Rebuilding A Broken Life

Morning friend,

We had an amazing response to joining our CONQUER membership. It makes me sad that there are so many Christian women struggling in destructive and abusive marriages and glad that they have found a place to get solid, biblical information in a loving community to help them wisely navigate through their pain and their next steps forward. Thanks for your prayers.

Today’s Question: Thank you for your eye-opening ministry. I have found out the hard way about lies and deceit in a marriage. I’ve had a 35-year-plus marriage, and I am now being asked for a divorce. I’m finding out about alcohol, sex addictions, and multiple affairs and the hurt and betrayal are crushing. Your book and podcasts have helped me through many a tearful night.

I feel so betrayed and hurt, and at the same time feel like I have lost my best friend. He wants out and has moved on to another woman and the divorce is not even final. I am re-reading your book-again-praying for direction and clarity, but I feel like I am a walking half-dead zombie.

Please give me some advice on moving forward.

Answer: I’m so sorry for what’s happened. I wish I could give you a big hug. What you are going through is life-shattering and it takes time to heal before you can move forward to rebuild your life, and your own self. It’s not just your external world that has been shaken to its core, but also your internal world. What you thought you knew about your marriage, who you thought you knew wasn’t true. You have lost your trust in him, and you’ve also lost your trust in you. 

You say you feel like you’ve lost your best friend. I lost a best friend a while back. It wasn’t my spouse, but it was a 25-year best girlfriend. The hardest thing for me to process and accept was that I thought I knew her. I thought she was a dear, deep friend. It turned out I was wrong. A best friend does not lie, cheat, betray, minimize, or abandon the relationship. Your trust has shattered not only in him and who you thought he was but also in yourself for not “seeing” it sooner. Be kind and compassionate with yourself because this is hard stuff.

Healing must come before you have any energy to rebuild your shattered life. Picture yourself being hit by a train. You’re in intensive care. You’re not thinking about the future you’re solely focused on taking your next breath and controlling the pain. You’re present to the present. One breath at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. Anything more feels like too much. 

Grieving all your losses is your first step toward healing. And, when you’re in the deep stages of grief, you do feel like a half-dead zombie. So don’t beat yourself up. Healing takes time. 

Here are some things to help you. Join a support group, such as CONQUER or Divorce Care. You do not have to do this alone, and there are other women who have walked this journey and have gotten to the other side. Seeing them helps you have hope that the present pain will not always hold you hostage and that in time, you will be able to move forward too. 

Talk to your pain. Whether physical or emotional, let it speak. Don’t push it down, silence it, minimize it or get mad that it’s there. Pain is a megaphone that something is wrong. Pay attention. Pain is not usually relentless. It comes in waves of different intensities. Practice riding the wave. Don’t get caught in fearing the worst, as it does lessen in intensity through the wave. 

Journal your thoughts. Notice to see if there is a thought/feeling connection. For example, you write your thought, “I’ll never get through this.” Notice if that thought makes your emotional pain worse. Also, ask yourself if you know for a fact that your thought is true. The facts may be different than the thoughts (story) you tell yourself about the facts. 

For example, the facts are your husband lied and cheated throughout your 35-year marriage. But you may have thoughts like, “It was my fault. If only I had……….. he wouldn’t have done this.” That’s a powerful thought, and if you have that thought imagine the emotional pain of self-loathing you might have. But is that thought true? God tells you to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Journaling helps you pay attention to the thoughts/lies that you believe, or that Satan, the accuser, may be tormenting you with during this season. 

Attend to the basics. Make sure you are sleeping, eating healthy, and getting some exercise – outside in the sunshine preferably. These are all good self-care basics that help your body, mind, and emotions feel better. Even if you only have the strength and energy to walk outside for 3 minutes, do it. Notice how you feel. Listening to praise and worship music while walking or outside may also lift your spirits, even temporarily. Remember, we all need to recharge our batteries EVERY day, just like our cell phones. If we ignore what we need to do to recharge, no wonder we don’t work well. 

As your energy increases, begin to ask yourself what brings joy and life to your spirit/soul? Pay attention to the little things like walking in nature, hearing birds sing, clearing out clutter, and talking with friends. Another question is to notice what drains you? For example, you may notice that social media drains you, answering a lot of people’s questions drains you. Now that you know what puts energy into your bank and what depletes you, do more of what energizes you and brings joy and life to your soul. As you purposefully and intentionally choose life, you are starting the process of creating your new life.

This is a season of healing and new growth for you. Be patient with the process as it does and will take time. This season is to get to know your own self better by purposefully putting things into your life that bring you joy and limiting the things that deplete and drain you. 

And here’s one more piece of advice that I think will be crucial to your future self. It’s tempting when you go through something like this to ease your pain with the pleasure of a new love interest. Please don’t short-circuit your growth by getting tempted by this distraction. A new man is not the answer for you right now. As you get to know your own self better, you will begin to understand what red flags you ignored in your 35-year marriage. You’ll learn to trust yourself again as you take care of you, learn what you need to do to manage your feelings and temptations, and practice healthy safe relationships with your female friends. You’ll be able to walk on your own two feet, live alone without anxiety, and manage your life. It’s only then, when you feel perfectly capable of living alone, that you are wisely able to discern the kind of life partner that might be a good fit for the new you. 

Friend, what steps did you take to heal and rebuild your life after betrayal and loss?

22 Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott on April 26, 2023 at 10:25 am

    What great advice Leslie! I also suggest people take time to grieve, and acknowledge their pain, journal, find support and take good care of themselves. I would also suggest counseling, as a ton of healing can be found that way. I went through a similar set of steps, including working on my relationship with God and learning how to be a single woman who honors God. It is hard work, and it takes a long time to heal, but when you get through it you will be surprised how strong you are. https://carolineabbott.com/a-journey-to-healing-after-emotional-abuse/

  2. Nwude Chye on April 27, 2023 at 8:58 am

    It’s really so sad what some women go through in life. From physical abuse to emotional abuse, physical and emotional abandonment, lies, betrayal, etc.

    In so many countries, women are treated in such a despicable manner that so many of them have lost their self-worth. Please, how do i help these women because society appears not care ,and many of them have died in destructive relationships.

  3. Connie on April 27, 2023 at 9:01 am

    What she said. I would add, make Jesus your best friend. Ask Him the questions and expect answers.
    Jesus, what do You think of me? Am I lovely? How do You feel about this? Would You treat me this way? Have You ever been treated like this? When? How did You feel? What did you do? Will You dance with me? Will You hold me? Keep me under Your wings? Take me to a safe place? Is there someone safe, with skin on, that would come hug me and pray with me today? Someone who respects my tears? Someone to just sit Shiva with me a while? Or someone to crazy laugh with me? Where were You when all this was going on?
    He will gently drop the answers in your heart. Our own strivings don’t always get us there.

    Hugs from a fellow traveller. It’s worse than being widowed. Nobody even brings you casseroles.

    • Lynn on April 27, 2023 at 9:58 am

      I remember when a divorced friend once said, “It would have been better if my ex had just died.” I was shocked by that statement until I went through a divorce myself. When your spouse dies, you are left with the house and your assets; people express sympathy and rally around you and include you in activities. His family continues to embrace you. But when one is divorced, many people act as if it was your fault, my ex’s family rejected me, and your grief is mitigated by others. You end up paying lawyers a substantial amount to try to divide your assets equitably. You may see your ex, and his paramour, at functions with your children. It is a lonely, crushing road to walk. I prayed multiple times a day “to die”, as I was just in so much pain.
      However, I can assure the newly divorced, that it will get better. Find a new purpose; whether it is volunteering, pursuing the craft or sport which brings you joy, or developing friendships with godly women. I did go through DivorceCare, which was very helpful. I started playing Pickleball, and I also was granted custody of my toddler grandchild. This child gave me purpose, as I had to care and provide for her. I thank God that he has walked every step of this road with me. I learned to depend on God, and His Word was my wellspring. I am remarried to a widower who is devout Christian.
      You will experience a new and full life.

