Question (from Facebook community): “How do you deal with the shame/blame/guilt from loved ones regarding your separation/divorce?”
Somewhere in the middle of my separation, when I was feeling particularly beat up, I took out a piece of paper and drew a line across the top. On one end I wrote: those who will love me no matter how this ends, and on the other: those who will completely disagree with me if my marriage ends in divorce. I thought through the thirty or so most important people in my life and I was able to immediately place each one at some point on the continuum based on things they had said to me in the months leading up to that time. I felt both deep sadness and deep relief wash over me.
I was sad because I realized that there were some people who I had considered to be part of my core support system that I knew I would not be able to count on fully, who I could no longer share all of my heart and struggles with because, even if nothing were actually said out loud, I knew they were disapproving of me.
But there was relief because this process of separation and divorce has been a removing-the-wheat-from-the-chaff kind of thing. Though I was disappointed to come to terms with having to tighten up my inner circle, I realized my newer and smaller support system was strong and unwavering. I was bolstered up simply by the knowledge that I was surrounded by enough people who loved me and who would be there on the other side, no matter what.
So, here’s what you can do as you figure out who you can count on and who to emotionally walk away from.
Pray. Ask God for the human support you need, to make it clear who you can count on, and to even provide new members of your tribe if that’s what you need right now.
Look around. Who is in your life? Who do you avoid? Who do you feel completely comfortable with? Who makes you cringe when their name comes up on your cell phone or when you open your inbox? Who makes you feel stronger and closer to God? Who makes you feel like you can’t do anything right? Who makes you feel like you just spent some time with Jesus each time you’re with her?
Be discerning. Not everyone in your life needs to know all the details of your life. You are allowed to share varying degrees of your story depending on who the person is. And believe it or not, you’re also totally allowed to say, “I’d rather not talk about it.”
Be prepared. No matter how careful you are in who you choose to share your heart with, odds are you are going to hear some harsh words. Someone in your life is not going to agree with your circumstances, your decisions, your emotional process, you name it. Even if you are not the one initiating the separation or divorce. Trust me. So you are absolutely going to have to develop a tougher skin. You’ll need to be ready with an answer if someone confronts you. But I don’t mean a nasty, defensive answer. I mean something like, “This decision is between me and God alone,” or “I see where you’re coming from. I used to think that way too. If you really want to help me, praying for me right now would be great.”
Lay it down. Take all those harsh words, even the ones you might make up against yourself (“I should’ve been able to stay married”, “I must not be lovable enough”, “I didn’t work hard enough at my marriage”, etc.), and lay them down before Jesus. Ask him to reveal to you the truth. Ask him to tell you what he thinks of you instead of worrying about what others think of you. Only what he thinks about you matters. Really and truly. And what he thinks about you is filled with grace and mercy and compassion, but most of all, love. If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.