Many victims of abuse are reluctant to pursue a life-saving divorce because of harmful myths about single life for women.
Could you be one of those women?
Gretchen Baskerville is on the BTR.ORG podcast breaking down harmful myths and offering powerful words of encouragement. Tune into the free BTR.ORG podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Busting Myths About Life-Saving Divorce & Single Life
Especially in the religious community, women are inundated with toxic myths regarding divorce. Some of those myths include:
- “You’re nothing without a husband.”
- “Women friends are merely place-keepers until marriage.”
- “Marriage is the ‘end all’ and if you seek divorce, you’ve failed.”
It’s easy to see why women feel immense societal pressure to stay married – even when they’re being abused.
Here’s the truth – you can find immense fulfillment in platonic relationships with other women; you are not a failure for seeking safety, and you do not require a husband to have worth as a human being.
Choosing a Life-Saving Divorce Despite Fear
“I thought that divorce was the worst possible thing that could happen to me.”
Here in the BTR.ORG community, we often hear women express that they were terrified and felt immense feelings of failure for seeking divorce – but decided to take a leap of faith toward safety.
It does take time, but usually these women explain that even though the decision was difficult and the sorrows and stresses of life aren’t suddenly, magically erased, they’re proud of themselves for seeking a life-saving divorce and far happier than they used to be.
But I Don’t Want To Be Single!
Some victims quietly express that one of the reasons they hesitate to seek divorce is because they don’t want to be alone. Gretchen and Anne discuss some encouraging truths for women in this situation:
- Platonic relationships with other women, especially fellow victims, can be extremely fulfilling and healing.
- Far and wide, divorced women express that single life without abuse is easier and happier than married life with an abuser.
- It is perfectly possible to rebuild your life on a solid foundation after divorcing an abuser – it may take time, but you CAN do it.
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
Making the decision to divorce is difficult – we understand. Please seek support – attend a BTR.ORG Group Session today.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne.
I am more than excited to have my friend Gretchen Baskerville back on today’s episode. She is a Christian in the Los Angeles area who’s been doing Christian Divorce Recovery Ministry in churches since 1998. As you can imagine, she’s heard many, many heartbreaking stories of betrayal and abuse. And from her experience, she has found that when Christian women find themselves married to serial cheaters or sexually immoral spouses or physically and emotionally abusive spouses, they tend to try to fix their marriage. They pray, they forgive, they go to counseling, and Gretchen is on a mission to help women know that they don’t have to submit themselves to that type of wickedness, but they can consider life-saving divorce. She is the author of an absolutely awesome book, Life-Saving Divorce. Also, you can find her at lifesavingdivorce.com. Welcome, Gretchen.
Gretchen Baskerville (04:14):
It’s so great to be with you again, Anne.
So we are gonna talk about being single. Lately when people say God hates divorce, or when I hear that statement, I think of you. And then I say, God loves divorce. And I just come back at them with that and say, what are you talking about? God loves divorce because he loves me, and it set me free. Divorce delivered me from wickedness. It delivered me from abuse, and I’m very, very grateful to be divorced and actually really proud of it. And I want women to know that it’s not something that we have to be ashamed of or worried about. And being single kind of has that same connotation that not only are you divorced, maybe, or maybe you never got married in the first place, and then you’re single. So today we’re gonna talk about the myths of being single. So Gretchen, take it away. What’s one of the first myths of being single?
The First Myth About Divorce
Gretchen Baskerville (05:08):
I’m gonna back up just a little bit because you just said how happy you were to be divorced, and I truly look back now 25 years later and say, divorce was the hardest decision I ever made, but it was also one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And because we as Christians, as people of devout faith, we take marriage very, very seriously. We don’t throw away our marriages easily. We don’t really believe in, I’m bored divorces, or I miss the party life divorces. We hang in there and we hang in there oftentimes longer than is good for us and for our children. And so that’s why I wrote the book, The Life Saving Divorce. As a devout person of faith, I am against frivolous divorce, but I am 100% in favor of life saving divorces because it saves parents and children. So let’s jump into those myths.
