Morning friends,

We had a great response to the webinar last week on 3 Mindset Shifts to Get Out of Victim Mindset and Into Owner Mindset. It filled faster than it’s ever filled up before. To be added to the Empowered To Change program's waitlist, click here


Today’s Question: I have been separated from my husband for almost 2 years. I have been dedicated to doing “my work.” This has included individual counseling, CORE, Conquer, and setting necessary boundaries. My husband has refused to take responsibility for his destructive behavior and refuses to do “his work.” I feel it is time for me to leave well and file for divorce. I am still incredibly in love with him and my heart is so broken. Any suggestions on how to heal my broken heart? 

Answer: You’ve taken good steps forward. Hard steps and this last one of finally accepting his “no” is the hardest. No, he doesn’t want to change. No, he doesn’t want to admit he has a problem that is costing him his marriage and harming you.  

Through all of your previous growth you’ve learned to walk in CORE strength, which starts with being C = Courageously committed to the truth.

You can love someone deeply and still not have a relationship with that person. Not because it’s impossible, but because the other person is unwilling to do his or her part to maintain and repair the relationship. And for you to beg, or cling, or refuse to accept his no, is not walking in reality or truth. Click To Tweet 

You stated your goal is to leave well. You’ve learned that the only person you can work on and heal is you. How do you heal a broken heart? First, it takes time. There is no instant healing. If you broke your leg or had major surgery, and you did all the right things to heal, it still takes time. You can also do things that would impede the healing process but healing always takes time.

Can you start by accepting that healing will take time? 

Second, there is a process of letting go in healing and that process is called grieving. If it was easy to let go of things we love or things we want, then we wouldn’t be sad or brokenhearted about having to say goodbye to them. You are now letting go of your marriage. Of a man you still love. You also have to let go of your idea of how your life was going to be, and your hope that he would wake up and get it and change. Intellectually you understand this has to happen but emotionally you’re not ready and don’t accept that this is where you have to be. In these moments, our feelings resist reality. We feel angry. We tell ourselves – “This should not be this way.” “Why is this happening to me?” “This is wrong.”  

Grieving gives your emotional self the time and space to process your feelings so that they can catch up with reality. I’d encourage you to join a support group that specializes in this process such as Divorce Care. Journaling can also be helpful. If you read many of the Psalms, David wrote down his emotional battle with the reality he was experiencing. Injustice, enemies winning, the good guys losing and the seemingly unfairness of life (Read Psalm 73 for one example). Be kind to yourself during this time. Your energy level will be low. Grieving and processing feelings take time and energy and you won’t feel productive or perky. You may need more sleep. This is normal. Don’t beat yourself up.

Third, guard your heart and mind. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to do this above all else but nowhere is this more important than when you feel disappointed with the outcome of something. Satan would love to lie to you about God’s goodness and love for you. It’s tempting when you’re hurt and disappointed to believe Satan’s version of reality rather than God’s. And in your vulnerable spot, he may throw some juicy temptations your way like the attentions of another man to distract you from your own work and from God. Don’t let that happen. Be mindful of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). 

Last, do something creative. In addition to journaling your feelings, make something beautiful as a symbol of your future self. It might be a vision board taking photos or cutting out words from magazines that express your heart, or where you see yourself a year from now and pasting them onto a poster board. It might be planting a garden, or a terrarium and watching the growth process. Maybe it would be art journaling, reading your Bible, and then drawing pictures or doing colorful lettering of what stands out to you right now.  

As you are grieving, bit by bit you are also building a new life, a new identity as a single person, and a new future. It’s helpful to start that process even while you’re still in grieving because it too takes time. Just be careful of the false guilt that may hinder your freedom to do something fun or creative while you are still sad. Sometimes we live in a dualistic mindset where we think we are either sad or not sad. And if we’re having fun creating something pretty, then that means we’re not sad. That’s not true. It’s both, and you can be sad and still have some appropriate kinds of fun. Creating can be a good first step of learning to live anew.  

Friends, many of you have walked these steps too. Share with this sister, how you healed from a broken heart. 

