Backyard Feeder

Backyard Feeder
photo taken through porch screen

Friday, October 07, 2011

Is it really ever right for a religious person to divorce?

Question: I am struggling with the possibility of divorcing my husband. He has been violent during his recent episodes and I currently have an order of protection keeping him away from me. I still love him and we don't believe in divorce. I know God doesn't want us to live like this, but what can I do?

My response: Maybe I’m the one who’s supposed to chime in with the Biblical references to support you in protecting yourself. As was already mentioned, your father God would never wish abuse on any of his children and would want and expect you to protect your child as well as yourself. You can’t help your husband unless you are safe and sound.

People who are in the throes of a bipolar episode, whether it’s manic, depressive or mixed, are capable of doing serious physical and mental harm to the people who are trying to help them. When lifeguards are trained, they are taught to use special tools and techniques because a person who is drowning tends to thrash about and can easily pull their rescuer down with them if that rescuer is not fully prepared and trained. People with mental illness often behave in a similar way and may do damage that they don’t intend in an attempt to keep their own heads above water. The order for protection is one tool that you can use to keep from getting pulled under. Don’t throw it away until he has made some serious steps toward wellness.

An appointment with a psychiatrist should be mandatory before you cancel the order. It would be great if he could start on medication before you start to drop your guard. You aren’t refusing to help, you are refusing to be pulled under with him.

Now to the religious stuff. In the Bible it says that “God hates divorce” which seems pretty straight-forward, but the meaning of those words has changed over time and in different cultures. What God hates is the breakdown of the loving relationship which pulls marriages apart. Divorce is not a legal term here, it is talking about the human relationship.

Sometimes it is necessary to put a little space in a relationship when someone is unstable to avoid allowing that person to do irreparable damage. If you drop the order and allow things to return to “normal” your husband may feel that he can go back to the way things were, go to one therapy session, put off seeing a psychiatrist indefinitely, and eventually lash out at you in episode because he hasn’t done anything to manage the illness. THAT COULD FORCE AN END TO THE MARRIAGE. You could be physically harmed. Your child could be physically and emotionally damaged. Occasionally someone is actually killed in a psychotic episode.

Your best chance at saving your relationship, something that God and the Church value greatly, may be by making sure that he is serious about getting help for himself before you let him off the hook. If it gets to the point of actually filing for a divorce, that isn't the worst thing that could happen. You can always get back together and even remarry if he gets stable enough to be a partner again. That gets harder if you allow him to do too much damage before you take a stand.

Maybe you are confident that he will follow through. You know him better than we do. But we have seen these patterns before and people do get hurt.

God loves you and so do I. I don’t want to hear that you have been harmed. I never left my husband against all sorts of advice, so I can’t really fault you if you drop the order and work things out on your own. That’s what I did and I’m here to tell of it, but please be careful. No one will fault you if you protect yourself and your child. Not even God.

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