You are Not Responsible for Your Ex-Spouse - Elisabeth Klein

When you are married, you are in a covenant with someone to love and honor and cherish. Interwoven into those vows, at least in my mind, is a promise to help carry the other’s person load, to be a support, to have their back, to speak truth, to even – depending on the situation – come to the rescue.

(Quick side note: when I say ‘come to the rescue’, I mean to drive to them if they get a flat tire, not bail them out for their third DUI.)

This idea however can become murky when lies or addiction come into play. When you don’t know what your reality is, when you find yourself enabling sin.

But then some of us in difficult marriages find ourselves divorced.

We went from married women who were – in varying degrees – working on our marriages with our partners.

To women in difficult marriages who were trying to save our marriages, sometimes alone.

To women in dying marriages who were being extricated from our marriages.

To women who were no longer in marriages.

And no matter how long you were married to someone, there is a bond. There is a oneness. And that is not easily severed. You do not wake up on divorce day feeling completely separated and done and disentangled.  It takes a while to undo not just the damage but the good.  It takes a while to go from that man being the person who is supposed to be your highest human priority to not knowing where he is or what he is doing or who he is doing it with.

In other words, it takes time to shift from caring completely to having to choose not to involve yourself.

When I was in my difficult marriage, every trial that my then-husband faced was my shared trial.

But now, post-divorce, none of the trials that my ex-husband faces are my trials. (Except, of course, for how his trials affect our children. Then it is my issue to figure out how to walk them through it.)

Some of us move on more quickly than others and are thrilled to no longer have to wade through all that drama.  But others of us have a more difficult time letting go and moving on.  And to you I say this:

If your ex’s life is burning down around him – and I say this gently – it is no longer your responsibility. Let me be super clear: YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR EVEN ONE THING THAT YOUR EX-HUSBAND DOES.

And so because of that, this is what that means.  It means you do not bail him out, drive him around, pay his bills, or lie for him. You are not your ex-husband’s keeper any longer.

So what you do is this:

Give him to Jesus.  Pray. Put him in your God box as Anne Lamott calls it. Offer him up and then let it go.  (Easier said than done, but it will get easier with time, I promise.)

Explain the situation to your children as age-appropriately and as respectfully as possible. Depending on their ages, your kids may have to be brought into the loop on issues that will affect parenting time or their safety. Don’t be mean about what you share. Just the facts, gently. And then pray with your kids after you’ve talked. And suggest that if they have questions and don’t feel they can talk it through with you, that they talk to so-and-so.

Live your life well. They say the best revenge is a life well lived. Or maybe I just made that up. And this isn’t about revenge anyway. My point is from one of my favorite AlAnon mantras “live and let live”. You get out of the way and let your ex-husband make his mistakes and learn his own lessons from the natural consequences that come to him, and you do the next right thing in front of you that your life requires.

Thank God he rescued you. And not to wind up here by sounding heartless, but there is something to be said for not being able to see the mess from your house. It’s no longer your mess. And if you left your marriage in a God-honoring way (and no, that is not an oxymoron), than God walked you out of it…he rescued you. In the moments of crises in your ex-husband’s life, take a moment to breathe in deep gratitude that you’re no longer involved and for how God saved you from such a difficult place.

If this post helped you, you would benefit from Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage.