Corey Haines
March 30, 2024

Recovering from divorce as a Christian

I never planned on getting divorced.

No one plans on getting divorced, but it’s so common today that a lot of folks consider it to be a pretty normal experience to go through in life.

But I was hellbent on never getting divorced. I had already seen the pain and unfortunate family dynamics that it causes through my own family. Both parents had previous marriages, I saw siblings get divorces and co-parent with their exes, other extended family members turned up to family gatherings without their spouse.

I was determined to get it right for my future kids and break a generational curse so to speak.

As a Christian, the Bible is explicit about two acceptable reasons for divorce: sexual immorality and abandonment by an unbeliever.

Both happened to me in February of 2023.

I’ll share my story, what I learned from it, and my advice to anyone who might be going through something similar.

Some backstory

I met my ex when we were 15 through a church event, but we weren’t friends and didn’t start dating until we were 19.

We had a ton of mutual friends, were very involved at church and serving in ministries, and did all the right things. We set and followed physical boundaries, talked about life goals, discussed having kids, went through pre-marital counseling, etc. After dating for two years, we got engaged and got married a year later.

We were the last couple you’d bet would end up getting a divorce.

But exactly 5 years later, everything fell apart.

Very long story short… after battling some unresolved issues for about a year, I found out that she was having an affair with an underaged student at our church. To further complicate things, she was on staff at our church. She walked away from her faith and began to abuse our finances immediately after.

I fought to stay open to reconciliation while being separated for about 3 months before filing for divorce. I probably would have waited even longer if not for the wise counsel of people around me. I realized that even if we were somehow to make it work miraculously, I didn’t want her to be the mother of my kids.

My goal is not to disparage her. I can say now that it feels like a distant memory and I don’t have any extreme negative feelings that I’m harboring. But I feel it’s important to lay out my thought process with context.

Surviving the first few months

To say that the first few months were difficult couldn’t be more of an understatement.

Work was an escape at first, but I recognized that I needed to take my foot off the gas pedal for a while in order to process and grieve. So I more or less did the bare minimum, stopped listening to business podcasts and reading business books, and pressed pause on all my entrepreneurial projects.

My mind was completely consumed with thinking about what happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about our past. I would replay memories trying to piece together things she said or did to make sense of it all. I would think about our good and bad times, and fluctuate between extreme anger and depression. I’ve never cried or screamed more in my whole life.

It’s uncomfortable to write this. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party, but this is just the reality of what it’s like to go through.

I was a very broken person at that time. Not just because of what happened, but also because of the effects of being manipulated and gaslighted the last couple years. I felt like I couldn’t think for myself. I couldn’t focus on anything. I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

But I took one day at a time. I prayed… a lot. I would just sit in my living room and listen to worship music. I took a lot of long walks with my dog.

Putting the pieces back together again

There were a few things I started doing immediately that helped me begin to work through it.

First, I started meeting with the counseling pastor at my church weekly. He’s the same person who married us, and did marriage counseling with us for a brief time, so he knew both of us exceptionally well. We’d recap everything that was going on, talk about what I was experiencing, and go over next steps for how to handle whatever was in front of me.

We talked about how I needed to grieve our marriage like a death. It’s the death of a relationship. I realized I never fully grieved the passing of my dad, and it affected me in subtle ways that I didn’t recognize for a long time. So I didn’t want to repeat that same mistake.

A divorce is the death certificate of the broken covenant. It isn’t the thing that ends a marriage, it is the proof that a marriage has ended.

Second, I also started meeting with another pastor from a different church who had gone through something very similar just a few years prior. We got connected through a friend and met monthly. We really focused on how I was going to process it, rediscovering myself, and finding areas of growth to become more resilient through it.

Talking to someone who had been through something like this was absolutely invaluable. We talked a lot about how trying to make sense of a situation that doesn’t make sense will only lead to anxiety, fear, and anger. You have to get your head out of the way. And if you can’t be alone with your thoughts, you won’t hear God either. You have to stop the compulsive need to distract your mind and your heart so that you have the room to grieve.

Third, I started doing jiu jitsu. Sounds a bit silly (maybe even cliche?) but it was (1) something I had always wanted to do and finally gave myself permission to pursue it, (2) a healthy outlet for all the frustration and anger and angst I was feeling, and (3) the only time I could turn my brain off to disconnect.

Fourth, I committed to reading the Bible and praying regularly. This is something that had gotten off track for quite a while and felt the effects of neglect. I knew that this was my lifeline. It was the only thing that could ground me in reality. It’s tough to describe but there’s a certain pace that comes from spending time reading the Bible and praying. Suddenly, life’s problems shrunk in significance. I felt like I was downloading new perspective about everything — God’s perspective — by opening up that space to receive it.

Finding normalcy again

I remember coming back from a 2-week coding bootcamp in August of 2023, about 6 months after everything, realizing that my heart rate felt normal again.

Previous to that, I was in a constant state of angst. Every time I would think about my ex, I would get flustered and it never seemed to fully die down before the next thought would intrude.

I also just got tired of it all weighing on me. I was asking God daily to help me process things in a healthy way, reveal to me how I could grow through it, and then move on. And so I did. I didn’t want to dwell on it anymore.

Time heals all wounds. After a while it didn’t feel weird to sleep in my bed alone. Instead sending Instagram memes to my ex, they went to friends. I got dinner and called my mom more. I built a new weekly routine. I moved.

“The two shall become one flesh” and when you get torn apart, you have to grow to become a whole person again. I asked myself introspective questions for the first time in a long time. “How do I want to spend my evenings?” “What do I like to eat?” “What do I find interesting?” “What do I find funny?” “Where do I want to travel to?”

