Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage

Here it begins!  I'm so thrilled that you visit me here in Kodiak, Alaska each week----and I'll keep sending out posts from my two-island outpost----but once a week, throughout this year, I'll be bringing you new books and people who will enrich our lives. I'm calling these posts: Field Notes.

We're beginning today with Elisabeth Klein Corcoran, whose book 
Unraveling: Hanging on to Faith at the End of a Christian Marriage
 just released yesterday. 

Yes, yesterday, Valentine's Day. It's a twist, isn't it? But it's the truth. We all believe in love, but we also know that bad marriages happen, bad "Christian" marriages happen---and then break up badly, and we don't talk about it enough. Here's Elizabeth to offer wise words to all who need them:

Where are you now, Elisabeth, in this whole journey of divorce?

Logistically, I’m eighteen months out from my divorce being final; but emotionally, I am light years from where I spent the two decades of my difficult marriage.  I feel light and free and like all of my senses are being restored. Don’t get me wrong…my divorce was painful. All divorces are painful. But I’m really grateful to be in a sweet season of actually feeling on the road to healing.  It’s been a long time coming.

What are you hearing from other women out there who are reading your book?

Unraveling struck a chord, it seems.  I get emails and comments on Facebook from women who have read the book and what I hear the most is a variation of “thank you for writing what I was thinking and feeling but didn’t know how to say” or “thank you for making me feel I wasn’t alone”. 

You know, I wrote that book out of my pain and as part of my own therapy and healing. But I have been blown away by the number of women in my position (a Christian divorcee) and how totally isolated we felt going through our divorces, even if we were in good churches and had good friends.  There is a severing that comes when your oneness breaks in two, and you can have the best friends on the planet, but you have to walk the road out of your marriage alone. So to have in a book maybe what a person in your life can’t give you seems to have been a gift to many so far.  I just feel really grateful to have been able to see redemption so soon after my pain.

What does a woman struggling right now in a hard marriage need most to hear?
Here’s the thing. There’s so much she needs to hear, so much I would’ve wanted someone to say to me.  And yet, there’s only so much she’ll be able to hear.  My marriage was desperately unhealthy and unholy, and I was desperately sad most of the time. Sad became my norm. And in my sadness, it was hard for me to hear.
But I also believe completely that the Spirit reveals to each of us just what we need to know just when we need to know it, no matter what our difficult circumstance is that we find ourselves walking through.
So, here’s what I would tell the sweet woman in a marriage that leaves her crying herself to sleep.
You feel alone. But you’re not.  Your husband may not be your partner, but Jesus sees every single moment you are living through, every argument, every harsh word, every tear you have ever cried over your marriage. You may be in so much pain that you even cry when you’re praying, you feel like you're not experiencing God’s presence, but he is right beside you, watching, holding you. He is for you. And he loves you.

And there is help. I know it doesn’t feel like there is. You may feel option-less. You may feel hopeless. You may feel like you’ve exhausted your every resource. But the God of the universe sent his Son not so that you would emotionally die in your marriage a little more every day while losing all hope.  There are people out there who will hear you and believe you and help you. It will take more strength than you might have right now, but I want to encourage you to keep asking for help until you’re believed.

How can the Church do a better job of helping?

I love the Church. And I had a ninety-five percent positive experience with the collective Church as I walked through my reconciliation attempt and my divorce, for which I will be forever grateful. But while I was actually in my hard marriage, my experience was difficult, I’m sad to say. I wasn’t always believed, and I was given lists of things to do that would’ve worked if my marriage were normal, but my marriage was not.  So I believe the Church would be able to help couples in difficult marriages more sufficiently if it became more educated in things like addiction and domestic abuse.  We need different lists of things to do to turn those marriages around. 

How can WE, the body of Christ, do a better job of helping other women who are struggling in hard marriages?

I lucked out in this area because my closest friends, all in good marriages, were amazing and gentle and patient with me over years and years of listening to me as I tried to untangle my marriage knots.  But I would say the average person may not know what to do with someone in a hard marriage.  So I’d suggest a couple things.
Listen well. Listen patiently. Listen for the things being said and the things not being said.  And then ask good questions, like, “Do you feel physically safe?”, “Do you feel emotionally safe?”, “Would you feel comfortable starting to keep a log of behaviors that make you feel unsafe and words that are harsh?”

Pray for her.  She may not know how to pray anymore. She may not feel heard anymore.  You can stand in the gap for her. You can pray for her heart to both soften and strengthen, for her to be able to see her reality clearly, for wisdom to know how to handle it, for help to come her way.

Be there for her. Taking her out to do something fun would be a great first step. But then offering to go with her to get help would be amazing. Saying to your friend that you will go to speak to someone at church with her or even attend an AlAnon meeting with her, for instance, will give her courage to take the next steps she needs to take.

 Elizabeth Corcoran is also the author of Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage along with several other books. She speaks several times a month to women's groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers' Guild. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com/difficult-marriage-divorce/ or https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran.

  She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at elisabeth@elisabethcorcoran.com if interested in joining.
Elisabeth is a proud Member of Redbud Writer's Guild and has been featured on Moody’s In the Market with Janet Parshall, This is the Day with Nancy Turner, and Midday Connection with Anita Lustrea