Laura Petherbridge serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, relationships, marriage enhancement, and divorce recovery. She is an international speaker and author of, When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t’: Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce. You can find out more about Laura at www.laurapetherbridge.com.
Q: Let’s say a woman comes to you saying her marriage is hard and she is looking for ways to make it better. What resources would you point her to?
A: This is a very difficult question as I usually need to know more. And as a divorce recovery expert, people sometimes assume I’m “soft on divorce” which is completely untrue. However…
Typically when they email me in this situation, it’s due to drugs, alcohol, abuse or domestic violence. In those situations, my two favorite resources are The Emotional Destructive Marriage (Leslie Vernick) and Boundaries in Marriage (Cloud & Townsend).
In my opinion Leslie gives women the best advice on how to recognize and understand that tolerating and ignoring abuse is not love, mercy or grace. And that it’s not biblical. Without encouraging divorce, she explains why looking the other way actually damages and destroys the marriage rather than preserving it. Very few Christian resources address this.
I also have a new DVD entitled The Pursuit for Happily Ever After—Revealing Truth About Relationships where I share eight myths we believe about marriage that ultimately causes the relationship to fail. It’s sort of a “divorce prevention” message that I’ve discovered after twenty-two years in divorce ministry for anyone single, single again or married that desires to understand the ROOT reasons why relationships fail.
Q: A woman’s marriage is beyond difficult; what advice would you give her to determine if the marriage is salvageable?
A: I point her to find an excellent Christian counselor who understands the above issues, and who will help her learn how to set boundaries that will either cause the spouse to “wake up” and work on the relationship, or it causes the relationship to die. This counselor doesn’t focus on “date night”, communication skills, finances, or intimacy. Those are symptoms of deeper problems. He/she tackles the root issues.
Many church leaders are unwilling to do this because they know if the husband’s feet are held to the fire he may bolt. And in the church we often idolize and worship marriage, more than we do God.
Q: A woman finds herself divorcing, what are some ways she can take care of herself emotionally and spiritually during this vulnerable time?
A: I’m a big advocate of a healthy divorce recovery support group such as DivorceCare. When I meet someone who has been divorced, even if it was 10 years ago and they are remarried, I can normally tell within 15 minutes into our conversation if they attended one or not. That’s how radically different the healing is, if the leadership is good. These groups provide support, information, a place to grieve, Bible teaching, prayer support, and same sex social activities.
Q: Now divorced, a woman faces her family, her friends and her church. Some believe, no matter how the divorce came to be, that she should still be married. What advice do you have for this woman to protect her heart from the disapproval and criticism of others?
A: First, she needs to learn who her Daddy is. Once she learns that she is zealously loved by God, and it’s not about performance, the healing begins and the arrows from others become less painful.
Second, she needs to surround herself with people who are not legalistic. This doesn’t mean they won’t speak truth to her, but rather those who are hungry to become like Christ. They understand that they don’t know the entire situation, and they pray to live the perfect “Jesus balance” between truth and grace. They speak truth, but in love and without condemnation. This type of friend is a rare find.
Third, use the pain for a higher purpose. Let the scar serve others, it brings purpose to the pain. The first place to consider is a DR support group either for adults or kids. If that’s not a fit then possible single parents or another outreach group. Once you see how God will use YOUR situation to benefit others, then when people attack you it’s easier for the bullet to bounce because you are able to remember all those you have helped.
Fourth, she still needs a support group for “after the divorce” where she can continue to learn and grow (this will help her refrain from dating too soon.) Plus it will help her discover “how did I get here?, when I saw those red flags while I dated my former spouse, why did I ignore them?”
Finding the answer to this question, and HEALING from the reason, is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT piece for her healing. My favorite resource for this subject is Safe People by Cloud and Townsend.