    • Libby Davis on April 27, 2023 at 12:58 pm

      Connie this was beautiful! You received a beautiful intimacy in your receivers! Oh how wonderful! Thank you for sharing those types of intimacy with the Father , love of our souls! Well done fellow traveler❤️❤️❤️

    • Mitzie on April 27, 2023 at 3:37 pm

      ❤️🙏🏻

    • Sheila on April 27, 2023 at 10:44 pm

      Hi Connie,
      I absolutely relate to what you said here. Knowing that Jesus is my BestTrue Love is what gets me through each day. Talking with Him, asking Him stuff or just sitting in my comfy chair thinking about Him are the most precious moments for me. This pain journey is hard. It’s all hard, and yeah- you don’t even get casseroles, which I love….(you made me chuckle) ☺️ Tons of blessings 💕

  4. Dee on April 27, 2023 at 9:38 am

    Great advice from Leslie, as usual! Another key for me was identifying things I was experiencing as “betrayal trauma”. That label helped me find a trauma-informed counselor, helpful books/podcasts, and safe community. (Not all counselors understand trauma, and I had a few false starts that were further traumatizing.) Healing for me has taken time, as Leslie describes. The good news is: God redeems. On the other side of healing is the opportunity for post-traumatic growth.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 27, 2023 at 11:54 am

      Thanks Dee, yes betrayal trauma is a unique kind of trauma and make sure your therapist (if you seek one) understands this.

  5. Leslee Morton on April 27, 2023 at 10:09 am

    These are great tools that Leslie is suggesting. The pain is intense at first. It feels like your not going to make it or that it’s just to much.. Be kind to yourself. It’s taken me 21/2 years but I can finally say I’m coming out the other side of the pain and grief. I’m so glad I journaled because our brains are in such turmoil we’d forget all the precious things that God speaks to us along the way. Journaling and worship music.. which I leave on while I sleep.. I also have a betrayal trauma life coach which has helped me tremendously with processing my pain as well as teaching me new brain skills to manage my trauma and thinking. I’m sorry for your pain. It’s no joke. It’s awful. But Jesus is there with you. He knows all about betrayal. He is so present for us in our pain. Praying for you. Xo

    • Linda on April 28, 2023 at 9:35 pm

      Thank you Leslee!! It will be 22 years for me also. I had an “awakening” one year ago and it’s taken one year to re-build my self esteem and establish boundaries (that aren’t being heard or respected). So I am finally ready and getting the courage to end the marriage. Thank you for sharing. I related to what you shared and it inspired me. Yes the pain is awful. And yet the healing will be more than awesome! Am just living one step at a time right now. . . .one breath at a time. . .praying for wisdom to lead my teenagers through this.

  6. Aurora on April 27, 2023 at 10:13 am

    I have been here and I was the main person who pushed didn’t trust. I abused instead of asking.no idea what a happy loving relationships are. I felt not enough to, not worthy not loveable. So many fights over the year. I settled a lot. I want my husband back don’t want my marriage to end but with no contact for 2 years I am asking for the divorce not cuz there’s another man in my life but tired of carry all expenses on my own so wud like to sell the house. Lots of regrets . He deserves someone that isn’t messed up like me. This is prolly one of the worse pain I have ever gone through. Asking for the divorce I don’t want but he doesn’t know that part. Just around he deserves better then me. Can’t go back undo. Plus no contact is an answer.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 27, 2023 at 11:53 am

      Aurora, don’t let this regrets story be the last chapter. You are God’s image bearer. He has created you for loving connection and purpose. Yes you had a rough start and have not learned to value yourself. Start there, because when we don’t value our own selves, guess what? We allow others to devalue us and we may also tend to devalue others. Get some support, find a good therapist or coach who can help you grow through this, not just survive but thrive.

  7. Brenda on April 27, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Thank you dear friends for all your encouragement!! I am new to this journey but it’s not the first time, however, I’ve never heard of a group like this. It is a wonderful thing! I’m with my daughter and family for now. The most difficult thing is to feel that maybe I’m doing the wrong thing, but I will continue moving forward with my Heavenly Father and conquer to grow into the strong person I know is inside!! Thank you again for the encouragement!!

