Jim Franklin is a father, a very good friend and brother in Christ who like me has endured the hardship of separation and divorce. What follows is a fantastic and informative article by Jim which he wrote in the hopes of helping others who may endure the same. We do not condone or encourage separation, divorce or anything of the sort. We believe in families as does God but if you experience or have experienced this unfortunate season in your life please continue to read this article in it’s entirety. We pray it blesses you. Feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the page and I’ll make sure Jim gets them.
God Bless 🙂
SEPARATION– DAMAGE CONTROL AND MOVING FORWARD by Jim Franklin
My wife’s announcement that she was leaving us was the most devastating thing that had ever happened to me. Nothing else had even come close. I remember my mind racing with a feeling of disbelief, thinking that she would re-consider and not go, or after she had gone for a short time that she would return. That of course did not happen and soon moved in with another man. The feelings of depression, worthlessness and despair over the next few weeks hit like waves reducing me to a weeping mass of flesh incapable of accomplishing the simplest of tasks. The days, weeks and years preceding her leaving ran through my head in my search for things I could have done differently to prevent what had happened.
I think it is safe to say that the marriage relationship is the relationship which is the most important to you on earth. When it fails, you think you have failed because it’s the one thing that you wanted to work out. Those who have watched me journey through the separation and subsequent divorce say that I have done so in such a good way and they seem to marvel at how well I and my family are doing. To me, I just did what needed to be done and did some very deliberate things to ensure that the negative impacts to the children were minimized. I am not perfect and do not have all of the answers. I am not an expert on the subject of divorce and separation. I can tell you about my journey. If you are reading this looking for answers as to what to do in your situation then likely lots of people have already given you lots of advice. Feel invited to take what you need from this and chuck the rest. The things that seemed wise and worked for me may not work for you. If your situation is one wherein your spouse – husband or wife – has left you, you may find some of this useful.
God be with you on your journey.
Picture a set of scales. Your self worth is in the balance. During the process of separation, your self worth really takes a beating. On one side of the balance – the left if you like, a great deal of weight has been suddenly placed there. Some of the things that sit on the left are:
Your partner has been planning to leave for some time
The plans were made without you
Your partner no longer loves you
You are no longer good enough for your partner
Shared goals are gone
Future life together is gone
Joint achievements seem worthless
Your children – if they are with your partner
Lack of control of your life
On the other side of the scale sits the following:
Your children – if they are with you Your job
Control of your life
Lack of self worth is a big part of the depression that you are now feeling. The reasons for feeling this way are no mystery when you look at the weight on that side of the scale. Building back your self worth is a very important first step. It is a step that will allow you to function going forward.
A word of caution: Drinking, drugs, running away, or even finding another partner at this point are not the methods you should use to re-build your self worth.
As much as your partner informing you that they are leaving is a surprise to you, its not a statement that just escapes their lips without their having planned for it for a while. The actual separation day may not be necessarily planned but the event has been. By the time someone leaves, their heart has been absent for a while. Evidence shows that for some time prior to the date that a person actually announced they were leaving they were “practicing separation”. At first they were probably not even conscious of doing it. They have however been spending time thinking of themselves as a person who could “make it on their own”, imagining what life would be like without you, eventually making the decision and then setting themselves up to be separated. When thoughts of independence first came to them, they themselves probably did not realize that these thoughts would lead them to separation or divorce.
I think one of the things that hit me the hardest was that as a married couple we had made all decisions together, as all married couples should. My partner of course, had been working on this alone without my knowledge. I felt as if I had completely lost control over at least the last 6 months of my life. The day my wife left, I knew I had to get my life back under control. The children were remaining with me and as such it was paramount that I got everything in my life under control so that I could provide them with the stability that I knew they had to have.
It is of course nearly impossible to think rationally at first after your spouse leaves. I felt as if I had been hit in the face with a shovel and walked around mostly in a daze. It seemed funny at the time that the rest of the world seemed to take no notice of it. Over the next few days after the announcement of her leaving I did the following:
The children remained with me so my first priority was to secure their welfare. I went to the kid’s schools and advised both their teachers and principals of the fact that their mother was leaving that weekend. The instructions that I left with them were that if there was some uncharacteristic behavior that the cause may be attributed to this and also that I was to be advised so that I could address it right away.
