I’m traveling this week. I’ll be at a meeting in New Orleans and then speaking at Lysa Terkeurst’s event on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I’d appreciate your prayers for my health, stamina, and safety as well as for healing for the women who attend the Haven House Intensive. It’s always a precious and sacred time.
Today’s Question: My marriage was filled with betrayal after betrayal and not just from my ex-husband (now) acting out with other women, excessive drinking, porn addiction, abuse of our finances, and constant lying. I endured this “for the children” and because I once believed that God hated divorce. My duty was to the institution! Jesus suffered, why am I any better than that? And finally, after 43 years and one final incident, I quit. I hated the person I had become and could no longer live in this way. I gave him lots of opportunities over the year of separation to show me he was serious about working on his issues including a very expensive long-term recovery treatment. Anyway, he finally filed for divorce after the year required in our state. I suspected there was someone else in his life because he said he would not file because he didn't believe in divorce. So now in a very short time post-divorce, he has a girlfriend and is vacationing with her and hosting her frequently. Why does this bother me so much? I have felt the peace of living alone without the stress and I have done quite a bit of work with E2C and Conquer, and worked with a betrayal trauma therapist. Obviously, I need more help! I'm trying to identify my emotions on the wheel and do a thought journal. I just want to understand why this hurts so much!
Answer: I’m so sorry you’ve suffered for so long in this destructive marriage. Now that you're free from this toxic person, you’re seeing he still has the power to hurt you, and that feels awful and confusing.
First, I want you to honor your own self for doing your work. It’s easy to look at his life and see what’s wrong with him and what harm he’s caused and get stuck in either blaming or trying to fix him. It’s much harder to do your own work to heal from that damage and pain.
You’re distressed now over why his new relationship bothers you. Logically you’d think you would be happy he’s gone, you’re free, and preoccupied with someone new. And the first two fit, but the last one? – he’s with someone else now? “Why does this hurt so much still….even after divorce?”
It’s a curious question and again good for you both for recognizing it and being perplexed as to your own emotions here. You’ll never know why for sure, but my best guess is that underneath the pain you feel is a lie that you need to discover in order to further heal. I’d encourage you to explore your inner thoughts and self-talk around his new relationship to dig out this lie.
Here are a few possibilities that come to my mind:
I wasn’t good enough for him but this new woman is. Ouch.
He’s moved on so easily; our marriage wasn’t worth fighting for. I wasn’t worth fighting for. Ouch.
She’s getting the man I always knew he could be. Why couldn’t he treat me that way? Ouch.
I was easily replaced. Ouch.
I’ll never be happy again. Ouch
Maybe if I had given it more time he would have changed. Ouch
I don’t know if any of those thoughts/lies resonate with you but they’d be ones I’d be tempted to have. So, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Are these things true? And even if you believe some might be true, like “I was easily replaced”, the whole truth is you were being replaced regularly throughout your marriage. Why would you expect it to be different after divorce? His behavior is not about you. Over time he will treat this new relationship like he treated yours. It’s not about you, but you’re making it about you, that’s why it hurts.
Second, once you pull out some of the thoughts/beliefs you are struggling with, how might you feel differently if you didn’t have these particular thoughts? Our thoughts are powerful, and they do stir our emotions. The psalmist writes, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught” (Psalm 55:2). When you believe you’ll never be happy again, or now he’s becoming the man you always knew he could be, you will feel regret and pain. Even when other parts of your mind are thinking logically and rationally about who he is, these sneaky or more hidden thoughts stir up painful emotions. That’s one reason the Bible tells us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) and renew our mind with the truth. (Romans 12:2). Thoughts and underlying beliefs are powerful, but they’re not always truthful. Do you notice that when watching scary or sad movies, our emotions are stirred because we’re having sad and scary thoughts, even though another part of our mind tells us “It’s just a movie?”
Part of becoming “healthy” or mature is learning to recognize what thoughts or lies we might have inside of ourselves that contribute to our present emotional state. The coaching classes you’ve taken and the work you’ve done have made you aware and curious. All good things. Having these new painful feelings post-divorce does not mean you haven’t gotten healthier. You have. Healthy isn’t perfect. Being healthy is being capable of recognizing when you’re not okay, not blaming others for your own distress, and having some tools to figure it out so you can deal with your painful feelings and get your peace and joy back. That’s exactly what you’re attempting to do.
Friend, how have you handled surprisingly painful emotions post-separation and divorce?
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