Losing Your Religion During Divorce

Losing Your Religion During Divorce
image source; unsplash.com by Josh Applegate

Religion is a powerful force that aims to project a system of beliefs, to instill faith and community. Often, in any religion you will find traditions and events to mark a ‘coming of age’ or a celebration of accomplishment in that faith. Similarly, wedding ceremonies are conducted in our faith of choice and become one of those celebrations.

I’m generalizing here but overall, most religions have an aim to exert beliefs and interject hope into people’s lives—and for the most part, this is meant in the most positive way.

But what happens to those people who have broken a religious vow? Is there forgiveness for them?

Religion doesn’t easily tolerate broken vows;

If the church is involved with the wedding, should they also be involved with the divorce? I vote ‘no’, however this is exactly what seems to happen for some divorcing congregants.

In fact,  a devoted  congregant may suddenly be cast out, no matter what they have contributed to their church in the past. They are no longer of use or value to their religious community, simply because of their divorce.

Therefore, a broken marital vow is looked upon as a failure in the religion itself. I can think of a few religions right off the top of my head, that today still shun their congregants who are in the process of divorce. They may even go so far as to ex-communicate them from the church. This is doubly heartbreaking because now you must not only deal with the loss of your spouse, marriage, and all that entailed, but the loss of people you considered family.

I have even heard stories where the divorcee’s family stops speaking to them, in the name of religious beliefs.

It seems rather hypocritical to me. Where do the lines of religious devotion and personal life separate? Furthermore, during difficult times, isn’t that when our faith needs to be strongest? Isn’t that when Jesus is supposed to carry us and there’s only one set of footprints? It’s certainly not a time to ‘lose your religion’.

Never mind my commentary on this very bizarre aspect of religious culture; let’s get down to how to cope with this very problem.

How to Cope With Religious Isolation After Divorce

Temporarily stop attending mass or services-until you can get stronger and no longer are bothered by strange looks and gossip.

Find one or two fellow congregants you have been close to and continue communicating with them outside the church.

Take care of yourself and your children first-focusing on your personal family issues and duties will distract you from thoughts and worries of acceptance at church.

Turn to close friends outside the church. Often a safe bet. If you have some close friend outside church, then you’ll be sure to keep your personal situation confidential.

Continue your faith in your own surroundings-can you continue your worship at home in a sacred space that you create?

Give your love and devotion to other charities outside your church-you will likely miss the activities and events that you contributed to in your church but that doesn’t mean you have to stop contributing elsewhere.

Remain steadfast in your stance on your own divorce, in spite of the opposition.

It’s not unusual for church views and personal views to collide at times. Ultimately, you must do what is right for you and your family whether that means skipping services while navigating your divorce, or finding a new method of worship.

I can’t help but think of Scientology as I write this. I realize that it’s an extreme example of a religion exerting force, power and control over their congregants however, it is a strong example of a religion that shuns and isolates, even exiles the people who are not conforming to all of their rituals. But is it truly that much different than more traditional religions that cast out their members for ending their marriages?

Please share your thoughts and/or experiences in the comments.


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32 Replies to “Losing Your Religion During Divorce”

  1. Great post Lisa! I love your anecdotes for people experiencing being shunned by their religion, and I’m willing to bet that many who feel threatened by losing their church because they choose to leave their partner may in fact stay in crappy relationships because of their fear. There is a lot of hypocrisy in religion. But this girl doesn’t need brick and mortar to pray. I believe our prayers can be heard from anywhere. So if the marriage is over, nothing is going to sway me to stay. 🙂 xx

    1. Hi Debby, yes I can imagine there would be fear in breaking the vow regardless of circumstances, due to religious expectations, beliefs. This isn’t a healthy situation. I agree you can pray where you choose. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your view 🙂
      lisa recently posted…Losing Your Religion During DivorceMy Profile

  2. Religion has always tried to scare and impose restrictions as it thrives on creating compulsions not free thoughts, it appreciates blind faith and scoffs at those who try to question. It is therefore better to look away, find faith in our own abilities and strengths as real faith is very personal, it doesn’t need any services or congregations. If there is God, he would support our decisions and would never let us wallow in misery.
    I appreciate your view Lisa. Thanks for sharing!
    Balroop Singh recently posted…True Love Or Perfect Love?My Profile

    1. I agree, Balroop. I think it’s hard for people who have been raised or have later chosen to become part of a congregation only to be shut out for their divorce (or some other personal reason). It can really be a rude awakening after the devotion they have given to their church. Of course, that should be considered a sign that their efforts would be appreciated elsewhere.

      I love your candid comments, Balroop!
      lisa recently posted…Losing Your Religion During DivorceMy Profile

    1. Hi Tamara, it really does happen. I’ve had some women contact me with this very issue. It’s really tragic, because the reason many people belong to a church is for that sense of community and support. So to have that suddenly taken away when you most need it can be devastating.
      lisa recently posted…Losing Your Religion During DivorceMy Profile

  3. Hi Lisa,

    Interesting topic of discussion 🙂

    However, I’d just say that the person going through it all would never have religion on his or her mind! But yes, one can understand all that occurs at such times, which is not always good. Your tips would surely help if anyone is isolated after divorce in such a case.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂
    Harleena Singh recently posted…Dealing with OCD: How to Overcome OCD by YourselfMy Profile

    1. Hi Harleena, although they wouldn’t have religion on their mind, they are likely relying heavily on that routine of attending services, and those friendships and activities they participate in through their church. To suddenly not have that on top of all the other losses one experiences during divorce can really sting.
      Nice to see you, Harleena 🙂
      lisa recently posted…Losing Your Religion During DivorceMy Profile

  4. This definitely happened to me. I had also been spiritually abused by several pastors – one being the worst. After I left my husband I never heard from any of those church people again once they knew I was getting a divorce.
    I’ve tried to go to church since many times but I just can’t and I have trouble even reading my Bible since so much of Scripture had been used to hurt me and enable my abusers.
    My family has judged me and told and believed lies about me to the point I don’t talk to any of them anymore.
    I live alone and rarely see my children.
    6 years after my separation.

    1. Hi Jodi, I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been through—in the name of religion. This is the ultimate example of hypocrisy. You, and no one going through a divorce deserve this. I hope you find peace and a way to worship on your own. I truly hope you are able to re-connect with your children at some point. Wishing you all the best and reach out anytime!

  5. Oh, man this is heartbreaking…

    but very thought provoking, too.

    I think it’s sad for anyone to turn a back when someone needs it the most and it certainly seems very hypocritical for a church to do it in the aftermath of a divorce. At the end of the day, what goes on behind closed doors concerns those two people only–but the church should take in anyone enduring hardship especially. I mean, isn’t that where God is needed most?

    Thanks for sharing. I haven’t been a member of a church since childhood, but I remember hearing gossipy stories. I know they exist, but good lord, if it were me, I would hope that people would surround me in love and support, since that’s what I would need more than anything.

    Thank for always sharing such wonderful and insightful posts, Lisa!
    Charlotte recently posted…Weekend in Woodstock and Catskill Animal Sanctuary!My Profile

    1. Exactly, Charlotte. You hit the nail on the head. I suppose a congregation is really just a group of people and where there are groups, there is usually gossip. Of course we expect more from our church and religion—the very institution designed to bring us closer to God and holiness. ***shakes head in dismay***

  6. That’s a good idea to stop attending mass for awhile until the person getting a divorce is feeling strong and more able to stand up to scrutiny. As a non-religious person, I always struggle with relating to how strongly such beliefs can guide a person’s life, but I know it’s a factor many have to deal with in so many ways.

    1. Hi Jeri, I’m the same as you in that church was not a part of my life. I didn’t feel I was missing anything in particular either. I was curious but not feeling compelled to join a church group. However, I’m certain that people who have been raised or joined their church later in life have done so for the feeling of community and support they gain in church. So, it really is sad when religion collides with their decision to divorce. “pray where you are” is a good motto!

  7. –What a powerful post, Lisa.

    I loved it.

    I agree, the church should help you adjust and be there for you, rather than shun and judge you.

    What hypocrites!

    As for Kay, the church shunned her when she tried to get support for her divorce… so I understand about some of these HORRID examples for Christians.

    As far as Scientology, this is an abusive, controlling, psychological demeaning cult.

