I am delighted to welcome Kathey Batey to the Unmasked: stories of authenticity blog series today. For the last 12 years Kathey has worked with those going through divorce, as a mediator and by running support groups. But she has her own personal story, which she has bravely agreed to share here. The blog is long, but I’ve kept it long because I think her honesty will help others.
I have been asked in numerous radio and television interviews about my personal story of divorce because I wrote the book series Suddenly Single and I have worked with hundreds of individuals and groups going through divorce. I skirt around my own story and try to “clean it up” as much as possible. I do this for a couple of reasons: one reason is to shield my children from the “grit” of the divorce, and another because my former spouse is deceased and I have no intention of dishonoring him. But in protecting or cleaning up my story, it doesn’t honestly relate to yours. I want to relate to you because chances are your story is ugly, hurtful and surreal to you. Mine is to me. I’m going unmasked, in the hopes it will relate to you and give you hope. Here is the unmasked version. I tell it only for you to know that you are not alone.
I stood in the kitchen and I asked God to hold me. It was the second time he left. Five days earlier, the day the divorce was supposed to be final, he asked if he could come back. He wanted our family back. I embraced the thought and I embraced him. He came back, to the same issues we had before. “You’re just not what I want”, he told me numerous times, I’m not sure how one responds to that statement, as if I could change my core self. I couldn’t, and at this point in my failing marriage where he was dissatisfied, unaccepting of me, being unable to meet his expectations, I wouldn’t. I had shut down years before because I felt I could do nothing right, so I retreated to that cave again. In that painful cave of hiding, God held me.
Satan was deceiving him and destroying our family. How could he buy into the lie there was something better, more exciting than what he had here? We had a family, three fabulous teenagers, who never rebelled and were a joy to watch grow and become adults. They were active in sports with great friends who made our home the gathering place for teens. We had reunions, church groups and church services on our ranch of eight acres, a pond in the middle of the property with fish and wildlife. The woods were filled with wildflowers of Trillium and Jack in the Pulpit. It was heaven on earth to me.
I wasn’t the perfect wife. I was not his mother. She was the perfect housekeeper, the great cook. She never struggled with putting on extra pounds. Where is the maturity when we realize we are grown up and our spouses won’t be our parent? In all, my loving mother-in-law seemed the perfect wife and mother and I loved her dearly. She was very good to me. But she died of alcoholism, having been married to an alcoholic abusive partner. She didn’t know how to stand up for herself and she took her pain inward.
In that kitchen where my soul plummeted to the bottom of the cave, God caught me. It wasn’t a superman swoop, but it was a sudden fullness and comfort in my heart that contrasted where I was at that moment and showed me I was not alone. I would need to depend on that Spirit in the days ahead. This was one of the many dramatic times in my divorce.
I remember to this day shortly after he left again, standing in the bathroom getting ready for work, listening to the song by Pam Thumb, “Life is hard, the world is cold, you’re barely young and then you’re old. Every fallen tear is always understood, life is hard, but God is good.” That song spoke my heart, life was hard and the world is cold. And I certainly had those tears, but God was so good to me. Flashback in that same bathroom when my husband came to the door once, and I slipped down my nightgown and he turned and walked away. Rejection is painful.
THE NEED FOR SUPPORT
Rejection brings it’s own grief. I questioned everything while going through my divorce: my value as a woman, my value as a person, my value as a life. I could go into those unhealthy thoughts easily because of his perception of me was degrading during marriage and listening to the words of rejection can put you into a dark spiral. But time passed and perception was gained. I thank God for putting the voices and the people He did in my life to walk through this with me. They were not profound, deep, directive voices; they were co-workers, pastors, church friends with simple kindnesses, compassion and listening ears. They related to me, they normalised my trauma. This is why I feel so strongly about how the church ministers to those who are divorcing. It is because I saw where the church was there for me, and I also saw where they were absent for me in my deepest time of need.
It is mind-boggling, yet necessary to make the mind shift that the person you trusted with your life for twenty years, confided life decisions and submitted your body and soul to, has become an unsafe person. I struggled with it, as those in my support groups do. It does something to your mind and sanity when you try to wrap your head around that fact; it is indescribable, ironic and adds anger to the betrayal of the moment. To hear lawyers, judges and strangers get into your personal business; habits, priorities and what seems your underwear drawer, send you reeling! One of the reasons I believe in group so much, is they can walk through the cruel legal process of divorce. You don’t know who is on your side or who is there to rack up hours of legal fees.
