Abuse and Divorce: It’s Not An Exact Science

In the Twitter wars–in which I have been quite active–the Deebs, Amy Smith, and some other fairly knowledgeable folks–are pounding on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Paige Patterson, John Piper, Matt Chandler, and other complementarian (comp) leaders over their position on divorce, particularly whether it appropriate to recommend, particularly whether the Scriptures permit it, and what the Church ought to do for one who is being abused. Most of the context is the husband abusing the wife.

My view: at the very least, the minister needs to help the abused spouse find safety, and report the abuse to authorities, encouraging the abused spouse to press charges and force him (or her) to face the justice process. The abuser must also be subject to Church discipline if indeed he (or she) is a member.

Once abuse becomes physical and/or sexual, the score gets lopsided in a hurry. Can the marriage be saved? Yes. But it would require that the abuser have a come-to-Jesus session and submit to accountability like he or she never thought possible.

But make no mistake, divorce is a possible outcome, and in fact may be a necessary evil. I don’t like that fact, but it is what it is.

On most of that, the Deebs and I–and most of the other watchbloggers–are in agreement.

OTOH, others weighed in, suggesting that emotional abuse and financial abuse are legitimate reasons for divorce.

On the financial front, what part of “for richer or poorer” don’t you understand?

As for emotional abuse, I don’t think that’s an exact science. Ame can chime in here–as she has been on the receiving end of such abuse by her late first husband, and also has seen no small number of women frivolously claim “emotional abuse” to justify leaving a marriage they simply didn’t want.

I will also chime in, as there is much talk about how we must support the victims.

I support the victims, every one of them, including the children.

And that is why I contend that “emotional abuse” isn’t an exact science, particularly when you consider the ramifications of what children experience in divorce, as well as post-divorce life.

Before you ladies start tagging me, I’m gonna tell you to cool it and read on before you pass judgment. And if you can’t do that, then you probably need to go elsewhere.

I was one of those victims. As a kid, I went through two divorces.

In the first one, my mom claims my dad was abusive. I do not recall him being physically abusive in those days, although he definitely got loud at times. Even then, I’ll grant my mom the benefit of a doubt here, because–well–she is my mom.

What happened after that for me was, for lack of better words, a Charlie Foxtrot.

It was the early 1970s, the Sexual Revolution was on, and–after the divorce–my mom would get a boyfriend: DA.

I didn’t like DA, and the feeling was probably mutual. I say that because of an experience I had one night.

Connecting the dots, I can conclude with reasonable certainty that he drugged me with LSD.

That night, I was having what appeared to be a very bad nightmare. I was in a forest, and everything was attacking me.

I woke up, but it didn’t stop: everything was still attacking me. I remember walking, screaming, and still being attacked. I remember my mom telling me it was just a nightmare.

But I was awake…and it wouldn’t go away.

I couldn’t [expletive or ten deleted] make it stop!

Eventually, it wore off, although I had occasional flashbacks until I was 13.

A year or so after that incident, my mom sent my brother and me to live with my dad.

And while I can say that my dad was far from perfect, I can honestly say that I was materially better off with him: he provided a household that had stability, he pushed us to work hard in school, and he was supportive of my choices in life. We even became running buddies later on in life. Yes, he could be difficult; that is why I enjoyed going to college away from home. He has mellowed out over the years, though.

I’ll grant that my mom was being emotionally abused. I would also contend that what I experienced after the divorce was worse than her emotional abuse. During that period between the divorce and the time we went to live with my dad, it was hell: lots of instability on top of what I described.

Some of you might say, “Well, that was just one incident!”

Yeah…and the flashbacks were a gift that kept on giving for several years. The worst part: not being in a position to defend myself, and not having anyone to defend me, and then being powerless to stop it.

But my case was miniscule compared to B.E., a former girlfriend and running buddy of mine.

When she was young, her mom was in a bad marriage, although it wasn’t physically abusive. She left her husband, claiming emotional abuse.

B.E., however got the bad end of that stick. Her mother would go from relationship to relationship, cohabiting with various men.

Aside from enjoying her mother, those men also helped themselves to B.E.

