Thanks for your prayers. My poison ivy is getting better and my yard is looking better. Next week I’ll post some new pictures.
I’m so glad many of you responded positively to our blogger who wrote about staying well.
Next week I’ve invited another woman who is walking that same journey of staying well to share her thoughts. Remember, staying well doesn't’ necessarily mean anything positive is happening in your marriage, it means that you are dealing with whatever is happening in CORE strength and for now, it’s best for you to stay.
Leaving well also requires you to walk in CORE strength. Our next class is coming up in August.
Today I’ve invited Dawn to share her experience of knowing when it was time to leave her destructive marriage and what steps she took to leave well. Here is her story:
I sat shredding the tissue in my hands that I’d been clutching for the past hour. Meeting her gentle gaze I asked the question that would plunge me headlong into this journey, “How do you know when it’s time to go?” She met my gaze with a steady confidence and replied with three simple words, “Oh, you’ll know!” The thought that surfaced first was, “I’m really not that smart!”
Fast forward four years, three life crises, two interventions, one horrifically broken wife and those words came flooding back to me … “Oh, you’ll know!” As we sat with three of our four children in the family room begging my wayward husband’s return I listened intently as each of their shattered hearts poured forth: that there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be forgiven, that our family needed him, how much they valued his presence here, and how even in this the cross’s power could triumph. I watched as time suspended for what seemed like an eternity before the verdict was rendered by a man whose face had crumpled into his tearstained hands, “I can’t. I need to go.” In that instant, there were the words, flooding back, each one of them weighing a thousand pounds, being lifted from my back by a gentle Savior accompanied by a feeling of literal physical release, “Oh. You’ll. Know!” A flashback of that moment in her office, her voice, the instantaneous feeling of freedom from the weight, all came together in a well-choreographed crescendo. Amidst the devastating carnage surrounding me I remember uttering, “Thank you” … I knew.
I’m not sure everyone’s experience of release is that well defined but what I am sure of is that everyone, once they are confident in their decision to leave needs a well-defined exit strategy. Mine looked like this:
Choose to accept the reality of the situation: The starting line is the ability to stand in the middle of the ugly and utter the words, “I choose to accept the reality of this situation.” Understand that this is war ~ the enemy is waging war on your family. While the stakes are high, we know the ending of the story, God wins!
Internalize the fact that the enemy bows to our living God. Don’t succumb to fear and let it color your reality. For years I had chosen to ignore reality, dress it up, paint it, and just downright lie to myself (and others) as to what was really going on inside these four walls.
Infidelity wasn’t the problem, it was just the symptom of a larger problem of a heart that had hardened for one reason or another, years of unhealthy communication patterns, subsequently developed destructive coping mechanisms built on the foundation of the pre-marital baggage that we each dragged down the aisle unpacked. Like the proverbial floating duck, all looked great on the surface, but if you peered underwater you would find me paddling like crazy to maintain the image of “the perfect family”.
Delineate your boundaries: As women we tend to incorporate “moveable marks” where we should be placing “finite finishes” as to what is tolerable. This is often in response to errant biblical teaching and our inability to distinguish between wishful and hopeful thinking.
Hopeful thinking is reality based – there are definitive markers in the direction of progress, ie true repentance, counseling with progress. Wishful thinking says, “If I just work harder I know I can make him come around.” Or “I see his potential I know he can do this.” All of this as the same sinful patterns are maintained. This is baseless thinking without anything to link progress to. Fix markers as to what is acceptable and what is not then affix tangible events to those markers. The absence of positive events is what often those markers often allows abuse to escalate. That is reality.
Determine your breaking point: There is a tipping point in which the pain of staying outweighs the fear of leaving. The faster you become grounded in the above points the quicker you can determine this axis point. I called this the “Breakout Moment”. Mine occurred that evening in our family room.
I incorporated much prayer for that moment’s revelation – asking that I would be assured beyond a shadow of a doubt, I enlisted my prayer-warriorAaronesses to hold up my arms and storm the Throne Room on my behalf…and daily they went. Like a soldier reporting to war, I wanted to ensure that I had followed the orders of the Spirit to a tee ~ my survival depended on this.
