Sometimes Good Christians Get Divorced
“For more than two decades, I’ve been working with Christians going through divorce. Tears stream down their faces as they talk about how hard they tried to make their marriage work, how much they prayed, how many times they went to counseling.
These people are not quitters.
They are committed Christians who believe in the sanctity of marriage. They take the Bible seriously, and they take marriage seriously. They looked forward to marriage all their lives, coming to the altar with an eagerness to love, give, and commit.
They were realistic about the ups and downs of marriage. They knew there would be challenges.
They knew marriage takes hard work and compromise. And when they married, they gave it their all. They forgave over and over and went the “extra mile” repeatedly, trying to be more forgiving, more agreeable, more loving.
This book is based on more than twenty years of experience leading divorce recovery and single mother’s groups, and on interviews with Christian men and women, those who took the Bible seriously and sought to follow the Lord in everything they did. They looked forward to a lifelong marriage, but they ended up unknowingly marrying someone whose vows were words only.
Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of marriages filled with betrayal, cruelty, infidelity, sexual immorality, violence, and chronic emotional abuse. I’ve cried and prayed with people as they’ve agonized about what to do. These believers begged God to heal their marriages, but the betrayals were so intense that their God-given instincts kicked in, and they finally walked away.
As the former slave, Frederick Douglass said –
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
This is how Gretchen Baskerville begins her brand new (absolutely incredible) book, The Life-Saving Divorce.
I met Gretchen on Twitter about a year ago. I was new to Twitter, and I’m not sure how we connected, but I noticed her tweets were on fire. I also noticed they were all on the subject of divorce, and having gone through one myself, I found I could relate to them.
It wasn’t long before I realized she was in the final stages of researching and writing for her book, The Life-Saving Divorce, so I invited her to do a couple of podcast episodes with me (Episode 33, “Practical Tips For Christian Single Women After Divorce” and Episode 35, “Shame Busting Your Divorce“) as well as an Expert Workshop within the private Flying Free Sisterhood group (The Ninety-Day Escape Plan).
We’ve stayed in touch and recently met in person down in Hurst, Texas for the Reclaim conference, AND she did another podcast interview which will air on Wednesday, March 4 (episode 54 for those of you reading this after the fact.)
You guys, I have been DYING to read her book, and now that is has been released, it is everything I thought it would be. It’s my number one book recommendation right now (and I think it compliments my own book fabulously, because my book introduces women to the destructiveness of their marriages and the God-given option of divorce – while her book offers all the details on what the Bible says about it, how to do it, and what to expect for yourself and your kids on the other side.)
So I want to tell you a little more about The Life-Saving Divorce and why it’s an important book to read even if you don’t plan on getting a divorce. To do this, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite quotes from each chapter.
Chapter one explains (using loads of research) why almost half of all divorces are “life saving” divorces (contrary to the “Christian” myth that 90% of divorces are frivolous).
“A life saving divorce is a way for a wife or husband to leave a destructive marriage when their spouse has repeatedly betrayed them by breaking their vows to love, honor, and cherish.”
Chapter two discusses the pros and cons of “no-fault” divorce as well as what makes a marriage destructive in the first place.
“One Christian therapist said: ‘A marriage must be safe and loving (or at least respectful), where both people are grateful for the other’s capabilities. Otherwise it is not marriage. It could be kidnapping or incarceration or servitude, but it isn’t a marriage.”
“…both spouses must sacrifice to make the marriage safe, loving, and respectful. If only one is doing it, it needs to be addressed. If it continues to be a one-sided marriage, it may be time to get out.”
She also lists some of the risk factors for getting into a bad marriage. Please notice how these risk factors are all built into much of the conservative propaganda surrounding male/female relationships and roles. Women are actually brainwashed in some religious circles to be abuse victims.
- Marrying young, fast, or early
- Having less education
- Being financially dependent
- Having low income
- Holding to a belief in biblical patriarchy
- Holding to the teachings of purity culture
- Formula thinking, or “prosperity gospel”
- Church peer pressure
She goes into detail explaining how each of these things contributes to the likelihood of getting into a destructive marriage as well as how to talk to your kids and help them avoid falling into these traps.
But what about those of us who bought into this kind of belief system and ended up in abusive marriages? We’ve believed religious propaganda cultivated specifically to keep women in a power-under position instead of a side-by-side warrior position of love and freedom that more powerfully impacts the world for Christ. This propaganda is what the next chapter is all about.
Chapter three exposes 27 false ideas or assumptions about divorce and those who choose to get one. Gretchen says that in her divorce recovery groups she has learned that “very good spouses are very hard on themselves.” And I would agree with that 100%. I won’t list all 27 here, but I’ll give you a few.
- You don’t take God-ordained marriage seriously
- You didn’t try hard enough
- If your spouse was THAT BAD, everyone would know it
- You aren’t perfect either
- You can’t demand to be treated right because Christians don’t have rights
- It’s your fault because you didn’t submit enough
- The person who files for divorce is the one who caused the divorce
- God will heal your marriage if you pray and trust enough
- It’s God’s will for you to suffer quietly
- Marriage is the best way to grow in maturity
- God forbids divorce
- Divorce will destroy your children
Gretchen talks about each myth in detail – and then gives one-line answers that are easy to remember and use to rewire your brain with truth. (I love those.)
