When Lisa and her husband separated, she was outcast by her family because of their religious beliefs about divorce. She never got the chance to explain the reason why she wanted to end the marriage. As tragic as that is, Lisa has come to find her own God who is much less judgmental than the God she grew up with. Here’s Lisa:
[contemplate1] My ex told my parents that I was having an affair and that I was spreading rumors about him, so my parents and my brother now hang out with him and haven’t spoken to me in four years.
I’ve lost my entire family because they are born-again Christians and I am “out from under the spiritual guideline.” My brother wrote me a letter. His children are no longer allowed in my house because I have a “demonic spirit of divorce in my soul.” My children lost their cousins, their grandparents and their aunt and uncle who live four blocks away.
I’ve written them each letters and stuff, but when they found out about the separation, they blocked everything. I didn’t have a chance to tell them.
There were some other strains there anyway. According to my therapist at the time, my parents have borderline personality disorders, because they’ve cut off so many relatives and friends. Everything is black and white for them, they don’t really want to negotiate the gray area. They’re just unhealthy, toxic people and they always have been, I’ve known this growing up because my dad was abusive.
My mom said to me, “You’d be nothing without your father and I.”
I knew that wasn’t true, but it took a long time not to believe it because you think if your parents can’t love you, who can? They know you best. It took a while with counseling to realize I’ve had the same friends since second grade, I’m outgoing, I don’t have enemies, I don’t have anyone that’s cut off that I’m not speaking to anymore, a twenty-two year marriage and a great relationship with my kids.
I had to start realizing that I was just one of the many people they’d cut off and it wasn’t just me. I didn’t want to be in denial because I remember saying, “Is it me? Is there something wrong?”
At first it was hard. I really would have liked my mom to be with me during the divorce, but maybe not that mom. I didn’t have any family support whatsoever, I just had a few good friends and my boyfriend. So I just tried to not talk about it very much and kept the drama pretty low. I didn’t want to be one of those people like “oh guess what he did today?” They don’t care, they don’t care as much as you think they do. They start thinking you’re kind of a drama queen.
I went into the marriage without an identity because of my childhood. Being raised in a very strict, fundamentalist, Christian, evangelical home is great for some people, but taken to an extreme, it can really damage people. I’m convinced. I love God, but to have your dad be mean and yelling and breaking and throwing stuff on a Sunday morning and then going to church charadeing his hands and praying tongues or whatever the hell he’s doing, it didn’t compute to me. It’s taken me years to just know that different people are different and it doesn’t mean all Christians are bad and it doesn’t mean all people who don’t believe in God are going to hell like they told me, it’s just my parents had such strict black and white rules I had to believe. I had to unbelieve them. I had to make my own decisions, and that took a while.
I’ve worked so hard on myself the past several years, and I feel like I have an identity, I know who I am, I know what I like, I know who to vote for, I’m not just following my parents. I don’t go to the same church as they do just because they go, my God is now a different God from theirs. He’s not the mean, judgmental God. I feel like I have a real relationship with him, without them telling me when to go to church, when to pray. It was such a controlling childhood.
It took me years to realize that I don’t have to hang around with them, and I don’t hate them. It’s hard to respect them, but the only way I can honor them as their daughter is to be the best person I can be, whether that’s with or without them. I’ve had to move on to save myself. It’s bad, but I’ve had to do it.
Losing your family, for whatever reason is very difficult to accept. We have a “family” culture, perhaps not as much as some Far Eastern or African cultures that place a higher value on the extended family but nevertheless, we grow up knowing we should love our parents, love our siblings, stick together no matter what, that blood is thicker than water.
Confronting disagreements with family members means that not only do you have to accept that in reality being blood relatives has little influence on how well you relate, it also means challenging all those societal norms that are so ingrained. That’s not easy to do and nor is it easy to recognize that you do have set appropriate boundaries with any toxic people around you even if they are blood relatives. It’s key to building your new life.
Other women have also talked about the importance of their faith and the struggles they had during the divorce process. I’m reminded of Vivianne who struggled with breaking her marriage vows until she realized the safety of her children was more important. She’s divorced and remarried now but she’s still married to her first husband in the eyes of her Catholic church.
Jen, who discovered her husband was a pathological liar and a compulsive gambler would pray every night asking God to help her deal with the end of her marriage even though her husband had cancer.
For those of you struggling right now, wondering what your God thinks of divorce, please read this, A Blessing for Divorce by Meg Riley. It takes my breath away.
Photo Credit: C Jill Reed