17 Comments

  1. Dee on December 9, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    I’m so sorry for the pain and loss you are experiencing. In addition to all the great counsel from Leslie, you may want the read about trauma bonds. I’ve found Patrick Carnes’ book “The Betrayal Bond” very beneficial.

  2. Tracey Petersen on December 9, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    This woman’s story is my story, almost to the letter. It really, really hurts. I love my ex so much, but had to let go for my health/sanity. It’s definitely not a straight line and some days I do better than others, but I’m trusting in the Lord. He loves me and will take care of me. Thank you so much for this post. Every little validation is extremely helpful for the doubt that comes from time to time. Thank you Leslie for your insight and validation.

  3. Suzanne on December 9, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Oh my goodness. This is exactly where I am. In fact, I had to recall if I might not have written the question. It is so sad, so hard, yet so necessary to take this next step. I have grieved throughout the process I traveled to get here. But the final break is a sure death. Thank you Leslie for your continued wise counsel.

  4. kristi2holl on December 9, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    I want to add one thing. Do not try to fix your broken heart with another relationship. You will only attract another predator, maybe even one that is religious and helpful and appears “kind” at first. It might seem like the best solution to a quick fix, but it’s going from the frying pan into the fire. When you are mistreated by someone who looked like your savior, believe it or not, the pain is even worse than what you’re experiencing now. You have my prayers. I am also a bit envious that you’ve done so much inner work with Leslie already. I wish you well so much!

    • Autumn on December 9, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      I agree! Dr. Ramona Probasco talks about when you are healed, you attract a whole different kind of person. Wait for that healing before you consider a new relationship. Better yet, learn to live confident and free as a single woman.

  5. Nancy on December 9, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    I really like how you framed this,Leslie.

    This is the final process in accepting his ‘no’.

  6. Autumn on December 9, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    I wouldn’t use the term broken hearted. The term that best describes this period of time is rather, the death of a dream. The person you imagined you joined hearts with was a fantasy of your own making. The real man, the abuser, the unrepentant, the exploiter of your trust is unlovable.

    Keep yourself rooted in reality as much as possible. Remember the evil, the lies, the rants and the deception you spouse exhibited. That is the true man. Get a reality check partner and reread your journal entries. Grieving hurts and there is terrible loss in many ways that will endure for years. You have been betrayed and your trust was violated. Usually the destructive party has considered you to be more of an object that s person. Your usefulness will fade and he will discard all memory of you with exclusion of blaming you for every that goes wrong in his life.

    As you learn more and more about the dynamics of abuse, eventually you can properly place blame where it belongs. That will be freeing. You feel love again in various ways. The holy spirit will be your comforter. Don’t be ruminate over the past and live future focused with hopefulness. Your savior will not disappoint you!

    • JoAnn on December 11, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      Autumn, I hope that everyone on this blog will read what you wrote, because I fully agree. I like that you said that this period of time is really the death of a dream, and “The person you imagined you joined hearts with was a fantasy of your own making. The real man, the abuser, the unrepentant, the exploiter of your trust is unlovable.” Beginning to realize that the real person, the abuser, is actually unlovable, is the beginning of healing. As I read some of these stories, I find myself wondering, what is it about him that you love? Working through that question with a therapist would bring about some real healing. And, as you are grieving the death of a marriage, or of a dream, remember that anger is a part of that, and allow yourself to experience that, too.

      • Nancy on December 11, 2020 at 4:04 pm

        Hi ladies,

        I’d like to hear Leslie address this. Only because in her post above what is bolded and ‘clicked to tweet’ says that you can love someone deeply etc….

        Just curious Leslie, what your take on someone who is unrepentant, being unloveable? I’m wondering from a counselling, perspective, more than a theoretical theological one.

        • Autumn on December 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

          Sadism and masochism come into play here. Masochists like to harm themselves and sadists derive pleasure from harming others. I would venture to assume that most of the women seeking help on this site do not have either of these problems. Therefore, they do not love a person who enjoys harming them.

          What they think is love, is rather a delusionally guided thought process which was created by their brain to protect them from reality. They needed to create a fantasy and hold fast to denial in order to survive the abuse.

