What do you say if a dear Christian friend disagrees with your decision to divorce your destructive spouse?

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What if they accuse you of making things up?

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What if they are ill-informed about the tactics abusers use?

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What if they pressure you, saying "holiness over happiness"?

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What if they fear-bomb you, saying divorce will destroy your kids? Or that the Bible doesn't allow divorce for abuse? (It actually does.)

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Sadly, this happens a lot. People often think they know everything about your life, and feel entitled to shut you down. But only you know what's going on behind closed doors. Only you know how much you can take. Only you know when enough is enough. No friend or pastor or family member or counselor gets to decide if you've been abused enough.

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So how do you set boundaries with well-meaning friends who just don't get it? .

Two woman in my private Facebook group gave me permission to share their powerful letter s(lightly edited)

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Letter #1 The context:

"I was just beginning to realize that I was in a destructive marriage. Two women friends came and stayed with us for a pre-planned vacation visit. During their visit, I told them my fears and concerns. I was mostly dismissed. I was asked, 'What if marriage is to make us holy instead of happy.' Then they told me, after nearly a week of being there, that they hadn’t seen any abuse."
"That was over 18 months ago. I didn’t have the words or the strength I do now. And while I hope to have one of those friends back, someone I’ve known and loved for over a decade, I’m at peace knowing that might not happen."
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Letter #1  Here's the letter she sent to her dear friend:

Dear Friend,

I miss your friendship. I miss you. But if we are going to keep any sort of real friendship, I need to be honest with you and I need assurances that you are a safe person.

It was so harmful when you came to my home as an outsider and declared that you saw no abuse.

The rhetoric of "marriage making us holy instead of happy" is spiritual abuse when it is wielded in the way you used it against me. And it nearly kept me in an abusive marriage.

I don’t owe you a list of every interaction, every coercion and manipulation and suicide threat and the time/dates of neglect and abandonment.

Either you take me at my word because you support me, or you don’t.

If you cannot believe me and support me, if you continue to minimize, rationalize, or spiritualize the abuse done to me, then we cannot have a real friendship.

If you want to be a safe friend then I need to know that you are not in contact with my soon-to-be ex-husband. I cannot have honesty or friendship with you if I am worried that anything I say might be reported to him and used against me or as part of his smear campaign against me.

You don’t have to respond anytime soon. Just think about it. If you want to learn more, you can research Patrick Doyle, Leslie Vernick, Natalie Hoffman, Bob Hamp, Henry Cloud, Gretchen Baskerville, and many others who have written and spoken about emotional abuse, particularly from a Christian perspective.

I love you and I miss you.
Your Friend

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This is a great letter. And many of us find ourselves in a situation where a close friend is clueless about what's happening behind closed doors. This may be a wonderful friend, but they have a blind spot about abuse; and you're not going to be able to convince them. I think it's OK to distance yourself from this person. It doesn't have to be a permanent decision. You don't have to shun them. It's okay to slowly remove them from your life for now. They may change. They may need some time to think about it. They may have trouble with transitions. Perhaps someday they will come to you and admit they were wrong. It doesn't matter. For now you need to separate yourself from them and find safe friends who understand and side with you.

Letter #2 Another woman shared her letter to a Christian friend who was criticizing her for divorcing. She gave me permission to post it.  https://dellieclaire.com/2020/07/21/dear-christian-friend/

 

Dear Christian Friend…

I value you, or I wouldn’t have shared my story with you. I love you because of your beautiful heart and love for God. I treasure you because you make me feel known by you. Or you did. Until now. Until I told you I left my husband.

I shared my story, I poured out my heart and you said you would pray for us. I knew you would, but please don’t pray for reconciliation. There will be none. My only prayer is this does not happen. I am scared of being forced back into a marriage of loneliness, control and where my soul dies every day.

I thought you knew me, but I find myself wondering. You send me words and yes I hear your beautiful heart for Gods best – but don’t you think that is what I have searched for? What I have strived for? The reason I have put so much energy and so many years into this marriage?

Do you think I have left him on a whim? Do you think I haven’t spent 25 years hoping God would truly be the foundation of our marriage? Do you think I haven’t used up 100% of my emotional, mental and spiritual energy?

Friend – I am exhausted. I have been bullied, disrespected, unloved, and made to feel invisible. I am giving by nature. Do you not think I have given all I have and more to this?

Dear Christian Friend – when you say you pray we get back together I hear you saying it’s ok for me to be treated badly. You are saying it’s ok for my health to suffer. You are saying it’s ok for me to be unloved. When you say God wants us back together, I hear it’s ok for me not to matter, and it’s ok to live a lie.

Why is that? Is it because if we stayed married it makes you feel better? Do you think it will make God love us more? Or does he love me less now? Does it make us better people because we ‘hung in there’. Do you believe that God can restore me as an individual or will I forever be a let down because I will be divorced?

I know you mean well, but dear friend, please do not heap more shame, guilt and failure upon me. I have put enough on myself. I do not need your judgements or your ‘Godly’ advice because my heart is broken that God was only talk and not action for the past 25 years in my marriage. Do you not think I want to honour God too? Why does it appear to bring more honour to God by living a lie, than it does by being honest?

Dear Christian Friend, I can acknowledge my own failings. I acknowledge I am not perfect and I have messed up more times than I can count. But right now, I stand in front of you a shell of the person God created me to be. I stand in front of you tired and worn down. I stand here without hope. I stand here needing your loving kindness, not your ideals.

So dear friend – please change your language. Please try a different way to communicate with me. Maybe say:

‘I know if must have taken a lot for you to get to this point. I am sure it has taken massive amounts of courage for you to make this call. My heart breaks for you. How can I be of most help to you? How can I pray for you?’

My friend, I love you. And right now I am sensitive and vulnerable. I need your support. I need you to show me that God still looks at me tenderly. I need your prayers. More than ever I need you to pray for healing and gentleness for me, my husband and my children.

My Dear Christian Friend…. I have been you. I know you mean well. But you are hurting me. You may not be able to walk a mile in my shoes, but please, please open your arms with gentleness and love. Please love with tenderness and compassion.

Your reaction is more important than you know.

Love me,

Your friend who is separated and searching for God in the shipwreck. ❤️


Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians. Also, sign up for my email list below.

 

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