7/08/2006

Divorce among Christians

This morning I had breakfast with a group of men from my church. The discussion was lively and fun, but one thing that stuck out to me is that 3 of the men had been divorced - in each case, their wives had left them against their will.

This is a common theme in the divorce cases of which I am personally aware. A lot of times (though not always), the man is in ministry and doesn't even know there is a problem until too late. Between us, Emily and I could only think of one case of Christian divorce among people we know in which the husband divorced the wife.

Now, my sample size is relatively limited so it could be that this isn't the norm in Christian divorce (what is your experience? Similar or different than mine?), and I am certainly not suggesting that the husbands in these failed marriages are not partly responsible for the divorce - I am sure they made lots of mistakes and missed lots of warning signs. But that doesn't make it any less disconcerting that they felt so blindsided.

I'm extremely lucky to be married to someone so straightforward that it is practically unthinkable that she would hold a problem inside and let it fester.. but this seems to have happened to a lot of the men I know. Why?

I talked with Emily, and we came up with a few tentative explanations. When men leave their wives, it is usually for an overtly evil reason like another woman (I think - this is another of my statistically insignificant observations). It is hard to justify that at all in Christian circles. Men tend to be rather stoic, and all of the men I know (I think and hope) would have no sympathy whatsoever for a man who did this, regardless of the circumstances.

On the other hand, a woman who divorces her husband because her emotional needs are not being met (or because her spouse feels distant and unloving) seems to have a less evil motivation. Emily thinks that even in the church it would not be hard to find women who would, if not condone the divorce, at least be sympathetic and not condemn it. She also tells me that a hobby among married women is to get together and complain about their husbands, which might provide some emotional support (though not explicit consent) for a woman considering divorce. Conversely, among the men I hang out with the failings of each other's wives is simply not a normal topic of conversation.

I really don't mean to beat up on women... I'm just trying to explain the patterns I see in Christian divorce, so that I can both avoid them and (God forbid) help any friends who might go through it. If you disagree with my analysis or have thoughts of your own, please share them!