Thursday, April 28, 2011

Divorce & Desire: Sex or No Sex?

Divorce happens for different reasons. Popular opinion suggests that these generations assume entitlement to constant happiness and instant gratification, so much that when the facade of sitcom marriage wears off in  like the luster off an uncleaned diamond, divorce is the remedy.

I don't believe that. Diamond owners usually polish their gems to the original brilliance on a regular basis. They take care of the gem, not discard it. Neither are the majority of marriages cavalierly thrown away. It costs both parties to much emotionally, physically, financially, and even spiritually to throw away a relationship with wanton randomness.

Something else is at work here, but I digress (and that is a roundtable discussion waiting to happen). 

Being raised Catholic and Methodist, divorce is not supposed to be an option - we are in this world, not of it, and therefore do not leave because of a few little problems. As Methodist, there exists a method to everything we do, even to approaching the problems within a marriage. Unless the capital crime of adultery is the lynch pin, it can be worked out. Even then, if the adultery either results in no children or presents the loss of status and viability within the religious organization (think the wives of high level politicians who have put in as much or more work than he to get to this point in life) it can still be worked out. Hell, even if there are just a few kids born outside of the marriage, it can still be methodically worked out.
Who left the gate open again?

The underlying current of Catholicism running through my veins edifies the religious and culturally entrenched relationship survival dictum 'don't ask, don't look'. If I did my part and he didn't bring anything or anybody home, it was copacetic, righteous even, for me to look the other way. Boys will be boys, and they often stray like puppies out of open gates.They always come home.

It would seem that since my father and mother never had incidence of infidelity, I would expect the same in my marriage. Culture and religion outweighed personal experience. Subconsciously, I thought of their marriage as an anomaly. Indeed, I am a Daddy's girl, so no man was able to meet the high standards he set. This was reasonable to me, even though in action and word everything about my own father said it should not be acceptable.

This plus some other underlying psychological issues meant that sex was never linked to marital issues. Yep, we were doing 'it' in season and out of season. As my girlfriend used to say, we were making 'the heavens light up with the glory of God at the communion of husband and wife' with regularity (Gasp).

It was when adultery became a lynch pin for separation and eventually divorce that sex became an issue. That was when all intimacy ceased - about 3 months before the husband finally moved out of our home. That was nearly 4 years ago. Since then I have been celibate.
Song of Solomon 2:7 "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires."
Ephesians 4:21-22 "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." 
There has been opportunity and temptation enough to make me want to toss conviction and a Coach overnight bag into a back seat and ride out. However, having spent so much time with God through the whole process of praying for my marriage, praying about my marriage, trying not to prey on my ex; having had God to bless me through the midst of the storm with a stable mind and an anointing to pursue life, I know that He didn't loose me from a mess to become a mess up. My life is about pleasing God. The more I grow in Him, the more that desire grows as well.

My focus had to be on making it through the redefining of a relationship victoriously, and gain healing and wholeness. Initially, it took a whole lot  (like Herculean strength) of focus to overcome my fleshly desires. There were days when I didn't think this celibacy thing was going to work out. Yet, I kept speaking the Word of God to myself and over my life.
"...cast down vain imaginations and to bring every thought captive (II Corinthians 10:5).

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2)
I made a conscious decision that I wanted to both glorify God in my choices and present a picture of right relationship to my children. I wanted to show them what is right when it comes to intimate relationships and God, for both my life and theirs.

God gave me a new understanding of why we have to study to show ourselves approved.
Romans 12:3  "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
The tools to overcome our fleshly nature are as war ready as our faith can make them. Our faith comes by the hearing of the Word of God. How can you hear a Word unless you read it? How can it become manifest unless God anoint it according to your measure of faith?