It is surreal to look around your established home of twenty years of marriage and see all of your belongings and your life on the table for bargaining. It is so unsettling, disorienting and bewildering. I’m reminded of my own experience every time I hold mediations and watch people divide their lives into two piles.
WHEN LIFE BECOMES A SOAP OPERA
Just when you think there is a moment of sanity or calm, things happen that sound like a soap opera, trashy episodes that you would watch in disgust, now come part of your story…
Sitting at the table with my daughter and my mother eating lunch, the phone rang. It was a woman, whose voice I did not recognize. She was brief and to the point of her purpose for the call. “I just wanted you to know, I’ve been sleeping with your husband the last six months.”
I had lived my life trying to be a woman and family of class. Raised in an alcoholic home, poverty was only because alcohol got more prominence than the children. My mother worked as a waitress to care and provide for us. My father bought drinks for his baseball team, his golf league or stole things to bring into the home. In contrast was mom, hard working, sacrificing everything for her family. I never went without because of mom. Dad, I understand more in hindsight, was a WWII vet, who had issues of his own to deal with after serving in the military and the atrocities he witnessed. He died when I was 13. Truth be told, he was my hero in many ways, but also a figure that terrified me.
On the way to a sporting event for one of my children, I went into Wal-Mart to pick up something for the kids, and was surprised to see him and the woman. I encountered her. This was my soap opera moment that I would never encourage people to carry out. Confrontation is dangerous in many ways. At that time, I was naive and angry and I walked up to her and without emotion stated slowly, “You are a cheap imitation of me.” I waited for no reply. I left the premises. I was the wife, I was the honored one, the favored one in a holy position. I will not throw that away as I had been discarded. I will take claim of that God-ordained place.
KNOWING YOUR VALUE
Telling people you are divorcing is so difficult. You know there is no gentle way to say it. You know when you do you will cry when you start talking about it. Those feelings are normal and difficult to swallow (even though you try to swallow the tears). I chose only close friends and family first and then I was better able to speak it without the tears and later as stated fact.
Years have passed, perspective has been gained – as I purposely and intentionally worked on my healing. Today, I hear the heartbreak of hundreds of people, men and women. When they are wide eyed in shock from the betrayal of their mate, I understand.When they feel their loss of value and ask the question, “Why wasn’t I worth fighting for?” I understand. You are, I was.
Satan is at work to destroy families, because he knows how vital they are to life. But God is the God of second chances. Jesus is our second chance. Now is time to see your value, and to discover the beautiful life God has for you. We are secure in him. Even in the most insecure times, we are secure in Him. He is whom you hold onto. He will guide you through. He will guide you and reveal to you things you never knew or understood. For many, it is the truth that sometimes the reason for divorce has nothing to do with you, sometimes spouses have issues you cannot fix nor be the answer to. It takes years to gain the perspective that helps you see your life clearly. Not saying years will ever make it right, but years make it clearer and more manageable.
My determination from that day he left the second time and since is: my story and my life will not end like this. I will not be the victim, even though so much was taken, wronged and a drastic contrast to the life we were living. What can you do with such trash, pain and injustice? You hand it over to God and say, “hold me, lead me, give me wisdom for the path I take.” God isn’t finished with you. The best is yet to be. Over the past twenty+ years God has been the greatest husband to me. He is the Provider, the Protector (even from myself), the Lover of my soul. Learn to know Him in this way.
This is part of my divorce unmasked; I could write a book…(Oh wait, I did!) on more of the details. It is real and it is messy. Just like your divorce. This is a painful, yet powerful time in your life. Use it wisely; it will make you or destroy you. I marvel at God’s patience and how He always shows up in my groups and in my life and takes the unmasked, messy moments and somehow restores and chooses to empower us through them.
Kathey Batey is the creator of Divorce Support Anonymous and author of the Suddenly Single book series published by David C. Cook. She is a domestic mediator and has held support groups for people going through divorce. Connect with her on FaceBook page Divorce Support Anonymous or her website www.DivorceSupportAnonymous.com