B.E. would grow up and embrace many self-destructive practices–drinking, cutting, drugs. She wound up in a homeless shelter where she would receive Christ and get clean and sober–she and I dated during that sober period–but would then float on-and-off into self-destructive behavior (hyper-spending, bulimia, and even occasional drinking). She mercifully broke up with me during the height of her bulimia bout.

So while I would grant that emotional abuse can be really, really nasty, I can also say that the threshold at which that becomes a trigger for divorce is pretty high.

I would also contend that we should have a marginal incentive to keep marriages together, particularly given that–from the stats I’ve seen–children generally do better with both parents at home. This is because crappy husbands can still be good fathers. And children deserve fathers and mothers.

Most of all, the Church ought to be marginally predisposed to keeping marriages together, because, well, Jesus taught exactly that: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” And no, there is no pretty way to spin our way out of what Jesus said on the matter.

That’s not to say divorce can’t be necessary in cases of abuse–divorce is evil, but it can be a necessary evil–but let’s accept that we must (a) hold abusers accountable to the extent that we can (including the justice process), and (b) still combat the divorce culture that gives the Church a divorce rate that is nothing short of shameful.

Class dismissed.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around Here, Especially on Her End

In November, Dalrock provided an assessment of this piece, by Jenny Erikson, who divorced her husband. While I agree with Dalrock, I do think his assessment is incomplete.

As I read Erikson’s post, several things stood out:

(1) If half of what she says about her pastor is true, he is a manipulative, micromanagy scumbag.

Seriously? Using the FB page of a parishioner to confront them about what you perceive to be a problem? Go back and read Matthew 5. If you believe that the husband is head of the wife, then it is on you to take it up with the husband–or talk to the two of them together–if it is that important. Facebook is not the place to be airing that crap.

And calling people out for crying babies? That’s so juvenile. While I can understand where a pastor may find such interruptions annoying, I’ve seen many good pastors–even hardcore conservative fundamentalist types–deal with these issues with grace and humor.

(2) Her husband has no balls.

If my wife is doing something of which my pastor does not approve, and he airs it on FB rather than come to me first, I’m going to let him know–in no uncertain terms–that (a) I, not him, am the head of my wife, and (b) if he has a problem with something that my wife is doing, he needs to take it up with me, and (c) if he takes it to Facebook like that again, I will personally rip his head off.

By going around the husband and confronting the wife, he is attacking the manhood of her husband. That the husband does not stand up to that is troubling.

And that’s not to say that the pastor was wrong to be concerned about the matter–her taking her kids into Victoria’s Secret. It was arguably worth a mild admonition, although I probably would have let the matter slide if I were a pastor.

(While I have no qualms with her going to VS herself–one’s intimate apparel is, and ought to be, a private matter–it does not strike me as the best judgment to take one’s children in there. Like I said, if I’m a pastor, I probably wave that off, but I can understand why a pastor might at least have a word in private with the couple about it, just to give a mild admonition. But doing and end around the husband is very bad Biblical protocol.)


(3) Jenny is wrong for divorcing her husband, and has exposed herself as a liar.

She claims that the pastor acted on a “4th hand rumor”, and yet she had already made up her mind and in fact told her husband that she had already filed the papers. There was no “rumor” at all; it was a done deal. To keep falling back on the “rumor” argument is factual dishonesty.

Moreover, she listed no Biblical reason for her divorce. Even stipulating that pastor was a jerk and that her husband has no balls, none of those stipulations–individually or collectively–make a Biblical reason for abrogating the marriage covenant.

At best, Jesus allows divorce for one case: adultery. If he cheated on her, then she has grounds.

Some folks will suggest that abuse is legitimate grounds. While I will never fault a husband (wife) who divorces an abusive wife (husband), I am not going to twist the Scriptures and suggest that the Bible endorses it. In such cases, it may be a necessary evil, but it would be less than honest to suggest that the Scriptures say something that they don’t. Even then, Jenny has not provided a case that her husband was abusive. If anything, he was too passive. But abusive? Not so much.

Yes, her pastor is a manipulative jerk.

Yes, her (now ex) husband is probably an otherwise decent man who is way too passive.

