Okay, so that’s not really a thing, but it totally should be. I was visiting with my mentor to catch up. It was completely not a “birdie session” as we call it, when I come with a problem (or twelve) in hand. But after I shared about a half dozen things, a couple kinda hard, mostly good, shedding a tear or two, she said to me, “That is A LOT. You can’t go this long without getting this out.”
And I told her I didn’t think to get together with her because none of it seemed all that bad or big.
And then it occurred to me that while I was living in my hard marriage, I was, as my mentor described it, merely surviving. She even acted out me swimming underwater and then coming up for gulps of air as often as I could. Everything was hard. For a very, very long time (as in, about two decades). (For those of you not in hard marriages, please simply imagine being in a fight with your husband that lasted for twenty years. Yeah.)
And so when you get used to everything being hard, and then when you’re out of it for a while, regular-hard things don’t seem hard. At least that’s been my experience. And what I’ve been noticing is that I’m just taking them in and taking them on and not really working them through because they just seem so trial-lite, so NBD.
But I think back to something my counselor said to me about ten years ago that bears repeating. She said that we were created for short bursts of stress not long bouts of crises, and so when we’re in a long bout, we suffer physically, mentally/emotionally, and spiritually.
And I’d take that a step further and say that it leaves scars. And areas in our hearts that become either sensitive to the touch (what we call triggers) or hardened over by a need to self-protect.
So, if you are in a difficult marriage right now that is cluttered with abuse or addiction issues, you, sweet one, are walking a very hard, uphill road that you were not created to walk. And it’s okay if you feel stressed or sad or numb most, if not all, of the time. But what you need to do is get help.
Get a physical. Drink more water. Take a walk every day. Do some yoga. Get in a recovery group. Tell a friend your secret. Get into counseling, even if by yourself. Talk to a pastor or find a mentor. Join a small group.
Take care of your body, take care of your mind, take care of your heart and soul.
And if you are walking out of or recovering from a difficult marriage, know this…it will take TIME to recover. This is why I practically BEG YOU NOT TO EVEN THINK ABOUT DATING WHILE STILL ONLY SEPARATED OR FOR AT LEAST ONE YEAR POST-DIVORCE, LET ALONE REMARRY. Because you are not ready. You’re so not ready.
Because your soul is deeply wounded.
Because dating while still wounded is the equivalent of slapping a band-aid on your chest after you’ve had a heart attack.
Because intertangling another person in your pain is unfair to him and to you.
Because it will put a false halt to your healing.
Because the rush of falling in love can make you feel better and stronger and healthier than you really are.
Because you are not your whole self yet and you are starting a relationship with someone while not yet yourself.
Because newly-divorced people are functioning out of a brain and heart fog.
Because newly-divorced people are vulnerable.
Because newly-divorced people are making decisions – like who they are dating – out of their not-yet-fully-healed selves. You will choose now someone you more than likely wouldn’t chose once more healed.
Because it’s scary.
Because I’ve read too much and seen too much and because I care so much.
There are no exceptions. Because I’m two-and-a-half-years post-divorce, and I’ve read every book, and gone through DivorceCare, and gone through counseling, and have a mentor, and am even in a healthy relationship, and I still get triggered, without realizing til just after, and I’m still sometimes numb, without realizing til someone points it out.
We can be healed. There is hope. There is new life. There is redemption.
But it takes time. And what you are feeling – no matter what you’re feeling – is normal. And you must – absolutely must – show yourself abundant grace day in and day out. And you must hold onto hope. Because Jesus will restore your body and he will restore your mind and he will restore your heart and soul.
Want to go deeper in your healing? Let’s work together.
2 1/2 years post divorce, and I say a HEARTY AMEN!! to this post. Time is so necessary especially if you were in a a marriage for a couple of decades. It even takes time to learn how to get healthy, become healthy and learn how to live again after being dead inside for so long.
My church has entered 21 days of prayer and fasting, and one of the examples used was of a marriage where the couple divorced for 4 years and will be remarried next month. Instead of being uplifted, I was became fearful. Feeling like a failure. Will this ever go away? Will I always be so easily guilted into feeling like a failure because my marriage wasn’t restored? When will I be truly free from feeling like I’m supposed continue to work for and pray for reconciliation? Is that what is required for me?
I just want to feel free. My ex certainly feels free. He’s working very hard to get remarried as soon as possible. I hate divorce!!
