I married when I was 21 years old. Being married for life and having six children is what I always wanted.
My father married seven times and had eight daughters. I was one of six daughters he had with my mother, his second wife. Witnessing my father’s relationships, I made an inner vow that divorce would never be an option for me. My conversion to Christianity at 20 years old reinforced my commitment.
Before we were married, my husband and I argued often. And long. Our arguments would last hours, not because I liked to argue (one accusation he always threw at me), but because the misunderstanding preceding any of those arguments “emasculated” him.
Despite the fighting, we married anyway.
I told myself fighting was just part of a relationship; my husband was my “best friend”, and I had heard my dad say of his seventh marriage that he married his best friend, so… yeah.
We did all the appropriate things as a young married couple in Christ: served in many capacities in ministry, attended every church service, conducted ourselves as disciples of Christ by avoiding corrupt speech, not allowing the enemy to corrupt our eye-gates, our ear-gates, or our hearts by remaining firmly rooted in the Word of God.
We raised our six children in the fear of the Lord, leading by example.
It wasn’t until 20 years into our marriage that I understood how literal – and how destructive to our children – that example had become.
I feared my husband when he was angry.
He never physically struck me, but he was frightening when he yelled. And he always yelled over me when I tried to speak during his rages. If he had to leave during an argument because of work, he always returned angrier than before. Stepping away never calmed him down. I’d try to get some sleep but we’d argue more when he got home, often because he’d wake me up to continue.
Fear the man of the house.
When our children weren’t seeing our arguments, they were hearing them. Sometimes it was them he was angry with – or at least just one of them – but they all had to sit and suffer through the rage.
Fear the father.
I usually backed him up because that’s what a “good Christian wife” is supposed to do. Sometimes I’d plead the case of one of our children, but he’d shout me down about how a house divided cannot stand and that our children would suffer for not seeing their parents united.
God hates divorce.
The last few years of our marriage, our oldest spiraled downward with a suicide plan that nearly came to pass; our second born could not express her emotions without being chastised for doing it “inappropriately”; our third was prescribed anti-anxiety meds for what everyone thought was an anxious personality type, while our youngest children observed and learned from their siblings to fly under the rage radar. They feared their father the same way I did.
One afternoon, nearly 23 years into our marriage, I decided to fear no longer. My husband was angry, accusing me of misusing my own words, “When you said this, you meant that.”
I grew a spine and held my ground, “I am done doing this. I am done arguing with you about what I mean when I say something. You can think what you want, but I am telling you that you do not get to tell me one more time what it is I mean when I say something.”
Months passed, and during those months one of our daughters was engaging in an on-again, off-again relationship with a manipulative fellow. I had been allowing myself to finally consider divorce but was struggling, thinking I could stick it out, at least until our youngest was older.
And then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.
One day, after our second-born daughter got back together with her emotionally abusive boyfriend, one of her brothers asked, “Why do you keep going back to him?”
Her reply sent chills up my newly grown spine, “You stick together and work it out. It’s just what you do. Look at Mommy and Papa.”
Holy. Crap. I knew what I had to do. I didn’t want my daughters to follow in my footsteps, allowing their life partners to treat them as I had allowed myself to be treated. Nor did I want my sons to find life partners who fit the example modeled by their mom.
So I divorced their dad.
And our daughter kicked her boyfriend to the curb and began developing healthier relationship boundaries.
Inadvertently, we discovered our third born no longer needed anti-anxiety meds.
Divorce healed my family.
Our home is finally calm; a place of solace as it has never been. When I was young, I thought my marriage would last forever. I just didn’t realize that ever after could mean after divorce.
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