My Divorce—A Second Chance at Life?
AS I sat next to my attorney in the judge’s chambers, thoughts of my impending freedom raced through my mind. Within the next few hours, I would be free to date, to go where I wanted to go, to make my own decisions—free to do what I wanted to do!
At that point, in December 1974, there wasn’t much more besides my freedom that I really wanted out of life. I was 29 years old, and a mother of two sons. I had a nice home in a quiet suburb in northern Ohio, and a secure job with an insurance agency where I had worked since graduating from high school. I figured that I had most of the things that every woman wants—children, a home and a good job. The major mistake that I made in life, my marriage, was about to be erased with the stroke of the judge’s pen.
The intrigue of our promiscuous society increased my desire for freedom. Moral standards had changed radically since I married back in 1966. Now I could try out all the things that the young girls were talking about in the office—do my own thing, and not be accountable to anyone. I was really going to make something out of this second opportunity. There were so many places that I wanted to go and things that I wanted to do.
I felt sure that I could handle whatever came up. I had read many books regarding divorce. And with the information that I had gathered from the books, coupled with vast “knowledge” obtained from TV dramas and office gossip, I was all set to go out and really enjoy life.
Why the Decision
My eight years of marriage had left me with nothing but unhappy memories. Our house had become like a motel, just a place in which to eat and sleep. My husband and I both worked, supposedly to make a good life for our sons. When we weren’t working, we’d spend our time together arguing. We very seldom spent time with the boys because we were so busy—my husband was trying to make the ‘big money.’
Still, the decision to get a divorce was not an easy one. There had never been a divorce in our family in over five generations. But after another one of our violent arguments, I finally decided I couldn’t go on living under those conditions.
When I initially decided to get a divorce, I told no one but a close friend and my parents. I figured that I had gotten into this mess by myself, and I’d get out the same way. Well, it didn’t take long for the news to get around. Many of our close friends gave me moral support. And free advice? Well, there was certainly plenty of that. However, I later learned that most of it was incorrect. But their intentions appeared genuine, and I needed someone to talk with when I fell into periods of depression.
My parents took the news of my divorce much better than I had anticipated. I had always been rather close to them, but not to the point of having confidential conversations regarding my married life. They never interfered, although there were many times when they were aware of the beatings and abusive treatment that I had received.
I wasn’t married until I was 21 years old, and most of my childhood was spent on a farm in Ohio. Although my parents never came out and told my younger brother and me how much they loved us, they demonstrated their love by their actions; we didn’t feel that the words were necessary. After I had filed for divorce, I learned that my parents had been aware of my husband’s infidelity, but they had never told me. They didn’t want to see me hurt.
Since it took almost a year for the divorce to go through, I was able to make many adjustments gradually. One of them was in connection with my job. Because of the change in marital status, it was necessary to bring home a higher salary. I discussed this with my bosses, after some prodding from friends involved with the women’s liberation movement.
I told my bosses that I felt that I was able to do a man’s job; hence, I was entitled to higher pay. They decided to give me a chance to prove it. They made me supervisor over three girls whom I had previously worked alongside.
But with a bigger paycheck came greater responsibility, and with it changes that were not always pleasant. I could no longer sit in with the girls and have long conversations regarding their exciting night lives. Now my job was to make sure that they got their work done. The close relationship that we had once seemed to share disappeared. They no longer considered me their confidant.
Things at home didn’t change that much. I continued to follow the same routine of going to work each day, taking the children to the baby-sitter and handling the household finances. The only major change was going out evenings to pursue some of my own interests. On occasion I would take the children with me, especially if I were playing tennis, or attending a new craft class. Something was planned for almost every night of the week.
My friends helped to plan my weekends. They arranged dates, introducing me to other divorced friends. I soon learned a very important fact—I was no different from most other divorcées. One night at a disco spot, I sat at a table with sixteen divorced people. For five hours I listened to them tell how rotten their ex-mates had been, and how they had been taken for everything. You would have thought someone was playing a tape recorder, only changing the names. They were so filled with self-pity, and/or liquor, they couldn’t have cared less where they were going in life.
One thing that all divorcées seem to share in common is loneliness. But was sitting in a bar drinking and crying in one’s beer the answer? Many would end up going home with a partner to spend a “meaningful” evening . . . in bed. After continuing this pace for about six months, my mother very nicely reminded me that the life I was leading was no different from that of my ex-husband.
I finally realized that there was more to life than what I was doing. Looking at my sons, I asked myself: “If I were in their place, would I be proud of my mother? Is this the life that I want for them?” If they weren’t staying with a baby-sitter, they were over at a friend’s house while I went out.
Interest in Sons’ Welfare
I decided to take a more active interest in my sons. Although they were only ages seven and five, they had a much greater insight than I had given them credit for. One Sunday, I told the boys that I would take them to church; neither one had been there before. Since my husband and I had been of two different religions, we could never decide which church to attend. So we just didn’t go at all.
