What does religion (Christianity) say about relationship breakdown?

What does religion (Christianity) say about relationship breakdown?

I only go to church at Christmas and Easter and I have been recently divorced by a religious partner.  We fell in love 25 years ago and married in a Catholic church, after being through two weekends of marriage preparation.  We have four young children who have been baptised and confirmed.  My partner initiated the divorce, I’m the recipient. I have recently been employed by the Uniting Church in Australia which has exposed me to a wide range of interesting notions and ideas regarding social justice, faith and the current state of Christianity.

These are the reasons why I have thought deeply about what religion says about relationship breakdown. So here’s my personal appraisal.

Back in the olden days divorce rates were very low.  Religion had a strong influence and the world offered less life options and opportunities. Wives and husbands honoured their vows and stayed together through thick and thin. The bible is quite clear that marriage commitments must be honoured, which are at sometimes hard to fulfil.

At present about one in three marriages end in divorce.  All are based on religious commitments. I do wonder about exactly what is the flaw in the process, and what does religion say about what we should do afterwards?

As far as I know, the bible only goes to the point of marriage and after that it’s not prescriptive.  It  only says that women (wife’s) should submit to men (husbands), and to stay together through thick and thin forever. (Corinthians 7)

I have a long list of questions about religious guidance afterwards.  What does the bible say about the initiating partner, and re-partnering and what to do with our dependents or our children? And  love? That’s just skimming the surface.

Back to the initiating partner, with my religious ex-partner in mind, how is she personally accounting for her infidelity? The bible is quite clear about remaining faithful to your married partner.  Of interest the Australian Family Law was changed in the 1970s to “no fault” meaning that no immoral behaviour influences custody and property settlement. Perhaps it reduced the influence of religion.

As the Bible says a marriage is a lifelong commitment, I have also wondered if it says anything about what to do after being abandoned?

Does it say that you should remain committed or devoted to the one that left you? Should you repress your strong feelings for your potential next new partner and stay celibate?

This is new and dangerous ground.  Many people that I have met going through the same process have commonly experienced these feelings and compulsions amidst desperation and overwhelming new love.

There are no answers or direct instructions in the bible. But I have found that religion shines a light at the end of the tunnel among distress, as it offers a healing process towards reconstruction, forgiveness and finding a better way to deal with life difficulties.

It often occurs to me about “what would have Jesus done or would do in this situation?”  I have turned that thought into actions defusing anger, moving ahead and taking good care of my children’s welfare.

Spirituality is hard to define. It’s something that I have experienced during the dark days of separating. My spirit has been nursed and nurtured by my close relatives, by my amazingly supporting community which I call my other families, music, which fills the empty voids of time at home alone, and riding my bike, every day.

Religion or in in another sense “true faith” has really helped me to leap over the huge conceptual leap of being unattached and a fortnight dad.  Both aspects comes with many positives and negatives. It’s an entirely different life so at times it’s hard to realise and adapt.  But as religion and eternal love are always there in the background, it provides a lot of food for thought and support.  Even though I don’t go to church religion is often in my thoughts.

A Uniting Church colleague introduced me to a “Divorce Care” community-based support group with a course component. It’s been a great experience feeling the power of the group. It’s run in a very welcoming private home and it expressed in a different way that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as demonstrated by a caring sharing religious-based approach. It’s actually run by my nearby Anglican Church so it’s great that both denominations contribute and share.

But back to the fundamentals, the bible only goes as far defining marriage as a lifelong relationship commitment.  It does not specifically mention how we should deal with our previous partner and not to mention how to deal with our dependants (our children).

At another level, Christianity or religion is based on unmoveable faith in God.  There is a motivational and positive force recognising that one-to-one relationships create great things together.  If you have been abandoned, it makes perfect sense to forgive, move ahead and re-partner, in the spirit of religion.

There are many more interesting unanswered questions, such as is it worth getting married again, or should I explore my youthfulness or maturity.

If anybody else is experiencing the same questions, emotions and feelings I recommend connecting to the modern and progressive Uniting Church.  I really like that way that they practise and demonstrate faith and religion.

Graham Newling


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