I went to the banks and find out the details of my current financial situation. I needed to know balances and lists of the previous month’s transactions so that I could work out what bills had been paid, what came out of the accounts automatically and what monies were coming in. I also set up an account that my wife did not have access to and ensure that I put sufficient money in it each pay to ensure that all expenses were covered. I then went and cancelled all current credit cards and opened a new one. Understand that none of this was done to take and run away with anything that may have been split 50/50. My thoughts were that I had no idea if I could trust my wife and I needed to ensure that I had total control of my finances from that day forward so that the children could be properly provided for. I found that initially spending all of my energy ensuring the children’s security helped me forget my own anguish and pain.
I sought out a Christian counselor for myself. I needed to get my own head screwed on straight and learn to deal with the anguish so that I could be a functioning parent for my children.
I took the time to explain to my family and friends, in a matter of fact manner, what had happened. I found a huge amount of support was available there and invaluable. If you find the same thing, don’t be afraid to accept help if it is offered. The can be difficult, as it was for me, because such a big part of me wanted to regain control of my life and it seemed that accepting help was counterproductive to that. Accept it as “Helping you get over the bumps” which initially may seem overwhelming.
I started drafting out a separation agreement. This again was a way of creating some order. This is explained in more detail below.
I put a lock on my bedroom door. This may seem to be a funny one but it provided me with a lot of security to lock the door whenever I was out because for some reason I needed a place that was all my own and no one else had access to. I think part of it was knowing that in that room I was in total control even if it seemed that so much of my life outside that door was not.
Keep lists. Every time I thought of something that needed doing, I wrote it down right away. I found that my mind bounced and wandered so much that I could not keep track of anything. Lists help put order in the chaos. This also goes for marking every appointment, significant date and automatic bank transaction on a calendar so that I would not lose track of anything. For the time being, I also made all of my computer passwords the same. This was a little risky but I did not want to write them down and my head could not keep them straight.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal was the single most important thing that I did during this initial time of separation. I guess it started because I wanted to keep track of my commitments and to provide a record of dates that things were done. I also used it to keep track of things that were said by friends, family, my wife and others if the statements pertained to the children or the separation. I found that by doing this, I was able to write things down and then forget about them. This, I think, contributed to my not harboring any resentment or hostility toward people who made the statements that hurt or belittled me. I did not have to keep them in my head and remember them for reflection or future reference. I could jot them down, drop them and move on. I think also in the back of my head I felt that if the situation got to the point where my wife and I were hostile to each other it would provide a record of events and their sequence. If you choose to keep a journal it is important I think to set a goal for yourself that you will write things down within the hour of their occurrence if at all possible. For the journal to be of value, it must be factual and accurate. It can, and should, contain feelings but keep the feelings separate so that they do not distort the facts. Time will often do that. The journal should not last forever. I vowed to keep mine until the date of our divorce. I have not looked at it since. The hurt is buried there and it can stay there. I have no use for it.
Kids – Changed Stability
As much as the separation hurts you, children are the real victims. At the point of separation your children have already learned three things: 1) Adults lie, 2) Marriage does not work and 3) Commitment does not work. Early on after the separation I read some statistics about the impact of separation and divorce on children. I don’t know how accurate the numbers are but the general idea is there. Children of broken homes have a 20% greater chance than the general population of their own marriages ending in divorce. They also have a 20% greater chance of dropping out of school or not holding a job. Marriage, school and employment all require a commitment. Your commitment to each other has failed and the children perceive that the idea of commitment is not a valid one even if only at a subconscious level.
Marriage works. Commitment works. Your children need to know that. Yours failed but that does not diminish the validity of commitment. There are some things that can be done by you and your spouse to minimize these numbers. In my case, the children were remaining with me but if you are the parent that will be visiting the children, many of the issues apply because commitment and stability are what you are trying to accomplish here.