  8. JoAnn on April 27, 2023 at 10:32 am

    WOW! All of these comments are excellent. Leslie’s answer covered so many great points, and then the responses are all so helpful. (Note: I sometimes want to print out these messages, but it isn’t in a good format to print. Could this be done?)
    A book that I have found very helpful is “Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship” by Dr. Ramona Probasco. She writes from her own experience, and it is very helpful. I agree with Leslie that it is grievous that so many women in Christian marriages are suffering like this. May the Lord bless and supply those who need this healing. And I thank Him for Leslie & Co. and for this wonderful work.

    • Leslie Vernick on April 27, 2023 at 11:51 am

      JoAnn, I like Ramona’s book too. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her and sharing a meal with her in California. She’s lovely, and knows first hand what it feels like.

  9. Mary on April 27, 2023 at 10:33 am

    Three years divorce recovery……..Leslie and her ministry were one of the main things God used to help me to start the process of recovery and healing. The podcast and these letter responses will help you feel a community of people who understand exactly where you are and how you feel. I ask my support system not to tell me how they felt, I only wanted to hear from God. He was faithful to guide me, through keeping myself in constant study of the word and giving me resources such as this ministry; and not just at any point, but just when I needed it most along the way. Allow yourself to see your husband for who he is and ask God to help you accept all that comes with that, it will do sooooo very much for your healing and growth. Be gentle with yourself and embrace each wave as it comes knowing Christ is right there to walk through it with you.

  10. Terri Lisenbe on April 27, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    I am 14 years on the other side. For me- stay in a much truth as you can, stay vertical- connected to God- your loving Heavenly Father and keep your joy. The Joy will come back and there is a day coming that the pain will be gone. Be good to yourself- treat yourself like you would your best friend. Be patient and kind to yourself. Take one moment at a time. Cry with God who knows your pain and the the time between cries will lengthen. Learn to know yourself and embrace this time with God and yourself. As you change you will not allow yourself to be mistreated but to be truly loved. Let the healing take place fully so you do not delay the healing by being in another intimate relationship right now. There is time. Fr me another part that God spoke to my heart- there are two ditches to stay out of- feeling sorry for yourself or being a victim and bitterness. Stay out of both. Keep a regulator on your heart and be aware of where you are. Leslie Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and Joyce Meyer book Beauty for Ashes worked hand in hand. I went through the pain to get to the other side which is joy. I am now happier in my life- I continue to grow- growth never stops and remember this- people are who they are and they give out of who they are- what they give to one person they will give to the other. It is not your fault. No blame to receive and forgiveness goes a long ways! Sending love and blessing to you and thanking God for His unending love and care. . He will never leave you or forsake you!!!!

    • Linda on April 28, 2023 at 9:41 pm

      WoW!!! Thank you for giving me HOPE. I am just starting to learn the “divorce steps” and taking another BIG step.

      I LOVED all of the tips that you shared. Thank you so much.

  11. Sally on April 27, 2023 at 9:30 pm

    Things I did that helped me: I’d ask myself, “what would a healthy, happy person do?” then I’d do it. I was faking at first but with time I became a healthy , happy person. I bought a Bible with Jesus’ words in red. I read only the red words; I found them comforting. I also read the Psalms and forgave myself for feeling like David. If David was a man after God’s own heart and he felt that way, then it was okay for me to be angry at God and people who wronged me, etc. God Bless, I wish you every good thing because you deserve it, girlfriend!

