Wineskins Archive

January 27, 2014

Book Review: Radical Recovery (Jul-Oct 2008)

Filed under: — @ 11:28 am and

Special to New Wineskins
July – October, 2008

A few weekends ago a woman at our new church invited my family over for lunch. “Karen” was an attractive woman in her fifties, deeply committed to the Lord and to her family. Before we left church to follow her to her home, Karen pulled me aside and quietly explained, “My husband has moved out. I just wanted you to know that so it isn’t awkward that he’s not there.”

I don’t know much about Karen’s story. I know that she and her husband raised four children in a gorgeous house that they themselves built. I know that she is absolutely devastated about his separation and prays that God would bring him back home. And, since she couldn’t even get through lunch without crying, I know that she is deeply, deeply broken.

Unfortunately, Karen is only one of many women whose husbands leave after decades of marriage. Some sociologists call it a midlife crisis. Suzy Brown, whose husband of 33 years left her after having a 3-year long affair with a younger woman, calls it “evidence of self-centeredness, resulting in the destruction of long, good marriages and real flesh-and-blood families” (14).

Call it what you will, but midlife divorce destroys numerous marriages – normal, average marriages – and wreaks havoc on families and individuals, both inside and outside the church.

Suzy Brown’s book, Radical Recovery: Transforming The Despair Of Your Divorce Into An Unexpected Good reads almost like a coach’s pep talk for a very specific audience: middle-aged women whose husbands leave them, usually to pursue relationships with other women. Unfortunately, it appears like more and more woman are falling under that category.

Brown’s book draws on her own midlife divorce experience, as well as the experiences of those in her “radical women” support group. Brown talks candidly about the devastation (“I dreaded those gut-wrenching moments when I first realized – again – that my husband was having an affair, that he would not end it, and that [my life] was crumbling all around me,” 24), grief (“The sick-in-my-heart, sick-to-my-stomach, deep sighing kind of pain I was feeling was something I had never experienced,” 172), and anger (“I wanted to tell him, ‘I hope your penis turns black and falls off and you get some terrible disease,’” 66) she felt when her marriage dissolved.

While other divorce self-help books focus mostly on emotional healing, forgiveness, self realization or spiritual recovery, Radical Recovery deals mostly with the nitty-gritty, day-to-day aspects of divorce recovery: learning to sleep alone on a king-sized bed, figuring out what to do with all those family portraits, remembering to eat healthily when you suddenly have no family to cook for.

Until reading “Radical Recovery,” I never thought a whole lot about divorce on any personal level. I falsely assumed that marriages which end in divorce were never that great to start with. Brown is quick to dispel this myth:

“None of us [in the radical women support group] were perfect wives. Our husbands weren’t perfect husbands. We had marriages similar to most marriages with difficulties, baggage and two sides to every problem. We had good times and struggles. We had laughter and tears. But we all had strong, solid families … ” (14)

Another myth quickly debunked in Radical Recovery is the presumption that when a marriage ends in divorce, both spouses are to blame. In spite of her husband’s heart-breaking infidelity, Brown, like most of the other women in her support group, “tried everything to make him give up his girlfriend and come back to the family” (137).
“I was so upset about how this divorce would affect my Christian influence that I wanted to make sure people knew … that I tried everything to keep our marriage together. I wanted them to know that I think marriage is a sacred trust that cannot be dissolved lightly” (126).

Thrown into a situation that she did not chose or deserve, Brown had no other option than to make the best of it. And she did: “I went from an utterly heartbroken, despairing condition to bitterness and rage and finally to a place of joy, hope and happiness” (171). Brown is quick to admit that she could not have achieved this emotional healing without the Lord. Unfortunately, the first chapters of Radical Recovery read too much like an ex-husband bashing session. Although Brown advices her divorced readers not to “waste precious time trying to convince people about how terrible your ex-husband was – or is,” (125), she spends an awful lot of time, at least at the beginning, doing just that.

Radical Recovery was written specifically for middle-aged women whose husbands leave them after decades of faithful marriage. Unfortunately, we can only expect to meet more and more women like Suzy Brown or my friend Karen – women who might feel terrified at the prospect of eating another meal at home alone, or who no longer feel welcome at social gatherings where everyone else seems to be happily paired off. These women need compassion, companionship, and practical assistance when we can provide it, whether that comes in the form of an invitation to a community event or an offer to change the oil in the car.

Radical Recovery opened my eyes to an ever-increasing demographic in our churches and in our communities, and would be a valuable source of hope and practical advice for any woman in the midst of a mid-life divorce.

You can read a New Wineskins article by the author of this book, Suzy Brown, at this link: R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Recovery: Boot Camp for those going through divorceNew Wineskins

No Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post.TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

© 2022 Wineskins Archive