I think the first myth, especially as a person of faith, at least in my upbringing, was, you know, you’re really nothing without a husband. You don’t really have an identity without a man. And you know, for those of us who are really biblically oriented, I would say that there are plenty of women who are heroines in their own right in the Bible. So for example, Ruth was already a heroin before she met Boaz, um, Deborah, Abigail, Dorcus, look at the midwives in the story of Moses’s birth. I mean, they were amazing. They stood against, uh, the great Pharaoh of Egypt. The other thing I did as I was, you know, coming through this and, and of course the first two years of divorce, I was just, my life was just topsy turvy, right? I just didn’t know which way was up. I was really numb for the first six months, and I started reading single women’s missionary biographies.
Myth: “You’re Nothing Without a Husband”
I know that sounds a little bit crazy, but there’s some wonderful ones out there. I’m sure you’ve got some on your, uh, reading list. They were so inspiring to me because here are these women who go to some foreign country and they’re virtually alone. They have very little support, and because they’re not married, they don’t really fit into any society, and yet they do absolutely amazing things. I soaked myself in these kinds of stories. I realized, you know, there are plenty of women who God called, who are called by the spirit to do great things. And we were not called to stay in these marriages to enable sin, to cover up sin, to pretend that sin didn’t exist, uh, what you call wickedness. We weren’t called to bring up our children in a wicked home. My first myth is the whole idea that you’re nothing without a husband. I think it’s just completely false because the Lord uses people wherever they are, and he empowers and strengthens. We weren’t put on this planet to, to cover up sin.
I’ve only been married once, and I did not get married till I was 31, almost 31. People would say things to me like, why are you married? Or other stuff like that. But I remember very vividly right after high school, I was working at a video store and a woman from my church came in and she said, oh, who are you dating? And I said, oh, I’m not dating anybody right now. And I I, I was maybe 18 years old, it was like right after high school. And she said, oh, I’m so sorry you don’t have a life.
Gretchen Baskerville (08:44):
And I remember it so vividly thinking, I’m going to graduate from college. What are you talking about? That I don’t have a life, I have friends, I have interests. Am I literally nothing to you because I don’t have a boyfriend? And that idea that women aren’t anything if they don’t have someone to define them, is crazy, right? Yeah. Women can do amazing things on their own all by themselves. That just kind of went along with that first myth. So let’s look at the second myth.
Myth: Women Friends Are Place Keepers
Gretchen Baskerville (09:19):
All right. So <laugh>, this one’s embarrassing to me, that women friends in your twenties are just place keepers until you find a man. Your soulmate, women friends just really aren’t all that valuable. They’re disposable. Mm. And ooh, I’m embarrassed to tell you that in, in my upbringing, marriage was promoted so much that this is really sort of the direction it went. They didn’t, nobody actually taught this verbally. This was never spoken. This was always unspoken. But while was I wrong, um, so I got divorced in 1996. And in 1998 at my church, I met in one of the, uh, Sunday school classes. A woman who was raising four kids by herself with almost no child support. I had two kids and I was completely in awe of her. It was difficult for them. Uh, they had this old clunker car and a shabby tiny little apartment, but they had love, they had safety, they had acceptance.
And we got to be best friends. And every Saturday we would walk together for an hour out at the beach. We live near the coast in, in Los Angeles area, and she was an introvert and I was an extrovert. So we just made sure that we, you know, each got about 30 minutes to share. And then we prayed for each other at the end of our walk. And together we started a group for other single mothers in our church. And this small group was absolutely fantastic. I have never seen so many strong, courageous women knocking it out of the ballpark every day. We had teachers, we had a swim coach, we had a small business owner, a childcare provider, a paralegal, a homeschool mother, a manicurist, a disabled woman. But we were all proud survivors. And we were our own community. We were like heroines to each other.
“We Have to Put Effort To Keep Our Women Friends”
And we shared our hope and our experience with one another and prayed for one another. And sometimes, you know, we helped each other financially. And when you do that week after week for years, you realize that this is hands down the best group you’ve ever been in, whether Bible study or church, small group or adult education, it is absolutely so powerful. There was so much emotional closeness and caring. And women would come to our group from other churches and they’d come to our group and they’d cry for the first three weeks. And then they would sense the Lord’s presence, and they would start to feel that hope and that faith. And there is just something special about the dynamic of women friends. When there’s no men around first, there’s no sexuality to motivate you or to cover up one another’s slides. You know, we, we have to put in effort to keep our women friends.
