“…I realized the truth that people can only really control their own behavior. When we focus on our behavior as we walk through our circumstances instead of emphasizing other people’s failures and shortcomings, we can create changes that affect our relationships long-term” – Nina Rosener, The Respect Dare page 9.
Nina wrote The Respect Dare for married women and she has started a journey through the 40 dares on her blog at www.ninaroesner.com. I will be following along, taking the dares again (my 4th time through the book) and I’m looking forward to how God will be working in my own marriage. However, one of my favorite things about this book is that my marriage was not the relationship that was impacted the most from these 40 dares. God moved in my heart and a miraculous forgiveness occurred in a relationship that had been broken for many years. Almost every day I am reminded of how just a little respect and a LOT of leaning on God can impact everyone in my world.
Respect is a Biblical commandment for married women, it’s not optional. Respect after divorce …. well, one could argue that it’s not the same. The passage in Ephesians is clearly speaking of marriage. For me, if I had known the truths of respect BEFORE divorce, I may not be divorced today but I can’t (and don’t want to) go back and that’s not true for every situation. Regardless of the road to divorce, I believe that the concept of respecting all of the men in my life can only bring about positive change for everyone involved. Because I have children from a previous marriage AND step-children, learning to give respect in all relationships has the potential to change the lives of the children in my home.
Today I would also like to begin the journey of 40 dares but with the focus being on respect for my ex-spouse, his family and even our children. I invite you to join me. I will be blogging about most of the dares from Nina’s book, with permission, (though some of them are very marriage specific and we will take a different path there) so if you don’t have a copy already I encourage you to visit her website and purchase the book so that you can read along (or ahead) and make your own notes.
Through these 40 dares I hope to challenge you to have a better relationship with your ex-spouse (and maybe even your children who are living the divorce world) – specifically, a relationship that reflects the attributes of Christ in your life. Just as the above quote said, I can only control my own behavior, not that of my ex-spouse. But what if my behavior impacts him and he is able to see Christ in me? THAT is my goal. Are you ready to join me on this road to respect after divorce? Take a deep breath, grab a pen (or open a word document) so you can keep notes and let’s take the first step together.
… holding out my hand to hold yours ….
People say that marriage doesn’t come with a how-to manual but for some reason I had this thought that my divorce papers were my how-to manual on divorce. Most of my divorce papers have statements similar to this:
“In the event the parties do not otherwise agree, then the following schedule shall control the exercise of the parties’ parenting time with the children.”
I just expected to all-of-the-sudden have things laid out on a schedule and to no longer have surprises. The last few years of marriage were filled with unmet expectations and honestly I was ready for some structure, especially knowing when I could depend on help. With the divorce rate remaining steady (and high) over the last 10 years, it seems to me that the collective “they” who sign off on divorce decrees would have thought of, and included all I will need to know.
Much to my surprise, finding out that my children would spend Easter weekend away from our traditions every other year was quite a shock. I’m not really sure how that judge didn’t know that my Mother has hosted an Easter Egg Hunt (with money in those eggs) for the last 15 years and my children haven’t missed it since birth……
Dare 1: Expectations
There is almost a negative tone to the word for those of us who are divorced. A failed marriage is the complete opposite of our expectation when we said “I do”. My own marriage ended after many years of the little expectations being unmet. So when the divorce papers were signed I put into place a whole new set of expectations. In that, however, I made the mistake of believing that I was the author and finisher of all future expectations. No longer did I have to be disappointed. From now on, I’m alone in this walk, if something doesn’t get done – then the only person to blame is me! If the bills don’t get paid, I have to work more hours; if there are no clean towels, I have to stay up late to get them in the dryer; if the kids are sick I have to stay home; if there is an award ceremony, I have to go. I had freedom in my expectations …. And then I remembered that he was still a part of almost all that I do. Suddenly I was back to feeling let-down, angry and defeated.
The truth is, regardless of the decisions by lawyers/mediator/judge, my ex-husband and I still have to communicate and work through a lot of situations. As our children grow there is a constant desire for them to have both parents a part of their lives. Not only do I have to meet the needs of the children in my care, often I have to go out of my way (and way out of my comfort zone) to include my ex-husband. Then, if for some reason he can’t make it, I am left with explaining the “why”. I have to remember that this child loves his Dad, and I am called to “not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV).
My expectation has always been that my children would hunt Easter eggs at my Mother’s house. Then I read the divorce papers and my expectation became one of disappointment and anxiety (my family won’t understand, my kids will be so sad). I had a choice to make – and the only end was communication with my ex-husband. The truth is that my ex-husband doesn’t care much about Easter weekend. With a lot of prayer and a phone call the weekend visitation was swapped and my children still enjoy a life-long tradition.
Today I dare you to take account of the expectations you have after divorce.
Know, above all else, that divorce does NOT mean you are alone. Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I would love to hear from you. How are expectations playing out in your journey after divorce?
Learning these lessons with you my friend!
If you are remarried I would greatly encourage you to ask your husband to share his thoughts with you about expectations. I would also suggest that you ask your husband to pray with you and for you as you begin this journey. Thankful and blessed to have my Knight by my side!