I am heading down to Nashville next week for the American Association Of Christian Counselors Conference. I would deeply appreciate your prayers. I will be speaking next Wednesday afternoon for three hours on Counseling Strategies for the Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Thursday morning, Chris Moles and I are presenting a workshop to about 400 people on Counseling the Emotionally Destructive Person.
I have a zillion things to remember and more than that to do to get ready. If you could see my office you would say I’m buried in white papers. So pray I can get it together, pray that I can finish everything I need to do, and pray most of all that people see Jesus and the wisdom of God’s word in my seminars. Hopefully we will begin to train a new generation of Christian counselors who “get it”.
Today’s Question: I am ten years post divorce. I am 68 years old and allowed this man to control me for 33 years. I am angry at myself for all those wasted years of trying harder and harder and harder and my marriage only getting worse and worse. I have gained a lot of weight and I cannot stop overeating.
I have tried to forgive him in every way I know how, but seeing him at family functions and hearing how my adult kids and grandchildren spend every single weekend at MY waterfront home (he got in the divorce) reopens the wounds.
His side of the family has not spoken to me. He told them I “just left” when it was him that initiated the divorce. And right or wrong, I let him totally get the lion’s share of the house and contents because I didn’t want my kids to not be able to enjoy the waterfront home.
I am now at a crossroads. My daughter wants me to move closer to her and her family, but that means moving closer to their dad. He is at every family event and acts like a dirtball to me. My daughter and family, and another daughter, all live there-4 1/2 hours away. It is a big decision moving away from my hometown where I have been for most of my life. It would be a much easier decision if he wasn’t there.
All his family is on his side visiting and spending time every weekend with him. He lied about what happened and here I sit getting fatter and fatter.
My kids don’t want to hear about it anymore. I don’t blame them. They say let it go, and I would really like to. I have overeaten myself up to 210 lbs. and I need to get a grip!
He is such a con artist and manipulator-he manages to charm everyone–particularly women. And the women relatives-they think he is the victim and believe every lie he’s conceived.
Thanks for any ideas you may have.
Answer: I’m so sorry that you are so stuck but I’m glad you reached out for help because you don’t want to continue to allow him or the situation to control you one minute longer.
Let’s take a look at your anger at yourself. You made some choices that in hindsight you’re furious about. You said you’re angry that you allowed him to control you for 33 years. You’re angry that you tried so hard to make everything work to no avail. You’re angry that you let him have the lions share of your marital assets including your waterfront house because you wanted your kids to enjoy it. You didn’t say this, but perhaps you’re even angry that you took the high road and did not tell everyone what a rotten husband or liar he was.
What would it take for you to have compassion on yourself instead of being so angry and disappointed in yourself? Several months ago I invited a guest blogger Kim Fredrickson who talked about her new book, Give Yourself A Break.
What if you could say to yourself, I wish I had been stronger back then so I could have stood up for mysel, but I didn’t know how. I thought I was being a good wife, a good Christian and a good role model for my children. Plus the way I was raised and the church’s teaching on women didn’t give me a role model for a strong, godly woman who made her own choices and stood up to a controlling husband. I did the best I knew at the time. Stop beating yourself up.You can get through this and learn to thrive again.
All of us have regrets about past decisions we’ve made. I’m sure the apostle Paul had tons. But your anger and regret towards yourself is also creating momentum for you to continue making poor choices in your present life – primarily gaining a lot of weight. Let me ask you a question. Is your over-eating a way to comfort yourself in your pain or to punish yourself for not being stronger? Either way putting on so much weight has consequences.You not only feel awful, you’re mad at yourself even.
Now you face some new choices. Are you going to move closer to your daughter? You’re afraid because seeing your ex triggers all the hurt and anger all over again, even though you’ve tried to forgive and let it go.
I wish I had the words to say that would take away your pain. I wish I could say do this or that and you would lose the weight and feel better. I’m not that powerful. But let me just give you some things to think about.
Jesus tells us in this world we will have trials or pain (John 16:33). Life is hard. That’s not going to change. We live in a fallen down broken world where things are not as they should be. Husbands lie and cheat. Wives can lie and cheat too. Families break up and are broken because of sin.
Pain is here to stay and it is part of being a human being living in a sinful world. But suffering is another story and friend, you are not just in pain, you are also suffering greatly. The pain of losing a marriage, a family, a lifestyle, a waterfront house, a reputation, or whatever is dear to you is real. But the way we process our pain and deal with it (or not deal with it) can create more suffering. This is the part that you can change.
You processed your pain by blaming yourself, hating your weaknesses or your passivity or whatever part of you that wasn’t strong enough or capable enough to do things differently. You didn’t know that there was another way to do things and there is no guarantee that if you would have done things differently your marriage would have survived.
You also processed your pain by eating and eating and eating, which created a whole new set problems and you’re miserable.
I don’t think you’re going to be able to do this all alone. I would strongly encourage you to get yourself into counseling where you can have the help you need to let go of your anger towards yourself. You said you did all you could do to forgive your spouse, but I don’t think that’s the problem.
I wonder if the root of this cycle is that you haven’t forgiven yourself. In addition, you need to learn how to cope with your pain and triggers in different ways besides food. Remember, for the first 58 years of your life, even though your husband was who he was and you were in pain in your marriage, your weight was relatively stable. It’s in these past 10 years that you’ve put on all the extra weight.
As you learn to make new choices – from the person you want to be and not the person who is stuck in anger, you will start to change. (Tweet that)
Perhaps you’ll choose to not eat that second helping or to switch french fries out for a tossed salad, or to give up sugar. These small choices over time will make a huge difference if you do them consistently.
You will start to feel stronger, clearer and more in control of your health and your future. You may still have pain when you see the “wicked flourishing” as the psalmist did in Psalm 73, but you’ll also see their end. You’ll realize and experience that when you make good choices for yourself it results in you feeling stronger, healthier and more peaceful, not to mention you will lose the weight.
Here’s the link to a former blog, When You Can’t Forgive Yourself. This also might be helpful.
Friends, when you are caught in a rut of self-hatred and anger towards yourself, how do you get out?