Five Things Not to Say When Someone is Getting Divorced

Yesterday I had an appointment with my divorce lawyer. Things weren’t supposed to turn out like this. When I had gotten married I had been a young fundamentalist woman that had thrown everything into my religion. I stayed for a long time because after all, divorce was a sin and I was financially dependent on my husband. It took years and a lot of counselling before I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the divorce that was sin, the sin had happened much earlier when the marriage vows were broken. The situation is still fresh and I don’t want to use this space as a hating on my soon to be ex-husband space, but I am striving to be honest about the journey. However I’m trying to do so with integrity and have anything that I say be edifying rather than a place where I complain about all of my problems.

Through this I have learned that there are many things you should not say to a woman (or a man) who is going through these kinds of issues. I have seen many of these kinds of lists about other issues, and while this is a short one, it is the main things that I have heard, particularly from the Christian community. I have also heard many positive things and had many try to help me navigate this path that I never thought I would be taking. I’m also sure that even the people who say the things on this list mean well, they want to support us and they are doing that in the only way that they know how. It is always admirable for people to want to be there for others. Here is the list:

“There are others who have been through much worse together who made the right choice and stayed married.” In my situation, it’s pretty hard to stay married when the other party has absolutely no interest in staying married. It takes two people working hard to keep a broken marriage together. When someone has made it clear that they no longer want to be married, and have made it clear in ways that are easily understood, there’s not a lot else you can do except that hope that the divorce goes as smoothly as a divorce can go.

“You can be separated without getting divorced, you know, because divorce is a sin.” Yes, I’m sure that some people, should they choose to do so, can be separated without getting a divorce. But some of us have to get on with our lives, and sometimes we can’t get the benefits we need to help us through this time while still being legally married. Apart from that, my state doesn’t offer legal separation as an option.

“You need to just trust God to heal your marriage.” I went to counselling for a long time, in an effort to heal the marriage, and so did he. I totally believe that God can heal things, but God doesn’t force us into doing things against our wills either.

“Hopefully you guys can sort your issues out and then get remarried.” I understand that the breakdown of my marriage probably feels like betrayal to those who supported it, those who invested in it, those who threw parties and showers and the like. I understand those feelings and I’m really torn up by the feeling that I have betrayed a lot of people, but please understand that I also feel hurt and betrayed. Using the word “issues” makes it seem like real hurts and trauma isn’t really that important. In a lot of cases marriages break down because of serious life changing things, heartbreaking things, and it just isn’t helpful to have our heartbreaks trivialized.

“Just pray for him.” Prayer is a conversation with a holy God, and it is powerful. It is not a magic trick or spell in order to get God to do what I want him to do.  

Divorce is a messy thing, and it involves screw ups on the sides of both parties normally. For me personally I am devastated that my marriage has ended in this way, it was something I thought of as a forever deal, and it’s really upsetting to know that isn’t the case. Life is messy, and most of us want to support others in their mess, and for that I am grateful.

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