A big jolt came one day when my younger son asked me, ‘Does God have a son?’ I was appalled to think that my sons had no knowledge of God, and yet, as I looked back over my eight years of marriage, I could see why. My husband and I were so busy working to make a ‘good life’ for them, we never thought about religion. The only time that they heard about God or Christ was when my husband and I were arguing, and then the names were used profanely.
One evening, while I was attending an open house at school, I met a neighbor that I hadn’t seen for some time. About five years before, we both had studied the Bible with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I had stopped after only two studies because my husband threatened violent action if I continued. I asked her how the Witness was doing, explaining that I was concerned because I had two sons to raise who had no knowledge of God or of the Bible. She immediately made arrangements for the Witness to call. Two days later she came.
The Help Received
For an hour a week, we’d sit and discuss my problems. The Witness would show me how to apply the Bible’s fine principles. For instance, I was somewhat lax in disciplining the boys. After all, I had deprived them of a father, and being the only parent, I didn’t want to spend all my time yelling at them. And wasn’t I showing them love by holding back discipline?
Not according to the Bible, I learned. I was shown the scripture at Proverbs 13:24, which says: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge that I was gaining. I never realized before that the Bible has a main theme—God’s kingdom—the Kingdom that we pray for every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. (Matt. 6:9, 10; Luke 4:43) This kingdom will rule the whole earth, and its subjects won’t have to die and leave loved ones behind. Learning such things began to bring me the happiness for which I was looking, a happiness that I could share with my sons.
Soon I started attending meetings at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and found this a truly heartwarming experience. There I noted no children running around, no pushing or shoving, no foul language, no groups of women gossiping about others. I’d never received such a warm and loving reception. Here were people that I had never met before showing a genuine concern for both my sons and me. Six months later I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to serve the true God, Jehovah.
“If I Had Only Known Then”
Don’t think I haven’t wondered whether I might have been able to save my marriage if I had only known then what I do now. I’ve learned that it takes three “C’s” to make a good marriage—consideration, cooperation and communication.
My husband and I failed to cultivate them. We became so wrapped up in our own personal lives, we didn’t really consider one another as we should have. Oh, we were busy, so we thought, making a ‘good life’ for our family, but we weren’t alert to the feelings or real needs of the family. We began pulling apart, rather than cooperating together. And this affected communication.
Despite what some people say, couples can’t solve all their problems in the bedroom. They may have a wonderful sexual relationship, but what lasting good is it if they can’t sit down and discuss their problems? Many people think that because they’ve been married for a period of time they know exactly what the other person is thinking. This is not always so, as I learned the hard way. You can’t help someone if you don’t know what the problem is, and second-guessing doesn’t provide the answer, nor generally does divorce.
Yet millions of persons today are looking to divorce as the answer. They are inclined to treat their marriage much like a material possession—if the quality doesn’t meet their expectations, they discard it and seek something better. Attention is only directed inward—on what pleases and satisfies oneself. Personal fulfillment is emphasized as all-important. ‘You have a right to happiness,’ the propaganda says. ‘You only live once, and you deserve the best.’
This selfish spirit had influenced me. My principal concern had become my own happiness—freedom to do what I wanted. Many times I have looked back and wondered, ‘What was it that I was really looking for?’ Was it just a good time? But I soon realized that there’s more to life than dancing and ‘having fun’ at all-night discos. Was I hoping to meet someone with whom to share my life? If so, did I really hope to find him in a bar?
Then there was the hard question: Was I just looking for love with no commitment? But let’s face it, that’s not real love; it’s just gratification. It doesn’t bring genuine happiness. I am so glad that I woke up and started thinking of ones other than myself—the children. And how thankful I am that I was directed to where I could get the right kind of help.
A Life with Meaning
I began to appreciate what real love is. The Bible, at 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, describes how it is manifest: “Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.”
Yes, love is genuine concern for the interests of others! It is active; it does things. And I have found that exercising such love is the key to real happiness, even as Jesus Christ said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Daily I see such Christlike love practiced among the Christian people with whom I now regularly associate. Among them there’s no foul language, drunkenness, belittling others or the telling of dirty jokes so as to be the life of the party. Rather, there exists a warm and loving atmosphere centered around the family.
It’s no easy task raising two sons alone, but with the fine example and help of Christian associates and the inspired guidance provided in God’s Word, the results are heartwarming. The boys are developing a good conscience toward God, and are beginning to think of others before themselves. Even though they are without their father, they have come to know that there is a God who cares—Jehovah. My greatest joy is watching them grow in knowledge and appreciation of this One who will never forsake his servants, but will bless them with everlasting life. (Ps. 133:3)—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 10]
“For five hours I listened to them tell how rotten their ex-mates had been.”
[Blurb on page 11]
“‘The only time that they heard about God or Christ was when my husband and I were arguing, and then the names were used profanely.”
[Blurb on page 12]
“I soon realized that there’s more to life than dancing and ‘having fun’ at all-night discos.”