(If you missed Part 1 last week, read HERE)
Before I get into anything, I want to say I’m not here to give advice on whether or not to get a divorce, only prayer and spiritual direction can truly advise you. An intact family is always the best option for your kids if possible, and so they need to be the NUMBER ONE priority. Try reaching outside for help before coming to a decision (like Retrovaille, which is a great program). My intention is to share my experience with those who have already made the heart-wrenching decision and are now embarking into the great unknown, in the land you never thought you would find yourself. Be prepared that divorce is not simply a “solution” for your problems; it only complicates your life even further. However, what it does do is eliminate that toxic environment you (& your children) are in. It is the best way forward, a lesser of two evils, and the problems that arise down the path of divorce are far lesser than the evils foreseen in the prospect of staying together. I also hope to give outsiders a little insight so they can better support their friends and family who are undergoing the same difficulties.
Here is a little backstory to help you understand my state of mind and how everything has progressed… I am a Cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools my whole life. I have sinned plenty but never outright left my Faith. At age 20, I became pregnant and dropped out of college and got “married” (in quotations because I believe it was invalid). I was “married” for about 6 years before I was finally able to reconcile my religious beliefs with the need to end the “marriage.” So much ensued in leading to this conclusion, but another set of posts will have to deal with that fiasco. Early in 2013, I had just moved in with my parents upon the final separation (there had been many others in the previous 6 years), and I was clueless as to how a single mom makes friends in a new area.
“Loneliness Begets Loneliness”
Alone with my parents (who are wonderful but can’t themselves fulfill my desire for friendship), I longed for Christian friends who could offer the support I needed. I got a job waitressing, but my coworkers appeared to dwell on another planet, or perhaps I was the alien on their planet? I joined the gym, but everyone there seemed to be all set with their own circle of friends. And like I said in my last post, I’m just no good at the idle chit chat that leads to friend prospects. Also, Cape Cod can be very cliquey when it comes to “townies” born and raised here, and few people make use of the internet for meet-ups like they do in heavily populated regions. I entertained joining a mom’s group, but online there were only a handful of options. As I read through the threads, I just felt I didn’t fit in with these moms. I tried going to daily Mass, but it was nothing but a sea of gray hair. Then the daily Facebook battle began, to be on Facebook or not to be. I just wanted to hide myself away from everyone I knew. Sometimes I felt FB helped soothe my loneliness, and other times I felt scorned by it. One day, I sought to conquer my disability by deleting nearly all my “friends” (sorry to those of you reading this who were axed in the midst of emotional turmoil). My mind was filled with paranoid mania in this dreaded gray area, and it didn’t help that I was dealing with the X2B (clever, no?), who took every occasion to assassinate my character and proclaim that I am destroying our family and our children.
Meg Meeker describes my state of mind pretty well in her chapter on friendship in her life-saver of a book The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity (Find it HERE):
Loneliness gouges a woman’s heart because inherent in loneliness is a subconscious feeling that we deserve to be alone. A mother who feels lonely believes on some level that she is unlikable, even unlovable. She is too inept, stupid, disorganized, or messed up to be with . . . When she feels this way, she retreats from other women and finds herself even lonelier. Stay away from the tennis crowd, because they have money. Don’t go to the book club because you have nothing worthwhile to add. Avoid the playgroup, because those mothers stay at home with their kids and are better mothers. And on and on the voices go in our heads. Loneliness begets loneliness and pretty soon we sink into a deeper belief that life is probably better lived by ourselves in our own muddy mix of frustration, disorganization, or compulsions. With all of the pain Mother Teresa witnessed during her life, she counted loneliness as the worst. She said “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”
Up late one night watching FoxNews, I saw a commercial for Match.com. As I contemplated joining, I saw the land-mine up ahead but thought I could merrily tiptoe around it without falling and blowing myself to smithereens. My idea of compromise was to join Catholic Match to see if any conservatives existed in these parts (I don’t know why they don’t have the same service for making regular old friends). It wasn’t long before I realized other Catholics on the site were scared off by my profile because I wasn’t even divorced yet. I felt I wasn’t even “my kind of people” anymore. I felt really foolish for even attempting to befriend other Catholics through an online dating site, but loneliness can lead to poor choices. I felt pathetic for being lonesome, as if it were some reflection on my character, so I left Catholic Match. “I am lonely,” seems to be the most unutterable phrase in the English language, at least for me it was.
It soon dawned on me there was a place of acceptance for all sorts of people, a cyberspace where I could seek comfort in the absence of moral absolutes—the secular dating site, Match.com. It’s a slippery slope, folks, so so slippery (not that the site itself is bad, but in my position… no bueno). I began by seeking out female friendships, but that turned out to be an egregious error… you could only view females who sought other females. And let’s just say their desires were far from coinciding with mine. So, running scared, I returned to seeking males. I’ve always had many male friends and few girlfriends, having grown up a tom boy. I thought if I made my intentions clear about platonic friendship being my goal, then there could be no issues. I tried seeking out those who were at least Christian, thinking I could then work my way into a Christian circle of friends. Around this area, most people congregate in bars to drink themselves silly, but that was far from what I was looking for (although Theology on Tap would be nice). If only I could find one authentic Christian, I could open the door to future fulfilling friendships.
Before You Go…
I went on a few coffee “dates” with other men, who called themselves Christian but were at best agnostic and thus didn’t share my same worldview or interests (I refused to call them dates at the time because I was simply looking for a friend, after all). I was losing hope in my online pursuits for Christian platonic friendship, and just as I was canceling my membership, I received a message from, let’s call him Ben. He was a Christian Air Force vet a little older than I was, and in his message I sensed raw honesty and genuine character. I sat on the message for 10 days as I considered giving up my online shenanigans altogether. I finally decided I ought to at least sit down and give him the courtesy of writing a thoughtful response. I pressed send, and when I was redirected to my Inbox, there was a new message waiting from him. It read something like, “I don’t normally do this, but I’m sending a second message despite no reply to the first because there are few truly Christian women around here.” I wondered at the odds of writing each other at the exact same moment 10 days later, and initially I questioned whether perhaps he somehow orchestrated it in order to evoke some kind of awe, stars aligning and such. I did get goosebumps, but I am one quick to dismiss coincidences. My computer took a while to load, and it was such a short message that he could have written and sent it off the moment he saw he had a reply from me. Needless to say, I was extremely cynical about meeting people online.
Once we began interacting, however, my skepticism slowly faded. There was no idle chatter, no wasting of time in getting to the heart of the matter, and an earnest desire to know one another. When we met face-to-face, he saw through it all—my fictitious smile, my cool facade, my searching eyes—and seemingly peered directly into my soul. At the time, I was distanced spiritually and intellectually from Catholicism; I was just going through the motions. Ben was a fallen-away Catholic of a more Baptist persuasion, so we enjoyed challenging each other about our differing beliefs. In order to answer his challenges, I found myself diving deep into the Bible and Catholic Apologetics seeking answers (for once, my having to be right all the time actually served some good :-p). Alas, my Faith was beginning to be reawakened, although simultaneously, as we grew closer a romantic spark was ignited. I slowly came back to life as I began to bridge that unbearable chasm felt between myself and the rest of humanity. All seemed cozy and promising, as it always does at the outset. Please join me next week when I will share what exactly unfolded, demonstrating how God always holds us in the palm of his hand, tenderly guiding us, even when we wander. Please know that it is never too late to turn back, as long as you have a beating heart (especially a broken one) from which to repent.
“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”