To the children, our separation was an earth shattering event that rocked their world. Separation of a child’s parents or death of one or both parents is a child’s worst fear peaking at about the age of 10. Separation creates a profound feeling of loneliness, guilt and tragedy in children. They will have feelings of being lost and cast adrift and they need to be watched carefully so that any feelings or behavior changes are dealt with as soon as they occur and not be allowed to fester and worsen. The amount of love and caring that they feel especially during the 1st 3 months after separation is very very critical to their adjustment and well being. About 3 days after the separation my youngest said to me that she now knew what a bear cub felt like after being abandoned by its mother. In terms of their environment I wanted to ensure that the rest of their lives was as stable as possible and that the more time that went by without further changes the more confidence they would have in this stability. As I said earlier, one of the first things that I did was go to each of their schools and talk to both the principal and their teachers explaining that we had separated and that if either of the children exhibited unusual behavior I needed to know about it. I did not have a cell phone at the time nor could I afford one but what I did do was buy a pager. For an initial investment of under $50 and only $8 a month they could always page me now if they needed anything. They only used it 2x but the confidence it gave them in their ability to get a hold of me was well worth the expense. Along with this, I established the following rules:
No more surprises, I and their mother would keep them advised of any changes but at least for the time being there would be none.
I would never ever make a promise I could not keep and never break a promise – they needed to re-establish trust in adults and commitment. This included letting them know when I was going out, what time I would be home and always always being right on time. I would phone them if I was late even for a couple of minutes.
Never tell one child something about anything pertaining to the separation and keep it from the other.
There is one thing that I will mention here that I did which turned out to be a real blessing. On the day of my wife’s leaving, my eldest, almost 13 at the time, said “That’s it, if mom is leaving, I don’t want to be around here.” “I am going to a friend’s to sleep.” At that point I said no one was going anywhere and together we pitched a tent on the playroom floor in the basement. For the next week, the three of us “camped” in the tent (Dad slept outside with the bugs). There were a number of reasons I did this. I wanted us all to be together. I wanted them to remember something different and positive about that day. I did not want them to go to their rooms, stare at the ceiling realizing that things would never be the same again. When they were ready they returned to their rooms. For a while after that, the youngest and I slept down there on weekends. Something I was probably over careful about was that I slept fully clothed outside of the tent while the kids were inside. I felt that these children were entrusted to me and I did not want to give anyone the opportunity to say that I was behaving inappropriately.
During the time in the tent, the kids and I kept a journal talking about the day’s activities so that they could show it to their mother during their time together in the weeks that followed. This was at my suggestion and they agreed that it helped ensure that mom did not miss too much and that they stayed connected with her. They kept it up for a few weeks and after that time I let them drop it when they felt they needed to.
I noticed, mainly because of their ages but also personality types, that my children each reacted differently from each other during this time. The youngest would explode in a flood of emotion, seek to be comforted then it would be over and she would be back playing again. The eldest on the other hand, kept things inside. As much as journaling was good for me and helped me keep my head straight, I wanted her to have an outlet. One day I took the eldest out and bought her a plastic storage box and a lock. I then gave both of them to her and told her she could put anything she wanted with them. I also gave her a journal and told her that she could write anything she wanted in it and then lock it in the box. I said that I was not interested in reading or seeing anything in the box unless she wanted me to. She asked me if I felt that her sister would think this was stupid. I told her that her sister was not with us on this shopping trip and she did not even need to know. She then just said “Thanks Dad – that’s cool.” I’m pretty sure she has been writing in the journal and using the box for mementoes etc.
There is a tendency to want to do everything at once for you children, to erase all of the sadness. Keep in mind that the most important thing that they need right now is you as their parent more so than their friend. They need the structure, order and discipline that with you as their parent should provide and on which they have come to depend. There is so much for them to process now and as a parent, you need to realize that structure and order will help them with that. Your house still has rules on conduct. There are still consequences for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. They are at a vulnerable time right now and may seek outlets for their grief and frustration in unacceptable ways. You have a duty and a responsibility to them to continue to monitor who they spend time with, their activities, their school work and daily responsibilities. Children need to know that there are standards which must continue to be met and that the structure and hierarchy remain in spite of the turmoil and huge changes.