We have to learn to behave well. We have to learn to take turns paying for coffee. We have to learn to hold up our end of the friendship. And those are such wonderful maturing character traits to learn. And as you can imagine, when you’ve done that for 15 years with an amazing close cadre of women, when you start dating again, and, and in my case, I deliberately chose not to date for 15 years, I started comparing all the men to these close girlfriends. Probably like you’ve experienced most of them couldn’t hold a candle to my girlfriends. I mean, they didn’t have authenticity, they didn’t have integrity. They weren’t as financially responsible as my single mom friends. And so it was pretty easy to identify and ditch the losers because I had the loving, warm community around me. And I think that’s one of the most powerful things. And this is something that anyone can do in their own church award. They can start a group like this. It, it just becomes wonderful. It’s, it’s easiest to start it at the same time. Other groups are going on at the church, so there’s free childcare, but this becomes an amazing place for fellowship.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama, is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart after you have purchased the book. Please remember to circle back around Amazon and write a verified purchase review along with a five star rating that helps isolated women find us.
Back to our interview.
Abusers Try to Undermine Women’s Friendships With Other Women
And for those introverts out there that are like me, who might not wanna like start a group, cause that feels, feels kind of overwhelming. <laugh> just making one friend going for a walk every day or doing something with the friend regularly. And that’s, that’s also a good place to start. It feels like when women find our community, their abusive spouses think like, oh, they’re a bad influence on you. Because they start, they start setting boundaries, they start being more healthy, they start maybe doing more self-care, and then the abuser doesn’t have as much control. And so that feels very uncomfortable to him and he tries to undermine it. And abusive men would also likely try to undermine women’s friendships with other women. But why do you think in general, that was sort of taught before you were even married to an abuser? Do you think it’s still kind of a control thing that like perhaps you should not have external influences other than your spouse?
Were You Taught That Marriage Was The “End All”?
Gretchen Baskerville (15:48):
Yeah, I mean, in my church we were definitely taught that your marriage relationship would be the be all to end all. And even though it sounds ridiculous for me to say it out loud right now, that person was to be your full emotional support. They were supposed to be your spiritual support, they were supposed to be everything. And it, if you told a woman today, you know, your sister is supposed to be everything to you, the one person in your life who’s your all in all, you’d go, you’re nuts. At least in my church, the unspoken message is if you’re a godly woman, if you, you know, have done your best to be a radiant virgin bride on your, on your wedding day, that you are going to get this incredible emotionally intimate, connected, uh, spouse, this husband, and you’re gonna have mind-blowing sex. We were really taught this, it’s kind of a form of what I would call prosperity gospel.
If you’re good, you’ll get someone good. If you’ve got some secret sin or you’re covering up something, well then you’re gonna get someone bad. But I mean, I don’t know how you could be more of a goodie two shoes than I was as a kid. I mean, I wasn’t perfect, obviously nobody’s perfect, but man, I got in trouble for staying up till midnight reading my Bible. Okay. I was part of youth groups and youth choir and everything, and all my friends were Christians and, and yet I married someone who had serious, serious character issues. But I know you talk about those kinds of things all day long, so we won’t go into that. In my case, it wasn’t so much abuse as it was sexual immorality, covert chronic and, uh, scary and illegal,
Which is by the way, abuse.
Gretchen Baskerville (17:39):
Yes. Yes it is.
Criminal sexual behavior is abuse. I mean, they’re a sex offender. They’re a sex abuser. And, and the, the emotional abuse or or the lying, the, the psychological abuse, lying, gaslighting, all of that is all occurring here at BTR. Like sexual immorality is abuse. That’s what it is. They’re abusing their relationship, they’re abusing the marriage, they’re abusing, you know, your trust.
“Any Kind of Betrayal Is Abuse”
Gretchen Baskerville (18:05):
Any kind of betrayal is abuse, emotional abuse. Yeah. And when you’re always wondering what’s going on with that other person because they live a completely separate second hidden secret life. Yep. I mean, you just never know when the other shoe’s gonna drop. I was always worried, you know, will my name be on the front page of the Los Angeles Times? You know, this is pretty awful stuff. So yeah, it’s definitely abusive. I agree with you.
