Our guest columnists, Clint and Penny Bragg, are a living example that reconciliation after divorce is indeed possible. They wrote the column for me last April, and I invited them back to share hope and encouragement to those of you, or folks you know, who are enduing the devastating pain of separation. I'll be back at the end of the column with some other thoughts about happy endings for separation and about how you can get more information from the Braggs.
Finding peace and purpose in the pain
Less than two years after we were married, I (Penny) packed a few things in a suitcase and rolled it out our front door, leaving Clint in a tailspin. My actions set him on an emotional roller coaster. Clint contacted our pastor and some men from the church, but had no idea what to do to get me to come back home. Because we really didn't want anyone to know our relationship was on the rocks before the night I walked out, the gap between us widened until we eventually separated and divorced.
Eleven years would pass before our paths would ever cross again. Unbeknownst to one another, we both decided to get some help to deal with the years of bitterness, anger and regret. We never imagined that we would ever see each other again, let alone remarry.
In hindsight, we now understand that our marriage could have been saved before divorce if we would have allowed our struggles and separation to teach us some important lessons, instead of trying to tough it out by ourselves.
Having served spouses in crisis for many years now, we've learned a great deal about how to support those who feel like they're trying to save their marriages alone. The mistakes from our pasts have been redeemed by helping others find hope for the future. If you're currently separated and you feel like your marriage is circling the drain toward divorce, take heart. There is hope! If you latch onto understanding and applying these three vital truths, you'll do more than just survive this crisis. You will experience peace and purpose amidst the pain.
Separation is a journey, not a race to the finish
Many people who are separated want a quick fix. It's painful! However, it is essential to realize that the methods and timing of what unfolds is just as important as the final outcome. Perhaps God is using this to call you to a journey of faith that cannot be measured in the outward signs (or lack thereof). Be a willing participant in the process of separation. Do your part to get well. Own up to your end of the breakdown and be willing to admit your shortcomings. Seek counseling and quality reconciliation resources.
One tangible idea we suggest is to purchase a travel journal. Commit to a journey and surrender each of the following: your itinerary, hidden agendas, fears, options, ideas, opinions, baggage, obstacles, desired outcomes and time lines. As time passes, add entries about what is happening in each of the following areas of your life during the separation: spiritual, relational, health, financial, home, professional and future dreams.
What's happening is about more than just your marriage
Often times as the drama and emotion of a marital crisis unfolds, our perspective gets short-sighted. Think of it as similar to what happens when you sit in the front row of a movie theater. Instead of allowing yourself to be consumed by your pain, take a few steps back. Gain a broader perspective and make an effort to see the grander scope and sequence of what's transpiring.
One way to do this is to select a few songs whose lyrics are meaningful to you. Compile a playlist of these songs and listen to them regularly, especially when you need some encouragement. You can do the same thing with some writings of encouragement such as those found in the Psalms. Unplugging from life, cell phones, work, etc., and taking a walk each day will also help clear your mind.
Fighting for your marriage is a posture, not the pursuit of your spouse
Contending for your marriage is really an attitude of the heart and a resolve of deeper faith in the middle of the mire. It's not about taking action to pursue your spouse or trying to single-handedly save your marriage. Fighting for your marriage in your own strength (such as initiating contact, making convincing arguments, sending e-mails, stalking Facebook threads, relentlessly texting your spouse, visiting his/her workplace etc.) is extremely tempting. But, don't give in. Pursuing your spouse will often backfire. We've seen it a thousand times, and it was true of our own marriage crisis. Instead of pursuing your spouse and trying to make things happen in your own power, remain humble and change the things inside yourself that need to be changed.
One idea we suggest is to take a photograph from your wedding and place a sticky note on the back of it. List any changes you know you need to make during this time of separation. Place the photo where you will see it each day. Ask a trusted friend (same gender) to meet with you at least once a week over the phone, or in person. Share your list with him/her. Allow this person to hold you accountable to the changes you need to make.
Hear more from the Braggs
As I have shared so many times in this column, marriage can be tricky business and so many folks cut and run when they likely could have been able to forge a satisfying, successful marriage together, if they had only known how. It's not my place to judge, but I have seen the research that clearly shows divorce does not necessarily make folks happy. To that end let me encourage you to visit the Bragg's website, www.inverseministries.org, for helpful (and free) resources to help you make the best decision.
Clint and Penny will be my guests on TWOgether as ONE tomorrow evening at 6 on KLJH 107.1FM. They will be sharing more of their amazing story and offering tips to help folks who are separated. They will also give advice on how to approach friends and loved ones you may know who are separated.
One last note. I offer a service called Controlled Separation. Designed by Lee Raffel, Controlled Separation helps couples better define and structure their separation to give them the best chance at a successful resolution. Give me a call if that is of interest and I'll gladly share more details.
Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.