Today I’m going to share what I’d say to a newly separated woman in her pain & anger. Over the past decade plus, I have sat across from (or listened to via the phone or Zoom) countless women whose marriages were over.

Every woman is different. Every marriage is different. Every detail is different. Every reaction is to every hurt is different. Every story is different.

And yet, the story under the story tends to be quite the same, if the woman can access her heart that is covered over by brambles of anger, and it’s this:

He doesn’t love me anymore. And my marriage is over. And my heart is broken. And I don’t know what to do with myself.

I know, honey, I know. I know because I’ve been there. And I know because I’ve walked so very many women through this.

I understand why – next to losing a child or spouse to death – divorce is number three on the adult’s top life stressors.

Though my difficult marriage haunted me for almost twenty years, the death of that difficult marriage still came as a shock to this girl who had been holding on so long and so tightly and so desperately.

So, it is to this woman I speak to right now. To the woman who has just found out of the infidelity or has just come across that bottle when a promise had been made that the drinking had stopped or who has taken her last emotional or physical punch, to the woman who was told it was over or the woman who finally succumbed.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of women, read innumerable stories and I have never once, not once, heard a woman – even in a horrible marriage – say that she wasn’t still stunned by the ending.

So many things come to my mind, my heart is so tender to you. Some of my words will be compassionate and some will be hard truth, but all of them from the heart of a woman who knows what you’re going through.

I’ve been the sad ex-wife. The victim-y ex-wife. The pity-me ex-wife. The high-and-mighty ex-wife. The yelling ex-wife. The angry ex-wife. And I swung briefly for a time into bitter ex-wife. But, thank God, I didn’t stay there.

Because here’s what bitter-ex-wife-land consists of:
Rereading emails. And then rereading them some more.
Telling everyone within earshot of the most recent horrific thing your ex-husband did.
Being mean to your ex-husband in your head.
Being mean to your ex-husband in emails and texts.
Being mean to your ex-husband over the phone and in person.
Being mean to your ex-husband in front of or to your children (his children).
Becoming obsessed with what he’s doing and not doing and what he’s saying and not saying.
Possibly finding ways to numb your pain, that you will regret if you don’t already.
Missing out on your life.

I’ve been you. So, here’s what I’d say if we were sitting across from each other:

God is with you. Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit is your comforter. You are not alone.

I am so deeply sorry. I am so sorry that your marriage is ending. I am so sorry that your husband mistreated you. This is awful. This is the worst. This completely sucks.

You are allowed to feel every single bad feeling you are feeling. There is no shame. In fact, denying or stuffing what you’re really feeling will only serve to cause you physical harm and will come out in other ways at other people at inappropriate times.

You are going to be okay. You don’t think you will be but you will be.

I want you to get a journal and I want you to start writing every day. I almost don’t even care what you write. The content doesn’t matter as much as the action of getting whatever is in you out of you and writing in a journal that no one will ever see is one of the most cathartic things you will every do. So, every day, write whatever you need to write. AND write at least one thing you are grateful to God for, just trust me.

I want you to start each day with a glass of water.

I want you to stop drinking alcohol if that is something you are used to doing or something you are noticing you are increasing. Trust me, your mind needs to be as clear as possible.

I want you to stand outside for twenty minutes every day no matter the weather. And if you’re able, make that a walk. Take deep breaths. Let your body soak in the Vitamin D and fresh air. Listen to a podcast if you want, listen to worship music, or listen to nature.

If you don’t have a counselor or a coach, get yourself a counselor or a coach.

If you are not reading the Bible right now, I want you to start reading one Psalm every day.

Take care of your kids. Your priorities off the top are your intimacy with Jesus, you taking care of yourself spiritually, mentally and physically, and your children’s spiritual and mental and physical health through what is also their crisis. Ask other adults you trust to spend time with your children. It takes a village to walk kids through a divorce.

Now sometimes when we’re in pain, we want to hurt back and we can tend to be short-sighted. I’m going to ask you to take the long view here. Getting through the ending of a marriage is not about hurting back as much as you can it’s about what kind of person you are going to be on the other side of this.

Stop fighting with your soon-to-be-ex-husband. Did he do mean things? Is he still doing mean things? Did he hurt you? Is he still hurting you? Your answer to those questions might be yes and yes and yes and yes. And I get it. I was right there. Your anger is justified for the amount of pain you are in. I wouldn’t dream of telling you to stop being angry. But I will dream of telling you to be ridiculously careful with what you do with your anger. Lashing out at him will, if I have to bet, get you nowhere. You’re not going to all of the sudden say something that’s going to make him fall to his knees and beg your forgiveness. And in fact, your harsh words or yelling might be turned against you in a public forum. Stop social-media-stalking him. Stop social-media-bashing him. Stop texting him and emailing him angry rants.