I am so grateful for my girlfriends, girlfriends that I made in my late twenties when I was single and are still my best friends today who have stuck with me. They have been my support and my strength and also friends of mine who are my family. My sister and my mom and other like dear, dear friends that I have that have been an amazing support system to me. I am grateful that I had that time in my twenties that I didn’t get married until later to develop that. And so many women, especially women of faith, are married really early. And so when they find themselves divorced, they haven’t had that experience of maybe making adult women friends. And so instead of being like, I don’t know how to do that. If we have that growth mindset to say, oh, I have the opportunity to do that now is a good way to maybe start approaching that and think that you’re going to find real, like true intimate in emotional intimacy, love in platonic love with your girlfriends. And it’s really, really amazing.
“I Thought That Divorce Was The Worst Possible Thing”
Gretchen Baskerville (19:38):
It is. It’s really something. And if you had told me when I went through my divorce, cause I was just completely steeped in that mindset, having been raised a very, in a very devout family, very conservative family, I thought that divorce was like the worst possible thing that could happen to me. You know, that even though I had valid grounds for sure, right. You know, that it somehow reflected and, and told the world that I was lacking in personal maturity or, or spiritual maturity. And, uh, so I was pretty eager straight out of my divorce, you know, I thought, oh my goodness, I hope I remarry fast and I wasn’t as far along as you are, Anne. I, looking back now, I’ll be, I’ll be really vulnerable and honest. If you had told me that I would be single for three years, I might not have filed for divorce.
“I Did Not Always Get the Answers to Prayer I Wanted”
If you had told me I’d be single for five years, I would be curled up on the floor in fetal position sucking my thumb. And I ended up being divorced for, uh, a single mom for 20 years. And I’ve gotta tell you, the Lord just completely rebuilt my life. He restored the years the Locust ate. It took me a while to get back to my normal level of happiness. And then I went through a lot of court abuse. There was a lot of post separation abuse, uh, from my ex-husband. 10 years of being dragged into court over and over, uh, with him wanting to have joint custody and me saying, you know, over my dead body. What I found is that as the Lord carried me through each day, every 24 hour period, I was still alive. I did not always get the answers to prayer I wanted, God was often later than I wanted him to be.
And he didn’t gimme the answer I wanted. Looking back, I see that it was what was best for me, but it wasn’t what my church had told me was the ideal situation. I can honestly say at year five I was happier than I had ever been in my life. That’s year five after separation. And by year seven I had completely rebuilt my financial stability. And that felt great. It felt great to be storing away money for retirement and feeling like, you know what, even if I never remarry, there are a lot of women who don’t ever want to remarry. There was a, a survey done a few years back that showed that four and 10 were absolutely sure they did not want to remarry. And I found myself really getting very, very content and really even enjoying my singleness and wondering if I would be able to adjust to sort of the closing in on the constriction of my friendships if I ever remarried.
The Single Life Post-Divorce
Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. Also, there could be women and there are women who do want to remarry, but they just don’t have the opportunity. They don’t meet someone that they would wanna marry. You know, it just doesn’t work out. And there’s that too. So assuming that people who are not married aren’t married because they just don’t want to be is also not the right assumption.
Gretchen Baskerville (22:58):
So for me, I was only, I was single till 30, 31. Right. And then my ex was arrested when I was 37 and my youngest was 11 months old. Oh, wow. And now I’m 44, so since 20, that’s 24 years, I’ve only been married for seven of those. Singleness is familiar to me and I really, really enjoy it. I do wanna say though, post divorce, the first, uh, 2, 3, 4 years are really hard. Even though I was happy to be divorced and proud that I was divorced and for surviving what I had been through, things were still really hard. But I agree with you, Gretchen. For me, it was about year 5, 6, 7 that I have started to feel like, oh, this feels good. I love it. Um, and so even though I was happy to be away from the abuse or at least separated from it as much as I could be, there seems to be an arc that it does take some time.
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So I don’t wanna like misrepresent this in saying like, once you get divorced, everything will be, you know, no, it is, it is hard. But you do have to rebuild your life. And it does take time, but it does come, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re gonna pause the conversation here, and Gretchen will be back with me next week to finish talking about the myths of being single. So stay tuned. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.