Thanks for your encouraging words about last week’s blog. Today’s question has to do with letting go.
Question: I read your book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, and am working to grow and heal but there is something I can’t seem to get past. I met my husband (now ex-husband) in high school and we married young. We both had a lot of growing up to do but he was physically and emotionally abusive, not to mention addicted to pornography and struggling with alcohol and our marriage ended after about two years.
All this time I have not stopped loving him. I always hoped that he would come to his senses, find Christ, and change. I kept trying to see if it would work but I could see deep down he hadn’t really changed yet. I tried dating other men, got pregnant and had a child. I know that wasn’t right but I thank God every day for this wonderful child and don’t understand why God chose me to be his mother. I’m learning how to trust God and deepen my relationship with him but here is my question.
Recently my ex-husband told me how much he loved me and he wanted me to know he could love my son. I finally decided to shared my heart with him and told him that I still loved him and had completely forgiven him for the past. After seeing him seek Christ and change by taking it one day at a time I wanted to try dating again to see if we could put our marriage back together again.
I have waited for this moment a long time – seven years. I wanted my husband back, but healed. Then he devastated me but saying that he realized he does not love me after all. He said it was a dream that he had but it is now gone. He wants to find love again but it isn’t with me. I have cried every day since.
How do I live life without him? I just wasted eleven years of my life waiting for him and how he says it’s too late! I haven’t dated in a couple of years so I could focus on my son and relationship with God because I knew inside I had a hope for this new family we could create. I feel this as a loss and my reaction has been grief. Am I wrong? What in the world do I do now?
Answer: You are not wrong to grieve over this loss. That is the only way you will be able to let go and heal enough to move forward with your own life. Grieving is a process where we come to emotionally accept what we know to be true. That takes time and it sounds as though for eleven years you have held on to the hope that somehow your marriage would be restored. Letting go of that dream, and emotionally accepting that it’s over, is what is necessary now. There is no rushing grieving. I know we wish we could just have a good cry and have it be over but you have invested a lot of emotional energy in keeping this hope alive in your heart and to emotionally divest yourself of that energy and put it into building a new life for yourself without him takes time.
However grieving is different than depression and it will be important to guard your heart against getting depressed during this time. Some of the symptoms may be the same (such as sadness, and helpless feelings) but with mourning there is not a loss of self-esteem, feelings of guilt normally associated with depression.
Most of us want to take a shortcut around the pain of our loss instead of feeling the pain and going through it. I commend you for recognizing your need to grieve. However, here are some things you can do to help yourself through this process.
Let go of the dream: Letting go of what you have longed for all these years feels horrible at first, much like grieving a death. Perhaps you’ve already gone through the denial and anger stages to bargaining with God to get him to change your ex-husband’s heart. But you will need to move forward toward acceptance. Your ex-husband has moved on and so must you. It does you no good to keep the fantasy alive that someday he’ll change his mind. It only keeps you emotionally invested in a lie that is not going to happen. Let it go. You need to trust God now with your future and believe that he has one in mind for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
Let go of negative emotions: It is tempting to stew in a sea of anger, hurt, bitterness and sadness. Although you will feel these emotions, work to release them in constructive ways. Don’t brood, distract yourself with other things, journal and let them out, talk with trusted friends, cry, join a grief support group. Do something that will help you process them and let them go. I have an entire chapter on letting go of negative emotions in my book, Lord, I Just Want to be Happy, and if you go to my website at www.leslievernick.com you can listen to a talk I give on being happy where I give you 3 specific techniques that will help you let negative emotions go.
Let go of lies: You didn’t reference specific lies that you are battling but here might be a few. “I have no future without him.” Or “God isn’t good because he didn’t give me the desire of my heart.” Or “I must not deserve a loving relationship.” These are all lies that might be in your own head and certainly lies that Satan, the master deceiver will tempt you with. Be careful. The writer of Proverbs tells us to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus tells us to “watch and pray because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” “Watchfulness”, says St. Hesychuis, “is a firm control of the mind and posting it at the door of the heart, so that it sees marauding thoughts as they come, hears what they say, and knows what these robbers are doing and what images are being projected and set up by the demons, so as to seduce the mind by fantasy.” If you can recognize them for what they are, it’s easier to reject them instead of embracing them as truth.
Remember, God loves you and has a plan for your life. He’s given you a purpose even if it no longer includes sharing your journey with your ex-husband. By grieving and letting it go, you will be freer to discover specifically what that the future holds. God Bless.
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