When Is Divorce an Option?
To divorce or not to divorce, I have been asked that many times since my own divorce. It’s been 8 years since my divorce, I was married just 4 years to my first husband. Since that time the question I have been asked a number of times is: how did you know it was the right decision to divorce? Often by young broken hearted ladies receiving very conflicting advice on whether divorce was right for them or not. I am LDS, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and when we marry we do so in what’s called the “temple”, where we covenant to be sealed not only for this life but for the eternities. That’s not only a big deal, it’s the very foundation of families – what we’re taught this life is about. Divorce is a big deal (as I assume it is in most religions, Christian or otherwise).
My first marriage lasted only four years, but as every bride I went into the marriage expecting my forever. Divorce wasn’t a thought, wasn’t a question, for all intents and purposes, it wasn’t a possibility for me. You married once, and you married forever. I think in the back of my mind was a judgement toward divorcee’s, that you were only divorced if you were one of “those” people. They who have done something wrong; something worth such a drastic life interruption.
My husband cheated on me. That’s what brought about the decision to end our marriage, but I wouldn’t say that’s what ended our marriage. For some couples this is a problem that can be worked through. For us the right decision was to move on with our lives separately. I made the decision to end my marriage, that promise to someone I had covenanted was forever, based on the following:
- I made my decision based on my own experience: Don’t make your decision based on someone else’s experience. Talk to leaders, counselors, trusted family – but don’t base your decision on the many examples that will be told you through those you trust to talk to. No matter what anyone else has been through, they are not you and your spouse. For example: another couples goals and priorities for this life are not going to be the same as yours. This is important because where one couple may be able to work through a certain problem because they still had the same life goals and priorities, you as a couple may not be able to work through the same situation; as a couple that was once like-minded, you may have changed goals and priorities that would make it impossible to work as one. It is the same in reverse, you may be able to work through a mistake, no matter how grave, because your goals and priorities remain one.
- In making the decision I prayed every step of the way: Make your decision of whether to divorce or to stay married on your knees. Pray. And pray again. There is only one Being Who knows the end from the beginning, and each of our hearts. There is only One Being Who can truly counsel us individually. My former spouse is happy today. He is happily married to a good lady, that is a great example for my kids. They have a baby. We have a good relationship. He no longer lives all the doctrines taught in the LDS church. I do. I believe we have a loving Heavenly Father who knew both of our hearts and loved us both as individuals. I believe He knew what would bring both of us the most joy, and subsequently our children, and counseled us based on that knowledge.
- I did not question my decision once it was made: Once you have made your decision, trust it. If there is any time in life that has called for you to trust yourself, this is it. If you have just been cheated on, or are coming out of some other painful situation – then you know, this is especially hard. For me it was especially hard; I doubted my self-worth, I felt no self-confidence, and had other feelings of self-doubt. Those feelings aren’t going to immediately change no matter what decision you make. The only choice you can make is to set those feelings aside (you have that power, you have that choice) and focus on trusting the decision you make. Know that there will come a time to heal from all the negative feelings that come from a divorce and what caused it, but while you decide whether or not to divorce – try to focus just on that question and once you receive an answer, don’t waiver on that decision no matter what doubts arise. Whatever your decision is, people are going to have an opinion opposing your own, and a lot of times those people are going to be trusted friends or family – or even leaders. Every time a doubt arises, get rid of the thought that caused the doubt. Find your peace. Don’t question yourself, and your ability to receive answers from a loving Father in Heaven, ultimately it is between You and Him.
- I let go of my anger toward my spouse:. Just because you may have the right to be angry, doesn’t mean you have to be. Look at the way I said that – you don’t have to be. Anger can be such a burden. I had a brother during my divorce who told me never to make a decision in anger. The way he counseled me with such sincerity and gentleness, touched me. I took it to heart. It changed the whole outcome of my divorce. One morning I received a package addressed to my kids from his mistress, I cannot describe the level of anger that arose as she inserted herself into our life before our divorce was even completed. I was counseled to run it out, to beat it out, to scream it out – all things you may want to do before you say something you will regret. But ultimately I kneeled at the side of my bed and I begged the anger be lifted. It was a weight I could not bear amongst multitude of other emotions the situations brought about. I asked my Father in Heaven to take my anger. And He did. Letting go of that anger will strengthen your ability to stand by your decision, whatever it is, and to act only in that peace that will come when the right decision is made. It will also allow you to take those next steps necessary toward living life fully again.
- I focused on what I could change: It would be unfair for me to place all the blame of my failed marriage on my former spouse. I have so many flaws. And while none of them amount to transgressions outside of marriage, I had to recognize what choices I could have made to not put stress on the marriage. I don’t take any responsibility for his choices. But recognizing my own failures helped me to see him as a child of our Father in Heaven, that also had flaws. One benefit of recognizing my own flaws and weakness, didn’t excuse or justify his own, rather it allowed me to see we could both do better. This gave me something to work toward in my future. It gave me hope for something better than I had, had before; I could choose to let this experience make me a better person than I was before.
- I asked my Father in Heaven how He Felt about me: I remember one evening lying alone late at night, with my two kids tucked in a walk in closet behind my unsetup bed. I was lying on the floor in between the bedrails, in the black of the night, and I was sobbing. I had made my decision, the papers had been signed and sent off, the kids and I were moved, and I was left feeling so, so, so, alone. I remember in that moment not really having the energy to whisper a prayer, or get to my knees and formally pray to my Father in Heaven, rather the thought went through my head, “What’s wrong with me?” And in that moment I was wrapped in the most tender feeling of love from head to toe. I knew then how He saw me, how He felt about me. How my efforts as a wife and a mother hadn’t been a failure, I remembered my efforts, and I knew that without a doubt the promises of my Father in Heaven, if I followed Him, would never change. And that meant my life would be okay, it would even be joyous if that is what I chose. The pain was still there, but wrapped in the comfort of that love my tears were dried and I drifted off to sleep.
The knowledge of how loved you are, it will get you through this – I promise. You are loved. Whether you were the one to make the ultimate mistake that has brought you two to this decision, or whether you are the one suffering from your spouse’s choice – you are seeking for something better, and you are good. From what life has taught me, from all that I am experiencing even now, people are good, or have the potential to be so. God’s love is not limited to the victims, it is not limited to those in pain, and it is always available. Those nights you lie in bed crying, feeling so alone, so forlorn, and so in pain (the world should stop for heaven’s sake!) just know, you’re not alone. You’re never alone. Not only have I and many other’s been through those nights, there’s one who has felt all your pain and is waiting to wrap His love around you if you just ask. There is one waiting to fill your life with joy.
Let me take a moment to use a cliché, but one that is a cliché because it is true: it will be okay. If you have kids, your kids are going to be okay. Your former, or current, or eternal, spouse is going to be okay. Your future is going to be great. Don’t stand in the way of that by letting others guide your decisions, by holding onto anger, or by forgetting you have a Father in Heaven who wants to guide you. Let the joy of your future come with an open heart and a willingness to allow it. You deserve it because you are someone’s child, Whom knows the end from the beginning, and who’s greatest desire is your joy. That joy is still possible, a divorce does not stand in the way of that. I can stand witness to that. I did not receive the fairytale I waited so long for, but I am writing my own now – because that is my choice. Let joy in your life and your children’s life be your choice, and then follow the path you’re led down to obtain it. You can be led.