When you finally find the “one”, you expect the hurt, challenges, and loneliness that you experienced as a single person to be all in the past. You recognize that there are new challenges that come with marriage, but those are more desireable than the alternative.
Then, the unexpected happens.
By the time the papers are final, it may be what you want. But it was absolutely not what you planned when you walked down the aisle in that white dress.
You can’t believe that you are single again!
In this three-part series on how to handle being single again after divorce, we will discuss the major areas that you need to address in order to successfully and healthfully address this new…and old…relationship status; healing, adjustment, re-establishing your joy and fulfillment.
Psalm 84:11 says, “The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly.”
When I was in my late 20’s and 30’s, I thought this verse was a lie. Why?
I was single, and wanted to be married, and God had withheld that from me.
The Lord is a sun? Yeah right! He wasn’t shining on me!
The Lord is a shield? Give me a break! Not only was He NOT protecting my heart, but He was the One breaking it by ignoring my heartfelt pleas for a husband!
I was walking uprightly! No, I wasn’t perfect, but I was walking with Him, ministering in the church, had returned to sexual purity, and what thanks did I get for that?
Loneliness and heartbreak.
At 40, I realized I would never have children, and probably never have the partner that I longed for. And at that milestone, I had a meltdown!
I sunk into a functional depression. Still working, still ministering, still laughing…but emotionally dying on the inside, angry at God, and though not suicidal, comfortable with the idea of my life being over because frankly without a husband or hope of one, I thought it WAS over.
God came and shone light on that very scripture and showed me why He hadn’t allowed me to be married yet. Through a process of time I began to accept and even embrace His purpose for my life and the reason that marriage was not a part of that yet, but I still had to deal with the emotional reality of that.
I had to grieve the loss of the dreams I had of a husband and children and all that entails.
Discard that picture of my brothers walking me down aisle because I had already had to grieve that my father had died, and he would never do it.
I grieved the loss of the pregnancy that I would never experience and the child to teach and raise like all of my friends had.
Said goodbye to the loss of a travel partner that would fly with me all over the world as we discovered new places, people, and cultures.
I had to grieve the loss of that partner in ministry that I had always thought my future husband would be.
Yes, it is true that God’s ultimate plan or even redirection for us is better than our plans for ourselves, but it doesn’t mean that losing those plans and dreams doesn’t hurt.
Emotional Healing Is Necessary
As Christians, we often try to pray or scripture or sing our way to joy. I am not minimizing that. God is the source of our joy, but when we have experienced loss, trauma, and pain we need to get healing WHILE we pray, read, or sing.
Have you ever been seriously injured or ill before?
What did you do to recover? You went somewhere where they could diagnose the problem and provide the treatment.
When we have serious physical conditions, the solution is obvious, go to a doctor. If you don’t do the obvious, people think you are crazy.
But when we deal with serious emotional conditions, we don’t go where they can diagnose the problem and provide treatment.
When you lose the marriage and family that you have dreamed about and tried to save, it is not like breaking up with your 8th grade boyfriend/girlfriend.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:6 when talking about marriage and divorce with the Pharisees, ‘Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Asunder means to put space between. Marriage creates an entity that has no space between them.
Divorce is Devastating
Then sin introduced divorce. The Greek word is apostasion. Same root as apostasy – a total rejection of what you once committed to.
When you go from single to accepting you are going to be single, that is a loss of a dream.
When you go from marriage to divorce to single that is a loss of your reality.
You will never be the same as you were before you were married. Your marriage and family lifestyle has made an indelible impression upon you that will influence and impact all your future choices, decisions, and relationships.
You cannot just walk away like nothing happened.
You didn’t get married to get divorced.
So, you have to treat it like the major life event, a trauma, even if it is what you wanted by the time the divorce happened because it was not what you wanted when you started out.
Trauma ignored is trauma stored.
Trauma is the lasting emotional response that often results from living through a distressing event. Experiencing a traumatic event can harm a person’s sense of safety, sense of self, and ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships.
You must grieve the loss, then get healing to move forward effectively.
God had a purpose for you when you were single. He had a purpose for you when you were married.
God STILL has a purpose for you now that you are single again!
But you can never fulfill that purpose if you don’t truly address the trauma, loss, pain, and emptiness that results from the termination of a marriage.
Even for those who were ready to exit the marriage, you probably endured a lot before getting to that point.
If you were the one who initiated the divorce because of your own actions, that needs to be addressed.
Therapy is NOT UnChristian.
Too often Christians avoid the counseling, therapy, coaching, or support groups that they need because they “don’t want to tell strangers their business”.
But the reality, when you walk around unhealed, you end up telling everyone your business in one way or another.
Christianity is not a treatment for trauma. You need to talk about what happened, what you did, address your feelings, how to manage co-parenting, what to say or not to the children, how to approach sexuality now, and so much more.
Don’t skip this part! When we try to jump out of marriage and go on with life like nothing happened and no healing is needed, we are like a person who breaks their leg, but never gets it set. It will knit back together, but not correctly, and they will always walk with a limp.
We can see people living with an emotional limp. They are bitter. They never let go of the spouse. They are angry 10 years after. They don’t forgive. They can’t effectively co-parent. They don’t trust any potential partners, but they can’t stop looking for love in all the wrong places.
It is not ungodly, unchristian, or unholy to get therapy or coaching from a Christian counselor after a divorce. If you want to be able to be happy and effective in the purpose that God still has for you, you must be intentional about addressing the emotional and psychological impact of divorce.
You need to grieve the loss of everything that divorce stole from you and help your children do the same.
Identify and address where you contributed to the downfall of the marriage. It is never just one person although it is not usually 50-50 either.
You must forgive – yourself, your former spouse and anyone else that may have contributed to the divorce.
Then you need to accept the divorce, yourself, and your former spouse. Recognizing that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, once you forgive and accept yourself, then the opinions of others lose their power to make you feel unloved, unforgiven, or unaccepted by God.
The first step to going to a healthy, happy life after divorce is to address the hurt, grieve the loss, get therapy, a support group, or recovery program if necessary (and something is DEFINITELY necessary), and let your heart and mind heal so that you can still progress and fulfill the purpose that God has for you in this new phase of life.
Next week, we will talk about the next phase of recovering from the trauma of divorce, adjustment.
Until next time, take steps that will help you create a life you LOVE whatever your relationship status.