Harmful divorce myths, under the guise of “family-focused morality” are aimed at keeping women stuck in abusive relationships.
It’s time to crush those myths and embrace the truth about divorce.
Gretchen Baskerville is back on the BTR Podcast bringing her expertise, experience, and empowering voice. Tune in to the podcast and read the full transcript below.
The “Marriage At Any Cost” Myth
Organizations like Focus on the Family insist that divorce shatters a child’s sense of safety, completely disregarding the fact that a home where abuse is present, is not safe at all.
What really shatters their basic safety is repeated abuse.Anne Blythe, founder of BTR.ORG
Life-Saving divorces aren’t just going to save the mother and her own sense of safety – they save children too.
Does Divorce Destroy Children? Permanently?!
One tragically successful scare-tactic is the outdated and disproven myth that divorce absolutely ruins kids. Forever.
Much of this claim comes from the unabashed cherry-picking of Judith Wallerstein’s book, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” (which actually supports life-saving divorces).
Divorce does not destroy children. In fact, when children are delivered from two-parent homes where abuse was present, they finally have the opportunity to thrive in a way they never could have when living in an abusive home one-hundred percent of the time.
But I’m Scared To Remarry… Shouldn’t I Just Stay Married?
“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
Perhaps the most pervasive fear-mongering tactic to keep women in abusive marriages is the idea that if they divorce and remarry, they are almost certainly setting their children up to be abused by a future partner.
It does not happen as often as these organizations want you to believe. So, for example, it is about about four in 100 stepparent families (blended families that have reported an incident of child abuse of any kind). So it’s four in 100. If that’s what’s holding you in your abusive marriage because your next relationship would have a four in 100 chance, I think you better rethink that.Gretchen Baskerville, Author
BTR.ORG Is Here To Help You
We know that making the decision to divorce can be extremely painful, confusing, and difficult.
You deserve support as you work toward discerning the truth and making choices that will guide you to safety and peace. Join the BTR.ORG Group Sessions today and begin your journey to healing.
For more information:
You Tube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRgtUNfTlYIRDt8iOK6XPKQ
Additional links for follow ups:
- What is a Life-Saving Divorce? How many are there? – http://lifesavingdivorce.com/what-is-a-life-saving-divorce/
- The “good” effects of divorce on children – http://lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-and-kids
- Why destructive parents are so bad for kids (Jaffee study)- http://lifesavingdivorce.com/jaffee
- Will this unhappy marriage become happy in 5 years? No, not if there’s abuse (Waite study) – http://lifesavingdivorce.com/waite
- Didn’t Dr. Judith Wallerstein write a book saying divorce universally destroys kids? No. In fact she said don’t stay for the kids if there’s abuse – http://lifesavingdivorce.com/wallerstein
- Jesus heals on the Sabbath and angers the religious leaders – http://lifesavingdivorce.com/luke13
- How can I get The Life-Saving Divorce book? Paperback: https://amzn.to/3cF1j25 Or eBook: https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr
Welcome to BTR. This is Anne.
I have Gretchen Baskerville, the author of Life-Saving Divorce back on today’s episode. If you didn’t hear our introduction and last week’s episode, go there first and then join us here. We were talking about the myths of divorce and I keep saying Gretchen’s myths because I don’t wanna take credit for her amazing work. But of course I agree with her. I 100% agree with her. I just don’t want you to think that I came up with them because they’re genius and Gretchen did. And she’s a genius. So we are now going to jump right in. So Gretchen, myth number four is if you divorce, your kids will suffer even more than they are now. And it will never get better.
Gretchen Baskerville (04:04):
This myth often shows up in “marriage at any cost” organizations. They will say kids suffer when moms and dads split up. They will say divorce, divorce itself, shatters the child’s basic concept of safety. And so they want you to believe that that legal experience will cause the children to suffer even more than they are now. And I’ve actually seen this myth keep a woman; she’s in my group. She got an article from one of these organizations. “Focus on the Family” is one of the biggest purveyors of this particular myth because what they tell abused wives is, it doesn’t matter how bad it is now, just the act of divorce will make it even worse for your kids. They will suffer even more – that divorce, the legal act, shatters the kid’s basic concept of safety.