I also asked God a lot of questions. Here are a few I wrote down that I go through often:

"Help me to see areas in my life with work and family and friends that I’ve learned bad habits being passive or avoiding confrontation. Strip away the passivity and help me to be assertive, confident, and opinionated.

Help me to be authentic and not be afraid to be myself. Convict me any time I’m tempted to try to conform to how I think someone wants me to act. I don’t want this fear of not being enough.

Reveal to me how I can glorify you through my work. Help me to be salt and light on social media, communication with coworkers, my customers, and internet friends. Show me the things you want me to work on. Take away the stress of performing and putting too much pressure on myself. I give you authority and control over my career.

Teach me to love and seek love out of desire instead of performance. Help me to enjoy your presence. Help me to express love in meaningful ways instead of manipulative ways. Convict me when I’m tempted to try to work for love.

Help me to feel as you feel. Teach me to be in touch with my own emotions and not ignore them. Convict me when I distract myself from an emotion. I don’t want to be an angry or insecure or fearful person. Give me extra capacity to process my emotions in a healthy way."

When you’re married, you consider your spouse for everything. And if you let yourself become subservient to another person, eventually you lose your sense of self. I had to find myself again. And I did. When I did, I established a new normal for my life.

Some revelations

I’ve always identified more as a Martha in the passage about Martha and Mary hosting Jesus in their house. Martha busied herself with service while Mary sat and talked with Jesus. Martha then grew resentful of Mary, but Jesus tells Martha that she should come dwell with him instead like Mary. It’s easy to try to work for love. To perform. To earn. But it’s an illusion. Love is given and received, not earned.

I realized that I had accidentally stunted my own emotional intelligence. My pastor-therapist told me one time: “What does God feel? If we’re supposed to be like God, we need to learn to feel like God.” That hit me like a brick, and we went through an exercise to begin to exercise that muscle I had neglected.

Here’s an excerpt from my notes:

“Being betrayed, rejected, manipulated, lied to… it makes me feel insignificant. I feel incompetent. I feel guilty for not trying harder in our marriage. I feel guilty for being in denial about issues. I feel embarrassed that she cheated on me. I feel sad that she threw away all our memories and our relationship. I feel angry that I worked so hard to build a life for us only to have it all be rejected. I feel angry that she betrayed my family — my dad, my mom, [family members]. It’s made me insecure and untrusting. I feel like I have to fix myself physically to be more attractive. Emotionally I have to face a lot of things I’ve buried. Sometimes I have intense anger that I bottle up. Sometimes I have intense sadness that I bottle up. It’s made me a disconnected from other people at times. I never know how to answer the question “so how are you doing?” which makes me feel inadequate about my own emotional intelligence.”

I learned that it’s okay to feel something even if you don’t necessarily want to feel that way. It’s just a feeling, it’s not the truth. We practiced filling in the blanks here: “I feel X, but I know Y about you God.”

It’s both sobering and humbling to have tried so hard to do everything right and still fail spectacularly. Some part of me always thought that if I did everything right and followed the steps and tried hard enough that everything would always work out. That part of me died.

My counselor recommended that I read a book called No More Mr. Nice Guy. The nice guy believes (1) If I’m nice everyone will like me, (2) If I meet someone’s needs without asking, they will meet my needs without asking, and (3) If I do everything right, I will have a smooth problem free life.

I realized that I was a nice guy, like a chameleon trying to become what I thought others wanted me to be. It’s dishonest, manipulative, and completely detached from reality. It leads to being passive, codependent, and suppressed. I was all three, and my goal is to never be that way again.


A friend asked me recently: “If you could wipe your previous marriage from your memory, would you?”

This was something I struggled with early on. Initially I wanted to forget about it so I didn’t have to feel the pain it brought up. Every time I saw a picture of us, it would stir up a bunch of unwanted emotions. I didn’t know how to talk about stories without mentioning her or wondering if people would feel awkward.

Then I realized that I didn’t want to forget it because then I’d be afraid to make the same mistakes again. I learned a ton about myself, marriage, and life through it. So why would I just throw that away and put my next marriage at risk?

So I decided that I didn’t want to be the type of person who everyone has to tip toe around when sharing stories or memories. Treating it like a sensitive subject gives it power over me, and I wanted to be free of it. I want to be able to talk about it freely and even joke about it.

Trying to blot her out of my memory felt like erasing part of my own life. Sure, she was a big part of it, but I still had my own experience. And I don’t want to pretend my life didn’t happen for those 8 years.

Wiping her from my memory also implies that I thought I made a massive mistake. Do I wish I would have done things a bit differently? Of course. Would I go back, though? No, I can’t change someone and it likely would have played out to the same end. The reality is that I did the best that I could with the information that I had. And beating myself up for something I didn’t cause doesn’t accomplish anything.

I think I’ll be better off for it in the long run. I believe that God redeems and that it’s a blessing I can restart at this stage of my life.

There’s certainly no excuse for what she did, but that doesn’t mean that I was perfect. I made mistakes, I fell into bad habits, and I wasn’t the person I should have been. There’s an enormous amount of things I’ve learned. My tendencies to avoid conflict, allowing myself to be a punching bag, being too passive. But more importantly, I learned more about my strengths. My patience, integrity, adventure, drive, values.

And even more importantly, my faith has been tested and come out the other side even stronger. It’s the most real part of who I am. My identity is rooted in God, not my spouse. I am who God made me to be, and that will never change so long as I pursue Him.

In the back of my mind there's a voice that tries to tell me that I'm stained because of my divorce. It tries to scare me that it'll happen again. It tries to make me insecure about who I am. It tries to make me feel shameful about having gone through a divorce.

But I don't really listen to that voice anymore. I can say now that it's in the past. I'm a different, better person because of it.

There's nothing to be ashamed of.

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