  12. Nell on April 28, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve Been Legally Separated From My Husband With A Order Of Protection! He’s Broken Twice Just Wanting To See Me And Come Back Home! Now Moved To Criminal Court For An Arraignment Herring! I’m Staying Away From Home And Work So Not To Be Petunia And Hope It Goes To Court Date On The 17th. Where I Don’t Have To Attend! This Has Always 1st Been A Mental Health Problem! Drugs And Alcohol! But When The Mental Stepped In I Could No Longer Take Care Of My Husband! I Too Have Health Problems! Then To Find Out He Had An Affair 48 Years Ago And A Child (Girl) Was Born! I Was Just LOST! My Husband Is 84 Years Old! I Am 76 Years Old! We Have 4 Children! I Was Pregnant With My 4th. Now I Now There Was Another Baby Girl Born 7 Months After My Baby Girl! The Kids Are Torn! A very! Angry At Me For Not Leaving Years Ago! They Tried To Talk To Their Dad To Get Him Back In Assistant Living Which They Tried To Do A Year Ago! He Signs Himself Out! I Listen To All Your Podcasts! I Belong To A Separation, Divorce, Care Class At My Church, And Went To A Counselor For 6 Weeks! But Now Court! My Husband Doesn’t Deserve Jail He Needs Medical Help! But His Dementia Or Some Dementia Keeps The Courts Saying This Is A Family Problem! Everything We’ve Tried With The Health Side Has Failed! Trying To Commit Suscide 2 Times By Letting His Sugar Drop To 49 Unconscious! Ambulance Sent Twice By Youngest Daughter Had To In Through Window Of The Trailer! The Second Time He Blocked That Window Trying To Keep EMS Out! This Is A Mental Problem Not Marital! He Just Wants To Come Home! That Will Never Happen! Sorry This Is So Long! You Know My Story Leslie! Please Keep It Personal!

  13. Mary on April 28, 2023 at 3:22 pm

    Many times I remind myself of what Leslie said a few weeks back.. 96% of everything your husband did had absolutely NOTHING to do with you.

    Nothing to do w how valuable you are.

    It doesn’t matter what the new girlfriend or the next one does or how kind you were to him.
    I had to finally understand.
    This is who he is and who he wants to be

    Separating that and detaching from him and knowing his actions have nothing to do with you.

    Your valued loved and the same wonderful person u have always been.
    It’s him who was the fake

    Leslie’s people pleasing program really helped me.
    I realized I had made H a idol. Like his words and actions had a higher vote than what I felt about me.

    Picture yourself like a marriage where you let go of his hand and Clieve to the Lord as your everything.
    Like your other 1/2. He can fulfill all your needs and bring piece and he is there every step.

    This really helps me to.
    Leslie says brain dump on paper every hurt feeling thought that u ruminate on. Every detail all of it.
    Rip it up throw it away. It’s behind you
    Then journal 1 thing u pick as a goal to walk into you would like for your new life. It can be as small as a short walk or a store u would like to go to and treat yourself w a small gift.
    Journal about this goal 21 days. Write every detail from driving there listening to your favorite song to looking for this wonderful gift u so deserve.
    Journal it like your standing on the finish line in the kingdom. U already got it in the Journaling.
    It’s amazing when u take these little areas and choose one and journal it like u got it. When u go to do it. It’s like your already there. It makes it much easier to keep your joy and helps to pull u out of ruminating on him and what u lost.
    Step into the kingdom in your mind and your body will follow
    Really helps to journal it.
    I use this w everything to move forward

Leave a Comment





Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?

Read More

I’m Newlywed And He’s Destructive. I’ve Separated But Do I Try To Reconcile?

Morning sweet friends, What a week I’ve had. Chris Moles and I had an amazing time at The Village Church. Pastor Matt Chandler and their entire staff were extremely supportive of our work and wanted to know how they as a church could do better. I was very encouraged by their humility, affirmation, and support…

Read More...

What Are The Consequences for Serious Sin?

  Hey friends, This weekend I’m in Chicago visiting my family for Christmas. I’m eating pizza, pizza, pizza and if you know Chicago’s pizza – it’s the best. This week’s question: I so enjoyed your book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, I want to read it over again and pray and…

Read More...

Finding Hope and Healing: Praying for a Godly Husband After Divorce

In the quiet of the night, on the dawn of a bright sunrise, or at the most inconvenient times, loneliness creeps in. It’s natural to long for companionship and the warmth of a loving relationship. For Christian women who have faced the trials of emotional abuse, divorce, and betrayal, this longing can be especially heartbreaking….

Read More...