"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

I had a midlife divorce


Yes, I know, I'm in good company.

Married for over 20 years, and then suddenly alone at the age of 45, heading inexorably towards a divorce I definitely didn't want. To have to say "my husband left me" was, for a long time, both surreal and downright excruciating. And then, before I knew it, I was slam-the-door-shut divorced. No longer married to the man I thought I'd be with for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death separated us. "Ouch" would be to put it mildly - in truth it was the most traumatic experience of my life.

The horrible d-word
At first I hated the d-word and I hated the way it hung on the end of "I am.........." I hated it because it wasn't how I wanted to see myself. When asked for my marital status on forms, I would stubbornly put "single". After all, what difference could it possibly make to some random bureaucrat whether I'd been married and was now single because I was no longer married, or single because I'd never been married at all? It felt as though "divorced" was somehow being put into a dirty little category of its own. I nurtured my indignation for a while! But like it or not, divorced was the truth of my circumstances at that time.

But what will they think of me?
It's always impossible to know what other people think (unless they're in-your-face honest), and as much as we might like to bravely say we don't care (and it's probably healthiest not to put too much weight on it), I have to confess I did. I cared. Probably too much. I wondered whether people thought our marriage must have actually, secretly, been in appalling shape - much worse than any other marriage out there - and that we'd just hidden it really well. I wondered if this was what they were thinking, even as they smiled sympathetically at me. Since I was the one who was left, I wondered if people thought my husband had cheated on me. Or whether they thought I'd been a truly horrible wife. After all, I thought that myself for a brief time in the initial, irrational, throes of grief! Why else would he have left??

It's more common than we realise
Having both been through unwanted divorce, my now-husband and I can attest to the sad truth that there are actually many, many struggling, unhealthy - even toxic - marriages, both within the church and without. It's just not always obvious from the outside looking in. Quite often it's only when we reveal our own experiences of separation and divorce - willingly putting the spotlight glaringly on our own struggles, failings and pain - that we discover just how many other couples have had "near misses" or "trial separations" or struggle on a daily basis, or have actually been divorced themselves once (or more). The reality is that nobody gets a free pass to automatic immunity from marriage struggles. And some couples don't survive.

How will I survive?
Being divorced in midlife brings up all sorts of questions. There were times when I wondered if I would be "single again" for the rest of my life. And times I wondered how I would survive on my own. Would I be able to support myself and the boys? What if I got sick and couldn't work anymore? Could I afford a home of my own? Would I ever be able to go on another holiday? What about regular interstate trips to see my ageing parents? What would the long-term impact be on my sons, to have their family ripped apart just as they were getting ready to "launch"? I still wonder about that one.

Learning to trust
The ripples from divorce do tend to go on and on. In the earlier years of my second marriage, I would suddenly find myself wondering if I'd recognise the signs that my husband was about to leave me the way my ex-husband did. Would I see betrayal coming this time? Ultimately, there is no way to be 100% sure that my new marriage won't end in abandonment the way my first one did. After all, I'm a sinner married to another sinner. But what I do know is that God is faithful and merciful, He sustained me through my first divorce, and would sustain me through another (or any other kind of trauma) if it happened.

Blessed, and thankful
Today though, I'm very thankful that He has blessed me with the most amazing, grace-filled, honest and kind man who loves and cherishes me, and has covenanted with me in this marriage. I love doing life with this man, and I can trust the God who brought us together.

No comments

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please feel free to leave a comment!