Listen, you’ve got a choice. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you need to conduct yourself in a different way, no matter what Crazy Town is dragging you through. You conduct yourself in such a way that a, you show that you remember that Jesus is literally right beside you watching your every interaction, b, as if your children are watching you and how you deal with difficult people and how you deal with heartbreak and how you process anger as an adult, and c, you can hold your head high when all this is said and done. Even if it means you bite your tongue. And if you need to get something out of your system, so nasty retort that will feel so good, you write it in your journal or text it to a friend who will delete it immediately or email it to yourself.

All communication between you and your soon to be ex-husband should be email when possible, to keep records for your attorney. And if possible, only things about your kids’ well-being and visitation arrangements. Stop with the little stuff. Stop with the digs. EVEN IF HE IS BAITING YOU. HOLD YOUR TONGUE. You can do this.

When your kids look back on this time in your lives, you want them to be proud of you, that you did the right thing time and time again even when it was super hard, that you took the high road over and over, to know that you told them the age-appropriate truth. Which, by the way, your children – no matter their ages – are not your confidantes or go-betweens. Do not speak to them as if they’re your peers. Do not vent to them about their father, as he is still in fact their father. Let them carve out the relationship with him that they’re going to have without you tainting it.

Though our bitterness can absolutely cause pain to our ex-husbands (if we keep our kids from him, for instance, when it really isn’t a matter of any kind of emotional or physical safety at all), you know who our bitterness hurts the most?  I know you already know the answer to this. It truly hurts our children. And it deeply hurts ourselves.

Live at peace, as far as it is up to you (Romans 12:18).  Through my separation and divorce, I did not attack.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.  I did defend myself from time to time, but even then, I chose wisely what battles to fight.  (Very few, I might add.) But I came to a place of realizing somewhere along the way that I cannot control or change anyone but myself; I can’t make someone live at peace with me, but I can attempt to live at peace with everyone. For the most part, that entails, simply, not engaging.  We have the right and the choice not to keep a conversation going, not to retaliate.  Sometimes, it is important to stand up for what’s right but most of the time, walking away is the smartest thing we can do.

I want you free. Jesus wants you free.  Ask him to take over your heart, to bring you deep healing and restoration, and to help you live a bitter-free life……for your kids, for yourself, and for him.

Don’t even think about dating right now. Don’t even think about it. I know you’re lonely and hurt and feel rejected and abandoned. But a, if you’re merely separated, you are still married and dating would be adultery, but b, you’re not ready. You may think that a new guy would help you shake loose the old guy, nope, it won’t. I’m begging you, pretend other single men don’t even exist.

And sidenote: don’t share what you’re going through with a married man. You are vulnerable and in your vulnerability, you may become unintentionally inappropriate, and you might find yourself in a situation where anything another man says sounds wonderful to your hurting heart. In fact, don’t share what you’re going through with every person you encounter. Find a counselor. Talk to a pastor.  Share with one or two trusted women friends, who aren’t also friends with your soon-to-be-ex-husband.

You’ve got so much healing work to do. And yes, there are actual things you can do to bring about that healing in partnership with God and time going by. Divorce recovery does not just happen on its own. Time heals all wounds is bs.

I know that in your pain and anger, all of this might be falling on deaf ears. Hopefully you’ll hear me. Hopefully you’ll know it’s for your own good and your children’s good that I say any one of these hard things to you. You cannot change or control your stbx, but you are in charge of your thoughts and words and actions, and with the help of Jesus you can walk this out in a better way than you currently expect.

Every day ask Jesus to heal you, to calm your heart and mind, to direct your thoughts and words, to protect your heart, to help you forgive, to be as kind to him as you would be to a neighbor.

You and Jesus can do this, I promise you.

resources for additional healing:
Heartbreak to Hope (now PAY WHAT YOU CAN): https://bit.ly/Heartbreak-to-Hope-pwyc
Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage: http://bit.ly/unraveling-hanging
Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman: https://elisabethklein.com/product/living-through-divorce-as-a-christian-woman/
Moving On as a Christian Single Mom: http://bit.ly/christiansinglemom

Life isn't always how we want it. When change seems elusive, and we're stuck in old routines, a gentle push or some self-reflection can make a difference. Let these questions be that nudge to get you moving.

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