Family Support System
Children who have the support of extended family around them stand a much greater chance of moving forward after their parents separate. This of course includes family members from your family and your spouse’s. Grandparents especially have a way of gentle understanding and stability. The children need to see this and be encouraged by it. I think also that when parents, yours or your spouses, have an opportunity to help, this helps in some measure their coping with the situation. There are times when you will need to do some running around to Government offices etc. wherein it would be best if the kids were not underfoot. If Grandparents offer, take them up on it occasionally. There will likely be times too when you just need a break to be on your own or with friends. Grandparents can help there as well.
Be Strong When It Matters
Your children need to see that you have the ability to direct their lives and provide for them in spite of your pain. They will feel lost and need to see that together we will make it. Its important for them to know that we are all still a family but it is different now. They need some stability restored in their life and they need to know that they can still look to you for support and leadership. The children will be in real pain because of what has happened. Their pain will be no less then yours. They need to see your strength but they need also to see that you are hurting too. If they shed tears and never see that in you, they will feel very alone and afraid in their grief. Don’t be a basket case in front of them but don’t give them the impression you are unaffected.
Kids keep score
Kids keep score. After our separation I found that the children kept a very very close eye on what each of us did. I think part of that was to look for fault in one of us perhaps to take away any blame that they might have been placing on themselves. It was important to be truthful and upfront with them. Of course I made it very clear to them that they were not to blame for what had happened. I also made it clear that marriage is something in which both partners have an equal responsibility of in ensuring its success therefore both partners must bear the responsibility of its failure. Never ever put the children in the center of any arguments. Most of the time when my spouse and I spoke in person the kids were not around. The only exception to that was if there was something that we needed to jointly communicate to them. Never ever use the children to communicate to your spouse. If the message you give to your spouse through the children angers your spouse, the children may think that they are the object of that anger. Never ever use the children as pawns to get back at your spouse. Remember that at this time, trust in adults is still being earned and they are also looking for and dreading any further erosion of their security.
Kids can take more than you think
It was 4 months prior to our separation when I had any inkling that we were having problems. Even 2 weeks prior to our separation however I still did not think it would come to that. My eldest at 12, however noticed that things were not right before I did. Keeping things back from children does not work. They know what is going on. Metering out just what and how to tell them things is a difficult task. They do however know more than you think and can take more than you think. One day my youngest found out that I had told her sister one thing and then told her a more “sanitized” version of the same story. Both versions were the truth, just worded differently and in varying detail reflecting my judgment of what I thought they could handle. I can’t remember what the subject was but it had something to do with the separation. The youngest said to me “Was the reason you did not tell me everything because you thought I couldn’t handle it?” Basically, dumfounded, I said yes. She then told me that telling one sister a more complete story than the other was unfair and she was tired of secrets and talking behind her back. I then brought them both together and told them that from that point on I would never tell one of them anything that I could not tell the other. I also said that it remained my choice how much they knew but that any time decisions were being made that in any way affected them they would be informed about them.
Explosions of Temper
For the first couple of months after the separation, it was fairly common for the children to explode in a temper. This almost always was as a result of a situation in which one or the other of them felt as if they were not being treated fairly or that a particular circumstance was not fair. I think this has to be expected. Each of them in their own way had to work through the anger that they felt. My concern was that they exploded at the other in an effort to raise themselves up. I think as a parent, the best way I could handle this was to let them have their explosion and then try to solve the problem or clarify the situation after they were finished. One rule that I insisted on was that neither of them was to do anything or say anything that would intentionally hurt the other in any way. This seemed to help. In that way, their anger was not so much directed at each other. Neither of them needed to have the other telling them they were no good or that uncontrollable circumstances were their fault.
