Divorce. It’s an ugly word, isn’t it? But as nasty as it is, it’s so much more common than it should be. Per DivorceStatistics.org, every single couple that walks down the aisle has roughly a 50% chance of ending in divorce. And that’s just first time marriages; if it’s your second marriage, you have 60% to 67% chance of divorcing, and if you’re on your third marriage, that number jumps to 70% to 73%. The trend that I see there is that once you’re accustomed to bailing on your marriage, you’re more inclined to do so in the future.
I do not speak as someone who simply reads the statics and draws conclusions; I speak as someone who has been there. I am on my second marriage. (For the story of my first marriage, click here.) I know what it feels like to make a commitment that should last a lifetime, only to find myself divorced (and a single mom, to boot) a year later. You see, lots of people talk about divorce statistics and the importance of keeping families together and can quote statics all day long, but they have no idea what it’s like to actually BE that person. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to educate people about the importance of staying married! But they can never prepare you for what’s it’s really like, and the scars you will carry for the rest of your life as a result. Until you’ve been there and gone through it, you can never fully comprehend how difficult the consequences are, and how long they will stick with you.
As I was cleaning and organizing my home today, I found myself going through some old papers and trying to decide what should go in the safe. I wasn’t expecting to find the divorce decree in that stack of papers. I found myself staring at the documents with the official stamps of the court, signatures of lawyers and judges, all in legal jargon that I still don’t fully understand 10 years later. Also in the stack I found my old marriage license, the restraining order I was issued, and various other documents that came up throughout that period of time in my life. My mind began flashing back and I found myself in tears as I relived it all. Even though it’s been a decade, there’s still so much hurt. This man I was supposed to spend my life with inflicted so much pain on me, and the damage didn’t stop when I filed for divorce. It didn’t end when the divorce was finalized. It didn’t even end when he stopped harassing me and I got him out of my life for good. There are so many implications that I never was able to foresee.
I was one of the lucky ones and found love again two years later, but I still carried the baggage of my first marriage. It was so hard to open up and trust someone again after I had been betrayed. You are never warned what it’s like to try to fall in love again after you’ve been divorced. There’s a stigma out there, especially if you are a single mother. Your future in-laws may be hesitant to accept you for fear that your baggage could harm their son. You will struggle to get close to anyone because you fear getting hurt. One of the hardest consequences of divorce is on those with children who are products of the marriage that ended. I wanted so much to have a father in my child’s life, but I also wanted desperately to protect her. It’s a fine line to walk, trying to open up and love again while also protecting yourself and your child if things go badly.
Once the trust was established and our relationship grew we decided to get engaged, but with that came a new problem. What would my child call her stepfather-to-be? How would we go about explaining things to her when she was old enough to understand? He wished to adopt her, which was a beautiful blessing, but his decision was met with negativity from those wishing to protect my new husband from being used by me. He did adopt her and we ended up having the support of those around us, however the road to adoption (which we thought should be a joyful one) was filled with even more obstacles and heartaches. My ex didn’t want to relinquish custody, we had to pay lawyers to fight for us and to prove parental abandonment, our pasts were dug into and our motives were questioned. Even once the adoption finalized, we had to go through the process of getting her name legally changed and her birth certificate amended (nearly 7 years later, I am still fighting with the state of California to give me an amended birth certificate).
Even with all that, it’s still not over. I can never get rid of my memories. I can never change the fact that my eldest child is the product of a divorce. I am doing everything I can to make sure that fact doesn’t negatively impact her life or her view of herself, but the truth is that it does. I try to teach her that marriage is permanent and that when we say “I do” it should be forever, and yet I have to be honest with her and explain that I did not live up to that expectation in my past. She will at some point, I am sure, wonder about her real father and perhaps even consider meeting him. One day I will have to cope with that (though I thank God that day is not today). You see, it will never truly be over for us, and it’s never over for anyone who has been through a divorce.
When the Lord created marriage, He knew how beautiful it could be. He also knows how devastating it can be when the marriage promises are broken, and I believe that is why He wishes marriage to be forever. My advise to everyone is this:
Please, do not walk down that aisle unless you are absolutely sure. Make sure you truly know the person and that he or she is really is the one you wish to spend the rest of your life with. And once you are married, make sure it’s for good. For your sake, your spouse’s sake, and most importantly, the sake of any future children, do not take marriage lightly. You will never fully understand the consequences of divorce until you get there – but let me assure you, it’s rarely worth it. When you make the choice to wed, make it for life.