We live in a society that wants easy answers. Add the need to point fingers. And voila! A recipe for disaster. This is an entrée for ongoing hurt garnished with an unhealthy cycle of living in the past.
When I became newly divorced, I was asked, “what happened?”. As if I could draft a two-minute answer for why my marriage of 8 years dissolved. I was expected to whip up the broken pieces of mistakes and unmet expectations into a palatable meal for their hearing. Some people wanted a dose of bitter while others’ facial expressions craved sweetness. Everyone begged for a finger to point at someone.
Failed marriages are not simple. A surface level explanation does not do it justice. By the way, neither are successful marriages easy to summarize. Both results follow the same pattern. Individual decisions added up over time. And voila! Successful marriage. Or voila! A successful divorce.
Two years after my divorce was final, I chose to stop retelling the rise and fall of the marriage. The people who needed to know juicy details already knew. It was not healthy for me to relive the heartache when someone placed their desire for information over my need to heal.
This is the elevator speech I would have played for the curious:
It took two people for this marriage to fail. I can tell you my part but that would be unfair to my ex-spouse. We did our best with the resources we had at the time. We can’t undo the past. And the details fade with time. I surrendered my divorce to God. God used the experience to catapult me into a more mature, healthy, vulnerable, and compassionate human. God continues to use my pain to draw people to Him.
Too simple, maybe. But the truth is people asking the question don’t want to know the truth. They are looking for an answer that affirms their own suspicions, their own assumptions as to why marriages end.
There was infidelity. There was never really love. They weren’t real Christians. They were weak and couldn’t tough it out. The wife wouldn’t submit. The husband didn’t value her. It was money. Any answer given would be kneaded and interpreted to fit that person’s preconstructed “divorce” box.
I recall a conversation with a close family member during my divorce process. This person was present from beginning to end yet struggled with their own notions of marriage and divorce. Divorce, as they knew it, was always the woman’s fault. But they couldn’t find fault in me. It troubled them to reconcile what was previously an impossibility. It meant acknowledging their own preconceptions and biases.
Let me simplify the elevator speech further. “You’re divorced. What happened?” Answer: “Two people chose to do life apart, instead of together, for the rest of their lives.” Offer no explanation to reconcile the past. Do not rationalize or confront their assumptions.
Talk about the present and future. Your present. Your future. Let the dead stay dead.
Resource to consider: “Good Boundaries and Goodbyes” by Lysa Terkeurst