Structure your Exit Strategy: Develop principles from the start that will guide your journey. Write them down and return to them often. For me it netted to three tenents: 1.) Be honorable in every detail. 2.) Get through this without lasting anger or bitterness. 3.) Purpose to help those behind me in the same situation. Guiding principles will give you a tenable structure to which you can affix yourself when the free-fall feeling of insanity prevails (which for me was daily!)
Develop your support system: I can’t emphasize this enough. It is critical to your survival. As if plotting war strategy, determine your Circles of Support and the criteria for yourself and for those in those circles. For me it was purposing to be transparent and vulnerable. The determining criteria for my support circle were true biblical understanding of the situation, the ability to lovingly speak truth into it, non-judgmental grace and empathy.
This wasn’t hard. In the midst of all of this, like Gideon’s army, my support network was whittled down to a scant core – but mighty they are. My counselor, a recovery-based support group, and three friends whom I could trust would come in the middle of the night if I needed them. Like David’s cave dwelling clan, I refer to them as my “Mighty Band of Brothers”. They have truly grounded me in the insane moments, carried me and believed in me when I could do none of that for myself.
Firmly ground yourself in your Christ given identity and mission: This is no easy task. It incorporates a myriad of components. Make no mistake, you are walking into a gray area of biblical interpretation.
In this situation I needed to understand not so much who I was but whose I was and who was fighting the battle I had been called to. I also needed to have a very clear understanding of exactly what the real battle was.
I experienced the ripping away of the majority of things familiar – they were taken. Our financial resources, my church leadership and family who were ill equipped to handle the level of trauma that was being dealt to our family; the mishandling of the situation by church leadership (ie being told that there are worse marriages in this church than yours, or everyone argues you just need to find a way to make it work, or my parents fought, but ultimately us kids were glad that they didn’t destroy our family unit).
The resulting damage that was inflicted was deep and scarring. There were the friends who just couldn’t bear to walk into the ugly with us and fled as the situational temperature escalated. Or worse, those who attempted to assuage the situation with an inappropriate sense of humor. “Well once he’s gone you can head back out onto the open market.” I have found in these times that understanding of all of our own shortcomings is what enables me to be a good grace extender. We are a broken people dwelling in a fallen world. Learning to extend and receive grace is an integral part of survival.
Another integral part of survival was the rewriting of my own tapes ~ learning and incorporating new habits. Being gentle to myself. Speaking kindly to myself. Forgiving myself. Understanding that I could release myself from the “consummate overproducing” role I had been playing my entire life. Most importantly understanding that I was not abandoned, but had a new-found Groom in Christ. He was now my Kinsman Redeemer and I was His true bride. That enabled me to understand that the situational victory wasn’t contingent on my efforts but was directly correlated to how quickly I could release it to the hands of my mighty Husband Savior. In Him dwells every victory.
Learn to fail victoriously: All these plans and yet we fall. Learning that even in the best laid strategy we will lose some battles to the enemy. Time spent in the penalty box is directly correlated to my unwillingness to repent. I had to learn to fail victoriously. Succumb quickly to the chase of my Relentless Pursuer, quickly confess, look for and assimilate the lesson to be learned, tuck it in my toolbox, forgive myself and move forward. Understanding that the mark of a true failure is a lesson forfeited at the altar of a hardened heart.
I have learned that with a soft heart in my weakest moment I am 100 percent stronger than I ever could believe I was … because of Jesus. (tweet that)
To quote my daughter, “Mom, when all we have is Jesus we are able to most clearly see that He is all we need.” In Him lies the ability to fail victoriously.
In the midst of it all may we hear that still small voice that whispers to our broken hearts, “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in loving kindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord.” Hosea 2:19. May we listen and believe when He tells us, “They looked to Him and were radiant, and they will never be ashamed.” Ps. 34:5
March on, Sisters. You WILL know! If you leave, leave well!
Friends, if you have left well, what else would you want our sisters who are still struggling with knowing whether to leave or whether to stay to know?