Continued relationship With Separated Spouse
Depending on the circumstances of the separation, this can be very difficult. I should caution here that this should not be done if it puts yourself or the children in danger, as might be the case with an abusive parent. Children need two parents. It is important for both parents to have input if at all possible in the upbringing of the children and the children need to be able to see that. Many of the problems associated with the children having to work through 2 differing sets of expectations can be avoided if the parents get along well enough to constructively discuss behavioral expectations and make major decisions together. We also found that the children quickly learned that if something significant was told to one parent, the other would find out. They were made very aware that we discussed them when they weren’t with us and that we both cared. It also told the children that if they tattled on each other with one parent about something that happened at the other parent’s house it didn’t work because the other parent already knew about it. Getting along with your ex-spouse requires a huge amount of forgiveness on both parts as well as a shared commitment to continue to discuss major decisions regarding the children. Never forget that when speaking to your spouse, words cannot be taken back. Choose them carefully.
It is really easy to wallow in self pity blaming yourself for what happened. If the break-up of the relationship was primarily your fault, forgive yourself. The important thing is that you recognize what you did wrong and not let it happen in any future relationships. Self pity and feelings of inadequacy are some of the “baggage” that a new relationship does not need. As I said earlier, it is important that you forgive your spouse for whatever you feel her part may have been in the demise of the relationship. Harboring feelings of hatred destroy you and those around you. It changes nothing.
Relationship with friends and your Spouse’s new friends
You will find that many of the friends that you had will have been friends to both of you. Many will take sides. Stay friends with the ones you want to and let the others pass by. Many will want a surprisingly detailed explanation as to what happened. Remember that you are under no obligation to give that. I also found that there is nothing to be gained by explaining things in terms of what your spouse did to ruin the relationship. You and your spouse will have new friends. There is also nothing to be gained by discrediting your spouse to your friends or particularly to the children.
Work Out the Details
If reconciliation is out of the question (and this should always be the first consideration) then the details of your new life apart need to be worked out through a separation agreement. (in the U.S. it may not be known as that but in either case, there needs to be some documentation of what life will look like after a divorce and how things are settled out etc) In the end, a judge will need to review this prior to a divorce being granted. If there are no children involved, a judge will accept a very poor agreement. In the case of the children, the judge has to be convinced that their welfare and needs are going to be taken care of into adulthood and it is expected that the terms of this will be outlined in the agreement. Some of the things expected in the agreement are: Division of property, declaration of the financial picture including both debts and income, where the children will live, visitation arrangements, spousal and child support payments which will be made. An interesting point is that where I am located, child support is mandated and is in accordance to a table based on number of children and incomes of the parents. The only exception to this is if both parents decline this in writing usually as part of the agreement. Spousal support is negotiated if present and not mandated. This will be different in different States or Provinces. Purchasing a current book based on the local laws will give you a good idea regarding some of the things that need to be considered. Try to work out the separation agreement together. The result will be in the better interest of everyone and will be a lot less expensive. Again, depending where you live, it may not be required that a lawyer be consulted but it is advisable. A lawyer should be contacted to draft up the final copy at the very least firstly to ensure nothing is forgotten and secondly because it will then be presented in the accepted format and be better received by a judge. Things get really really expensive when lawyers fight on behalf of the respective parties in court. If you can agree on everything and then submit it to a lawyer for typing and submission, the cost will be much more manageable.
Initially it was very hard to concentrate at work. Fortunately I was blessed with a boss who basically said that I did not need to account for my whereabouts or output for the first couple of weeks after our separation. Somehow he managed to deflect a lot of work and traffic before it hit my office. To this day, I don’t know how he did it or who did the work. I just know that most of the phone calls and emails stopped. He said that if I needed to leave early or show up late that he would not be keeping track. It all amounted to the best thing he could have done. It allowed me to take care of what I had to while the kids were in school and then to get back into working at my own pace. After a couple of weeks, when everything had settled down a little I found that I began to throw myself into my work with a tenacity that I had not known before. This helped keep my mind off of everything that was going on. Others that I have talked to found that this has helped them as well. I think that it was also another way that I was able to regain control.