“Focus on the Family” Harms Women
You know what really shatters their basic safety is repeated abuse. Like I don’t understand. I’m sure you have more to say, but can we just pause here to talk about Focus on the Family for a minute?
Gretchen Baskerville (05:18):
So throughout your writing, you have specifically named Focus on the Family as a disseminator of incorrect information about the harms of divorce. They are hell bent on women staying in their marriage, no matter what. And so the effect of this on victims of abuse is that it sides with the abuser, and victims of abuse have a really hard time knowing what their options are for safety. So in the light of this, can you tell me why they take this stance and why they sort of avoid abuse as a serious issue? Do you have any inkling as to what their underlying motivations are?
The Why Behind Anti-Divorce Organizations
Gretchen Baskerville (05:59):
I can only guess, you know, I’ve never sat in on their board meetings or their executive committees, but I was a donor to them for years. I’ve given thousands of dollars to them. I’ve read all their books, I’ve listened to all their broadcasts, you know? So I have kind of a feel of what’s going on over there. First of all, I think that they make divorce a cultural issue. They wanna say we moral people, we religious people, we Christian people, we don’t divorce. That’s for quitters. That’s for people who just can’t go the distance. So they have a cultural reason to do it. You know, this is a nonprofit organization that depends on the donations of people like me and others. And so if you can say, Ooh, the boogieman, the enemy is divorce. And those lazy quitters, those divorcees who follow the Hollywood divorce lifestyle, then you can bring in more money.
When Organizations Use The Bible To Keep Women in Abusive Marriages
And, and again, like I said, I’ve never been told this, but being a longtime listener, I feel it when I listen to their broadcasts, you know, we are the moral people in America. If you want your money going to promoting morality, then send it to us at Focus on the Family. Another issue is that they don’t believe that the Bible says that you can divorce for abuse. Now that’s because they ignore two verses in the Old Testament, in their mind, they don’t have a verse that specifically says that, although there are several verses that do, they love to say, God hates divorce. Even in their articles on what to do if you discover your husband has been doing unthinkable child molesting to a child in your home, it’s unbelievable. And I don’t get it in that same article where they talk about pedophiles, like being married to a pedophile, they can’t even bring themselves to say, get the heck out of there. Divorce this guy. Instead they say, God hates divorce. And they don’t even say, God hates child abuse, nor do they say Jesus in the New Testament condoned divorce for these kinds of sexual immorality. They want to bring in the money from donors by promoting themselves as being the only moral and decent voice in America. And then, you know, they have a religious angle too,
Divorce Myth #4
In a month or two, Gretchen’s gonna come back on to talk about the biblical reasons for divorce. So if you’re like, what are those? Then just stay tuned. She’ll come back on to talk about those. We’re not gonna talk about those today. Now, turning back to Focus on the Family, if in an article about someone abusing a child, you say that the divorce is the worst part of that rather than the abuse, you do not have the moral high ground. So now back to myth number four, we were talking about that before I went down that other route, Gretchen’s myth number four is if you divorce, your kids will suffer even more than they are now and it will never get better.
Gretchen Baskerville (09:20):
I wanna talk about a book that we discussed earlier called The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. This book has been so incredibly powerful in our society for the last 22 years. And like I said, one page kind of demeans divorcees as being selfish and just wanting to, you know, find another partner. What people miss is the rest of the book where Dr. Judith Wallerstein, the author, talks about the other side of divorce, but why this is so important, why would I bring up a 22 year old book? It’s because I still hear people quoting it. I saw a major pastor quote it extensively last year. And so I jumped in and said, hey, you missed the quote on page 300. Hey, you missed the quote on page 19. Hey, you’re getting it wrong. Hey, you’re misinterpreting what Dr. Wallerstein said in this book.
The Truth About “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce”
And so, because this book is so powerful in our collective conscious in our society, whether you’re religious or not, textbooks today, brand new textbooks that were just released in the last year on the topic of family sociology still have multiple paragraphs debunking Dr. Judith Wallerstein’s book. If these professors who are writing textbooks still consider her book to be a danger 22 years later, I think we need to address that. Okay. So here’s what people need to know from Dr. Judith Wallerstein. She says children raised in extremely unhappy or violent intact homes, face misery in childhood and tragic challenges in adulthood. Here’s another quote. And this is from the same book, by the way, she says, “I’m not against divorce. How could I be? I’ve seen more examples of wretched, demeaning and abusive marriage than most of my colleagues. I’m keenly aware of the suffering. I’m also aware that for many parents, the decision to divorce is the most difficult decision in their lives. They cry many a night before taking such a drastic step.”
