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.


Mutuality is Not a Curse Word

While the extremely offensive quotes continue to go around the internet, I suppose I shall continue to comment on them. This newest “gem” was posted on Doug Wilson’s (the same Doug Wilson that was the perpetrator of yesterday’s highly offensive quote) blog on Thursday:

“Sex, as commonly conceived, is something a couple do together.  But the sexual act itself is not quite like that.  It is, and remains, something a man does to a woman.  They are not both working at the same thing.  He is giving, she is receiving.  He is the lover, she the beloved. Now, if they both set out to “have some Sex,” the whole delicate balance is wrecked, and neither can find his own role.  What is happening is that the difference we all love so dearly is taking a bad beating.  The wife is being backed into a decreasingly feminine role, even in overtly sexual matters, and the husband is finding that he has less and less of an object to be masculine toward.  He is getting what he wants, but not what he needs.  He asks frequently enough, but he has lost sight of what to ask for; and that is deadly” (Robert Farrar Capon, Bed and Board, p. 51).

What these men appear to have a hard time understanding is that sex is supposed to be about love, not about control. When the agenda of sex is to control, that’s when sex starts to turn into rape, because rape is ultimately about control. What these men don’t seem to realize is that their entire philosophy is offensive to women. I would try to argue that men who make statements like these obviously know nothing about sex, but it’s very possible that they do know something about sex and are really just control freaks, it could go either way. It’s at least obvious that control is very important to proponents of patriarchy. I will also say that men who truly love their wives wouldn’t feel any need to control them.

However, let’s move on to the quote itself, as there is so much that is wrong about Capon’s philosophy here. To be fair, Capon’s book was published in 1970, and I know that people thought differently back then, however, I don’t see why Wilson would be approving of this quote in 2012. Capon claims that sex is something a man does to a woman. Although I’ve been sexually active for a lot less time than these men have been alive, I do know that both partners give and take in a sexual relationship, and if they don’t, there’s really no point of having a sexual relationship. Usually, a couple has a sexual relationship because they love each other. It’s not just the man who decides he loves the woman and therefore showing his love to her, no, it’s them both showing love to each other mutually.

Mutuality, however, appears to be a curse word in patriarchal circles. What I fail to understand is how the equality of men and women is a bad thing. Why does there have to be any “roles” in sex? If a man and a woman truly love each other, why would they be vying for control in sex or in anything else? This is, in fact, one of the issues I am working on in my own marriage and in my daily life…that love means releasing control, and that I am not as important as I think I am and that I have no right to try to control what my husband does, or what anyone else does. If I truly want to love my husband, truly want to be in a mutual relationship with him, and truly respect him, I will relinquish control. Trust me, it’s much easier said than done, but any of you that are married probably know that.

I’m not sure how these men think that a woman initiating sex is “unfeminine”. Women have sex drives too, women enjoy sex too, it is not merely an exercise for a woman to give her husband pleasure and receive none herself, although this appears to be exactly what people who subscribe to these hyper patriarchal ideas appear to believe. This is one of the problems with extreme patriarchy, the belief that the man must control everything about the marriage relationship or he is not masculine. Sex, despite what Capon seems to be insinuating, is not merely an activity for the man to “get what he needs” but for the couple to give to each other.

After all, marriage is about oneness, marriage is about mutuality. In a good marriage, this would mean that both the husband and the wife mutually submit to each other out of a desire to make sure their spouse is happy, and that both relinquish control of the other, and worry about controlling only themselves. 


Capon, RF 1970, Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage, Pocket Books.