During the early stages of our separation, I spent many hours replaying the elements of our marriage over and over in my head trying to determine just where and how it had broken down. I kept asking myself what we or I had done wrong and what we could have done differently to prevent what had happened. During this time, I attended a bible study wherein the leader led us through 1st Corinthians 13. All of us of course were very familiar with this passage which is probably the most popular one read at wedding ceremonies. Although the context of this passage is Paul taking about God’s love for the church, it can and has been applied to any love relationship. During the study, the leader drew a line down the middle of the whiteboard and on one side he wrote “Love Is” and on the other he wrote “Love Is Not” and then categorized each statement in the passage by writing them in the appropriate column. After getting home, I took this list and using various dictionaries, bible translations and commentaries I expanded the definition of each statement and applied it to a love relationship between two people. What I found was astounding. Here I had been trying to figure out where we went wrong when the model of what a relationship should be was there all along. Now everything was clear. I knew what our relationship should have looked like and what any future relationships should look like. The verses painted a picture of how we should be treating each other in a love relationship. I understand that some who read this do not hold their faith in God as an important part of their lives. Given that, the advice contained in this section of scripture is still sound and worth considering. (see appendix)
The Blanket of Faith
During the early stages after separation, the grief and hurt can make it at times almost impossible to carry on day to day activities. For some people, this period of time can to some degree or another last months or even years. In my case, the acute debilitating pain did not last that long. I need to share why that was. During this time, I spent some time in prayer but I felt as if I was far from God and was incapable of finding him. In all of that, He found me. He placed people in my midst who were able to help me make it and get by. I am convinced after going through this that God is capable and does put people in your midst who have the gifts and resources to give you exactly the help that He knows you need. You will not be aware of what you need, He is aware and responds. He worked through my child’s school teachers, through my supervisors and peers, though my counselor, through fellow Christians – some of whom I had not met until that point. We are called upon to conform to and take on the character of Christ and not to be conformed to this world. Bearing that in mind and seeking out God’s wisdom produces in us a behavior that is pleasing to His heart. All of the people around you, your children, your spouse and friends and family are His creation. The wisdom of God, if sought, will show you how they are all to be treated and taken care of. He will be the author and provider of the love, compassion and forgiveness that everyone will be seeking during this time. He will give you the strength and provide you what you need to do what needs to be done if you remain close to Him in prayer, study of His word and fellowship with other Christians.
Once The Dust Settles
Eventually, things do return to a new normal. Even though after a number of years, the day to day pain has faded to a memory, I don’t think that I will ever be able look back on that time and not feel a sense of loss. You may find yourself at times throwing yourself into your job or depending on friends and relatives but eventually that will lessen as well. One of the things you will need to do is take a hard look at who you are and where you are going. You will find in that process your old goals you had as a couple are meaningless and that your views on things and values have changed forever. This can open up possibilities of change which is good and should be welcomed. If eventually you have the desire to seek out another partner, being clear on who you are, what you stand for and where you are headed are extremely important.
Separation and even Divorce is a painful painful experience. It represents the failure of the relationship which should have been the most important on earth. It’s the failure of the thing that you most wanted to succeed and at the time you got married you had no vision or expectation of it ever happening to you. God hates divorce. It is not part of His plan for any couple. As painful as it is for you as a couple, the children are positioned to be affected the most severely and they had nothing whatever to do with the situation. Their feelings need to be dealt with so that they can heal and have a fair chance at having their own relationships work.
It doesn’t have to be all bad. God can and does work through broken relationships and provides healing. He can and will provide you with the resources to ensure that the lasting impact on you and your children are lessened. You need to stay close to Him, listen to Him and make your decisions through Him. Allow Him to work through you and others and He will provide the strength to forgive, the wisdom to make decisions and the quiet assurance that will allow you to be the caring example that your children and loved ones need.
The Other Side
The above was written from the standpoint of my spouse leaving me and having the children continue to reside with me. I do not pretend to understand what goes through the mind of the person who is the one leaving. I have since talked to a number of people who either have left their spouse or are considering leaving and have made a number of observations that I would like to point out.
Many of those who I have talked to are primarily concerned with their own future or well-being and do not fully consider the potential impact on their children. Often they will say that they are confident with the abilities of the other parent and that combined with their visitation schedule the children ought to fair well. Although as I mentioned above there are some things that can be done to lessen the impact on the children, there will be an impact nonetheless. Many of the adverse effects on children are rooted in self esteem. Children, even more than adults, do not see divorce as one parent leaving the other. They see it as the family breaking up. They will immediately feel left out because although part of the family, they were not part of the decision. Many states make it mandatory that parents attend a one day seminar devoted to separation and its impact on children before being granted a legal separation. The potential impact cannot be understated.
