I started leading Christian divorce recovery groups in the 1990s. Since then I've listened to many heartbreaking stories of betrayal and abuse.
Christian women and men find themselves married to serial cheaters, sexually immoral spouses, or physically or emotionally or verbally abusive spouses. They tried to fix their marriage. They prayed. They forgave. They got counseling. They talked to their pastor, but nothing changed. The horror continued.
Finally they decided: “It’s over. I can’t go on any longer. For myself and for the sake of my children, I need to end it."
If you are going through a life-saving divorce, there is hope and happiness for you (and your kids)! You are not alone.
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—Gretchen Baskerville (Twitter @GGBaskervile)
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What’s a Nice Christian Girl Like You Doing Promoting Divorce?
Good question! I am a Christian, and I am pro-marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage: God meant marriage to be loving, undefiled, and lifelong. I know there are frivolous divorces, and I am not in favor of them.
I attend church, I tithe, I volunteer, I serve, and I pray. I came to Christ when I was 5 years old. I love the Lord. My parents have had a loving Christian marriage for sixty years and counting! As a young person from a genuinely good Christian family, who attended a Christian college, one of my biggest goals was to be an affectionate wife and loving mother. And I set out to do everything right.
But things didn’t turn out the way I’d planned.
In fact, they turned out dangerous. The loving marriage my faith had promised me if I followed all the rules crumbled before my eyes, and I soon found myself terrified and in totally unknown territory, with kids depending on me, judgmental messages about divorcees pounding in my head, and an increasing sense that I had to get out of there.
In those dark years, by his Spirit, God showed me his provision for me and my children. He helped me get a “Life-Saving Divorce,” and he helped me rebuild my life afterward.
In time, God had healed and strengthened me so much that I could turn around and help others who were in my same situation, leading divorce recovery groups and walking beside abused women and men as they grew in the strength of the Lord to recognize the abuse, get to safety, and form a new life for themselves.
I started working on this book twenty years ago, then put it down. Then three years ago when I remarried, my husband said, “You’ve got a lot to say on this topic, and you need to interview more people.”
So for the next three years, I interviewed women and men from all parts of the country and all walks of life. I have hours of recordings, and hundreds—perhaps thousands—of pages of transcripts.
I didn’t know anything about the people I interviewed before the interview. I didn’t know if they were divorced or separated. I didn’t know the reason their marriage ended. I didn’t know how long they’d been married or when they got divorced. I wondered if I would get some “I felt unfulfilled in my marriage” stories, but I didn’t get even one.
What I got were some stories that were so heinous, I couldn’t sleep at night.
I heard about abuse and betrayal I never dreamed possible.
Despite having been a divorce recovery leader since 1998, I was so shocked by some stories I asked for evidence (and it was provided). I also heard stories of people who cannot divorce due to physical problems and financial constraints: people who must live in a terrible situation twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, sometimes barricading themselves in their bedroom. I’ve asked how I can help and have done what I can. I felt honored that each of these precious people shared their stories with me.
But for those who got a life-saving divorce, everyone I interviewed is grateful to the Lord that they got out.
They may not be as financially stable as before; they may be going to therapy and needing a lot of support; they may have a child who was broken by the abuse in the home; but they say their lives are better now. They may still have court battles over custody and support with their ex-spouse, but they are glad they got to safety.
This book isn’t meant to tear down marriage. (I love being married.) This book is about “Life-Saving Divorces,” that category of divorces that are for very serious reasons. These divorces are designed by God to help innocent spouses and children escape from someone who threatens their lives and health.
We all know that some marriages are the opposite of God’s design. Some are selfish, adulterous, or one-sided to the extreme… and they are often kept secret from other people at church. You probably have known of at least one marriage so terrible, you were sad but relieved when it ended. Maybe you had mixed feelings.
The Bible talks about people who are too destructive to be allowed to stay in our churches; how much more is this true in a marriage? God knew people would be terrible to their spouses, and he condemned it. God told the Israelites: “…Let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth.”
This book is about treacherous marriages, including marriages with undercover problems where there is no violence, screaming, or visible conflict. I want to help people reach out to the Lord for help and guidance. In my divorce recovery groups, I saw some couples reconcile, but I also observed many, many cases where sinful and marriage-endangering behavior continued. God allows divorce in cases such as this. I am here to tell you:
You can love God and get a divorce.