I am now one of the older men who was surprised by divorce out of the blue. A marriage of almost 3 decades has been ended because my wife continued her decision to be unhappy and withdraw from the marriage to its logical conclusion. Friends and family helped out, but it was built on the decision in her own heart a long time ago, possibly before we got married.
I had read stories about men hit with this, but I did not expect it to happen to me. I am still walking through things, as the divorce is not final, but I am finding a few things I expect to be writing more about in the near future. It is a tough time, but I follow a God who is able to help us through tough times.
Some points I have directly experienced. This post is tied to the Christian church, but the principles apply to much of modern western society.
- A woman can make up almost any claim and be believed. This is especially true if she has been unhappy(and told others about that unhappiness for a longer time. They will quickly assume that the husband is the guilty party who was really causing the problems and making the marriage unbearable.
- The church does not challenge significantly wives who chose to nuke their marriages, even long term ones. Some may tell her that “divorce is not an option” and encourage counseling, but they will normally assume she was just pushed to this point by an abusive husband who really needs to fix his life. Any response by the husband will be considered temporary and to only have the goal of getting his wife back. No genuine change can happen, in their eyes, without counseling. This usually involves an outside party telling the husband how wrong he was and how he needs to better meet his wife’s needs.
- The church provides almost no support for husbands in this situation. It is almost impossible to build connections when something like this hits. Men are not singles again until the divorce is final, so they are completely hung out to dry and provided no support beyond the perfunctory “how are you doing?” greetings at church services.
The latter is almost the worse part. Singles groups generally encourage singles to “seek reconciliation” as if some of us hadn’t done all we could in that area already. See my prior post about how hard it is for men to connect with others in the church and this situation becomes quite challenging. I have heard of some divorce counseling classes and options, but what good does it do to spend time figuring out what the man did wrong in the marriage if the wife will not be involved in any way?
I am fortunate that I have had a deep relationship with God for many years, so it will weather this outright attack on many fronts, but I would guess that many are not so blessed. It has strained my relationship with some church leaders since they are completely oblivious to their actions in these areas and can’t really relate to leaving people hanging out on their own.
I would strongly encourage any readers not in the middle of this situation to think about what they can do to help in this situation, especially if it hits a man in their church or circle of friends. Churches are mostly geared to pour the support on for the wife, especially if she is soon to be a single mother, but few will do much of anything for the man. Consider getting together with him. Even going out to eat can be a blessing. Let him talk as needed, but don’t needlessly draw any discussion into complaining about the situation. We all need to vent at times, but we must always seek to go through tough times, not get stuck in them, even if in our own mind. Having several friends to lean on can help a man not be so alone as he walks through this serious betrayal.
Hopefully I can make a post later on things I believe would have helped me. That could then expand on this and help others facing the hell that is the murder of a long term marriage.
I would encourage everyone to also be at least a bit skeptical of claims of abuse. Help people get to safety, but don’t immediately assume every last detail of what is claimed is accurate, especially if the complaining partner quickly sets up a situation, possibly at the expense of the former partner, where they can once again enjoy the “benefits” of being single and living their lives only for themselves.
Any Christian who divorces for any reason except adultery (and possibly even then) is definitely not following the will of their Lord. Stop enabling such rebellion if you have done so! Those who sin in this way will likely still do it, but it should not be with the help of anyone in their church!