A child’s 3 biggest fears are: Their own death, death of one of their parents or their parents splitting up. Whether they show it or not, children will generally be devastated. Children need two parents. They need to grow up with two role models who will guide them into adulthood. If one of those role models is only seen through weekly visitation, that is usually not sufficient. It becomes increasingly more difficult as future step parents provide mixed messages. Mothers and fathers provide children with different character aspects that when combined provide a well rounded model for adulthood. Together, parents can provide a model for good relationships. I have seen situations wherein girls have difficulty with relationships in their teen years because they are looking for a father figure in a boyfriend. I have also seen situations wherein a boy acts inappropriately because he does not have a father / model to show him how to act otherwise. I have seen lack of self esteem and lack of trust in others in both boys and girls because they felt betrayed by their parents. The roles of each parent become changed with weekend visitation. Often, the full time parent becomes the disciplinarian whereas the weekend one becomes the fun-giver. This often encourages the child to work one against the other and the stay at home parent feels like a de-programmer after the visitation. This becomes an unnatural model for the children to follow.
There are others who do appreciate fully the potential impact of their leaving. For those there are often profound feelings of guilt or of failure. Those in this group who I have talked to hurt as much as those who are left – just in a different way. Again, I have only seen this experience in others and as such am not really in a position to describe the healing path in this case. I do know that from this position it is also very possible to move forward.
In most cases regarding people that I have spoken with who are contemplating a separation they cite reasons that with some discussion could be resolved. It is rare that I hear people talk about major issues – violence, abuse etc. – when they talk about leaving their spouse. Given the dismal statistics regarding the longevity of second relationships, it seems that time would be better spent repairing the old one than starting a new one. There are all kinds of resources out there to help with a decaying relationship but very few people it seems make use of them. I have talked to more than a few people at the breakup of their second relationship saying that they wish they had worked harder on the first one. I guess what I am saying is that given all of the above, couples need to think long and hard considering carefully the impact of their separation before going through with it.
As I mentioned earlier, I have attached a section centered around the 13th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In this familiar passage, he describes in detail what love is and what it is not. Even for those for whom faith is not an important part of their lives, I would urge you to read it. The verses, combined with the explanation of their meaning, paint a wonderful picture of what a love relationship should look like and how we should treat the ones with whom we share this relationship. Enjoy
1 Corinthians 13
1. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5. It is not rude, it is not selfish, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I Cor. 13 – Applied
To be patient is to have a calm endurance for hardship. To wait, to not rush. I think it carries with it an assurance that better things are possible. If you are being patient with a person you know that they are capable of aspiring to greater things – as God may wait for us to accomplish what he knows we can. Being patient has a quiet serenity about it, a feeling of being content in waiting.
Friendly, generous, benevolent of a gentle nature. Showing consideration. This I think speaks of treating someone the way you would like to be treated. I think that it is an attitude rather than a list of things that we ought to think of doing.
Rejoices in the Truth
To take joy in what is genuine, in that which represents reality and is not that which is imagined or conjured. Love does not exist where there are lies and deceptions. Love is pure and good, like truth.
Protects, Covers, Bears All Things
To protect is to keep from harm, to shelter. I think this goes beyond the basic needs of clothing and a roof over ones head. I also need to protect my partner from ridicule, slander. I need to protect or cover the other person from anything that could harm them mentally or physically. I need also to protect them from the enemy getting between them and their relationship with God. To bear all things is likened to a vessel containing water and not leaking. To endure evil thoughts without divulging them. Sparing my partner from hurt I may cause.
