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Surviving Divorce and Single Parenthood (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2022 6:00 am

Surviving Divorce and Single Parenthood (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 15, 2022 6:00 am

Susan Birdseye shares her dramatic story of learning about her husband’s affair after 17 years of an apparently happy marriage. She describes the devastating effects of her husband’s decisions on her family and her struggles navigating her eventual separation and divorce. Susan also shares some of the challenges she is facing now as a single parent. (Part 1 of 2)

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You feel called to serve God in your career. Check out some of the exciting job opportunities with Focus on the Family when looking to fill positions in marketing IT in marriage counseling work with other talented believers enjoy meaningful Christ centered work environment and use the skills God gave you to encourage others and help families thrive. To learn more visit that's Focus on the and imagine being happily married for a number of years and experiencing all the joys and challenges of a busy family and then suddenly learn that your marriage is over. That's the dramatic story working to hear today on Focus on the Family your hostess focus presidents and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller I John one of our foundational principles or focus is about the permanence of marriage.

We believe marriage is a sacred covenant designed by God that not only benefits a husband and wife but also benefit society as a whole.

Certainly, the data supports that the Bible is very clear in Matthew 19 where it says a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. What God has joined together, let no man separate and we believe that and we know that God loves marriage.

It's his institution. That's why we work so hard to rescue and support hurting couples through programs like this one.

Our counseling team and all the resources we provide for families but we also live in a world that's broken by sin where some marriages self-destruct because one or both spouses walk away from their commitment and are willing to save the relationship.

It is a tragedy when it happens because the damage often extends to their children, their friends and other relatives. And if you've experienced that we grieve for you and I were here for you as well. Focus on the Family has a terrific counseling team has Jim mentioned in other tools designed to provide healing and godly encouragement for you in the coming days were phone call away. Her number is 800 the letter a in the word family 800-232-6459 or check the episode notes to learn more and John today were going to hear one woman's story of going through a separation and divorce that she never wanted and as a result, she became a single mom to five children sounds a lot like what my mom went through. But what's remarkable about Susan bird C is the powerful presence of God's grace and joy in her life despite the horrible circumstances that she experienced. It's astounding how God has worked through her and her family and I can't wait for everyone to hear her story and will mentioned that this interview was recorded a number of years ago, and here's how you began the conversation Jim with Susan Bernstein on today's episode of Focus on the Family. Susan, you have written a book and it's called when happily ever after shattered.

That's a powerful title here.

Also, as I said a blogger. Let me read to you a journal entry that you made and that will start the conversation you wrote, what are all the emotions I feel in the midst of this disaster. Disbelief seems to be the predominant one. The others are anger base, mostly because of the effects of the situation on my children frustration at not being able to fix things.

Some fear mixed with anxiety and an ample amount of worry.

What were the circumstances that you are writing about. At that time and I've been married about 17 years and my husband had gone out Saturday morning. A houseful of children. Some friends at pickets and other friends ever and he had gone out to go to a drycleaner which literally was at the top of our street and he was gone.

Two and half hours. So when he got back. I asked the lady anything on a really long time and it he said I think I'm gonna leave just like that that is just out of the blue, completely out of the blue and I was just floored by it and then disbelief was the predominant thing absolutely couldn't believe it and had no inkling that we had any issues right day and we had a chaotic rifle hassled five kids will do that to you and on.

So it definitely was completely out of the blue for me in that regard. Not really knowing that we had some problems but I can't look back and see a flirtatious circumstances on and I did address that with him several times and is the key not be so flirtatious with other women when I'm around and you probably should to set ever.

I was going on. Your kind connect back over all the years and see things.

I read some journal entries from we were first married on where I had some and got feelings that were uncomfortable, but I think you know I chose not to go down that road unthankful and very thankful that I was blissfully unaware because I was happily married and I don't regret the marriage at all on you know why I did love my husband very much and when you when you and that you know that is the way it should be the night. I just want to say we know divorce occurs and there are many people listening that perhaps have gone through the may be separated.

Right now, not knowing what to do.

We recognize your circumstance. If that's where you're at, take us back then to those days so he's come out with this.

He was gone a long time comes back from picking up dry cleaning almost 3 hours later and says to you want to end this. In essence what happen over the next few days while I asked if there was somebody else and he said no he said I just I'm just happy and so I really put it into high gear. Just trying to be the perfect life. You know how you could compensate that I can do whatever it takes a minute make an gonna convince him to stay. That would be a natural reaction trying to fix it.

