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Sometimes One Person is to Blame

Growing up I always thought that when two people get divorced it is the fault of both parties. I don’t know why I thought this. I am not sure whether I was explicitly taught this or just learned it through observation. I remember when I would see people divorce it always seemed like there were two groups of people who took sides, one on the father’s and one on the mother’s. Additionally, I recall most of the kids I knew whose parents got divorced spent time with and seemed to blame both of their parents for what occurred. I recall also hearing one story where one of the spouses had an affair, but the other spouse took some responsibility for growing distant before that. That particular story stuck with me. Regardless, for whatever reason, for many years I kind of assumed that when there was a divorce, it was always the fault of both parties.

This doesn’t actually make sense. It takes two people to make a marriage work and have a good marriage. If it takes two people to make a marriage work, then one party choosing not to make the marriage work is enough to destroy the marriage. It only takes one person to destroy a relationship.

Why did I consider this worth writing about? I’m actually still figuring that out while I type. One, it’s a good reminder for me as an individual. I have had many relationships go away in my life, to my dismay, and I’ve always assumed it was that we just grew apart, or we just got distant from each other, or we both made mistakes. Those assumptions are a great way of taking some of the responsibility off my shoulders, which makes me feel better about my actions or inactions. Those assumptions may also take some of the blame off of the other party in the relationship, which makes me feel better about the way they treated me because I assume we both are at fault and I don’t take on the pain of being mistreated by others. It is wrong to assume that both parties are to blame when relationships end. The truth is that any individual in a relationship has the power to ruin that relationship, even when the other individual would rather that relationship continue.

Two, I think I want to write about this because the one-sidedness of the present circumstances feel extra tragic. The reason I don’t have a relationship with Greg is not because we drifted apart or because both of us made some mistakes and we’re having a hard time reconciling. The reason we don’t have a relationship is because of him, not me. We don’t have a relationship because sleeping with women from craigslist was more important to him than his wife and kids. I don’t have a relationship with him because he didn’t want a relationship with me.

That’s not to say I handled everything perfectly, but how does one handle such evil behavior perfectly? I don’t know. I spoke truth. I expressed grace. I offered hope through repentance. I offered him a room to stay in at my house. I offered him my support to walk with him out of his affairs and his seeking of affairs and into a better way of living. I offered him as much light as I knew how. He ran from it.

I suspect he probably wants a pretend relationship with me. He would probably like it if I spent time with him, but only in a fake way. He wouldn’t be willing to actually engage with me. He wouldn’t be willing to actually talk to me about things that are important like why he left, who he is sleeping with now, what his plan is to make things right, whether he is still seeking out women on craigslist, if he liked the other families with single mothers he was hanging out with more than his daughter, or if he would come clean about the many lies he has told. He may want a buddy to play with and talk about fishing, but he doesn’t want someone near him who wants connect with him, who wants him to repent. He’s not interested in me.

It would actually be a relief if his actions were my fault because at least it wouldn’t be because he prefers sin to relationship with me. As it is, I am rejected because my father isn’t interested in me. It’s not because of what I’ve done, but because of what he has done.

Third, seeing how one sided the dissolution of my parents’ marriage has been is surprising. Even before the affair, Jenn was seeking the improvement of their marriage. She wanted to go to marriage retreats or marriage counseling or read a book together or something of the sort. She was concerned about his growing distance. She pursued him. She tried to connect more with him. She was willing and wanting to fight to be with him. She wanted to grow closer. She didn’t want to be with anyone else. Of course she would honestly admit that she didn’t handle the relationship perfectly. But imperfections are not why marriages break up. They break up when one or more parties give up on the marriage.

Mitch was the one who was at fault for the breakup of the relationship. He chose to isolate himself from his wife and kids for many months. She wanted to be around him, he wanted to get away from her. He is the one who wanted to, and did, go after other women. She just wanted him. He wanted her to divorce him, she wanted to work things out with him. He gave up on her and abandoned her. She would have done everything in her power to be with him and make the relationship work (as long as she could maintain her own integrity).

This feels more tragic than two people deciding they don’t want to be together anymore. It would be nice to look at their relationship and pretend it ended because they just grew apart. It would be nice to say that they just fell out of love. I would like to think that they had a mutually respectful ending of their marriage so they could both be free to pursue other things. But that’s not what happened. Jenn wanted to be with him, but he did not want to be with her. He wanted to see what it was like to be with other people regardless of the consequences to his marriage and his family.

Fourth, it kind of reminds me of the way that God is with us. God is always wanting relationship with all of humanity, with every individual. He loves people perfectly, but his love is often rejected. God knows what it feels like far more deeply than we do to love and not have that love returned. God has felt the pain of rejection and abandonment more than I ever could. The Bible talks about God’s rejection in Isaiah.

Isaiah 65.2-4
I spread out my hands all the day
    to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
    following their own devices;
 a people who provoke me
    to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
    and making offerings on bricks;
 who sit in tombs,
    and spend the night in secret places;
who eat pig’s flesh,
    and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels;

The picture here is of God reaching out for his people. His people are in the middle of worshiping other gods. His people are disobeying him at every turn. They are defiling themselves incessantly. The people of God are cheating on Him; they are in the middle of having an affair. God knows what it is like to have someone choose their sinful desires over you. He understands what it is like to have a broken relationship with someone you love through no fault of your own, but because they have rejected you and cheat on you continuously.

Not only can I take comfort knowing that God knows the pain I feel far more potently than I ever could, but I can also find solace in how much God loves. What is especially beautiful and unique about how God deals with a one-sided relationship is that God still holds out his hands toward those who reject him. God still loves them. God still wants them. God still wants me. God still wants you. Even if we are in the middle of rejecting Him.

Categories: Miscellaneous
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