Trusts, Believes, Has Faith In
To trust is to be confident in the integrity of another, to have the confidence that they can be believed. I must have faith in, and believe in my partner. Trust is the foundation upon which any friendship or love relationship is built. There can be no love without trust. Trust encompasses not only that what another says is true but also that they can be trusted with your “stuff” – your innermost thoughts, dreams, desires and heartaches. It has been written that the appropriate amount of secrecy between two people in a love relationship… is none. Total trust in each other is crucial. If there comes a time in a relationship where one partner begins to lose trust in the other, the love between them will begin to decay. Trust also ties in with faithfulness. Wedding vows are built around the promise that each will be faithful to the other for the rest of their lives. Fidelity goes beyond sharing intimate, physical love with someone who is not my partner. I feel that fidelity also encompasses sharing intimate information, imagining myself with another person, chatting on the internet, flirting or putting myself in any position where there is a potential for a love-relationship to begin to develop. All of these breach the trust between two partners and begin to erode the relationship.
To anticipate, a confident expectation of the future, not to be burdened with pessimism. When I or my partner is hurt, or our relationship is hurt, we can hope in God and in each other that this is not the way that it will always be. There is a sense of looking forward that things will be better in the future.
To persevere is to be patient and persistent, to be determined. To endure is to remain. We are to endure in our resolve to continue loving in spite of problems that come our way. To endure takes effort and does not give up. It speaks to the fact that to love is
more than a feeling. It is an act of the will. It is hard work to remain in love. It is even harder to ensure that love continues to grow in a relationship.
Love is not (Does not):
A feeling of resentment or discontent brought on by someone’s fortune being better than our own. To me this means that I should not be spending time with someone because they have something that I want a piece of. If I want to be rich or outgoing or artistic or musical I should not resent that in another and spend time with them in the hopes that I will gain those things. Jealous is also a word that is sometimes used here. This brings in feelings of being afraid, suspicious or resentful of rivalry in love or affection. To be jealous is to be insecure in who I am and in the solidity of our relationship. To be jealous is also to say that the other person does not have integrity and cannot be trusted.
To declare ones achievements, abilities or possessions with indulgent pride and satisfaction. To me doing this is to not have regard for the worth of the other person and raise myself above the level of my partner. My partner would feel inferior, belittled, unsupported, alone. One is made to feel inadequate while the other establishes themselves as superior. The one who boasts uses the other to raise them up.
Personal vanity, conceit. To be conceited is to see only myself. To be blind to the other person. True conceit needs no one else.
Impolite or offensive. Having no consideration for the other person’s feelings, beliefs or morals. To be rude is to also have no respect for who the other person is and what they stand for. To act inappropriately.
Deficient in consideration for others. Concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. Self interest. To be selfish is to not have the attitude of a servant. To put my needs before those of the other person. When someone loves, they put the other person’s needs, feelings, wants and even their life ahead of their own. They rejoice in the success of the other person. I am to watch the other person grow and rise even if it is at my expense. To be unselfish is to put the other person first – period.
Keeps no record of wrongs
I am to look for the best in the other person. Forgiveness in the purest sense means that I do not keep score. In spite of it all, I forgive, support and continue to move forward in a loving relationship as God intended. If I keep score, I will begin to build up a resentment for the other person. Concentrating on the negative is a burden that stops true feelings and holds back progress in a relationship. Our joy in Christ is the realization that through His death, God does not keep score. This is our example of forgiveness.
Take offence, angered, provoked
No one is perfect. Not the other person. Not me. If the other person makes a mistake, offends me or gives me cause to be angry – I am to choose not to feel angered and to react out of anger. I am to forgive so that we can move forward.
Delight in Evil
Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. From a Christian perspective, evil can be described as the absence of God. Love does not delight in the absence of God. Both partners need to keep their focus together on Him.
Fail (Vanish Away)
To fall short, to cease to exist in its fullest. To be done away with. Paul used this terminology to differentiate Love from the gifts of God. The gifts were considered containers of God’s work whereas Love was the work itself. The work of God will not cease, love will not cease. Love will only cease when I or my partner choose to stop loving.
To love someone for the rest of your life is the hardest, most frustrating, most rewarding job you will take on. Not everyone is successful. It certainly cannot be done on your own. God is our example of love and true love exists only within His grace. It means supporting each other. It means enduring together things that may be too painful to endure alone. It means to rejoice in hurting for the other person – to take their pain away. It means raising the other up to make them the best that they can be. It means to trust the other with everything.
This then is how God sees love. This is how God wants us to put it into practice.