When it comes to divorce, one of the most commonly searched questions is “What does the Bible say about divorce?”
I understand. For a lot of women, their faith is one of the most important components. If you’re particularly religious, your church family is really important to you – and worrying about facing their censure isn’t an easy thing to think about. Will they understand? Will they treat you differently? Will they accept you? What about your children?
How do you reconcile with you believe to be true, and the life that you’ve been living? How do you know that your choices won’t hurt you later on?
Whether your fear is divine – as in, will you go to hell because you got a divorce? – or more practical – as in, what happens in church, and what will people say? – your fears are very real. I can completely understand why this would give you pause.
I’m a divorce lawyer. I’m not a religious scholar. You can read the Bible and interpret it as well as I can. I’m not here to cite specific verses that are in favor of divorce.
Obviously, at this point, you’re going to need to do some soul searching. I’ve worked with a lot of women whose fear of divorce stemmed from a religious objection to it. In most cases, they ultimately ended up getting divorced anyway. I’m not saying that it’s easy.
But I am saying that staying in a marriage where your husband is a narcissist, is abusive, gambles, commits adultery, suffers from substance abuse or addiction issues, or is otherwise unkind or unsupportive is probably an untenable situation.
You could stay. You could push your feelings aside. You could seek fulfilment elsewhere. You could accept his failings. You could pray. You could seek refuge in your faith.
If that helps you get through it and you truly feel that it’s the best decision in your situation, given your set of values, that is entirely your choice to make. I absolutely NEVER counsel women that they should divorce. I’m not here to make value judgments at all. I am here to educate Virginia women about their rights, entitlements, options, and particular courses of action available to them under their unique circumstances. Often, that includes separation and eventual divorce – but that’s not a decision I make.
If, though, staying doesn’t feel like the right decision, you’re just looking for a little theological support for your decision, that’s not uncommon. And, to you, I’d make a couple suggestions:
1. Meet with your priest, pastor, rabbi, or other religious figure to discuss your potential divorce.
Ask him or her what he or she thinks. Discuss your situation. It’s not uncommon for these people to counsel their parishioners; I think it very possible that, in today’s world, you’ll be surprised and encouraged by the counsel you receive. It’s no secret that divorce rates these days are high, so it’s absolutely not going to be the first time someone has asked him or her about it. Listen. Ask questions. See if what you hear jives with your understanding of the tenets of your religious. Do some soul searching. Is it convincing? Does it feel right? Does it make you see, even more clearly, the path forward?
2. Join a church/temple or other religious group for divorced or divorcing people, preferably women.
Lots of churches do Bible studies or meet ups for people that fit a certain demographic. See if your church has a support group for divorced or divorcing people (again, preferably women!) who can help you through.
A large portion of the population gets divorced. Even if no one in your immediate social circle has doesn’t mean that there’s not a healthy contingent of divorced or divorcing people hidden in plain sight. How do they justify their decision? How have they reconciled their faith with their divorce? Is it compelling to you? Do you feel better supported?
It may just be a question of finding a new support group. A lot of times, I think that people assume how others will react – mostly, a feeling based on their own fear of the situation – rather than actually taking the time to approach someone and discuss it.
Even the people that you’re worried about may be much more sympathetic than you think. And, if they aren’t – well, is that because they’re such good Christians, or whichever religious tradition applies? What would YOU say, if a friend told you these things? Is their behavior consistent with their – and your – religion?
3. See a counselor with a background in your religious faith.
There are a ton of marriage counselors out there, and most do both individual and couples counseling. Whether you ultimately hope to save your marriage, or whether you expect that this will end in divorce, having someone help you work through your feelings with an approach that is centered in your specific religious tradition, can be extremely beneficial.
There are TONS of Christian-based counseling groups. I’m sure that with a little digging, you can find them in all sorts of other religious traditions as well.
Ultimately, I can’t make any decisions for you. I wouldn’t want to. No one can make your decision to divorce – or not – but you. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that you won’t have to do a lot of soul searching. But I am saying that you may find more support, and more understanding, than you can even expect.
The Bible is an important text. I can understand why you’d want to know what it says. And you should definitely look into it, if you find it persuasive or helpful in any way. If it gives you clarity, or helps you to understand your faith in a more meaningful way, by all means – read it. Interpret it. Discuss it.
I hope you find clarity. I hope you find compassion. I hope you find that, whatever your decision is, you make the right decision for yourself and your children and your faith. It’s hard to juggle all the things. No one ever said it would be easy, right? But part of making the best decision is gathering the information you need to make that decision.
For more information, or to begin to understand your rights and entitlements under Virginia law, request a copy of our divorce book, attend our monthly divorce seminar, or visit our library for a number of helpful resources. When – and if – you’re ready, give us a call to schedule a confidential consultation at 757-425-5200. We will never push you in a particular direction, but we can help make sure that you have the answers you need to the questions that are keeping you awake at night.