My First Divorce Support Group ExperienceI 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 :-)