Stay Your Butt Married: The 4 A’s of Divorce

stayyourbuttmarriedI am a woman who has been divorced twice. This has carried a tremendous amount of shame for me. But it is my story and it has led me to being the woman that I am today. And I will not let it hold me back.

As someone who speaks openly about divorce, abusive marriage and shame, I often get approached by people, mostly women, seeking advice on what to do in their troubled marriage. It can be a bit hard delivering uncomfortable advice one-on-one that is not sugar-coated with sweet, gentle love, but most often what I want to say, and even occasionally try to say is “stay your butt married.”

Here’s what I mean by that: Marriage is no picnic some days and other days it can be downright hard. I’m not saying I believe marriage HAS TO be hard, but the reality is that most marriages are hard and will push every limit and button that you have and even some you never knew you had. Letting someone in to that level where they see all of you, the good, the bad and the ugly is terrifying, and without some serious Jedi-vulnerability-training going on, most of us lack the ability to really recognize what our own crap is, that has nothing to do with the other person or the current argument. Yes, the current argument/fight/disagreement may hurt like hell, but 99 times out of 100 it is not the original root of the pain. It likely has to do with your less-than-completely-perfect-and-honoring relationship with your mother or father, or both. By the same token, 99 times out of 100 the issue really would be better resolved by looking at your own stuff, getting some professional help, and stop pointing the finger.

In fact, I’ve come up with a little theory about when divorce is warranted and when it is not. I call it The 4 A’s of Divorce. They are:

  1. Abuse
  2. Addiction
  3. Adultery
  4. Abandonment

If you don’t have at least one of these issues going on in your marriage, you have no business even entertaining the idea of divorce.

I believe marriage is sacred and should be treated as such. It is a powerful and eternal commitment between you and your spouse and just giving up because “it got too hard” (as much as people rarely will put it that way) is flying in the face of it all. ESPECIALLY if there are children involved. And if there’s only one of those 4 A’s, there is likely a great deal of room to work through it, even still.

Ironically enough, if the smaller issues go unchecked for too long, they often end up as one of these 4 A’s.

Yes of course there are times when divorce is a gift. It allows you to be free of a damning situation that will truly never allow you to progress. But this is the less-common scenario, and imagine what would happen if both parties attempted to look at themselves and get help for their own stuff that’s contributing to the hardships in the marriage. Chances are high that it’s not just one of you that’s dishing out one of those A’s up there on that list. And that can be hard to take. When you’re telling your story to your girlfriends or in an online forum, how balanced are you really being in “your side” of the story? I find it extremely rare that people share both sides of the story as well as they can when recounting how they wound up divorced.

Now for a confession that likely won’t come as that much of a shock: I have a high level of judgement towards women who are not very good spouses. It’s something I’m still working through as I believe when you’re truly being all Judgey-Mc-Judgerson towards another person it’s because of pain within yourself. But when I see or hear of a woman who has a fairly decent guy, who provides for his family and is overall a good-hearted man being treated poorly by his wife, even if he’s been an insensitive jerk at times to her, it is like nails on a chalkboard for me. The woman who nags and nit picks, who withholds intimacy because she is annoyed or wanting a sense of control in the marriage, who puts him down in subtle, consistent ways… etc, etc.

I’m sure my high level of irritation at these dynamics is largely due to the struggles I had in both of my marriages where I didn’t have that kind of traction to work with and still gave it everything I had. I’m still working through this (and a great deal many other things) with God but in the mean time here is my transparent soap box that I am fully standing on and preaching that some days you just gotta pull up your big girl panties (or if you’re a dude, the figurative big boy pants) and work a little harder on your stuff so that you have more to give to the marriage.

However it shakes out though, there is almost always more room to work on your marriage. If you are being hit, or the emotional abuse is so severe that you’ve completely lost your ability to see yourself, get out and get help.  Get safe. Separation and divorce are two separate things and you can still work on the marriage while separated if it’s a matter of safety. Please, above all, be safe. And keep your babies safe.

Other forms of abuse absolutely should not be tolerated and need to be treated with an equal level of urgency. I do not belittle what someone is experiencing just because there are no bruises, but there is a difference between having a broken leg and being in a burning building. Some of us have had both at the same time. Just as you would get out of the fire first and then repair the damaged limb, get to where there is safety and then work on bandaging up your hearts, tenderly, with each other.

With forgiveness, humility and a genuine desire on both sides you can overcome just about any odds or opposition in your marriage, even if you were to have all 4 A’s. If there is any room, please, please work on your marriage, for there is truly nothing more important.

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15 Responses to “Stay Your Butt Married: The 4 A’s of Divorce

  • As a woman who has been divorced and remarried I want to share my unique perspective. My first marriage of 9 years had none (at least to my knowledge) of your four A’s. It ended in short order after so many years without me knowing exactly why. I have ideas but they have never been confirmed. When asked why my marriage ended I have but one answer. “You can’t make anyone love you.” And it’s true. It takes two willing parties to enter into marriage. It only takes one to decide it can not go further. No matter how much I loved him, and still do in many ways, I could not change his mind. That is my experience.

