Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Four Imperatives When Your Spouse Walks Out

Here’s a post I wrote to encourage parents going through separation or divorce. Please feel free to share it with anyone you know in this situation.

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19)

I remember the day my daughter learned to sit by herself. Five months old, she sat on the floor at a friend’s house and chewed a teething ring. Her brown eyes shone gleefully at her new independence. Sitting up, she had a whole new perspective!

I should have been delighted, but I couldn’t even smile. We were at the friend’s house because I did not want my children to see their dad packing his things. While Emily innocently expanded her world and her two- and four-year-old brothers played, their dad was leaving our family. 

That was eleven years ago. Emily has grown into a lovely preteen with penchants for horses and theater, and her brothers are pursuing their own interests with passion. Apart from the great advise I heard from friends and various readings, things might not have turned out so well. I’d like to offer four recommendations for parents experiencing the desertion of a partner.

Get to Know God
If you’ve never understood the Bible’s redemptive message, I can’t think of a better time to consider it. Don’t think you’re strong enough to handle this trauma by yourself. We were designed for relationship with God. He wants to partner with you, helping you lead those children you love onto solid ground. His love and grace and the wise counsel of Scripture have marked many turning points in my journey as a divorced parent. To begin a relationship with God, check out my “Jesus and You” page. And be sure to find an accepting church where you can grow in your faith.

If you already have a relationship with God through faith in Christ, now’s the time to deepen and grow that bond. True, you may not feel especially excited about your faith right now! When pilots fly through a storm, sometimes they can’t see anything but clouds. They must rely on their instruments to guide them through. Our instruments are prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. Continue to practice these, even if you just aren’t feeling it. Sink your spiritual roots into God’s sovereignty and love.

Traumatic life experiences can make or break our faith. I think the difference between people who abandon their faith and those who grow deeper is the willingness to let God be God. That’s surrender. If we base our faith on anything but God’s sovereign love proved at the cross, we are likely to turn away when we encounter trials.

Don’t be afraid to have a very real discussion with God. It’s normal to wonder if He has let us down. A trusting heart talks this over with Him. That’s a real relationship. I think God would rather hear our rants and questions than a bitter silence and turning away. When we hang in there with God, our trials set us free. Persevere in your faith. Someday, you’ll see that God was both loving and sovereign. I guarantee it.

Join a Support Group
Separation and divorce are extremely traumatic and should not be lightly treated. To be there for your children, you need the healing of a dedicated support group specifically designed for your situation. DivorceCare is a well-established program that’s offered in churches throughout the United States and Canada, and in several other countries. There’s also a DivorceCare program for kids. You’ll hear expert advice on surviving divorce, and you can share your struggles with friends in a confidential setting. Great medicine!

Be an Amicable Ex
Keep your relationship with your ex-spouse as amicable as possible. I remember a small group leader telling me, “This can be a big, endless drama or it can be business-like and reasonably friendly. It’s up to you.” Without becoming a doormat, do everything you can to show your ex that you are willing to be fair and reasonable. Show this person you want to work together to arrive at a stable, happy agreement for the kids.

Divorcing parents can have extremely inaccurate perceptions of each other’s actions, and open hostility is often just a word away. Instead, be polite. Help this person understand you are not posturing as an enemy. Listen to your ex, even if you disagree, and repeat back what he says to show you heard. You may strongly disapprove of his or her actions, but you cannot change anyone but yourself. So take the high road, and do your part to keep things easy on the kids.

Provide Stability for the Children
Divorce is hard on parents, but it rocks a child’s entire world. Security is a child’s primary need, so we can see the potential for devastation when a parent goes AWOL. Keep things as stable as you can for the children. Keep in place whatever family routines you have established. If you watch movies on Friday nights, by all means continue the habit. Continue visiting with friends after church. Don’t forget to walk the dog and do the dishes. Keep discipline consistent; now more than ever your kids need healthy boundaries.

Don’t make any drastic changes if you can help it. It’s tempting to try to outrun our problems. For example, some divorcing parents want to relocate – fast, and far! They think a fresh start will fix everything. Not so! The children are going through too much change already with a newly absent parent. Adding unnecessary changes will shake them even more and may produce behavior problems or psychological harm. That said, you can trust God to help your children cope with the changes you can’t avoid. Stay close to Him day by day.