And so I did everything I could think that I was probably a little too thick and the love on him and down that over the next three days. I could feel him pulling back more and more he's he, for lack of a better phrase, he seemed guiltier and guiltier and on.

So after about three or four days. I said you need to be honest with me and tell me what's really going on and he said well I'm interested in somebody else honest about is that is it serious and he said not just an acquaintance I said well can you not see her anymore and focus on getting our marriage back to do whatever needs to be done and he was not willing to do that and then the next day I address it again and I think he tell me a little that more and done we sort of did it and it seems like in increments.

He stared that it was somebody he knew and they were good friends and they were doing things together and found that it was. Not romantic and then the next day my daughter still hockey game mother standing on the sidelines. He shared the details of events that it was a physical relationship and that was probably of all the times the most devastating for me because it was a rather nebulous thing, up to that point. No kind of he just wasn't happy and that maybe I could do something to make him happy and that he was interested but maybe I can get his attention back to me let me mention your relationship with the Lord at this point we have a lot of different people listening some Christian and committed to the Lord. Some non-Christian what was your and your husband's spiritual journey at this point, where are you at you going to church. You're not going to church. My husband is actually elder in our church and Sunday school teacher care group leader, administrator of the Sunday school program leader in our community and on sat there and thought I was in the women's ministry, Bible study leader worship team leader and on. So yeah we are definitely all enmeshed in that life, and I would say that time God is so gracious to me because I was in a really good place with him on. It's like he had girded me up before that happens. Looking back on that because again I'm sure there's some women listening right now may not have that relationship and have heard the words from her husband. I'm leaving you, what would you suggest to them if they're not as close to the Lord well for me. It was imperative. I don't think I could've survived the way I dead. I think he gave me so much grace to deal with it and it sounds a little bit trite to say this but it's so true is just laying it all out before the Lord may be very honest with him that that first year after my husband left my relations with the Lord was so strong and he absolutely was a source of all my strength. I had nothing physically, mentally, emotionally, is just a mess. The second year. My prayer life consisted pretty much of me just going seriously. That really was that I agree that God really this is your plan for my life and what I would say to women who are not in and blocking with the Lord at this point are not really solid and not lock.

You can be totally honest with him and to say I have no idea what you would allow this to happen in my life and what how could this possibly be a plan, especially for your kids. Sometimes you can somehow or another. Wrap your brain around it for yourself and kind of had the vision to God's gonna take this and make me into the woman on he wants me to be happy stronger on you now know him better.

But for your children. Us watching them walk through that you that's where it's very difficult to kind of trust that has a good plan. I want to talk about the impact with the kids. But before I do what you're suggesting there is a root of bitterness. It sounds like you've gotta be careful of that route does not take hold, or how did you manage nothing that before could grab you a couple things I was very heavily in the word just because I knew there really wasn't any other answer for me and I think you you can go to television and books and Secunda distract you from what's going on but I really wanted hope I really wanted to be better on the other side of hope and what hope that God had a good plan and all the best that he was going to turn this into something beautiful. He is to turn my morning into joy my weeping into laughter and I be dancing at some point, you know, that was like yeah I was hopeful that God was going to do something through this and I will admit at the beginning.

My hope was that he was going to bring my husband back even after he had left. You know my good but I thought God would do that I had it all worked out. I had a great right hope to have it says in the word and describes God hates divorce.

He makes provision for it with infidelity and yet he, I think, prefers that people be committed for their entire life together. That's how he designed us and so that's the right hope to have is not false hope. Although it may not work out. But let's turn to the kids, your loving mother you're going through this.

I can imagine. And we realize it. Genders in this day and age it's not about the gender happens to men to wear their wives and yet the spouse that is in the position where their spouses cheated on them. You got a lot of emotion going on. You have five kids in the home at that time. When did they become aware of it.

How did they become aware of it and what impact would that have on them when it first began when my first year that he wanted to leave. I did not. Children did not know anything. I'm sure they had inklings because there were no we had a lot of hushed conversations. I was very emotional.

I did not want them to know because that my hope was that we would be reconciled and I didn't want my children to know what the father had done if I could avoid that if you went through again would you handle okay good absolutely. We sort of taken out of our hands and some of Isaac is my has was a public figure. So when he did finally decide to lease it did become public knowledge, and a lot of people knew and I knew my kids are now. I told him he had to tell our children the next day. That was good to put it on him. And so that's how they found out their father to them in a very unemotional stoic sort of way. He did not show any emotion. He did not touch them and he was sitting on the sofas and family-run and my oldest at the time was 14. My youngest was, not quite two and so the little girls there new one until they didn't have any idea what was going on will ending. I'm sure on some level they get my 14-year-old. My daughter was 11 and my son was eight and on. He said it and my oldest son is the quintessential firstborn is just a wonderful young man and responsibly I was respectful, just all around great guy.

