As I was working in the garden the other day, a neighbor stopped outside our gate to say hi. A good Christian woman, she’d recently remarried after being widowed a few years earlier. “How’s it going at your house?” I asked.
There was an awkward pause. “Uh, perhaps you haven’t heard,” she said finally. “I had to divorce my husband.”
He became a different person after our marriage.
After I told her how sorry I was, she explained. “Even though we’d gotten to know each other for a while, he became a different person after our marriage. He really changed. He couldn’t seem to accept my love, even though I tried hard to show it to him. And no amount of trying to talk with him about it made any difference. I couldn’t see living in a relationship like that the rest of my life.”
Let’s face it, when getting to know a potential mate, we’re typically on our best behavior as are they. True, we all change some over time, but usually a people’s core personality doesn’t change dramatically. What my neighbor experienced was a change in behavior, not a change in her new husband's true self. He’d simply taken off his phony mask. As painful as that experience was for her, in moving forward she was both lucky and wise. Lucky that he revealed who he was early on. She, being wise, could decide to leave before investing more time and emotional energy on him. She understood she couldn’t fix him.
We “know” our mate can be better.
What’s more difficult to see and accept is when the change happens gradually. We “know” our mate can be better. He’s demonstrated his goodness over and over again. And when he slips, we try reminding him who he really is. But people can’t hide their true selves from their mates forever. In my own failed marriage, I talked and pleaded and went to counseling, attempting to right our marital ship. Finally, I took a step back and looked at our history. If I were to create a chart of our relationship, it would look something like this:
I thought I knew what would make my husband happy and tried to get him to do what I believed. The heartbreaking truth was he’d showed me his true self over and over again. The person I thought I’d married had been a fantasy, and I couldn’t live in peace with the kind of person he truly was. I had to give up attempting to fix him, and I asked God to forgive me for trying to do His job for Him. As I recovered from our divorce, I gave up blaming my husband. He was who he was. I was who I was. Understanding this reality gave me a sense of freedom I’d not had in a very long time.
Understanding you can't fix your spouse can be liberating. You might want to try it.
Linda M. Kurth is a writer and a divorced and remarried Christian. In going through the divorce, she experienced a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. After sharing some of those experiences in her upcoming memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce, she's heard many stories of divorced Christians who have struggled with the same issues. This blog invites divorced Christians to tell their stories with the goal of encouraging churches to resist condemnation and become a source of healing and grace.
Are you a Christian with a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com
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