    Excellent post. x
    My Inner Chick recently posted…Some Of My Favorite Things, Essays, Poets, What-EVMy Profile

    1. Hi Kim, so glad you appreciated this one. I know you’re a church goer. I’m so sorry to hear that Kay had to go through this! So unfair and yes, hypocritical! I agree about Scientology and have huge respect for Leah Remini for taking it on.

  8. This is such an interesting point of discussion when it comes to divorce. Vows are something very much solemn, a lifelong commitment and to some of us, sacred. Then again, for many of us today, vows can also be just words and religion just another concept. That said, I think a lot of us see religion as a safety net and so feel ashamed when a divorce comes around – caught offguard, out of their comfort zone as to what they have always believed. Agree with your tips on taking it slowly and focus on rebuilding before turning to faith again – heal our heart, heal our mind, heal our beliefs.
    Mabel Kwong recently posted…Colours In Chinese Culture: What Do They Mean And SymboliseMy Profile

    1. There certainly is shame in divorce although, I hope that is changing. It feels like a failure on so many levels and that’s why to have our church connections view it that way is heartbreaking. It can happen to any couple with the best of intentions. This: “heal our heart, heal our mind, heal our beliefs.” thanks for that statement, Mabel!

  9. Hugs, Lisa! Another great post and guidance for those out there who may be struggling with this. This was opposite for me, I turned to the church when I was struggling with my abusive relationship. In fact, I felt like my church saved me. It was the one place i knew with certainty that I could go to find some measure of peace for three hours once a week, when things were getting really bad. My pastor showed up and sat outside for three hours when I was in the trial. They were really wonderful. I wish with all my hearts that people who are going through this most painful time in their lives can find a place that will support them and be a safe haven, and if not, understand that it is not a failing within them if their church does not accept them. They will and can survive and thrive despite what other people say and do. <3 <3 <3 (easier said than done, I realize).
    Jane Thrive recently posted…Leaving on a Jet Plane – Summer 2017My Profile

    1. Thanks, Jane. And a big thank you for sharing your positive story regarding your church. That kind of support is how it should be. So glad you had that support and your pastor waiting for you outside the courtroom? That is phenomenal!

  10. Oh Lisa, you hit on a tough topic here… and I agree that is can be SO devastating to not only be facing such a hard life change, but then lose the people who are supposed to walk through the valley with you. It breaks my HEART that people are shunned and silenced and rejected, when they experience such pain. That is NOT how Jesus would care for them. Divorce is a serious break from a sacred vow, however there are MANY justifications for this and the Church should be there for those with outstretched hands of grace and love. They need spiritual guidance and support during times of suffering and I can’t think of a season where they need it most than going through a divorce.

    I appreciate you tackling this and giving your suggestions for those who need to cope with such a double tragedy in their lives. I think those are great ideas.
    Christine Carter recently posted…To The Teenager Who Is Thinking About Having SexMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Chris. It’s an unfortunate side effect of divorce in that religion sometimes frown upon the broken vow (not all religions, of course). This: “the Church should be there for those with outstretched hands of grace and love. ” I couldn’t have said it better!

  11. This is such an interesting topic and such an important one Lisa. I’m glad that you tackled it. I think that whatever religion that you affiliated with, followed, believed in, should support you 100% of the way but that is not the case with many. That’s tremendously sad. I don’t understand why either. I am not religious although I sent my kid to a Catholic school – long story….
    Kimberly recently posted…My ChickensMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Kim. I agree, there should be unconditional support. I am happy to hear Jane’s story though. Still, too many get shunned.

  12. I think in today’s times there are very few people who would subscribe to such archaic thinking i.e divorcing your partner is akin to breaking a religious vow. Moreover despite being married in a church, you have to register your marriage with the state for it to be perfectly legal. So for the divorce to be legal, it should be done through courts.
    Dan Winster recently posted…Grounds for Divorce in TexasMy Profile

    1. Hi Dan, It’s surprising though, the church view regarding divorce. It may not be so much the religion itself as the atmosphere of the leader in a particular church. I agree it’s archaic thinking. Yes, people have to attain a marriage license and file it, for their marriage to be legally recognized.

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