My 20-year marriage ended in a rapid divorce last year. We share three children ages 9, 6, and 3. As a pastor’s kid, I was steeped in patriarchy and lots of chaos in a dysfunctional family that over-spiritualized life and moralized disagreements to perpetuate enmeshment. I married a man of the same frequency.
Boundaries revealed his inability and unwillingness to grow with me inside our marriage. I asked for a separation. He filed for divorce. He abused animals during our separation and quickly found a new woman a few weeks after our divorce.
He maintains a highly religious persona and is in all kinds of men’s groups and is raising the kids with fundamentalistic ideals and seems hell-bent on proving that I’m the problem. My question for you in this is where would you direct my next step in how to address this season? It’s incredibly painful as I feel my worth as a woman, a Christian, and mother have been attacked even though I know the truth. I have anxiety about my kids and their perception of all this and feel at a loss sometimes to know what to do.
I am curious if you could offer me any advice? Thanks!
First of all, kudos to you. You should be proud of the courageous and fierce woman suffering has pointed you to become, you did not have to answer suffering’s painful call, but you did, and it shows. Integrity, grit, and care ooze from your words.
What your ex-husband is participating in is called “Spiritual Bypassing”. Dr. Robert Master’s calls this “avoidance in Holy drag”. He goes onto to define Spiritual Bypassing as “the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.” Your ex-husband’s commitment to over-spiritualize is an effort to escape pain. His heart is closed off, and feelings are perceived as threatening if he is asked to engage in a deeper way.
Yes, this may impact your children negatively. To observe such hypocrisy is never delightful when you are living a painfully authentic existence. Yet, I also know that your ex-husband’s true colors will continue to be shown. Though your children will not know how to articulate their experience now, they will come to know their father’s true self or lack thereof. Your work is differentiating yourself from his toxicity, immaturity, insecurity and false sense of spiritual solidity. Your work with your children is continued authenticity, showing pain and joy, and simply being real with all the complexity that brings. You must balance telling the truth with not completely annihilating the coward that is their father.
Now, this must be approached in age-appropriate ways, but this is what kids need most: your humanity. Not an image of perfection. My main fear is that your kids will come to hate your ex-husband’s perverted version of God and think that is the real God. Your work is to continue to provide a safe place to be broken. Modeling a God who seeks to understand not fix, a God who weeps with us. Yes, that is a God we can come to trust.
I do believe Truth wins. God is Truth. The more we can live authentic lives (the more we live in truth) the more we will experience God. Spiritual bypassing is not truth. Questioning your relationship with God, your sanity, etc. is merely his desperate attempt to regain his power and control. You see through him, and he knows that. He knows he can fool his new wife, thus he is drawn to her; he can be the king again. You most likely terrify him, because one of his greatest fears is that he will be exposed for the fraud that he is. (Check out my article, Why I Am Insecure—and Want My Wife to Pay for It )
Remember you are a prophetess! Speaking truth to power structures can be quite fun, but it comes at a cost. Remember what happened to the prophets in the bible? Yet your noble calling is much deeper than anyone’s curse of you. If you can remain secure and rooted in a relationship with yourself and the God who lives in you, you will be able to continue the glorious fight. Keep up the good and difficult work!