I needed advice. My marriage of twenty-five years was in shambles. Years of counseling had not helped us fix our problems, so I made an appointment with the women’s pastor at my new church.
“Your decision to stay or go should be based on what God wants you to do or not do. You should be asking Him what He wants from you in your marriage. If you’re leaving to escape the pain, you’ll only find more pain.”
My heart sank. This woman was half right about my motivation for wanting to leave; I was seeking to relieve the pain. Happiness was too much to ask for. I also knew she was right that I should talk with God about what He wanted me to do. The problem was, I’d been seeking God’s guidance for several years, and still I had no clear answer.
I’d stumbled along, doing the best I knew how to make my marriage work. But, despite my efforts, it continued to get worse. Nevertheless, according to this woman, if I left, I would be facing more pain rather than the relief I was seeking.
How God Views Divorce
If we believe God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), does that mean that God will work all difficult marriages for good? Always? Is this passage calling us to endure suffering in marriage for the sake of righteousness? And if we choose to divorce despite believing that, will we miss out on God’s working for our good? More than one Christian warned me that this would be my fate.
Since I’ve written other posts on this subject, I’ll sum up my understanding here. God calls some of us to stay in difficult marriages, and others He releases from those marriages. I believe He called me to remain in my marriage for as long as I did. During that time, He worked many things for my good. I also believe He released me when the time was right.
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What the Research Says
In reading research on this subject, I learned that the answer to the happiness question varies. A report by the Institute for American Values, “Does Divorce Make People Happier?” found that divorced people are no happier than unhappy couples who choose to stay married. Pepper Schwartz, author of the book Everything You Know about Love and Sex Is Wrong, says this is a flawed study because it included separated people who are most likely to be unhappy. She says data shows that divorced people become happier when the divorce is behind them.
A study by the University of Arizona and University of Colorado Boulder, rated types of marriages to determine if women were happier after divorce. Researchers found that women in troubled marriages were much happier after they divorced compared to women who remained married. “Those in the poorest quality relationships may face a variety of negative stressors from which divorce provides a clear relief,” the authors wrote.
In an online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults by Avvo, a legal research company, 75 percent of divorced women report having no regrets over the decision to divorce. Sixty-one percent of divorced men say the same. Results of other studies vary.
I believe many factors influence the level of happiness of a marriage. Factors may include physical and emotional abuse, age of children and one’s spouse’s influence on the children, finances, fidelity or lack thereof, clashing philosophies and religious beliefs, intimacy issues, different priorities and interests, and inability to resolve conflicts.
Issues influencing happiness after divorce include care of children, finances and other assets, support from family and friends, level of education, level of religious faith and support, relationship with the ex, and state of mind to name a few.
Feeling Happier Takes Time
Be in charge of your happiness, but be patient. Take time for mourning the loss of the hopes and dreams you had for your marriage. Ask the Lord to reveal to you your part in the relationships failure. Revisit why you chose your spouse is helpful. Trying to fill the void right away with someone else rarely ends well.
The period immediately after my own divorce was painful. Learning to live on my own after twenty-five years was a huge adjustment. Then, discovering that my husband had remarried within a short time of the divorce, as if our marriage had meant nothing to him, sent me into a tailspin. But I learned to lean on the Lord, and I made the choice to be happy.
My divorce did not result in missing out on God’s blessings; He has blessed me abundantly. Leaving was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’m so glad I made that choice.
For more ways to experience happiness after divorce, check out my 10 Steps for a More Joyful Life after Divorce. Click here.
Do you have 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
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.