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 encouraged you, you would benefit from some of my other divorce related resources:
Free Lies We Tell Ourselves webcast
Living Through Divorce as a Christian Woman e-book
Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage book
COURSE STARTING IN MARCH! Heartbreak to Hope e-course
You are invited to spend three months digging deep into your pain, processing your grief, feeling better and actually start thinking about your present and your future with more hope in my e-course, Heartbreak to Hope: https://elisabethklein.com/product/heartbreak-to-hope-coaching
This was so timely! Thank you.
I am fortunate that my husband lives in another state as we go through the legal stuff but severing the bond in my heart and mind is still a hard process. One thing I’ve realized is that since the kids and I were not addicted to porn like my husband was/is, we bonded with him even though he did not bond to us. I love being a wife and mother and homemaker and letting go of the wife part of that equation will take time.
I do know that God, Himself, has freed me from a very difficult situation and I have great peace that He is in this. Going forward, that will be foundational to my sanity.
This has taken me a LONG time to put into practice. But today…almost 3 years post-divorce…I have NO DOUBT whatsoever that God rescued me and literally saved my life and the lives of my two boys.
I enabled his bad behavior for SO LONG, that it took some time to stop doing that, but praise God I have! This is a long journey sometimes, but God walks with us each step of the way!!
I really must be learning a thing or two and it feels REALLY GOOD! So, my ex lost his job about three weeks ago. Someone said to me all in a panicky voice “well, what are you going to do?” My response was that I wasn’t going to “do” anything. I told this person I would be praying for him. The day I got the phone call from him telling me his position was eliminated I did tell him I was sorry. I’m not completely heartless. I’m sure that’s a real blow to a man’s self esteem. But my point is none of this is not my problem. It’s not my worry as to how he will come up with child support or alimony. It’s not my worry as to how he will pay his bills. It’s not my job to rescue him anymore and by golly it is so LIBERATING!
edit… none of this IS my problem. (((oops)))
I needed to read this today. Thank you.
This is so good and encouraging, thank you! I have question though… My ex-husband (who was abusive in different ways but not physically) still really wants us to be together… Although in the end he filed for divorce I think it was honestly because he thought it would make me reconsider the separation and move back in with him… He gave me an altimatum – to move back in or he would file. I didn’t move back in so he did. He has cried to me numerous times, told me he just needed to “grow up” and has, says he will always love me, agrees with me now when I tell him he was abusive, etc etc – he even said recently I did the right thing by moving out with our newborn and he would have done the same. However, he is extremely manipulative, seems to have a strange obsession with me, and is still super pushy with trying to come inside my house, tries to give me hugs or even kiss me over and over, etc. (it’s exhausting!!) bottom line – I don’t see change in action. I try to setup better boundaries but he usually wears me down eventually! BUT here’s my hang-up, he has not moved on (although he has gone on dates) and I don’t know how to fully move on myself because he hasn’t truly “abandoned” the marriage. So I struggle with the question- are we still “married” in God’s eyes? Should I wait till he has moved on or “given up” to move on myself? Keep praying for him to change and wait? We have been separated three years and divorced almost two… Would love any thoughts. It honestly feels like torture sometimes being in “limbo”.
I’m so sorry for your pain.
If he has divorced you, he has abandoned you. Your marriage is over.
You can of course keep praying for him; but if he has shown such little change in three years, odds are, it’s not going to happen.
For your own healing, I would suggest moving forward in taking steps to make yourself as whole and holy as you can. (Who knows what the future may hold? But for now, I’d step forward in your new life.)