With time and wise decisions, you can successfully navigate your children through divorce. Initially, separation is traumatic, but life will eventually stabilize. Someday you’ll look back in awe at God’s ability to bring good out of your trial. Until then, keep your eyes on Jesus, who will never fail you.


  1. So glad you brought God into the picture. This is where the healing process all starts. also, Being an Amicable Ex shows our children that we can rise above our trials. It brings harmony into their lives as well!

  2. Wonderful advice here...especially the part about being real with God. When you get real with Him, he can heal your hurts and then you can help heal your kid's hurts!
    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!

  3. I love, love, love this post. While it's not something I'm presently going through, I know plenty of people who've struggled through divorce with young children in the middle of the battle zone. It's so hard. Thank you for writing this.


  4. Blessings to you, dear sister!! It is amazing to see such a gracious response to such a hard trial.

  5. This is great. I am going to post it on my page for people to read.


  6. Thanks so much for your encouraging comments and thoughts, everyone!

  7. All true! I went through this about 12 years ago. God uses everything.

  8. What a wonderfully helpful post! You have outlined some major important points. When I divorced, it was so hard. I still struggle with maintaining an amicable relationship. It is tough. Such wonderful advice!

    Visit me at Spilled Milkshake

    Visiting from voiceBoks!

    ♥ xoxo

  9. I admire your courage and your faith. Visiting from VoiceBoks.

  10. wonderful and thoughtful post as always Lisa. I think those going through it should read this article. I guess, God was and is your strength at all times. :)

  11. Wonderful advice about whatever loss you have in your life. We all face them.

  12. It's true, we cannot change anyone but ourselves. God bless you Lisa for being the rock for your kids.

    Janie from vB

  13. Great advice and very thoughtful...thank you:)
    Cheers from vB,

  14. I can't even express how much I believe amicable behavior and stability are important.

  15. Great blog!
    Stopping by from Vb

  16. How thoughtful of you to take the time to write about this for others.

  17. Great post. Upbringing children without dad around must be quite challenging. My Kudos to you!


  18. I'm your newest follower from the hop:) Check me out at http://hugatreewithme2.blogspot.com whenever you can

  19. This is just wonderful advice, not just for divorcing parents but could be applied to all difficult situations! I too loved how you brought your faith in God into the situation in such a real and honest way. The part where you said you have to let God be God, really got to me. Thank you.

    VoiceBoks friend!

  20. Great article...really appreciate how steady and conscious you are about getting through such a terrible time with your sanity in tact. Without doubt God and support are keys! I'll be sharing this one!

  21. Thanks everyone! I still struggle with the amicability thing, Christina - can relate! Elise, to be honest I'm not sure my sanity is all that intact, lol! (jk) Thanks for sharing. I was encouraged writing this post because it reminded me how faithful God has been.

  22. great advice. i am not going through this myself, but i know others who are. thanks.

  23. Lisa, Love this post! I especially appreciate the "Be an amicable ex" point. So many times following a breakup I would bite my tongue, especially when my children were able to see past old hurts and love their other parent unconditionally. But what a gift that is!

    RJ, the Hope Coach

  24. Me & my ex separated in 1998 when my girls were 2 & 8 and it was one of the happiest days of my life. (My ex was verbally abusive to me & my oldest daughter.) Now we get along better than we ever did when we were married, but after were separated I didn't put up with his mouth anymore. Of course, I never say/said anything negative about their dad & they have a pretty good relationship with him.

    This was good post. I know not everybody has a happy divorce :)

    Stopping by from VoiceBoks!

  25. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with this. While I'm not going through this, I have several friends that are. The amicable part, especially when infidelity are called in to play? Man, that's the hard part.

    Gina from vB

  26. Newest follower and found you on bloggy moms. This is a great post and so true! I would agree that being an amicable ex is key. If not then nothing gets done and nothing gets accomplished as far as the kids are concerned. looking forward to reading more.
    Hope you will stop by and follow back!
    have a wonderful week!!


  27. I wanted to tell you what a great post this is. I prayed often that my girls would see God as a very real Father when their own was not in the picture. God answered that prayer many times, and even moved in their father's heart and brought him back into their lives. I love what you said about being amicable with the ex-spouse. That is how it should be. Often, the spouse that broke the marriage is not like this, but we have to take the high road as much as possible.

    1. Thanks, Janet! It is not an easy road, but God does help us and answer our prayers along the way.