Okay, so Post Traumatic Relationship Disorder is not really a thing, but it totally should be. A few years back, 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 had been my experience. And what I’d been noticing was that I was just taking them in and taking them on and not really working them through because they just seemed so trial-lite, so NBD.
But I think back to something my counselor said to me once that bears repeating, often. She said that our bodies are created to withstand 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 can leave wounds, and areas in our hearts can 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 inter-tangling 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 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, sometimes 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 Jesus. Lots and lots of Jesus. And intentional introspection. And then some more 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?
Hear me talk about the two ways we handle our pain.
Let’s talk about working together.
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Check out my podcast.
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Love this article! Im still in the midst of my verbally and emotionally abusive marriage of 34 years.
On this past Sunday my husband was just so awful to me – angry and hateful but I could not tell you actually all what he did or said to me if I had to.
Definitely PTSD! Thank you Elizabeth for all you do!
Thank you for another article that speaks to my heart. God bless you and your ministry .
I am so thankful to see this post today. I am just now beginning to really acknowledge the level of pain and stress I have been in for decades myself. And yes, it has at times definitely been, truly, traumatic. Thank you.
And I have NO desire for another relationship, now, or ever.
As you say, “for the love” lol