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?
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