          Moving out of bondage requires the survivor to accept multiple layers of hurtful and sad realities. The brain does this slowly as grief often comes in waves. Most of us cling to portions of our fantasies for a long time. (Hence the comment that they “love” their abuser.) Once the grief work is done . The brain is strong enough to handle the truth. The abuse becomes crystal clear and easy to identify. The “love” ceases because, as I mentioned earlier, most contributors on this blog are not masochists.

          Finally, as healing progressing, The abuse can get assigned to the correct person, the perpetrator. Understanding the depth, horror and evil nature of an unrepentant abuser helps one remove any thoughts or feelings of love for that person.

          In my opinion, if a person still feels love for their abuser, there is just more counseling and grief work that needs to be done. They are most likely still in victim mode and have not yet fully progressed to all the psychological fullness of a survivor. That is ok, because coming out of abuse takes time. It is a process. It is painful, hard work.

          It takes courage not only to leave, but to process the tremendous loss of having joined yourself to what the bible describes as an evil person or a fool. It is important to be gracious with oneself. Eventually the truth wins, God heals the horrible hurts of betrayal and he uses the beautiful spirit you always had which was being crushed and hijacked by your partner’s sin upon you.

        • Leslie Vernick on December 12, 2020 at 7:35 pm

          I think we can relate to loving an unrepentant person especially with adult children who may be drug addicted or irresponsible in some ways which we do not enable and have good boundaries with that person but we still love him or her.

          • Nancy on December 13, 2020 at 9:09 am

            Thanks. I wonder if the idea of loving the unrepentant is applied through the practice of the E of CORE.

            Empathy without enabling.

            I feel like it might be tempting to do all kinds of psychological gymnastics in order to convince ourselves that the person is unloveable, instead of challenging ourselves to the next level of simply (not easily) loving them well (praying for them while maintaining excellent boundaries).

            Although unrepentant, they are image bearers.



    • cathyeyersgmailcom on December 11, 2020 at 10:24 pm

      Nailed it girl.

  7. Julie on December 10, 2020 at 11:48 am

    This is so very true. I am 2 years post divorce and am just now starting to feel “better”. It’s hard, intentional work that takes a long time. I’ve needed more sleep, am intentional about trying to take care and be easy on myself, while at the same time restarting my career late in life. (Mid 50’s). I still cry, have to give God my grief and anger and fear, but when I remember how faithful God has been to me and has taken care of me every step of the way, I am strengthened and comforted. May God help us to be strong and faithful to Him

  8. Stacy Waters on December 13, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    I am also going through this right now. After trying to reconcile, I have discovered that it was just more of the same. Now that I have moved into actual divorce, I find that my heart is the most broken that it has ever been. I had dreamed of my man surrendered, his hands raised in worship to his Lord…now I don’t know what that vision was all for….my heart is just shattered. I love him so very much, but I love me too and I cannot stay married and still be a steward of the time I have left on this earth (I turn 50 in January). I have had to grieve my dreams and goals (that 50 year Anniversary that I’ll never have–actually, not even a 30 year one) and the death of a dream to be in ministry alongside my man, changing lives for the Kingdom through the witness if our changed marriage. It’s all so overwhelmingly broken–my heart that is–it seems I’ll never get better. I know God is strong and He has a plan. I am clinging to the fact that He is good and He is faithful—that’s really all I need to know. God Bless you ladies.

    • Tracey Petersen on December 14, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      I could have written this word for word. It is so painful. But I’ m trusting God!

    • Aly on December 15, 2020 at 10:02 am

      Dear Stacy,
      I’m so sorry for your pain and the heart break you are feeling. Trusting God with our broken hearts is not an easy process but a necessity each day.
      From your post it sounds like you were giving a second chance (maybe a 10th) only to find out more of the same behavior or choices were being made by a person who made vows to you but couldn’t keep his promises. This is all the more layered grief and compounded traumas within a marriage-because it’s the opposite of what God designed for our hearts.
      This is heartbreaking, when one person is devoted and the other person chooses to betray – even with thinking God is with them. Take time for yourself and your healing. You may not see the victory right now in your present circumstances but know that God sees and will guide you. Let others hold you heart and give you the care you need to heal.

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