    Now after being married a second time. I am just as committed to this marriage as I was to my first. I have the unique experience of now going through not one but two of your reasons it’s okay to divorce.

    Now, I know each experience is going to be unique. I know that not everyone will experience what I have and feel the way I feel. But it has been my experience that when the offending party is truly repentant that even the offenses you have stated can be forgiven.

    God has give us the gift of marriage to teach us some unique skills. Nowhere can you truly be close enough to someone to be able to see their faults as well as their redeeming qualities as you can when you are married.

    The key to marriage is two fold. One is love and two is forgiveness. You can have all the love in the world but without forgiveness the marriage cannot stand. Likewise, you can forgive every day and every reason but without love there is no use.

    I was not able to make my first husband love me. I was not able to acquire his forgiveness. That marriage failed. I had no control over its demise. If I had been able to control those things I would be no better than the devil himself.

    In my second marriage I took my example from the creator himself. I have applied my love and forgiveness to our marriage and things have never been better. Is it still hard? Yes! Is it still worth it? In my opinion, absolutely!

    Your article has potential to help many. I believe you have many good points. But just because we are justified to end it all. It does not necessarily mean we have to. We can choose still to love and forgive when we are asked to do so.

    So long as you are working together and applying love and forgiveness along the way your marriage will stand. But it still takes two in order for it to work that way.

    • You so much for that Victoria! I completely agree. Yes, there are times when you can have one, two, three or even four of those A’s and still make it work! If both people are truly willing to be humble and continue coming back to the marriage and working on things there can still be hope.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and share more well-rounded perspective. ❤

  • I have dealt with two of the A’s in my marriage. For several years my marriage suffered through failed counseling attempts, looking the other way, and general disengagement on both our part. Divorce was considered several times. But thankfully we came to a point that we were able to face our problems head on and make real changes. Through a lot of hard work, counseling (both individual and couple), countless hours on our knees in prayer, the loving guidance from church leaders, the healing that comes from church discipline, and most importantly a genuine change of heart in my husband, we were able to heal our marriage. That doesn’t mean life is perfect and easy. Going through what I went through leaves its mark on my heart, my husband will always struggle with addiction. But the difference now is that we wake up every morning and make the choice to love each other. We are intentional with all aspects of our relationship and make sure to take the time to nurture it. We have learned that if we don’t want to make the same mistakes again we have to invite the Lord into our marriage.
    My life could look a lot different right now. If my husband had not chosen to change, and was not willing to take this journey with me, I would have been forced to make the hard decision of moving on without him. I thank the Lord everyday that is not a decision I had to make.

    • That is so, so beautiful Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing and being vulnerable yourself. I wish more women would be open about marriages that were on the brink of divorce and are now doing pretty good. It seems that people are afraid to really speak up about it until they feel like everything is rock solid. That’s just the shame talking. It IS ok to have a marriage that is on and off of the rocks. It does not mean that you’re a failure and it does not mean that there’s something wrong with you or him. What it means is that you are both strong enough to forgive and repent and try again. Keep up the amazing work! ?

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. I completely agree that “Love is a choice.”

  • “Ding ding ding ding … and thank you for playing, Lori! You have successfully cleared the entire “A” board and are now eligible for a legitimate divore ~ again! You can now spin our Wheel of Chance for your prize!!! You may be lucky enough to win that cruise to the Caymans, a total remodel of your kitchen by those luscious Property Brothers, or $10,000 cash. Be careful though ~ if you land on the “Responsibility” space, you’ll have to spend your time in quiet reflection and see one of our shows trained therapists to learn why you keep attractiong these kind of relationships. Are you willing to spin the lucky wheel?????” I love you, Naomi Thomas Muah!

    • Yeah, not the kind of game that you ever want to win, huh? Sorry you know that pain, too my dear friend ?

  • Hey I totally agree with what you have say. I know alot of the same emotions are experienced by men but we don’t talk about it. I think divorce is harder than marriage. It is a financial nightmare.

  • Been there, done that. Amen, Sista!

    Being in a challenging marriage is no cake walk, but neither is divorce and neither is being single, and neither is making making another relationship work.

    I’ve often thought, “If you could take the energy that goes into a painful divorce, the challenges of being single and dating again, and all that goes into getting remarried, especially when children are involved, and focus that energy much energy on your first marriage – – it likely would get resolved.”

    And I completely agree that if we can be humble enough to look at our own stuff – voila! Miracles happen. We often find that as we shift ourselves, we aren’t the only one who changes.

    Thank you for your straight-forward honesty concerning this situation.

    • That is really well put, Regina. And it’s so true! The whole process that happens after divorce is HARD. All-around HARD. Surely most marriages would benefit greatly from that equal investment of energy, as you so eloquently put, channeled into the marriage to make it work.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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