Behind closed doors

Father David Epps's picture

Last week I wrote an article about divorce, “The Gift that Keeps on Taking.” I received two letters from women who took issue with me when I wrote, regarding marriage vows, “That’s one promise that must be kept.” I felt they had something to say. I have changed their names to protect their identities.

“I have to say this article struck a nerve. You are not taking emotional abuse toward a spouse and/or a child into account. It’s taken me years to understand emotional abuse — and to admit I was a victim, as was our second child. My children have truly benefited from our being divorced and not being subjected to their father. One example is that my second began talking properly and then became a 2-year-old with a major stutter. She actually stopped stuttering the day her dad left our house! I was in such a state of anxiety that I didn’t even notice and her preschool teacher pointed it out to me a week after he was gone.

“It’s like anything else — one is not aware of the reality of the situation unless they find themselves IN the situation. I had no idea what a stigma it would be for me and my children to live in a ‘broken home.’ I challenge one to come visit me and my children and see for themselves that, yes, a village is sometimes better than a father when it comes to raising a child. I credit the GOOD male role models in their lives — my dad, my brother-in-law, a few male elementary school teachers, a few men from church and the high school band directors with helping my girls see how men are supposed to act and react, how they are supposed to treat others, how they are when in sticky situations, how they are when things are good!

“My girls chose to not go back to visit their dad after the youngest was 12 years old and could legally decide to not go visit. His reaction was to never call this house again, never been seen here again, and has never sent one piece of mail. It’s been seven years and, yes, we all wish we had different circumstances, but we did make the best of this situation and I think we are all better off.

“Both of my girls have legally changed their name to my maiden name upon their 18th birthday. (I took back my name in the divorce.) ... It makes them look illegitimate and this is embarrassing to me. But like my sister pointed out, they have no tattoos, no piercings, they are not pregnant, not on drugs, made good grades in school, hold down jobs and go to college. Why shouldn’t I rejoice that we all have the same name?

“So, while highly unusual, I do not agree with you. I stood in church and I did take a serious vow, and that vow made me stay a few years longer than I should have. The best thing I did for myself and my children was to divorce their father. Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.” — Rebecca

“I always felt the same way that you wrote about this week until I found myself in a situation that was causing me to die spiritually, with no hope of improvement in the situation. Dishonesty and living in a marriage with a man that was supposed to be a man of God, (and had very little likeness to Christ) was slowly killing me emotionally and physically. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. We tend to judge things so black and white sometimes.

“If I had children in that marriage I might have stayed but I knew from all my pleading to get help, he wouldn’t have. So do you lay down your life for something that isn’t even right? I don’t know, and to be perfectly honest I don’t know what to tell people on the subject anymore. I never had a thought that I would ever be divorced. It wasn’t in my book of possibilities. But believe me, it has taken me three years to finally know I have a relationship with the Lord again, to be free of the guilt, and to recover from the horrible stress.

“I think I have come to the conclusion that each and every case deserves to be heard without throwing it all into a category of ‘God hates divorce, so stick it out.’ Sometimes to live in a mistake is like self-punishment and often a worse punishment to the children. I know people who have stuck it out for their children and they are to be commended. Others who have stuck it out have ended up with such stress in the household that children leave as soon as possible just to get away from it all. I believe God wants peace in a home. Try as we might, sometimes it is impossible.” — Juliet

My profound thanks to these women who graciously gave me permission to share their stories. May God have mercy and give wisdom to us all.

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