It was late in 2007 when I knew that something was not right in my marriage. My wife was very distant and didn’t want to talk about our problems. She had cheated on me one time that I knew about, and I sensed that she was having yet another affair.
When my suspicions proved true, she said that we needed to separate, even though I was willing to once again try to work things out. That’s when the person who I had promised God I’d love for the rest of my life became determined to destroy me.
I remember sitting in my office when a deputy from the sheriff’s department came in and basically said, “Got some papers for you.” He had this look in his eye like, Dude, I’m sorry.
And then he hands me divorce papers—which at that point wasn’t a complete surprise. But the part that did surprise me was that he also had a restraining order. My wife had not only asked for divorce, but also made me out to be a bad person.
She did her best to turn our four sons and small community against me. Her accusations got worse and worse.
Not too long after I was served divorce papers, one of my sons called and said, “Daddy, we are getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree. Why don’t you come over and help us?”
Because of the restraining order, my wife knew that I couldn’t do that, but she let our young son invite me to decorate the tree anyway. When I told him that I couldn’t come, he wasn’t satisfied. “Why can’t you come?” he asked over and over again.
And all I said then was, “I just can’t.”
This same son was the most tenderhearted of our children. He seemed to feel everything that my wife felt. She called him the man of the house, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. He said that the divorce was all my fault and did his best to pick fights with me.
It took two years, but eventually the judge didn’t believe my wife’s unfounded accusations and gave me sole custody of our children. It hasn’t been easy, but today I have a good relationship with all of my kids.
I don’t want anyone to go through the pain that my sons and I went through as their mother did her best to alienate them from me. If you are going through a divorce, here are some suggestions that might help you:
1. Your relationship with God at this time in your life is more important than anything else. You need wisdom. You are up against something that’s outside of your control and beyond your ability to deal with. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
2. Prayerfully seek a godly counselor. Interview counselors before your children see any of them. Be sure that a counselor’s worldview matches yours.
3. Always be alert for manipulation in phone calls, emails, text messages, etc. I should have recognized the position my wife was putting me in when she allowed our son to invite me to decorate the Christmas tree. I wish I had said to my son, “You know your mother and I are going through a divorce and that judges are involved. You mom has asked the judge to ask me not to come over. And if I do something the judge tells me not to do, I can get in trouble.”
4. Kids need to know the truth from someone who loves them and isn’t trying to steer them towards one parent or the other.
For example, if your child wonders why you aren’t living at home anymore, you might say something like this: “Sometimes people make bad decisions and sometimes those bad decisions lead to bad consequences. Your mama (or daddy) made some bad decisions. Bad decisions don’t make us bad people. They don’t make your mama a bad person. But her bad decisions led to a point where we couldn’t live together anymore. You should feel free to keep on loving them. They love you and so do I.”
5. Let your children know that your divorce was not their fault. One of my sons thought that it was his fault that his mother and I divorced. He thought it might not have happened if he had been a better kid. The reason he thought that was because no one told him differently.
6. If your young adult children ask what went on to cause the divorce, lovingly tell them the truth. After my divorce was finalized, a son nearing adulthood asked what really caused it. I told him the real story and even showed him court document. If you don’t give your children some truth, the kids will come up with their own truth. Just be sure to speak with consideration toward the other parent and not make the child choose sides.
7. Spend one-on-one time with each of your children. Give them an opportunity to talk to you while you really listen. Ask them if they have any questions that they want to ask you. Doing this opened up a door of conversation for my children and me.
There are no perfect husbands … no perfect wives … but there are committed husbands and wives. I didn’t leave my first wife because of her affair. I tried to keep our marriage together but just couldn’t do it.
I remarried a couple of years ago, and my life today is an example of how God can rebuild crushed lives. Hardly a week goes by that my second wife and I don’t say, “God has been so good to us!”