By Jen Grice, Crosswalk.com
Divorce rates aside, about half of all marriages are still ending in divorce. Many people have been faced with their partner leaving, cheating, or no longer being safe to live with, so divorce is an often searched topic. Faced with an unwanted divorce, people are navigating the next steps of the divorce legal system and the emotional healing after. The stories that come into my Christian divorce ministry are many, but the recurring theme is, What should I do? from women across the world.
I've been encouraging and empowering people to survive their unwanted divorce since 2015. By "unwanted," I mean divorce caused by abuse, adultery, addiction, or abandonment by the other partner in the marriage. This doesn't mean that you cannot initiate the divorce for your physical, emotional, or legal safety. You can want a divorce to escape an unresolved problem and still be going through an unwanted divorce.
So what should Christians do when faced with this bad situation? I am here to navigate this path with you, and so are many other helpers out there.
Seek Professional Help to Navigate this Season
It's often a wise decision to hire an attorney to help you with all the legal aspects of the divorce. A lawyer will ensure you are getting your rightful share of the marital property and that all documents are submitted to the court correctly for the judge's signature. An educated attorney will advocate for you and direct your paths. But your Heavenly Advocate will also go before you and walk with you through this journey.
I've seen many outcomes in my years of coaching women through their divorce—some good and some not so good. But I remind my clients that even if your outcome after divorce is not what you expected, God is still there working out the details for your (or your children's) good. We often can't see everything that God sees. He sees the future. And He's creating a masterpiece out of the destruction of divorce. You just need to trust Him with everything.
Have Boundaries About Who You Share What With
As I share in my first book, You Can Survive Divorce, during my divorce, I was emotionally bleeding all over the place without any boundaries about who to tell what. This caused me to tell unsafe people about the destruction of my marriage. It also started some gossip at church and unwelcome advice on how I should be seeking reconciliation instead of divorce.
This was a huge learning lesson to close in my inner circle and only share with those I could really trust. When closing in your inner circle, you will only share information with people who you can trust with this information. This also protects you from further emotional damage caused by people who don't have your safety and best interest at heart.
Have Boundaries with Your Soon-To-Be Ex-Spouse
If your spouse has left you, especially for someone else, they may have had a lot more time to think about this divorce and prepare their case. This is why you need to get that legal counsel right away, close in your inner circle, and then establish boundaries to protect yourself, your marital assets, and your emotional health. There are many reasons to keep good boundaries with your ex during and after divorce.
One of the many things I often see while someone is going through a divorce is trying to reconcile with a spouse who's already made up their mind that they will divorce. This doesn't go well when the spouse who left and is seeking a divorce may be using this position to get an advantage in the divorce process. Plain and simple, they manipulate their spouse to win in court. Boundaries during the divorce process mean you cannot trust them with information. You cannot give them access to you while there is a legal battle going on.
The divorce process must be stopped, and professional help sought before you can trust that this person is not just out for selfish gain.
Another important aspect to consider is the organization of your life and your legal divorce paperwork. There will be so many papers to fill out, collect, and keep organized that I advise people to create a divorce and custody binder during and after their divorce. Having everything in one place, well organized for easy retrieval, will elevate this small amount of stress in your already stressful divorce season.
Being organized also makes you look well-prepared and professional when going to court. For me, it was a matter of having the documentation to prove what I was saying in court. Other women (and men) showed their lawyers that they were organized and ready for any upcoming court appearance or trial. Obviously, we always hope to have an amicable divorce case, but being organized and prepared is the best course of action when that's not possible.
Another aspect of being organized is proving what you are saying is true. When you have integrity and can prove it, things should go better for you in court.
Seek to Handle Everything with Integrity
Many people deal with anger when faced with an unwanted divorce. That anger may instruct you to do things you would not be proud of later. That's why I suggest people deal with their anger in healthier ways and seek to handle everything with integrity instead.
It can be easy to go along with the world's standards of living and behaving during and after your divorce. This includes dating while you're still legally married. The marriage may be broken beyond repair, but God still holds you to those vows until a judge signs your divorce to be finalized, ending the marriage.
People will tell you to "move on" with your life just because your spouse has. But that doesn't mean it's right or even healthy to move on to another relationship. I find that those who have waited to date until the marriage is officially over and have also taken time to personally heal do so much better in life and their relationships.
Healing takes a lot of time after a divorce. You need time to be alone and work on your emotional health. Without that time, you run the risk of marrying someone who has the same personality as your ex-spouse, so you end up having the same problems just with a new spouse. This could be why second and third marriages end in divorce more often than first marriages.
Remember to Trust God and Have Hope That Things Will Get Better
Hope is knowing that something good can come out of something terrible. Hope makes you feel grounded during this storm. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:19) And hope is necessary to get you through this difficult time without being crumbled by the weight of it all.
God makes promises to all His people, even divorced people. He will never leave or forsake you, even if your spouse has. He goes before you and protects you from all of life's storms. And God will redeem and restore you after your divorce. His promises are something you need to hold tight to during this season because He can be trusted. I share my story as proof of God's goodness, kindness, providence, and protection. If I could survive my unwanted divorce caused by adultery, you can also survive yours. We can walk this journey together.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Daniel Tadevosyan
Jen Grice is a divorce coach and author of the books, You Can Survive Divorce and Your Restoration Journey about recovery and redemption after divorce. After her own unwanted divorce in 2013, Jen started a ministry to encourage and empower Christian women to not only survive but thrive after divorce caused by adultery, abuse, or abandonment. You can learn more about her ministry at JenGrice.com. Jen can also be found on YouTube talking about preparing for and divorcing a narcissist. And her books can be found at B&N or on Amazon.