Still, Ms. Erikson is worse than the two of them combined, as she is dropping a nuclear bomb on her children.

And yes,

(4) the church is correct for excommunicating her.

Whatever their faults, they should call this crap for what it is, and call her to repentance.

Class dismissed.

Identify the Enemy

JC is my dear and precious New-Yorker/Puerto Rican (read: passionate and fiesty!) friend who now lives in the great state of Texas. We met when we moved into the same neighborhood about nine years ago.

JC is my friend who I can call, even if I haven’t talked to her in a year, and say, “I need you to pray for me right now,” and she will stop what she’s doing and pray over me and for me. LOVE her. She stood by my side through the end of my first marriage and my divorce. She knows me.

JC called me today. It’s been months since I’ve heard from her. “Ame, I have a friend who is considering a divorce. Would you recommend your attorney?”

We spent the next hour or so talking about this friend’s situation and the raw realities of divorce. At the end of the call, JC said, “You have spoken words of wisdom and truth. I will share these with my friend and call you back.” This is another reason I love JC. She recognizes Truth and is not competitive (women are horrible at competing; so refreshing to have a friend who doesn’t compete with you).

I am passionate about marriages. I am passionate about sharing the Truth about marriage and divorce and single parenting and re-marriage and blended families whenever I get the chance.

Divorce is hell. Divorce is NOT the answer; ever. Divorce may be the lesser of two evils, but it is still evil. Divorce is a hell that never ends when you have children. Divorce is never the solution. No marriage is perfect. No spouse is perfect. No person is perfect. Get over it.

Your spouse is not the enemy; Satan is the enemy. Identify the enemy and fight the enemy (with the armor of God), not your teammate. Pray and find a way and make the choices to get back on the same page, united.

You cannot make choices for anyone but yourself. Your spouse must choose for themself. Sometimes they really screw up and make horrible choices. And then you have to live with them. Sometimes you get a second chance; take it. Sometimes you get to intervene before the relationship totally fails; do it.

I pray for this marriage. Husband wants Wife to do somethings she doesn’t want to do. They are not wrong or immoral, but they will be difficult on her, the kids,¬†and probably on him, too (but he can’t see that). I told JC she should advise her friend to do what her husband wants her to do. I shared with her the raw details of how much worse divorce would be than honoring her husband. JC saw the Truth. May her friend see it, too.

Stolen Chunks of Life

There are so many things about divorce that rob us of life we could be living if we didn’t have to deal with them. Unfortunately, I cannot be more specific right now, although when my brain de-fries some, I will be able to come up with some publishable examples.

There are some who think divorce is the answer. Divorce is never an answer. Sometimes it is the necessary of two evils, but it is never the answer. In reality, it is the creator of many a problem that continue for years and years.

I think, from time-to-time, how much different parts of the divorce have taken chunks away from me … chunks which could have been better invested into my kids or living life rather than dealing with “stuff.” And it saddens me. It is more difficult not to let my thoughts go there because simply knowing families who have not divorced, who have been able to live without the trauma and wounds and necessary healing, presents a continuous picture of what could-have-been. And if it were just me, it would be much easier to digest. But it is not. It’s my kids’ lives, too.

This has been one of those weeks when divorce things have robbed me of valuable time. They were necessary, but it still saddens me. And tires me.

Also this week my special needs daughter’s evaluation results came back, and she was given another diagnosis. I believe it is accurate and have confidence in those who performed the evaluation. It will affect much of the process of how things are done for her in the school system. It’s something else I need to learn more about and study how it integrates with her other diagnoses. She¬†begins Middle School in the fall, and we’re preparing for that … we being her dad and myself as well as the elementary school and the middle school. It’s an enormous amount of work.

My Oldest has had two choral performances this week and has a choral competition tomorrow.

Somehow in the middle of all this, I was able to get everything necessary done. Nothing extra, but the necessary stuff. I’ve given into moments when I’ve wondered how much more I could have accomplished had I not been required to invest so much time and energy and thought into the divorce stuff. But now I need to leave those behind. The week is almost done. Tomorrow is a new day.