My divorce was final five years ago this past summer. As I recently prepared for mediation with my ex-husband, my feelings, my stress dreams, my anxiety, the ever-present pit in my stomach told me another tale. You’d think I was still mid-divorce if my body were telling the story. I felt as if all my progress and growth were imagined. I felt like the same scared little girl I was in my marriage, in my separation, through my divorce.
You might feel like this too. You might be looking at your healing and thinking one step forward, a thousand steps back. And girl, I get it. To my core, I get it.
My biggest life regret is not marrying my first husband. I wouldn’t have my children if I hadn’t married him.
And my biggest life regret is not even being divorced by my first husband. That pain and that journey changed me and shaped me and birthed a ministry that fills my life with purpose.
My biggest life regret is that I have no relationship with my ex-husband at all. At this point in my healing, I have chosen to no longer talk with him on the phone or be in the same room with him.
This isn’t actually all that odd as both of my children are over 18, and we have practically no reason to talk with or see each other.
But there will come a day. There will be weddings. There will be grandchildren. And we will need to both be grown-ups and be in the same room together. Not just standing it, but being mature enough to not ruin our children’s life celebrations with our pettiness and anger and fear.
You have to know that I hate this about myself. I would give anything to be at a point of amicability. But we are not. I, to put a finer point to it, am not.
I feel like I have learned nothing, gained no ground. How can I be so deeply immature? How can I still be filled with such anxiety? Be so emotionally afraid? Be spurred on to wanting to write angry email retorts?
I know these things to be true, despite how I feel…
I know that feelings are not always indicators of reality.
And I know that Jesus and I have done too much work to allow myself to think that no change has taken root in me.
And I know that God released me from my captivity and has healed my brokenness.
And I know that I am not the same Beth from five years ago. (Or even one year ago. Or even last month.)
And I know that Christ lives in me.
And I know that I am fiercely loved by my husband, my children, my friends.
I know these things and more. I know that my choosing to not speak directly to him isn’t a sign of my weakness or immaturity; it’s because I can tell that our dynamic has not changed and that our interactions are toxic. So, I am choosing to believe, for now, that it’s actually a sign of wholeness and strength that I am choosing to protect myself in this way.
However, I circle back to this: how can one man have this kind of affect on me, let alone all these years later?
My answer: Because we were one, for almost nineteen years. And that is no small thing.
My coping mechanism: Begging Jesus, yet again, to sever every single emotional, mental, relational, physical and spiritual tie between us. And waiting.
If this post resonated with you, my collection of essays, Living through Divorce, will provide you with practical suggestions to move forward.
Thank you, Elizabeth for being so real in sharing this. I feel like you wrote what is inside me but I haven’t been able to pull together. At Thanksgiving my four young adult children and I had a big upset. No contact since. Not sure about Christmas together. All goes back to him having no respect for me and now they don’t. I will forever be entangled with this person who has no love for me and influences our children against me.
I am so very sorry, Darlene. Please remember that God sees it all.
I so resonated w this Elisabeth. I have been divorced 20 mos & just when I think he is not going to get to me again & I won’t allow myself to be triggered, I am. We were married for 20 yrs & dated for 5. So yes there was A lot of time together! And I want so badly to be totally over it…but maybe I never will be completely. But I move on & try my my best to keep my eyes on Jesus & work on my own healing. Thank you for your ministry, it has blessed me ❤️
Kathy, I’m so sorry. You are making progress and God + time will help you heal even more deeply.
I regularly read your posts, yet this is the first time I’ve commented. I’m struck by how much power we (including myself) give over to others (ex-husbands) in directing our (my) emotions. While I agree that our ex-husbands may be holders of a shared history (given the amount of time we spent together), they should not get to write (or influence) the forthcoming chapters. The influence I seek is from Jesus, who demonstrates love that is boundless and boundaried. Thus I can even ‘love’ my ex-husband – by understanding he did not know how to be in relationship, that he did not let Jesus guide his heart and actions because he did not know Him, and that his negative and abusive actions towards me came from a place of vulnerability and an absence of a loving example in his life. But this does not mean I am making excuses for his behaviour. I can ‘love’ my ex-husband while holding fast boundaries that maintain my physical and emotional security. With Jesus as my guide, I know I can be ‘loving’ without compromising. Ultimately, if my ex-husband chooses to behave poorly if/when we are in the same room in the future, it is a reflection of him, his struggle, his closed heart.
Patti, this is so strongly and beautifully said. Thank you.
I so understand this. My children are adults and we relate to them separately. I do have to talk with my ex because we haven’t yet sold our house and need to. But we have been apart over 5 years and I long to cut the tie of shared property. 30 years of shared life & dreams. But unlike Elizabeth, I don’t gave a new, supportive man in my life. And my ex poisoned the relationships with my children by undermining me, so I have had a long slow process of rebuilding.
Thanks for posting.
Terri, I am so very sorry for your deep pain, especially for the ways it’s affected your relationships with your children. God sees you and will not forsake you.
AMEN!! I’m right there. Just right there! AMEN!
Then you know, don’t you, Kim?? Keep walking, girl, and thank you for posting!
Thank you for this, Elisabeth! I understand that pit in your stomach. I have very little contact with my ex. We’ve been divorced 2 1/2 years after 29 years of marriage and have young adult sons. Both of our sons will be getting married within the next 6 months. Happy occasions and joyful events that are also filled with anxiety. Praying that Jesus calms me and carries me through this.
Oh Cathy, my heart just skipped a beat with you thinking about those future events. Jesus will be with you! And congratulations on gaining two daughters.
I could have written this in part! Wow my ex and I see one another 2 maybe 3 times a year (at one of our grandchildren’s birthdays) we do not interact with one another in anyway. He is still in a place where he blames me for the outcome of everything. I will not accept blame for something I haven’t done (by all means I admit my own failings and take responsibility for them). I won’t take on his failings and the consequences as my own. Interaction with him only leads to more of the same. So we are in the same room but do not speak and it is best for all at this time.
Thanks for being real and open!
Sarah, I am so sorry and so totally get it! Thank you for commenting.
Thank you for sharing your story.
You’re welcome, Laurie. Thank you for reading and commenting.