Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash
I want to start off by acknowledging that every divorce is different and that I do not want to generalise. I have however learnt a few things after divorce became my reality, that I want to share. My hope is that it can give some insight and help people to better support someone going through divorce.
Some common beliefs about divorce:
1. Divorce is a choice
Is this true? Is this really true? Or is there a possibility that the person/s making the decision has reached a point where they realise that the relationship is more destructive than good. That they cannot love and honour themselves and the other person if they stay in the situation.
2. Divorce is an impulse decision
In my experience one doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to walk out on your marriage. The decision happens after trying and trying and trying to make it work. Some seek council and therapy over and over again; some pray for years…
3. Divorce will hurt the children
Yes, divorce will hurt the children, but so might staying or continuing a relationship that is not honouring the needs of both parties. What are you modelling to your children if you are constantly in conflict? What are you modelling if you have to make yourself smaller so that another can be “in charge’’ or bigger? What are you modelling if you allow disrespect and abuse? What are you modelling if you stay and are unhappy deep in your soul.
4. Divorce is a sin
I used to believe this, before I did extensive research about the origin of marriage and the concept of “marriage as ordained by God”. To understand the term marriage, we will have to look at the way marriage has developed over the ages from being an arrangement between parents for the mutual (financial) benefit of both parties (yes, this is how they did it in biblical times). We will have to look at the fact that it was OK (even for Godly men) to have more than one wife, and even concubines (all Jacob etc). We will have to understand that at some point celibacy was thought to be the ideal if one was a Christian and an allowance was made for the weak ones to get married if they could not restrain themselves from having sex. Eventually the government realised that it is to their benefit to get involved and “organise’’ society by making marriage a legal agreement, in this way they could at least make sure that men looked after woman and the children they fathered, because it was not custom for woman to work and they often ended up destitute with no other option than prostitution as a way to take care of themselves and their children. This being said; men could legally get a divorce and they could get it on any basis, even if they didn’t find the woman attractive anymore. Woman could only get a divorce if she had two male witnesses willing to testify that her husband was unfaithful to her. This was the divorce arrangements Jesus was commenting on in the Bible. So, there is absolutely no concept like a Biblical portrait of marriage. I want to suggest that the best we could do in terms of describing a biblical marriage would be to say that it is a relationship between two parties where both can love themselves and the other in equal measure. If this is not true, for whatever reason, essentially one already has a non-marriage (divorce).
Unless you are willing to question your own beliefs about divorce and why it happens, you will not be able to support someone through it. Therefore, I decided to start off with the assumptions stated above. To help you challenge your own beliefs.
So how do you support someone going through divorce?
The same way you would support someone who lost their life partner/family as the result of death.
1. You acknowledge the divorce – Something like “I heard about your divorce; I am so sorry that you are going through this right now.” It is crazy how many people just do not acknowledge this life altering event. They obviously know about it, but they just continue as if nothing happened.
2. You bring them food from time to time, you take them out for coffee.
3. You still invite them to visit with you and your husband/wife, they did not suddenly become a threat to your marriage.
4. You offer to babysit their children or invite their teens over so that they can have some “time off”.
5. You DO NOT ask if they did everything possible to save their marriage, would you ask someone who’s spouse died if they did everything possible to save them?
6. You DO NOT talk about your other friend who got divorced and how he/she got through it.
7. You DO NOT talk about how you got through your divorce, because your circumstances might be completely different.
8. You ask if there is financial need, and you support if you can.
You offer a shoulder to cry on and you listen without judgement and to much advice, because the person you are dealing with just had their whole world come crashing down around them, they lost something very, very precious…the hope of a happy family.
I am a Grief Counselor & Self-care coach.