God revealed to me that my out of control desire for sexual intimacy was rooted in a stronghold. A stronghold is a faulty thinking pattern based on lies and deception. Deception is one of the primary weapons of the devil, because it is the building blocks for a stronghold.
2 Corinthians 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds."
To break down a stronghold, the lies at the root of it have to be cut off. Truth is the opposite of deception and lies. Truth is the light that overcomes the darkness of any situation. God's Word is the truth and the light. This is where it's important to grow in God's Word. (for reference, a good study can be found at Great Bible Study)

Here is just one of the divine revelations from the midst of my journey:
Our proclivity for sex outside of wedlock is an institutional and temporal myth suggesting the results of sex is a pleasure unmatched by any other activity in the world, with no real consequences. (Sounds like an apple presented by a snake to me). 

One lie is that there is no greater personal pleasure between two humans than sexual satisfaction. The greatest satisfaction was derived for Adam and Eve, and God, by the communion that was had between them. The lie has caused us to seek physical relief for a spiritual desire and to believe that any relationship is made consummate (complete or fruitful) by the act of sex.

That is not how we were made. We were made for the most satisfactory intimate relationship to include God.
I can back that all up with scripture, and I believe it in my soul. I teach it to my children, because the word says that if I teach them while they are young, when they grow old they will not depart from it.

I could go on about how God carried me through a palpable need for sexual satisfaction to a virgin reborn. Okay, so I go too far sometimes! At least He has created in me a living will to wait for Boaz, and to experience with him a communion that no man can replicate. (What happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom. Or Vegas.). While I wait I am being proverbial. That is a whole 'nother subject.

Before now, not many people new about my celibacy. I felt like telling people was like courting disaster. Now, I realize that many women and men are faced with the same decision regularly. We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the words of our testimony. If I can help somebody else overcome...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

7 Day Rule and Other Stuff

My close friends and family know I have this 7-Day Rule. Seven is the perfect number; it means completion. God laid the foundation of its meaning when He introduced this number in the context of His finished work in the book of Genesis. The word translated as finished is the Greek teléo which basically means to bring to a close, to complete, to end, to fulfill.

I believe that in 7 days time you should be able to get over the initial shock of an ended relationship and get back into life. Yes, healing takes longer than that, but the actual activity of your life cannot stop because your spouse walked away or you gave them a road map and bag lunch and sent 'em packing.

If you can make it through the first 7 days after a break up, you will be well on your way to staring anew. God created the heavens and the earth in 7 days, surely you can conquer one heart ache.

Day 1

On today, you can whine, cry, mope, pity yourself - all day long. Take the day off, stay in the bed, eat comfort food, cry it out. Read something inspirational. Start reading Proverbs according to the day of the month. This is your day to revel in your misery - but only for 24 hours.

Day 2

By day two you should be up and at 'em.  Be sad, but be active. If you lived together, clear your home of every reminder of him. Don't throw away anything important - put that all in one box to give to him later. March everything else to the trash like a paid City employee working weekend overtime. Men leave little stuff behind when they move out. I think there are two reasons for this:
  • He is just damn lazy and doesn't want to bother with getting all of his stuff; after all you have been cleaning up after him for how long?
  • He wants any other man who comes into this domicile to know he  was here. It is kinda like a wandering dog marking it's territory by peeing on bushes and light poles along the path. 
Maybe there is a yet another reason:
  • he believes he is coming back as soon as this blows over.
Unless you believe that as well, put on your favorite 'he's gone' music and clean your house.

Once, a good friend of mine was feeling sad about a break up and I had just encountered the Winan's 1990 CD, Return featuring the song "A Friend". I brought my CD to her house and I must have played this song about 10 times. The next two songs on the CD are "Gonna Be Alright" and "When You Cry". Yeah, I wasn't cheering her up much, but I was oblivious to her state of mind at the time. She revealed to me years later that she had been trying to hold it together and  here I come with this dag on CD and this song. We laugh about it now, but she recorded several of the songs off the CD before I left that day.

These songs became some of our favorites, and they also nurtured her at a time when she needed it most. They have nurtured me through some things as well.

Day 3

Get up early and talk to God. Keep up your Proverbial reading. Listen for God, too. Today, get out of the house. Do your hair, put on something presentable, and go spend time with your friends and family, or see a movie. Go shopping or get a pedicure and manicure. Take your kids out on a date. Just don't sit around the house feeling pitiful.