He put his head in the crook of his elbow and just put his head down and didn't say anything.

My daughter and my Sunday 11 and eight-year-old just completely fell apart bursting into tears and weeping and wailing and they were pleased only daddy and my think my little boy said something about us being poor and living on the street or something. I just instantly went to an interesting place for an eight-year-old. So I just gathered them all in my arms and he went up to pack and get some are close to leave since he left you with the rubble of their motion, they did kind of follow him around my eight-year-old father Brown with his Bible. My husband's Bible. My daughter wrote him a letter asking him to stay and my oldest son stayed in his room he didn't come out and that night we left to go to my parents house, my eldest stepped kinda into that man and houseman went make sure all the doors were locked and that's been a struggle to make sure he doesn't become an adult. Too early to see such a responsible firstborn son was a natural tendency for him to do that so I don't know. I think you have to decide in your family how much you want your children to know the circumstances of your divorce. I know some families where the spouse was left has chosen not to say that the adulterer was an adult or and I and you just have to decide what you feel is best for your children and for them what knowledge is too much what's okay it's interesting when you when you deal with adversity. Whatever it might be. It might be the loss of a spouse by death, not necessarily adultery but in every adversity. If you can turn toward the Lord and face it with them and let him teach you how to get through through reading the word and seeing how David and so many biblical characters dealt with adversity. It's an amazing journey. Then yes, I think it's awesome to see how he takes such difficult circumstances and does beautiful things with them and that's a challenge which I tried to look at my children honest to see that their God can use all of this difficult stuff and turn it into something beautiful and that he does have a plan in the midst of all that there was this right kind of in the chest and the down and dirty time of the going through the separation in the divorce out. We had a guest preacher at our church and he was talking about the Israelites at the Red Sea and he was sharing about how that water parted actually from the other shorts is an east wind supported from the other shore towards them, not like we think the front of the minutes movie you know I got up and after church I think you know how cool that is that God is already working a plan to get us through all this difficult stuff and he's bringing it to us like we don't have to go get it coming toward is coming to us and how beautiful that is that God does that, Susan. One thing that I noticed because my mom and dad divorce I was five and knows her memories from long ago but I think the way that I cope with it and you have a youngster about that same age was to wall off, not to think it's such a big deal. It was a big emotionally coping mechanism for child is just to not let it go so deep, so doesn't hurt. That's not necessarily healthy is because you're not really feeling underneath the superficial reality of the heavy experience that with your kids. Yes, I particular my daughter is very much very much so that very first day, when he said extremely emotional, but from that day on, she has shown very little is absolute shutdown and I see yet going to other areas of her life as well just see is very unexcited is a very lucky person now and unaffected. That's probably better unaffected by what goes on and hurt shall say the same thing if I ask about a father or anything that's going on in her life is not that big a deal that was before she was now that she's she's funny though, we weeded the passport to purity. Weekend and on the way back I said David you want to talk about anything with your dad and what's going on with her family to think sick just wait time older and have a bunch relationship issues like like he recognizes that it is a big deal but I think again it's a coping mechanism she just doesn't really know what to do with that and they do all deal with it differently and and as a parent walking feet as a single parent as well. Bucking your children see this and each one is dealing with it differently.

Each one has different needs needs to be encouraged in a different way it is absolutely overwhelming and you're coming at it from a place of not having whole lot to give because you're walking through it. A spouse having all those needs and things so that's where the Lord's strength is the answer to that. Well the thing you have to continue to imbibe and your children is effective. Even though the work marriage is still a biblical theme at something God wants for us. His adults not in all cases singleness as part of biblical truth but but you still have to educate your kids around this problem. Have you found that challenging to lift up marriage with your kids in the midst of tragedy. Now I think that because I'm sold on it to eight I didn't ever come to the point where you hate men. I don't ever be around another man ever in my heart's desires. I love to be married. I love being a wife and I talk with my particular my daughter. You know that it's a beautiful calling of God because he to that and I'm and I think we have a little different circumstance. Maybe then some people that we didn't have a marriage that we were fighting all the time. There wasn't a lot of angst in our marriage thought my children saw well relatively good marriage so they have that vision on.

We are all kinda blindsided my kids included have had talked with youngsters who have gone through in my kids and Gunter who said, well, it was easier when my parents separated and divorced because of ice fighting all the time didn't have that.

