t need to be contacting me, period.
You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship. You don’t have to live with infidelity and abandonment. The call to Christian love and forgiveness does not mean you have to let a disordered person remain in your life so that they can keep hurting you. Let other people be responsible for the care of his/her soul. God will give you the strength to walk away.
God has made me mighty in that I got what I wanted in the divorce – I’m not going to go into details here, but my then-husband’s desire to quickly end the marriage so that he could pursue his latest affair partner translated into a decent financial settlement package for me. If he ever again tries to tell me that financially supporting his children is not his responsibility, he will have the State of Illinois to answer to.
More importantly though: my children can be raised in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There will be no Reyes v. Shapiro-style “interfaith divorce” fighting for us. My daughter and son are always welcome to visit their father’s church when he has visitation, but their religious upbringing will be my domain. Are you beginning to see why this divorce has been a joyful occasion for me?
God has made me mighty in that he has shown me that there is life after divorce – For most of my married life, due to constraints that involved work, money, transportation and childcare, I was a shut-in. I went to church, I went to my classes, and I ran errands. Beyond that, I did not get out much.
That is no longer my life. I go out probably 2-3 times per week, not counting work or Sunday morning church. Blackhawks games in pubs, MST3K meetings, church classes/small groups, theology discussions, single parent socials, book clubs, volunteer work, social causes, and holiday parties. I’m also working on (finally!) finishing my master’s degree (church history comprehensive exam next week!). And I haven’t even seriously pursued dating yet.
Is working full-time while caring for a 13-month-old and a disabled 8-year-old hard? Yes. Intensely. Do I hope my kids have a godly stepfather someday? Definitely. But I feel pretty optimistic right now about my capacity to both enjoy life and serve God as a single parent. God has been good.
I have told a little bit of the story of my divorce for two reasons.
I get that divorce is “sad” because it marks the end of what probably started out as a happy and hopeful union. However, some marriages end for good reasons. For some of us, because of the actions of our spouses, life is better for us post-marriage. We should be allowed to rejoice in our newfound freedom from abuse.
Secondly, I told my story because I believe in the title of these posts. If you’re dealing with spousal infidelity or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, God does not require that you remain in the marriage. If your spouse demonstrates true brokenness and repentance, then yes, you have the option of forgiving them. But you can leave. Not only that, but God will make you mighty and equip you with what you need to leave.
If you had told me 14 months ago that I’d be where I am today—divorced and happy about it—I’d have asked what your damage was. Yet here I stand. So if your situation is hopeless and desperate, keep on fighting. God sees your pain. He can make you mighty to claim a better life for yourself.
“Tell Me How You’re Mighty” at ChumpLady.com