My husband is one of several children. I’m not sure if all large families have as much drama as his, but for as long as I have known him (over thirty years), there has been enough drama to keep a soap opera writer in business for many seasons.
Recently, one of his sisters went through a divorce and the repercussions caused much division within the family. Here is a letter I wrote to explain our position to the rest of the family. I never sent it because my husband didn’t think it would make a difference, but I share it with you here to show that decisions we make impact the whole family. Also, I wanted to start a conversation about divorce, families, forgiveness, marriage, or whatever this story might stir. The names have been changed to protect everyone’s privacy.
Here’s some background info to help you understand the story better. This sister-in-law and I are about the same age and I have known her as long as I’ve known my husband. I considered us to be close friends and I loved, admired and respected her very much. At the time of these events, she was a full-time women’s’ ministry director at a large church.
I’ve included a cast of characters to help you follow the story better:
Margo – me
Susan – divorcing sister-in-law
Mike – Susan’s husband
Tyler – Mike and Susan’s 14 year old son
Jake – Mike and Susan’s 12 year old son
Gary – Susan’s boyfriend, who is also Mike’s and her neighbor and best friend’s husband; his employer transferred him to another state in the middle of this situation.
George – my husband, Susan’s older brother
Family – other siblings and in-laws who live out of state and only know what Susan wants them to know
After seeing everyone together at the recent family wedding, and feeling the tension in the air over the “situation”, we feel it will be beneficial to the eventual healing of family relationships that some explanation of the position we have taken regarding Susan’s divorce would be in order.
We have refrained from talking to most family members in order to keep the division to a minimum. Several of you have said that you don’t understand why we have taken the position we have with Susan and Mike, and so, we would like to explain.
We want to say first and be very clear about this – we love Susan very much and miss her. We miss the Susan we used to know.
We’ve lived in the same state as Susan and Mike long enough now to have seen the whole picture, from before Susan asked Mike to move out, until now. Susan is a married woman dating a married man. Together, they are breaking up two families, which include five children and two devastated spouses – all for the sake of their own happiness.
It is not a coincidence that Susan and Gary, her married boyfriend, both find themselves on the verge of divorce at the same time. They each filed for divorce within three days of each other and they were seeing each other and had inappropriate feelings for each other before they each separated from their current spouses.
George had a conversation with Gary at a local restaurant before papers were filed, and Gary admitted inappropriate feelings for Susan and inappropriate behavior with her. George encouraged him to do the right thing and stay with his family. Gary told George he intended to act with honor and integrity and that things were over with Susan. Obviously not.
We cannot and do not respect this behavior.
But even if her married boyfriend were not in the picture, we do not agree with what Susan is doing by divorcing Mike. This is for several reasons. The main one is because we love Susan and do not believe that a second divorce is what is best for her. If we saw Susan about to step off a curb into on-coming traffic and did nothing to prevent it, how much love does that show? We believe she is making a decision here that is extremely harmful to her.
We also do not believe that a divorce is the best choice for Tyler and Jake, whom we also love very much. Two young boys need their father in their lives on a daily basis. As children of divorce ourselves, we know the pain and insecurity, and emotional scars divorce causes. We don’t want that for them.
Also, as the pastor said at the wedding, everything in our lives need to center on the Lord. True!! We are all part of a Christian family. Susan and Mike stood in a church and vowed before God, “’til death do us part”. No matter what.
We are sorry Susan is not happy in her marriage to Mike. However, God cares more about our obedience than our happiness. And when we obey, there is a peace and contentment that comes from submitting ourselves to His authority. But even if we are unhappy, we still need to obey and trust God to take care of our heart.
At this point, we feel we need to address the issue of Mike staying in the apartment at our house. We know this has hurt Susan greatly. This was never our intention. George spoke to Susan over the phone before we invited Mike to stay and explained our reasons. Susan said she understood why we were doing what we were doing. This arrangement allowed Mike more time with Tyler and Jake, plus saved their family a large amount of money each month.
But the truth is there is another man involved and Susan is doing everything in her power to move half way across the country to be with her married boyfriend, uprooting the boys for the second time in two years – certainly not in their best interest, but again, for the sake of her own happiness.
However, Susan can’t move without Mike’s permission to take the boys out of state, or unless she can get Mike’s parenting time revoked. In order to accomplish this, Susan made some accusations that show she has no regard for her brother. She made the false accusation to her lawyer that there is “excessive drinking, partying, and a severe lack of supervision of the children in our home”. As a result, Mike is no longer allowed to have the boys at our house for his parenting time. Is this really in the boys’ best interest?
I write these things to say that Susan only seems to have Susan’s best interests in mind.
Instead of owning up to all this, Susan has portrayed herself as a victim. She blames Mike for everything, saying he was verbally and physically abusive to her. She did admit to George that the physical “abuse” was that Mike blocked her from going down the stairs during an argument.
She has even said that “God wants her to be happy.” So, she is ok with breaking her marriage vows for the second time, dating a married man, and breaking up two families because “God wants her to be happy”?
At this point, we can imagine that you think we are being pretty tough on Susan. She’s our sister and where is the family support?
We’ve had a lot of time to think, pray, and get Godly counsel about what our response to all this needs to be.
Matthew 7:1 -3 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
This is a passage that is used quite often in these kinds of “sticky” situations. And it is valid here; however, we cannot use it out of context and stop reading at “Do not judge or you too will be judged”. The passage goes on to say, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. So, if you feel we are judging Susan, then judge us. Judge us according to God’s word and His direction about divorce, dishonesty, obedience and betrayal. And then judge Susan by those same standards.
Please hear our hearts on this. You know us well enough to know that our hearts are not hard. Susan has interpreted our disagreement with her as lack of love and support. But really, what is more loving – agreeing with her to spare her feelings or calling her out, warning her that she is making a huge mistake that we believe will cause great pain to her, Tyler and Jake? George has spoken to her, disagreeing with her choices, and for that she has chosen to cut us out of her life.
We love our entire family, including Susan, very much. Our hope and prayer is that you will take this in the spirit it was meant – which is to help you understand where our hearts are in this tragedy.
Margo and George
As of this writing, Susan and Mike are divorced, as is Gary. Susan did move with the boys to another state and now she and Gary are living together. Most of the other siblings have decided the whole thing is none of their business and act like everything is fine and have encouraged us to do the same for “the sake of family peace”. Because George and I have spoken to and explained to Susan why we disagree with her choice to divorce and move with Gary, she has cut off all communication with her and our nephews. And to be completely honest, because Susan and Gary are Christians and know God’s Word regarding adultery, deception, and divorce, we are none too eager to sit down to a family dinner with them either.
But how far does one go for “the sake of family peace”? Do we turn a blind eye to blatant sin and the disregard for others? Is this not a natural consequence for bad behavior – damaged relationships? Believe me, we have been torn over this, we are well aware of the verses that teach us to love one another, and to live at peace with all men.
I did send a copy of this letter to my father in law who is out of state and removed from the situation. I plan on posting his response soon which is very rich in spiritual insight and wisdom.