Day 4

Midway through the 7 day process. This may be a really hard day. You may be wondering what and who he is doing. You sure in hell know it is not you. Do not skip your positive activities today. Definitely keep your daily routine of work and home life.

Write him a letter (one that he will never get) and describe your angst and disappointment in all of it's glory. Write down what you think happened and when the relationship became irreparable. Be honest - write down the things you blame him for and why. Maybe you shed some tears, maybe not. Hold on to this letter for later when you are going to forgive him and ask God to forgive your part in the destruction of the relationship. You are also going to forgive yourself. You can destroy the letter after that. Do not, I repeat, do not give the letter to him, even if you get back together.

Day 5

Yes, you will still have sadness in your heart today. If it hasn't happened yet, he may contact you, or you may call him. You shouldn't, but I know how hard it can be not to make that call. The thing is, you spent a lot of time looking at the reasons this relationship fell apart. You know that breaking up to make up is the fodder of songs, not a way of life. Maybe you can talk it out, if you are not so angry with each other you want to rip his knee caps out and tell him to stand up like a man. Remember that first you were friends. Oh, you weren't? Well, that is a whole 'nother topic. It is called Courting 101: Longer than one date.

Day 6

Today your heart just hurts. You may be thinking about all the time you put into this relationship; how many other relationships are connected through this one; the friends and family members you will lose; the intimate relationship that is gone. Go do something with yourself. You are right now about to get on my last nerve. I can deal with love-lost looks, but not with every sentence being about how much you miss him. You do not. You hated every minute of the last 8 months. What do you miss about that?

This evening, write out a tentative plan for getting what you want out of life, spiritually, economically, physically, emotionally. Write down the kind of atmosphere you want in your home, all the endeavors you hope to undertake, all the moves you plan to make. Join a social group like meetup where you can start a group meeting around a similar interest, or find an existing group to join. It won't cost you anything and you will make new friends.

Day 7

This is it. The last and final day you get to visibly mope over this man. Get up, get dressed with the confidence of a woman, smile at yourself in the mirror. Say 'this too shall pass because God promised me, in His word. He is not a man that He would lie - He keeps all of His promises.' Go to work and focus intently on doing your job as if you are doing it unto God. When you get off, go out to dinner if you can. If you can't, make dinner special at home. If you have children, take the time to fully see them. They are life. Hug them and appreciate who they are and to whom they belong. Go ahead and reflect on the past one more time, because when you put yourself to bed tonight, you are going to put that relationship to bed as well.

Of course, your 7 days may not go exactly as described. Those first 7 days are like a gestation period before the rebirth of your single self. The basic premise is that after some measure of time, you have to actively get up and get back on the job of living. In the midst of this journey, you are going to learn how to forgive and forget, how to release someone else of the burden of fault for your perceived failures, how failure is a set-up for success if you keep getting back up; how he is not the enemy, but you are indeed the victor. You are going to learn that nothing is wasted if you plan to triumph.

Day 8 - Let the healing begin. Girl, put your records on....

Monday, April 25, 2011

Morning After Mourning

Talking about life after divorce can sometimes feel maudlin because we first have to deal with the divorce to get to the life after. Divorce is the death of something. It is the loss of a substantial relationship. It renders parties back to an acquaintance relationship, stripping all personal intimacies of their perceived value and/or impact. It nullifies the timeless effort put into nurturing said relationship. That is a lot to lose.

How are we supposed to recover, regroup and get back in the game after that?  We have to be active in grieving the loss and recovering our true selves. The relationship between my ex husband and me is functional because of the time I allowed myself to grieve this marriage.

Do you know how grief works? Whether it is a loss through death, divorce or any other kind, we will all experience loss and the stages of grieving are the same:
The Five Stages of Grief
'I am so mad that I put my time, my energy, and my trust into this relationship and this is how it turns out'. You may be angry at God, your spouse, the perceived enemy of your marriage (you know that ho...sorry I digress).
This is akin to the angry  you were when you cut up all of his underclothes and placed them neatly back in the drawer. Oh that was me. My bad. But you know what I mean about that level of anger.