So in some ways I had a little easier because I can save happily married, and I try and bring up stories from the passport and reminds them of funding is not taboo to talk about daddy this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly on John Fuller and we just heard part of the conversation recorded a number of years ago with Susan birdseed about the heartbreaking revelation that her seemingly happy marriage was over and she was facing an unwanted divorce.

And on top of that, she became a single mom of five children, Jon, I hope our listeners will join us next time for the conclusion of Susan's incredible story because although her circumstances didn't get any easier. She clung to the Lord and relied upon godly friends and her church community to endure the days ahead, and eventually she even found a place in her heart to forgive her husband, but today we want to assure quick update from Susan about how she and her children have manners over the past 13 years since her divorce and here's what you shared with us like a giant thing hard with the little things and being a single parent solve anything you deal with many decisions to make on your own garden to carry alone and the single mom I know like house repairs and all the little nitty-gritty things.

After a while, I can check deal so overwhelming and I know God cares about how they think that it could all be at work for more than you know that I think we need to trust God has been honestly walking through the site is overwhelming and I think sometimes people think that single parent for many years should be here by now know everything that you feared different things even five. You definitely feel like a different response to the situation.

Each one of them wanted my children tends to be more the peacemaker and will do everything I can to make everything everybody including including his dad. One of my is very, very angry that I want to talk that is constantly pursuing a relationship with God because God figure not. He has a little bit of trust issues with God.

So we talk a lot about that.

What I see with my daughter's particularly is a lack of value they don't see themselves as valuable and worthy of being loved.

Well, and heartbreaking, like Jack, but I think what I can do is pray for my daughter that God will continually pour into pan that he loves that he is there for them and she value fund index card with over there and very like that all people struggled and wrestled with some different things that I think I think well stronger for it, and the relation relationship with one another great conversation about God and who he is and how to trust and one thing that makes sense.

And when things aren't going to let you want them to go. I think we all we often talk about like that dad and Mark nine where he, secondly, help my unbelief like to step in and help with the different things that were dealing with on and I think that at some point. I also talked a lot about like stopping asking why things happened and why are families like this and why he challenges them struggled like God. How do you want to walk forward how well how do we lead where you called us to be content with that life and be okay with things not going the way you find value wanted to go. You thought it would go by now it should be easier, so I wrestled in and grown stronger for it. I really admire Susan's courage is a single mom and her commitment to the Lord, trying to help her kids retain their face and see value in themselves and believe that God's got a greater purpose for their lives. Even with all the destruction going on but we also need to acknowledge that one of the greatest tragedies in our culture today is the devastation of divorce far too many husbands or wives or walking away from their commitments and families and shattering their own lives and the lives of their children. Divorce is never easy or good, and it has terrible consequences and frankly it's a violation of God's plan and if you sent man is really been on the guilt I want to because I want couples to rethink it.

If there on that order line of thinking of divorce. We know there are exceptions in the Bible for abuse and infidelity. And we know that we live in a sinful and broken world where bad things happen often out of our control. I get that but her focus were doing all we can to rescue couples who are hurting and who maybe think they have no other choice but to walk away. That's why we have our counseling team and our hope restored intensive's which is a counseling offered goes for several days, typically four days, and our goal is to give you godly hope for your marriage, along with the tools that you need to rebuild your family and urge you to contact us here to ask about these resources. Focus on the Family is here were wanting to help you in any way we can enter number is 800 K on the word family 800-232-6459 or check the episode notes to learn more and if you're in a good place right now with your marriage.

Let me invite you to do ministry through focus and this program restored has an incredible success rate over 80% of the couples would come two years later are doing better and still married. I can't think of a better program in the whole country.

John and man, like the early church let's pitching together.

Let's improve the capacity for hope restored right now. We hope that 3000 couples will go through the program were trying to create more capacity in Arizona down in Texas if you want to get on board with hope restored. I hope someday we can be putting 5 to 7000 couples a year through their program and then working to put that in the Christian divorce rate shall be a part of it. Send a gift to Focus on the Family today in your market for hope restored and we will put those dollars to work to save more marriages donate. As you can join the support team and when you make a gift of any amount either monthly pledge or one-time gift will send a copy of Susan Purdy's book went happily ever after shutters seeing God in the midst of divorce and single-parent beginner numbers 800 K in the word family were stop by the episode notes to find the link coming up next time more of Susan birds use powerful story about learning how to avoid this, and regret, and to embrace the power of forgiveness on John Fuller and on behalf of Jim Daly, and the entire team. Thanks for joining us plan to be with us next time. As we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ

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