July 28, 2011
“Choosing Wisely – Before You Divorce”
By Mike McManus
In the 1980s
Steve Grissom experienced a divorce he did not want. He was shattered. He
was buffeted between lawyers and courts, attorneys charging huge fees. The
impact on his child was devastating. It was the worst experience of his
Eventually in 1989 he got through it with a
divorce decree. However, the problems did not cease. Stress continued over
custody, visitation and money.
When he looked for books or articles on how
to recover from a divorce, he found little. Grissom did remarry in 1991,
and in time his life stabilized.
As a television executive in Raleigh, N.C. he
decided to create a resource to help others deal with the pain he had
experienced in series of videos (now DVDs) to help people in his situation
recover from an unwanted divorce. The result was a 13-part series he called
“DivorceCare” released in 1994.
He wrote a workbook for participants to help
individuals deal with their difficult emotions of grief over loss, anger at
their ex- for abandoning their vows “for better, for worse” and the need to
help their children with similar emotions.
Thousands of churches bought the “teach out
of the box” kit and began offering “DivorceCare” classes to hurting
ex-husbands and ex-wives.
“You don’t have to go through it alone,”
headlines one of their summaries. “Most people will tell you that separation
and divorce are the most painful and stressful experiences they’ve ever
faced. It’s a confusing time when you feel isolated and have lots of
questions about issues you’ve never faced before.”
DivorceCare groups meet weekly to help people
face those challenges and move toward rebuilding their lives. Each
DivorceCare Session has two distinct elements:
Seminar with Experts. The
group watches a DVD of 30-40 minutes which features experts on such topics
as Facing my Anger, Facing my Depression and What Does the Owner’s Manual
Say, which explores what the Bible says about divorce. One expert is H.
Norman Wright, author of more than 50 books on marriage.
Support Group With Focus.
DivorceCare participants then discuss what was presented in that week’s DVD
seminar, and what’s going on in their lives.
I went online and to find a Divorce Care
group near me. I typed in my Zip Code, and sure enough, up popped 6 groups
currently meeting, and 18 groups about to begin. Most are held in
Protestant churches of diverse denominations, but one was in a hospital.
Some churches began using the series with a
different goal – to persuade couples considering divorce to reconsider.
Grissom heard of cases of marriages that were saved, though that was not
That made him think, “Why not create a video
series aimed at helping couples considering divorce to reconsider? He
released a five-part series, “Before You Divorce” in 1996. Sales were not
great, however. When he asked pastors why, one replied, “No one wants to
walk out of the church library with a kit headlined BEFORE YOU DIVORCE.
Grissom changed the name to CHOOSING
WISELY…Before You Divorce, the latter part of which is in very small
The first segment describes divorce as “An
Out-of-Control Train,” in which one or both partners hire an attorney.
Separation occurs, with legal documents to follow. One or both spouses begin
a new relationship. “The momentum accelerates quickly as attorneys build
walls between the couple.”
The program outlines how to “put on the
brakes to stop the train.” Grissom appears on camera to say this is not
“marriage enrichment” to improve communication.
They don’t even try to persuade viewers not
to divorce. “Our purpose is to help you make the decision on whether to
divorce or to stay together, a decision that will shape the rest of your
life.” he says.
The series is stark. One woman says, “I saw
him in the restaurant with other women.” Her spouse responds, “We started
having arguments and objects were being thrown.” Grissom declares, “There’s
no such thing as a friendly divorce, a civil divorce. A divorce attorney
admits, “Divorce is war.”
The course is also Biblical. Participants are
led through a daily Bible study, some of which is surprising. Psalm 66: “If
I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God
has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” People are asked to make
a commitment to Christ as part of their decision-making process.
Both DVD resources are great for any church.