Last week I shared how I felt I was shunned by a church I had been attending during my divorce. Whether true or not, I felt I was being blamed for giving up on my marriage when I had fought hard to hold it together for so very long. And still, after all that time spent in prayer, my marriage failed.
I wonder if this is why so many Christian women feel like a failure after divorce.
Readers don’t all say the same thing, but the common message I hear from their stories is, “I feel like a failure!“
We know we prayed. We know we tried to get him to help with his issues or persuade him to come back home. We waited and waited for things to change. And we know how we would have done anything to keep our marriage together. But we still feel guilty that it ended anyway.
That’s a huge weight to carry.
I believe this is because women are given the clear message and unfair expectations of “keep the home” and “keep your husband happy.” That the responsibility rests on our shoulders.
When a divorce happens it can look and feel like we failed at our task – to be the best wife that we can be. Proverbs 31 websites and ministries can make the divorced woman feel as though she hadn’t done enough, when in fact she had. She did everything she could and still, it ended in divorce.
We have to remind ourselves that God gives everyone free will. He doesn’t control any man and neither can we. We can let go of that heavy weight of responsibility and self-directed burden when we clearly see that we had done everything we could have and should have done. (When we didn’t, we repent and seek God’s will for how to correct that.)
My guess is many women stay in broken marriages because they fear that term “failure” will be pinned on them as well. And I’m not remarried to know this, but I wonder how many second marriages happen only because one divorced woman (or man) wanted to prove they weren’t a failure to everyone watching.
In my past, I can see myself doing that and I did stay long after God released me. But now those don’t seem like wise choices, after my own failures.
Was my time wasted?
When I think back to all those nights I spent crying out to God to fix my marriage. All those hours I spent on my knees asking for Him to change the circumstances. Hours spent reading Christian self-help books and online resources trying to change who I was so that I would be the only one for him.
Looking back and thinking about all of that makes me sad that I was wasting all of that time for nothing and for someone who couldn’t love me. Nothing but divorce came from my hard work and sacrifice.
But then I realized I needed to change how I evaluated that time. Maybe it wasn’t wasted. Maybe there was more to that time than the outcome.
I was able to love even after I was deeply wounded. I was able to forgive time and time again even after he promised it wouldn’t happen again. Love is a gift that I was able to give even if the receiver wasn’t able to receive it or didn’t even appreciate it.
God loves all of His children, and yet still people reject Him. So He knows how we feel!
My willingness to put in the time and hard work that it takes to hold a marriage together proves that I’m able to do it. And should be able to in the future. My willingness to love shows that I’m able to give love even in the worst of circumstances. Also, I have love within me because of the close relationship that came out of spending so much time with God during those long, hard years.
Love is something that is in us only if we have love (God). A God-given gift we share with others. Knowing how to love means we’re capable of love even if our love is not given back to return. Our time wasn’t wasted because we now know that we’re not a failure at love for having a failed marriage. We can love those who could never love us the same in return.
When did failure become a bad word?
Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street. – Zig Ziglar
Yes, our marriage failed. Yes, some of us have failed as a parent. (Raising my hand at that!)
In my second semester of community college, I failed Principles of Accounting 1, as an accounting major. I even dropped out of school for a time to decide what I wanted to do next while feeling like a failure. After returning I learned that psychology and sociology were my best subjects, which then became my focus. After receiving my associate’s degree, I went on to graduate cum laude with a business degree from a much bigger university. That one failure propelled me to do better and find out where I really belonged.
They say failure is life’s best teacher.
I believe failed marriages can do the same for us. Failure can hold you back or teach you how to move forward to a healthier life. We can learn to be more cautious in our choices, our decisions, and our commitments. Or we can just create a dead-end.
I believe when we allow our failures to stop us, that’s when we become a failure, not when we fail.
Let go of the weight of failure. It won’t help you to embrace this time and heal after divorce. But letting go can help you to find new standards and rebuild the right way after divorce.
Have you learned from your failures in life? Can you let go of the weight of divorce failure to help you move forward after?
God bless your healing journey,
Pam D. says
Couldn’t have said it better my self Jen! Thank you!
Jen Grice says
Thank you, Pam, for such a kind compliment. I really appreciate that! 🙂
Thank you, Jen! Love this post…Every word is so true!
Jen Grice says
Thank you, Tina. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
Even after my husband left, I frantically tried to fix our marriage. One church I visited had gone through a church split. The pastor asked the congregation to write the name of someone we want to reconcile with on a card and put it in a barrel. What a relief! My husband wasn’t my burden to carry – he is God’s. I wasn’t a failure. I wasn’t giving up – I was giving him to God.
When I attended Divorce Care, I met wonderful, smart, devout, beautiful women in this same boat. I couldn’t count them as failures, so why should I put that label on myself?
Jen Grice says
So true! We need to give it to God and then accept the outcome.
Also, we deserve the same kind of respect and compassion as we give to others.
Great input! Thank you, Cathy!
Jen Grice says
I am currently separated from my husband, It was my decision to leave. The reason I left was because for years I have felt like everyone and everything else came first to him. He has 3 children in their 20’s from a previous marriage. In the last 2 years, he and I have not gone on a trip together by ourselves, but he has gone on 2 trips with his son and 1 with his daughter. And the 2 trips we were on the 2 years before were to visit his son where he was stationed in the military. He was and is a workaholic. He had his own painting and remodeling business for the last 9 1/2 years. I couldn’t make solid plans for the weekend because I never knew if he’s be working that Saturday or not. Evenings were out too, because I never knew how late he would be working. Several times he worked until 8 p.m. or later. Every Sunday after church he lifted weights with one of our pastors, so no plans for Sunday afternoon either. If we did go out together, it almost always included a trip to a home improvement or paint store to get things for work. And the conversation was always about the jobs he was working on and how stressed out he was by his work. There were things I told him I needed from him to feel loved and cherished. When I would tell him, a few things would happen. Either he would do better for a week or 2 and things would go back to how they were previously. He would get upset and tell me that everything he does is for me and I just don’t see it and expect too much. I would feel guilty for wanting my husband to love me more than all these other things. Or to expect him to attempt to fill my love tank. Church was another area that would come before me as well. If the church or someone at the church needed help, he would make time for that. I finally made the decision to tell him how I was feeling, it didn’t go well. He acted as thought this was all a shock to him and I had never before mentioned a word about any of this. He acted out quite a bit at first. It then got better, but even now, (4 months later), he still tells me how doing this to him is me walking away from God. I moved out about 4 weeks ago and am ready to pursue a divorce, but am being told by him and leaders at my church that I have no biblical grounds for divorce. And am very much being pressured to not pursue it and instead work on my marriage. I feel very lost in all of this. I would appreciate outside input from Christians who don’t personally know us.
Jen Grice says
I hope you’re digging into God’s word for yourself for the answers. I found it helpful to take 1 Corinthians 13 and plug in my ex-husband’s name in the place of love. Was he a loving, kind, and generous person or was our marriage toxic and beyond repair? That helped me to decide. I also wrote an article to help other women decide because often pastors and church leaders care more about the institution of marriage than they care about the people in it.