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My First Divorce Support Group Experience

I got to the church (actually it's one of those mega-churches), wound my way around the many corridors, and eventually found my assigned room.

It was a typical church meeting room, with chairs placed in four neat rows all positioned for a good view of the TV placed at the front of the room. The director of family programs at the church gave an introductory speech, handed out our workbooks, explained the importance of doing homework, and then played a video for us to watch. The video was clearly geared towards the folks in the room who felt victimized by divorce, not those needing support after declaring they want out. After the video, they split us up into two groups of around 15 each.

My group moved to an adjoining meeting room, and gathered around a large table placed at the center of the room. My two assigned counselors introduced themselves, reviewed the list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for our meetings, and then initiated an icebreaker activity. After that, we went around the table, describing our specific situations. It was amazing to me how 15 people who were so different could feel such similar pain. There were a lot of nodding heads, gestures of support, and utterances of agreement throughout.

No two stories were alike. Most of the attendees had been caught off guard by their spouses' desire to leave...except for the two victims of physical abuse...and me.

As luck would have it, there was a refuser in our group, and he was sitting next to me. He was mousy and wore the badge of a victim with zeal. He shared how he brought home a good paycheck, helped his wife around the house, and went to his kids activities...and then stated that to him, that was all he needed to do to demonstrate love (because god-fearing christians shouldn't be tempted to express themselves through their flesh - seriously, he said that.) I kept my mouth shut and listened as he lamented at the fact that she had found a lover.

The meeting was running late and I was the last to share. I used my sense of humor to ease the group, and then told my story. Nothing I haven't already shared on ep. Talked about the control, the passive-aggressiveness, the isolation. Didn't mention the sexless aspect...wrong venue, wrong audience (lol). Instead, presented it as emotional abuse (which it clearly is). And the fact that I lived with stbx for 10 years before marrying him...felt the need to glance over that little fact as well.

I haven't touched on it much so far, but there was a pronounced religious slant to the meeting. To continue attending these meetings, and I do think they'll have value, I'll need to filter out the religion. If it gets to be too much...heck, I'm out 15 bucks...worth the risk to stick it out, I think :-)
PeachesGalore PeachesGalore 46-50, F 8 Responses May 30, 2012

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I like your positive attitude about meeting people, learning, and possibly getting support. Good luck if you decide to take the refuser head-on. "god-fearing christians shouldn't be tempted to express themselves through their flesh"? Rightttttt.... He must have been a barrel of fun for his wife.

Thank you for preparing me! I'm going to my first divorce support group in a couple of days and tend to be completely frank about what got me there...a husband with a low sex drive for me (but boy was he imaginative with others!) ... I hope to make some folks blush and face some hard facts....ooohh, this'll be fun!

In a supportive setting, you SHOULD feel completely comfortable sharing your story. If you don't, find a new group. {hug}

Wow.. you write so well peaches. I felt like I was walking through your experience with you. I too attended a "DivorceCare" program at a local mega-church and fully relate to your experience. It does seem like a safe haven for support, but I am concerned about getting entrenched into complete hopelessness amongst all the attendees. I remember feeling often like I need to find inspiration...and that I need to surround myself with messages of hope. I need to identify with positive outcomes. Can you relate? There were some dreadfully hurtful experiences where I felt like getting up and hugging the individuals - but No, that may be seen as "fleshly" as you said above... lol. I wish that the setting provided for more genuine support and warmer exchanges between individuals. Oh well...it's over for now, but I think it will be re-starting again soon. I wish the best as your navigate to find peace and happiness... Don't look back once you've found the true love you need and deserve. Best to you. ~David

Peaches....I bet you can find a group that's a better fit for you...unless you want to have some fun and tweak the refusers a bit (viva la SLF...rotfl!)<br />
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In either case, best wishes to you; it's a brave and courageous step!

Thank you!

You know...I really tried! It's like in Wisconsin, only religious people need help with divorces...jeesh! OK...I generalize. But every group I found was associated with a church. Maybe I'm not googling using the correct terms???

You may have found this already, but there is "211".

Through the national United Way, each state has a 211 resource that serves as a database of community resources. In most places, they're fairly comprehensive. The states break down further by United Way service area, which usually covers multiple counties. The national resource is www.211(dot)org. For Wisconsin, it's www.211wisconsin(dot)org. Click on the tab for "call centers" and find your service area. Hope this helps...

Thank you, mary. It does!

...and if you don't find the group listed, call a few of the appropriate agencies and inquire into groups; many small independent groups would not be listed on the site, as the focus is on organizations.

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Oh damn. I feel that that kind of group is a crooked animal if you can't actually put your cards on the table honestly and get some serious and appropriate feedback or discussion going. <br />
If you have to filter what you say, in order not to step on landmines ... <br />
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But then, maybe those two assigned counselors actually have a lot more going for them that is apparent at first sight, and are just holding back and letting people warm up a bit - you never know though. I'd give it a bit of time, much as you said. <br />
There is little point, i.m.o., in listening to a bunch of blame-shifters unloading on their deity.<br />
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I once got into a big stoush with a bishop at a 'youth synod' because he proposed the 'no social work without proselytizing approach' (lol, I was 17 at the time, a lot of the progressive younger members of the synod cheered me on for calling him out on living and setting an example vs. being a bigoted hypocrite). So I guess what I'm trying to say is you never know what you'll come up against with the churches.

That's the thing "leavers" and "lefts" have such a different view on divorce, it's like oil and water. Being the leaver I never looked very hard for a support group. I had talked to a few that had gone and got the impression that most were the angry "lefts" at those types of meetings and wasn't looking for that. I found more support here on EP then anywhere else, other then my family was happy to have me back!

When I signed up for the group, a month ago, I was pretty mired in the "bad guy" guilt that accompanies being the "leaver." My ep friends provided plenty of support (thank you again!), but I felt I could benefit from some "in-person" support as well.
So now a month later, with the divorce progressing comfortably, my needs have changed. I'm now attending the group with the goal of making some new friends. If I learn things about myself, if I actually get some support...all the better!

Glad you went and got something out of the meeting. <br />
Sorry that you felt the need to filter yourself.

The fact that I had to filter was frustrating. The fact that I feared being judged by others...in that setting...is dead wrong.

Dead wrong. Repression is what got us into this mess in the first place.

Exactly. I stopped attending after week two.

Oh......im sorry you had to go to a mega -church.