Lost & Found: Pain and Grace of Remarriage
by Chris Gonzalez, Marriage & Family Therapist, Better Life Counseling Center, Inc., Originally published in Wineskins: The Believer’s Magazine, Used with permission.
It wasn’t until Suzanne pulled the plug on their marriage and filed for divorce that Darryl realized the relationship was breathing its last. He tried everything he could think of to win Suzanne’s heart back. It was too little and too late. Years of his neglect and years of her rejection wore right through their relationship. Her heart had finally turned fully against him and she was no longer receptive to anything romantic. His love affair with work had taken its toll. Even the term “roommates” was too intimate to describe their relationship. The marriage ended leaving two love-hungry people in its wake.
After the divorce, Darryl increased his love affair with work, hoping to find an escape from the emptiness. But the bonuses and accolades at work no longer filled him. He was alone. And although no one at work knew it, he was depressed. He managed to function at work twelve to fifteen hours a day, but went to his one bedroom apartment, alone with his thoughts. He had plenty of opportunities for relationships with women, and some of them very tempting, but he remembered what his therapist told him: “You need at least two years to heal.” Two years? He relived ten years of failed marriage every night. Two years was an eternity.
Darryl spent the first six months being angry with God. In fact, he hated God. He all but quit attending church and praying at meals, or doing anything vaguely religious for that matter. The pain of the divorce blew a hole right through his heart, feeling not only his wife had abandoned him but God as well.
Two years after the divorce, Darryl felt like he was ready to give relationships another try. Looking back, he was glad he waited. All he wanted immediately after his divorce was to feel better. Now he was looking for a healthy relationship. But the word “date” intimidated Darryl, now in his forties, far more than it did when he was in college. He felt vulnerable, tentative about giving it another go, but even more filled with dread about remaining single.
Yet, the indwelling Spirit worked with Darryl, called for Darryl, and waited for Darryl. Although his pain was tremendous, God outlasted it. In a lonely and frustrated moment in his empty apartment, Darryl raised his voice to God, “Why do you hate me?” It was his first real prayer since the divorce. That was when he realized what he believed in the deepest part of his heart, that God hated him. He hated God because he believed God hated him.
“How could you love a man who is divorced?” was his next question. It was then that Darryl began seeing the truth as he returned to God’s Word. God loved King David despite adultery, God loved the woman at the well despite her marital failures, and God loved Abraham despite his relationship with Hagar.
God’s love provided the hope he needed to go on. He knew that even though he was forgiven, the consequences of his marital failure would not just disappear. And they didn’t. In fact, it was then that he began to realize the depths of his contribution to the failure of his marriage to Suzanne. The pangs of regret dogged him. But God’s grace kept pace. In fact, after a long period of believing he couldn’t or shouldn’t ever be married again, Kerry came along as God’s grace with flesh on. She was more than he could have asked for or even imagined.
He cautiously entered into a romantic relationship with Kerry. Patient, understanding, and stable, Kerry appeared to be a good fit for Darryl. After six months of dating, they married in a low key, close-friends-only ceremony.
Starting over was a big risk, but so was staying single. Darryl knew he could not enter this new marriage like he did his first. This one very was different. Darryl knew this new marriage would be challenging, but he also hoped it would bring new opportunities as well.
Lost and Found
All remarriages are born of loss, whether by divorce or death of a spouse. Darryl’s was no exception. He had lost his spouse, his plans for the future, his dreams, his confidence, his hope, and for a time, his faith. Darryl accepted the fact that his remarriage was born of loss. He and his therapist had talked quite a bit about how the past marriage would impact the new one. Looking back, he realized he married Suzanne too young. He didn’t want to make the same mistake by marrying Kerry too quickly after his divorce. Certainly he had experienced healing in the two and a half years since his divorce, but was it enough for him to be healthy in this next relationship?
Truth be told, Darryl had quite a bit of healing left to do; more than he thought. Mistrust, old hurts, and random bouts of fear appeared at the most inopportune times in his new marriage. But Kerry was patient when his mistrust flared up out of nowhere, understanding when he hurt with memories of Suzanne, and she didn’t take his fear of losing this marriage personal. Kerry provided a context for Darryl’s healing to continue. After the first years of marriage to Kerry, Darryl’s mistrust faded, but his pain still resurfaced around holidays yet did not have the former sting. And his fear of losing this marriage had almost completely evaporated. She was God’s gift to Darryl. God loved Darryl through Kerry. In a sense, Darryl had been found.
The Right Person
Healing not only came through Kerry, but healing came through Darryl’s acceptance of his contribution to the failure of his first marriage. Immediately after his divorce he felt like a victim who was entitled to carry around bitterness and resentment. But as the weeks and months passed by, Darryl began to realize how badly he had neglected Suzanne. After two years of thinking about the divorce, Darryl went from believing he had married the wrong person to believing Suzanne had married the wrong person: him. Certainly Suzanne had her faults, but Darryl came to realize he suffocated their marriage right into divorce.
This time around Darryl would do things differently. Certainly he would look for the right person to marry, but rather than stop there, he was determined to be the right person to marry. That was something he had never even considered before. He decided that he would expect more from himself than he did his wife. If he was not out-loving her and out-serving her then he did not deserve her.
Although his dedication to this newfound conviction waxed and waned through the years, he was far more sensitive to Kerry’s needs and far more willing to accept her influence in their marriage than he had ever been with Suzanne. The concept of mutual submission finally started to make sense. “Submission is not weakness; it is wise placement of power,” he would tell himself.
Divorce and remarriage was not the path of redemption Darryl had hoped for, but he could not deny God’s love had found him.
Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.