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On divorce

February 21, 2016

Not too long ago I wrote a post on marriage. I wrote that particular post, in part, to keep myself from making any decisions I’d regret—to serve as a reminder of my values so that I didn’t compromise them in moments of weakness.

Several months later, I’ve come to some important realizations that have changed everything. Beau and I will, after all, be getting a divorce. I’m making my feelings public both because I know people will be curious to know the reasons why and because I’d like to offer my friends and family an explanation.

When I wrote my post on marriage, I was under the influence. Not of alcohol or drugs, but of voices other than my own. In my search to do the right thing, I got hung up on other peoples’ opinions and advice and on a literal interpretation of the Bible; I forgot to tune into my own intuition. I talked to a lot of people who know Beau in an attempt to better understand him but I failed to talk to people who know me and could remind me of the person God created me to be. In the process, I succeeded in making Beau happy enough to stay married, but I lost myself.

I knew it was happening but I forged ahead anyway, thinking that saving the marriage and trying to love unconditionally as God loves us was more important than being me. But recently I had an enlightening conversation with a pastor of the church I attended throughout high school and college, a place where I made a family of friends that helped me to be the best version of myself that I could be, who encouraged me, questioned me, motivated me, and validated me. And it dawned on me as I spoke to him that a marriage should mimic the relationship I had with the State College Presbyterian Church: it should light my fire and make me come alive in Christ, challenging me when necessary and urging me ever forward in my walk of faith.

My marriage with Beau doesn’t do that for me, and it doesn’t do it for him either. We snuff out each other’s lights as we struggle to make a life between two polar opposites work (and we are literal opposites: our Meyers-Briggs personality types are INTJ and ESFP, with not a single dominant trait in common). Knowing this, I inquired of my pastor what, in his reading of the scriptures, he thought God would want: to save the marriage at all costs or to save ourselves? He responded in this way: God gave each of us unique gifts and capabilities that we are intended to tap into and use for His service. To suffocate those gifts for the sake of a relationship—any relationship—would be a disservice to the Creator.

Sometimes we make mistakes and for that reason, God has granted us grace. Neither Beau nor I want to feel like failures, so we’ve held on to our marriage through three and a half years of pain, pain that I now recognize not as resulting from a resistance to love unconditionally, as I suggested in my previous post, but from an incapacity to love one another as God intended a man and a woman to love—for it is impossible to love another person fully when we are not fully ourselves. We made a mistake getting married, and I believe God will forgive us for that. To squelch two individuals for the sake of one marriage would be another mistake, one that we aren’t going to make.

Beau and I both have gifts from God—unique and very different gifts that neither of us is skilled at supporting and encouraging in another person. I can’t keep up with Beau’s desire to be here, there, and everywhere all at once, aiding anyone who asks for help at the drop of a hat. It is a gift—Beau’s gift—to be able to say yes to whomever asks for his service at whatever time of day or night without feeling off kilter. And Beau can’t match my analytical mind and my desire to have my knowledge, wisdom, and understanding be constantly challenged so that it may be ever growing. Whenever I’ve tried to help him thrive by allowing him to say yes to everyone, then one of two things happens: I am not able to use my own gifts of writing and contemplation because I’m never still enough as I follow him around; or I’m lonely because I stay at home to nourish my gifts but have no companion to share them with. When we do our own thing we become disconnected from one another; and when we try to do what we need to do in order to be a part of the other’s pursuits, we become disconnected from ourselves.

So have my values changed? Not really. I still believe that if you’ve found someone who can help you to be the best version of yourself, then that person is worth making your number one priority in life and is worth working through the muck of marriage with. The mistake I made in my previous post was to suggest that spouses should be selfless in a marriage, which is what I was trying to be with Beau—and as the word implies, I lost myself. I don’t believe God wants us to be selfless because He granted each of us a sense of self and a sense of purpose for a reason. It is our duty to discover our purpose and His reason so that we may put our gifts to work in His service; even more so, I believe, than it is our duty to stay in a relationship just because we uttered the words “until death do us part.”

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