Chapter four talks about the different types of abuse.
Chapter five is all about the decision to stay or go. Gretchen explains ten of the most common “turning points” for people that cause them to realize their marriage is over, and it’s time to go.
Here are a few:
- The desire to protect their children from witnessing and experiencing abuse
- Severe depression, anxiety, physical ailments, and suicidal ideation
- Waking up to the realization that they are being abused
- Discovering that God is not a cruel abuser but a God who desires to set captives free
Gretchen also gives several practical lists of things you will need to prepare to get out of your marriage. (Preparation is ideal before making your exit!) I wish I had this information before I had filed for divorce.
Chapter six is important for women of faith. It explains what the Bible says about divorce in a very straightforward, easy-to-understand way using visual charts and all the most recent discoveries from ancient texts. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. If the only thing standing between being a prisoner and being set free is your belief that the Bible says you can’t – then you need to read this. Because that’s a lie. The Bible says you CAN. And in fact, I would argue that the Bible says you MUST in order to be spiritually and emotionally and physically healthy.
Chapter seven is all about raising kids after divorce.
“In this chapter, we will cover the two types of divorce; we will look at research studies that indicate that most kids in life-saving divorces come out fine; and we will examine surveys that show most children of divorce bounce back after those first two rough years.
We will also see studies that show most children of divorce don’t do drugs, or have any serious emotional, psychological, or social problems.
Finally, we’ll discuss tips on how to be the best parent you can be–both during the divorce itself, and as you are rebuilding your life after it’s official.”
I love the following quote as well because it’s something I’ve had a hard time wrapping my brain around. WHY DO RELIGIOUS FOLKS GIVE SUCH BAD ADVICE TO PEOPLE?
“…life-saving divorce doesn’t fit our religious narrative. Many Christian marriage authors imply that problems in any nuclear family–mother, father, and kids–can all be solved if the godly spouse just tries harder.
This just simply isn’t true. There are no guarantees, and no one should sacrifice their or their child’s wellbeing for this false message.
This delusion causes people in desperate situations to cling to hope and stay in harm’s way when it would be better if they got to safety. People of faith need to understand that more than 40% of divorces are life-saving divorces.
God cares about children, and he cares about adults. We must stand beside those who choose safety–offering support, not judgment.”
Chapter eight is wonderful. It gives 36 traits of a safe church. This is so important to understand, because most of the women I’ve worked with have been tangled up in churches that are totally unsafe for abuse targets and have actually re-targeted the victims, causing even more damage to their spirits and bodies.
Here are just a few of the 36 traits (and she goes into detail on each one!)
- A safe church knows that marriage problems aren’t just spiritual. They may also be medical or psychological.
- A safe church considers the person who breaks the vows responsible. Not the one who files the paperwork.
- A safe church realizes that God doesn’t heal all marriages anymore than he heals all cancer, all birth defects, or all car accident injuries. Having a difficult marriage doesn’t mean you aren’t a godly person.
- A safe church views both physical and chronic emotional abuse as acceptable reasons for divorce–in addition to infidelity and abandonment.
- A safe church assures you the final decision of divorce is up to the abuse victim.
- A safe church doesn’t hold the “permanence view” of marriage.
- A safe church doesn’t silence victims.
- Safe pastors show humility and admit when they’ve been wrong.
- Safe pastors don’t believe or promote the myths listed in chapter three.
- Safe churches don’t pressure the abuse target to reconcile.
Chapter nine discusses male victims of abuse and betrayal. The kind of advice often given in religious environments not only sets up a scenario for the abuse of women – but also for the abuse of men. The idea that “one person can control another adult’s behavior simply by setting a good example” is flawed and false. The fact is that each person is responsible only for their own behavior and never for the behavior of another adult.
The Complementarian message for men is that they need to take the larger portion of the blame for the woman’s sin. But each person is responsible for taking the blame for their OWN sin. And nobody is responsible for the happiness of another person. Adults are responsible for their own happiness.
“The truth is that there are a lot of people in society who are not capable of having a healthy marriage. For one reason or another–sometimes due to their childhood or a personality disorder or something else–they are self-absorbed or self-protective and are not kind, fair, respectful, responsible, or reliable. They are not ‘marriage material.’
I’m not saying they aren’t valuable or worthy of love. Many of them are fun, great conversationalists, and quite charming. And all people, regardless of their shortcomings, are valuable in the eyes of God and are made in His image.
But they aren’t good marriage partners.
And nothing you can do, no example you can set, no love you can offer, will fix them. They have to do the hard work to change themselves. Sadly, many do not.”
Chapter ten is about moving on and finding happiness again. She discusses forgiveness, loneliness, long-term singleness, dating and remarriage, and re-establishing your own life and autonomy. She ends with some quotes from survivors who got out. This one is my favorite:
“While I was still in my abusive marriage, I thought God was like my husband. My view of God was that he had an ego, there was a narcissistic part of him. Because if God wasn’t like that, then God wouldn’t be okay with my husband treating me like that. When I was able to talk about the abuse, then I realized the picture in my head was wrong. I know who God is now.”
What can I say? Get this book.
And fly free!
P.S. Need help for your confusing and painful marriage? The Flying Free Sisterhood will change your life! Head over HERE to find out more!