When love is war and nothing’s fair


In  scripture, onto Shakespeare, through rock and roll, and again in every home and glance,
we witness: “love hurts”.

Somehow, between Love speaking beauty into being and fragments into form,
the hope and legacy of love has become twisted.
Promises broken. Children slain. Vows despised. And then…repeat.

The past years have presented me with an unexpected amount of interaction within the conversations, conflict, and chaos of divorce. With several siblings, colleagues, and peers navigating such hostile terrain, I have learned a few lessons. {Granted, each lesson was learned through failure and is an ongoing process.}

9 Lessons in supporting loved ones through divorce:

1. Remember your vows
I have had the privilege of standing up as an attendant for those I love. I have witnessed the exchange of vows and, in standing with them and signing their covenant, I too vowed to be with and for them until death. {Note: I recognize that this may be in conflict with some views of weddings and marriage, but it is the starting point for me}. When these marriages enter the arena of divorce, my vows to them as a couple did not change. As uncomfortable {and near impossible!} as it sometimes seems to be, I continue to hope for both of them, to invite each of them to bear their hearts, to wish them each True Happiness, and to protect their children.

2. I am not their savior
There is one Savior.
I am not Him.
Be present. Be willing. Be open.
But recognize that we cannot save them. Their lives and hearts are between them and God.

3. The Vulnerable, first.
Some marriages have the honor of producing children.
Too many divorces have the horror of destroying them.
If there are children involved, and I am involved with the couple, then I will do whatever I am able to protect and nurture the children.  I will open my home. I will stay in contact. I will be available as a safe place.

4. Leave mediation to the mediators
I am not educated or employed as a mediator.
Even if I were, I have learned to stay clear of mapping the middle lands for those with whom I am personally involved. Mediation, when done with wisdom, can enable communication, understanding, and healing. When done with misguided motivations or an eagerness to be involved or “just help out”, it can deepen division and invite individuals to play the sides instead of discovering neutral ground.

5. Marital conflict is not a status update
I have seen far too many FaceBook updates expressing reactions and emotions in the throes of divorce.
If someone is posting dirty details online, it often means:
a) They are angry, inebriated, hurt, and/or confused.
b) They are trying to incite hurt
c) They are making a {misguided } attempt at gaining public opinion in their favor {enhanced by the comments and ‘likes’ that are certain to pour in from those who enable such actions or have only caught pieces of the story}.
This is not a healthy exercise. Engaging the individual through comments and messages is not likely to be helpful {even more true if you do not know this person well enough to actually have the conversation face-to-face}.
Walk away. Vent to your dog. Be available for real conversation if needed.

6. Quit craving the dirty details
Everyone loves a story. Unfortunately, everyone loooooves a story with a hint of dirt and the tinge of scandal.
If you really, really, think you need to know; if you just can’t pray for them effectively without knowing how far they fell, if you just can’t discern who was right and who was wrong, if you just can’t trust them to be ‘transparent and vulnerable’ enough….
Then, back off.
If you want a shady thrill, go to a circus or hit the ‘net at midnight.
Otherwise: be a safe place, be available if/when needed, assume the worst, hope for The Good and realize that their hearts carry what happened, whatever it was, every single day.

7. Quit thinking so highly of your own
Few people get married with the expectation of failure.
Few couples pencil in a year of adultery or a round of drug use or a deadening of affection.
But, day after day, it happens. That perfect couple. The ones who were together since highschool. That pastor. Her brother. His sister. The ones with the great kids.
Unless you KNOW that you are without sin. Unless you KNOW that you will never (ever!) fall to temptation. Unless you KNOW that you are better than every single vowed-before-God set of broken hearts: shut up.
Clear your eyes of that prideful pity you’re staring at them with, and humble yourself with a sorrow that leads to repentance. Guard your heart, watch your step, and keep your bed clean….with humility.

8. Listen once, repeat it never
Sometimes the best support people need is a safe place to speak and process. As we support couples walking through divorce, they might share reflections, experiences, or future steps. Hold these words carefully! Be an attentive listener and respond if asked, but DO NOT SPEAK THIS INFORMATION ELSEWHERE. There are deep relational and even legal consequences which can occur through re-sharing someone’s heart-conversations.
Their conversations should not provide material for our own. This is their story. If that individual intended information to reach other parties, he or she could choose to do so personally or through appropriate venues. {If we DO make the mistake of re-sharing information,  back up and clean up}

9. Always hope
There are some seemingly hopeless situations.
Pair despair with time, re-marriage, re-divorce, re-abuse, etc., and the hopelessness abounds.
But… we DO have  HOPE. It doesn’t mean a fairy tale ending or even marriage, but it can mean reconciliation, healing, communication, safety.

It can mean Love, the way it was meant to be.



5 Responses to “When love is war and nothing’s fair”
  1. Delynne says:

    Excellent thoughts!

  2. Kmarie says:

    excellent, thoughtful, compassionate thoughts. I wholeheartedly hope to follow these with each conversation and we too have “been there” in some ways and know others who are travelling tougher paths that can not always be immediately understood…but they can be supported…just like the steps you mentioned:)
    Thanks for sharing pro active and empathetic advice….

  3. Marissa says:

    This is so helpful and so needed for me to hear. Thanks for laying out these guidelines so clearly and honestly with such Hope throughout.

  4. EB says:

    wow this is huge. GREAT work D. I think this should apply in every heart relationship. I especially crave the number 8 as it is something that we struggle with here on tiny little PEI…and I assume every place has that “tiny” feel that we CARE about everyone so we should know a piece of what is happening to them…but I feel so STRONGLY about NOT passing on information! TRUST is earned with much difficulty in my own life and I know how easily it is to break trust by passing on information too. I struggle with that but I also am SO sensitive when it happens to me. Thanks for this great post.

  5. The Tea Bag says:

    Thanks for this. I have been / am the person on either side, as the person journeying through this and as the recipient of confidences. I appreciate your essay more than I can say.

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