We are approaching the holiday season! I can imagine it will be an extra stressful time for the many who have destructive people in their lives. My heart goes out to you as you navigate through challenges while still trying to enjoy some holiday cheer.
I invite you to take some time to set your intentions as you make plans and put events on your calendars. Consider how you want to show up to each situation. Be mindful of who you want to be in spite of the stresses and difficulties that may present themselves in the next several weeks. Be deliberate in your efforts to take care of yourself when life is difficult. I pray that you will find joy in being authentic and upholding your integrity.
Today’s Question: Does “staying well” ever stop feeling fake?
Susan’s Answer: I read the question and wanted immediately to stop and sit with the person who submitted it. It evoked within me feelings of sadness and frustration. I know how taxing it can be on the mind, body, and spirit to stay well in a destructive marriage. I know it takes effort; I felt many different emotions when I was in that situation myself.
Even though I don’t necessarily recall feeling fake as I attempted to stay well, I have some insight into what that might mean. My experience causes me to wonder how staying well is defined in this question. The concept of staying well can mean different things to different people. Also, it would be helpful to hear more about what specifically feels fake when trying to stay well. Because I don’t have the answers to these questions, let me explore what staying well could mean and make some guesses as to why it might be causing feelings of inauthenticity.
Since there are so many differing opinions about this topic, let me describe what staying well means to me. Staying well means being genuine when holding true to my best self ideals and core values. It means being committed to the truth about my situation even though I may not like it. Surrounding myself with wise support and godly people, who can help me view myself clearly, is important to me in staying well, as is committing myself to being in God’s Word regularly. To me, staying well also means honoring myself, owning up to my faults, and taking care of my mind, body, and spirit with good self-care practices. And it means that I will hold myself accountable to be loving and kind without colluding with someone else’s sinful behaviors or mindsets.
Hard situations do challenge our character. If pretending or being fake is your response to your destructive marriage, I would not define that as staying well. So let’s consider what may be going on instead.
Perhaps you are making wise changes in your life that have not fully taken root yet and these changes still feel uncomfortable and new. When I have taken on a new role or hobby in my life, it can sometimes feel like I don’t belong or like I am trying to be someone I am not. My desire is to learn and grow so the abilities the new role gives me to become known to me and part of who I am. Stepping into who God has called me to be is hard and I don’t always do it well, but my desire is to become that woman through a process of training. In other words, I can grow better at maintaining my best self ideals and core values as they shift and expand over time, but I am still authentically me through that process.
Perhaps you are defining staying well as doing what you need to do in order to keep your spouse calm and appeased in order to have a sense of peace in your home. Many people have tried this approach and have found that the situation gets worse over time. When a person gets accustomed to getting their way and having someone else manage life and emotions for them, they will continue to be a deformed adult. It is not kind or loving to enable your partner to be self-centered and irresponsible. This is not an example of staying well in the relationship.
Perhaps you are using some of the “staying well” concepts as a way to create the change you want in your partner. Concepts like holding good boundaries get misused as a way to make someone else change. Honestly, I see this a lot. The improvement of the marriage and change in the spouse’s behavior becomes the focus.
With a strong need for an outcome that is not within your control, you may feel like a failure or like you are not doing enough to create the outcome you want. Trying hard to control something that is out of your control can be discouraging and frustrating. It can also lead you to over-function for others or act in ways that are not true to who you are, leading you to feel fake.
Or perhaps you are noticing that you can not stay well if you are living in a highly abusive environment. Some circumstances do not allow you to be a healthy and authentic person. If you are in danger without an escape route, most likely you will do what you need to do in order to survive. That could include playing a part or being fake. Staying in this sort of marriage is not sustainable, however. Your body and mind will break down over time. If this is where you are, start making a safety plan for yourself and gaining the resources you need in order to leave well.
Beloved reader, what are you doing in order to stay in your destructive marriage and maintain health and authenticity?
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