Kim, I can so relate to where you are right now. I have been separated for 2+ years after a 20+ year marriage. I am going to be divorced in the next 6 months or so. I know that when I hear sermon illustrations regarding difficult or even abusive marriages it ALWAYS seems as if the story ends with the idea that the couple repented, reconciled and “They lived happily ever after” which leaves those of us who are “unreconciled” feeling that if only we prayed more or trusted God more or if we were more willing to “die to self” and persevere and be more long-suffering, (and be and do and twist, and make ourselves small and on on and on to the point of exhaustion) then we too could have the happy ending. And then, when those feelings come up, I feel guilty for not celebrating the happy ending. It sometimes feels to be TOO MUCH.
I wish that just once there was a sermon illustration of a woman who escaped an abusive marriage where the pastor would say, “She left, God provided and she went on to live a life of freedom.” That is the Good News.
I am 3-1/2+ years divorced and I agree with everything you have said here Elizabeth. I have been through a whole series of what I have referred to as ‘starts and stops’. I attended DivorceCare, Celebrate Recovery, numerous individual counseling sessions etc. etc. I am moving forward, getting help, making progress, feeling good and then WHAM…something happens to set me back. The amazing thing that happens along the journey as you are trusting God, looking to His Word for answers and praying each and every day, those moments of set-back get farther and farther apart. …and the need for extending grace to yourself should NEVER go away. 🙂
Thank you for this post. I feel your words and though they provide caution and warning, they feel very kind. One of the themes that stands out to me is that when you are in a long-term abusive or destructive marriage, you come to regard certain things as normal when they are not. I think part of the fog is resetting your mental gauge to what is normal. Things that I accepted as normal in my marriage, I have come to understand were not. It is not normal for a married couple to not speak for days on end. It is not normal for a husband to chronically and routinely rage at his wife for any reason, let alone for minor grievances. It is not normal for a husband to call his wife derogatory names…….etc., and yet for many, many years, I accepted this as normal. The phrase “Because newly divorced people are functioning out of a brain and heart fog” will be a topic of “discussion” in my journal today. I am not yet divorced and yet I know that my brain has been re-wired as a result of chronic and pervasive emotional and verbal abuse. I have been in counseling for 5+ years and I ask God daily to show me my broken places.
NBD?? No Big Deal??? Again…I want to say THANKS ELISABETH for putting things into words. You totally validate all my crazy feelings…they are NORMAL!! 🙂 <3
I think we may probably be placing too much emphasis on the amount of time and not the fact that each person has to do their healing work and go through the process, many people have waited for a lot longer than one year and are still not healed. Many people who have gone through a divorce have healed during the separation time, and once they got their divorce they’re ready to get remarried. It really varies from person to person. Just my humble opinion.
I agree with Melanie. I’m sorry, but this is so very general. From my own experience, I can say there are exceptions and I think some people might find some encouragement in hearing that it doesn’t have to be that way. My husband and I are soon celebrating 15 years of wedded bliss and we married only 8 months after his divorce from a 7-yr marriage. I’m so glad no one slapped him with a band (as you mentioned in your Facebook post) that marked him as wounded and vulnerable. I don’t think that anyone should judge a person’s state of healing or readiness to move on and label them as such without knowing them and the circumstances. Instead, he was surrounded with support and encouragement that he needed not carry guilt or shame. Our church family was a great source of support and comfort. Sadly, I’m sure many people suffer the way you mention, but I feel this wide of a generalization should not be made. We have 4 beautiful children and can’t imagine our lives any other way. And, btw, I’m in the same camp that a person is still married until the divorce is final. We didn’t date until after that. God’s grace is so good and I am one incredibly thankful and joyful wife!
I can so relate to this “being in a fight with your husband that lasted for twenty years” Pretty much. Went 20 years saying nothing and then reached my breaking point and was going to leave but did not for my children who begged me not to. Lived without speaking to my spouse for 6 months. He seemed to change and we “got back together” and things were SO great but I didn’t realize that was because he was putting on an act of sorts and not being himself. After 3 months or so, things reverted to the same stuff – now it has been 22 years of marriage and I am back to not speaking to him; I have nothing to say! The stress that this puts me under is beyond horrific; I am merely existing for my kids; being at home is so difficult because I feel that constant tension and dislike for my husband. I told him if I did not have children, I would have been gone years ago. He is suffocating; I cannot be myself. But at least when things are like they are now, I can be myself because I DON’T CARE what he thinks. I even told him it would be fine if he had an affair- that is how much I don’t care anymore. What does a person do who lives this way? No one would have any idea that this is my life; we put on a great front for people and his family – they have no clue – and I love his family so that makes it hard too. Physically the stress has caused me problems I have never had before. I thank God for my children who keep me focused and who provide a distraction from the marriage I am in.