Well, that kind of contradicts her one page in the book where she accuses us all of being selfish. Here’s another, from the introduction of that book, she says, “And of course I’m aware that many voices on the radio, on television, and in certain religious circles say that divorce is sinful, but I don’t know of any research, mine included, that says divorce is universally detrimental to children.” I feel like she’s done so much damage. I wanna read one more. “Although our overall findings are troubling and serious, we should not point the finger of blame at divorce per se. Indeed divorce is often the only rational solution to a bad marriage. When people ask if they should stay for the sake of the children, I have to say, of course not.”
Focus on the Family “Cherry Picks” From Research
That’s so interesting cause because the “damage” that she has done wasn’t really her. It was people taking her stuff like the one thing she said and then using that and then ignoring all the other things, right? I mean, they could have just used the other stuff instead, but they really, really wanted people not to get divorced.
Gretchen Baskerville (12:54):
Right? It’s called cherry picking. And it’s also very fraudulent. When you say this is what this researcher believes, and then you ignore 90% of what she said and you only cherry pick the one thing and Focus on the Family is a big perpetrator of this. They’ve got articles on their website today where they’ve removed four words from a quote that dramatically change the quotes, meaning they’ve left whole sentences out of quotes that dramatically changed the quotes. Meaning they tell you that Wallerstein said that, you know, children are destroyed in reality, Wallerstein herself who was indeed one of the most negative of the researchers still said that seven out of 10 kids of divorce came out just fine. So there’s just this misinformation. There’s kind of this little, you know, tribe of people who can’t see the difference between frivolous divorces and life-saving divorces.
Divorce Myth #5
That’s shocking to me actually, that you would just imply that a victim should put up with abuse in some way. Let’s move on to Gretchen’s myth number five: if you remarry, your kids will likely be abused by the new step parent.
Gretchen Baskerville (14:14):
This is another one that Focus in the Family loves to put out there. I’ve seen it on several other websites. And it says that if you divorce and remarry, your kids will be abused by their new stepdad or by your boyfriend or whatever it is. And although it happens and I don’t wanna minimize this at all, there are definitely abusers out there. And I am sure that there are a lot of them on dating apps and I’m sure that there are a lot of them watching for women with young children, but it does not happen as often as these organizations want you to believe. So, for example, it is about about four in 100 stepparent families. So blended families that have reported an incident of child abuse of any kind. So it’s, you know, four in 100. If that’s what’s holding you in your abusive marriage because your next relationship would have a four and 100 chance, I think you better rethink that.
How Organizations Like Focus on the Family Undermine Single Mothers
I think there’s also this implied thing here that you need to be married. And I think that’s interesting like cuz a woman isn’t like worth much or something if she’s not married. So if you get divorced, like who else are you gonna marry? You know? And for people like me, I don’t have a desire to get married again. And I don’t know if I will. I’m not saying I won’t, but I just don’t. I just don’t really care. And I feel totally fulfilled as a single person. I, I just wanna be like, well, so like, well, what if I never remarried like, it’s fine. There’s some kind of implication that like you by yourself without being married is not gonna be good. And so you’re most likely to remarry and then remarry an abuser.
Gretchen Baskerville (16:01):
They make that try to undermine single moms. You won’t have very much money and your sons won’t have an example – be ready for all of these to roll out in June for Father’s Day. You’re gonna hear all of these in social media. You know, you can’t, you can’t make it. Kids are all always better off with the dad. Heck no, they’re not. If the dad has more than three of the seven anti-social traits, that father’s actually damaging the kids. So I get exactly what you’re saying. And as a person who was single myself for 20 years after my divorce and I raised my little children all by myself with help from my wonderful parents, of course, wow. I mean, my kids would say, mom, we’re so glad you divorced dad. And they would also say, we don’t feel any different from any other kids. We feel just like, you know, kids from two parent homes,
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.
Divorce Myth #6
So myth number six, divorce itself causes the child’s problems. Not the abuse. Let’s talk about that.
Gretchen Baskerville (18:10):
Yeah. This one I’ll just go through really quickly because we’ve had such a good time talking this over. When researchers found kids of divorce who did have serious problems later on in life, often they discovered that they were having behavior problems long before the divorce. Maybe as long as 12 years before the divorce. In other words, the problems were caused by the destructive home, not by the divorce itself.
And then let’s wrap up with myth number seven – kids of divorce are likely to do drugs or alcohol or have severe problems in school. So don’t get divorced.
Divorce Myth #7
Gretchen Baskerville (18:45):
Right? Right. We hear this all the time. Oh, pregnancy and drinking and drugs and everything. You know, we were all told or at least in, in my world, we were all told that our kids would fail in life. If we got divorced that they would drop outta school, do drugs, get pregnant, on and on. But it turns out that when you look closely at those studies by family type, kids raised by single parents usually do as well or only slightly worse, like a smidgen worse, than kids from two-parent homes. So let me describe a couple of studies where kids of divorce do indeed fare just a tiny bit worse than kids from two-parent, married homes. The first is a study of substance abuse by kids from ages 12 to 17. And it turns out that only six in a hundred kids from single mother homes had a substance abuse problem compared to, get ready for this, only five in a hundred kids from married, two-parent homes.
“Please Stop the Fear-Bombing”
Let’s look at behavior problems in school. Somebody sent me a text message and said, oh my goodness, have you seen this horrible, horrible study that says that kids from single parent homes are 60% more likely to be expelled or suspended from school? So I went over and looked at the actual data from the research and it said, hmm, okay. Granted, five in a hundred kids from married, birth parent families ever get suspended or expelled. Okay. How much higher do you think it is for kids from single? It’s only eight in a hundred kids from separated or divorced mom homes. So they want us to believe that it like it. You know, if, if it’s five in a hundred kids in two parent married homes, it must be 50 in a hundred kids from separated or divorced mom homes. It’s not, it’s only three in a hundred more. Please, you know, stop. Stop the fear-bombing, stop trying to coerce and manipulate us to stay with these guys.
There’s one last thing I wanna talk about and I don’t have a study for it. And that is, will my kids thank me for divorcing? My private Facebook group has over 3,500 people in it. So it’s not anywhere near as big as your following, but I did a poll just last week. I asked the people in my group, is at least one of your children glad you divorced? And eight in 10 respondents said, yes, at least one of my children supported the divorce. One in 10 said, well, I’ve never asked. And one in 10 said, no, none of my children were in favor or supportive of the divorce. So we were always told that, you know, kids would hate their parents and resent you for the rest of their lives for divorcing. And that’s absolutely not true. Not in the cases of life-saving divorces.
Divorce Doesn’t Stop Abuse, But It Can Help You Separate Yourself From Harm
Gretchen, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. I think Gretchen and I could talk for hours and hours. So I am super bummed to end this conversation right now, but you can learn more about all of this and why divorce in so many cases is life-saving and such a good tool for starting to get to safety. And again, we know divorce does not solve abuse problems, right? You can try to divorce and then post-separation abuse escalates. The abuse can continue after divorce with custody issues with your children. So it’s not that divorce solves abuse. We know nothing solves abuse except for boundaries and trying to separate yourself from the harm as much as possible. But it is one element. And one phase of delivering yourself from this abuse and sometimes deliverance comes in phases. Sometimes the first one is, might be separation, maybe divorce, maybe then no contact for example, or maybe your kids turn 18.
And that’s the next phase of your deliverance from this abusive person. There’s lots of different phases of deliverance, but I do want women to consider divorce as a tool to get to safety. It is there for your benefit. So to get more information about that, you can go to our curated list of books. Gretchen’s book is on there. It’s called Life-Saving Divorce. We also have a bunch of links to Gretchen’s her information, her really detailed presentation about this in the article up above. Thank you so much for spending time with us today, Gretchen.
Gretchen Baskerville (23:37):
Wow. It’s been a privilege and thank you for having me.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.