I not only embraced this stage of mourning, I embodied it. I was mad as hell. On second thought, let me be truthful. There are moments when I get mad all over again. I have learned to toss that back to God like a hot potato, breath, and remember my life possibilities. I am less like to grow angry today than I was a year ago.

Anger is a mask for fear - what we sometimes fear in the case of divorce is that we have somehow failed. We also fear leaving what is familiar, no matter how bad it is, for what is unfamiliar. When you get past being angry, you can focus on what you fear comes next.

'God, if you do this, I will do that.' 'I promise I won't be over critical of the little things. I promise I won't nag.' Etc. and so on. It is likely that we will promise anything to salvage the crumbling pieces of our wedded bliss dream.
I not only bargained with God about this marriage, but with myself and my children. I didn't realize it at the time, but every minute I spent praying for this marriage to stay intact, with my bargaining tool being if I do everything right in the eyes of God He will save my marriage, I was bargaining the well being of the people I loved the most: my children, my self, and yes, even my ex.

This is not happening. It will all be worked out in just a little while. He will come to his true God given senses and recognize my worth; the worth of our family; his errant ways. Ima just wait and it will all work out fine. This is not the script of my life. 
Yeah, I gave denial a good run. The only problem is eventually I realized that yes, this was happening. Since all things work together for the good of those who love Christ and are called according to His name, I have to trust that this will work for my good, in the end.

You have every right to feel some sort of depression over the loss of your whole way of life and a significant love relationship. You feel lethargic, fatigued, not interested in life happening all around you. You may feel despondent, a change in eating habits, grooming habits, sexual desire, social participation. You may feel an overwhelming guilt at what you consider your failure, and have questions of why you are not enough for the ex. You may question your qualities, attractiveness, physical prowess, intelligence - all kinds of enemy placed questions may inhabit your psyche.
I can't imagine a person living who has not felt the sting of this stage. It is a natural response to loss - why would you not feel depression over losing something that had such merit in your life? The biggest issue I faced was the people around me determining when and why I was depressed. When I wasn't depressed, the Sanders Family Hotline deemed me depressed and inconsolable.  When I was depressed the Sanders Family Therapy Guru's prescribed I get up and do something with myself. My sincere advice is that if you feel depressed, allow yourself experience it. Remind yourself of who you are and whose you are often. Get a mantra. You cannot circumvent the stages of grief. If not now, when?

*Note: If your depression continues for weeks, see your Doctor. You need some help that you cannot provide for yourself.

It is what it is and that is all. This really has happened and I have to embrace life in a new way. It won't ever be the same, it will be different.
This is the prized stage of grieving and it is hard to come by. I had to work hard to get to here, and I work hard to stay here, as well. Every single day it becomes easier to do that, and because of it, I am living a fully divorced life.

Because we have children, acceptance means I can maintain a positive relationship with their father that benefits all of us. Whether or not he has danced with the grief stages or not, I bring positive insight into each encounter we have.

I do still believe in marriage. I believe in the contract, the covenant, the relationship and the sanctity of marriage. Even though society makes it seem like the normal thing for two people who don't like each other to do, divorce is huge.

I counsel married folk to consider the consequences carefully and wisely when divorce is in the conversation. Pray about it, talk about it, seek counseling if both parties are willing - fight for your marriage. I did.

God hates divorce. He even hates my divorce. Plus, no one else will live with the burden of the decision, so no other should have any decision making power in the middle of a storm at high sea.

My best advice, though, is to folk who are divorced. Grieve this relationship. When your grieving is done, you will experience a new day like the arrival of Spring after a particularly horrific winter.
Start learning what you like, what you want, and how to get it. Start moving toward your goals and your purpose. Don't wallow in pity while you grieve, live life to the fullest. Do some things you have never done but always wanted to try. Get some support from somebody who has been there or at least is a trained grief counselor. But know deep within yourself that weeping only endures for a night. Joy comes after mourning.