Good morning friends,
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. And if you didn’t, I hope you have let it go and surrendered it to Christ. Life is too short to brood over what didn’t happen. There is a freedom in learning how to let go of those negative emotions and if you need help with that, I teach you how in my book, Lord I Just Want to be Happy.
In this New Year I will be posting some short video clips on helpful ways to manage negative emotions as well as your internal critic. You know, the one that always tells you that you are falling short or are not enough – not good enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not spiritual enough, not pretty enough, etc. When you’re in a destructive marriage, those negative emotions and thoughts can be pretty strong.
I still have a few openings for my group coaching program starting January 13, at 8:30pm. If you’d like more information, please e-mail Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One more thing. I wanted to clarify a bit on my last blog about boundaries and consequences. Although we cannot and should not take responsibility FOR another person’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions, that does not mean we do not have a responsibility toward others, especially those we say we love.
One person wrote to me after my blog and said, “I’m free. I don’t have any responsibility for my spouse.” And although technically she’s right, biblically her attitude represents a lack of love or care for her own part of a destructive cycle. When we take responsibility for ourselves, we acknowledge that we impact and affect other people in our lives. We don’t just callously respond when we cause them pain, “well that’s your problem, I’m not responsible for your feelings.” We can’t take responsibility for them but we can care for them. This is a very tricky dance for those in destructive marriages because you usually have one person who is overly responsible and the other who is not responsible at all. However, the healthy stance isn’t to remove all responsibility but, just to be clear, what you are responsible for and who you are responsible to.
Responsibility to love, to care, to be good stewards of ourselves and our resources, not so that we are enriched, but that God is glorified.
Today’s Question: I divorced my husband 7 years ago and now have been living with him for 6 years. Things aren't any different and for some reason I can't leave. What is wrong with me? He is only nice when he wants something from me. He doesn't work and gets his money from his mom. It is a sad situation. I need to figure out why I am still with him and very unhappy with myself.
Answer: Sometimes we struggle like Paul talked about in Romans 7 where we don’t do what we know we should do and we do what we know we shouldn't do. It makes us feel crazy and helpless. When we get stuck in this place for any length of time we are definitely unhappy. The good news is, you are asking the right questions but I want you to start listening for the answers.
I want to do something different today. Instead of processing this for you, I want to teach you how to process this for yourself. First, let’s start with your biggest question. Why are you still with him? Get a piece of paper and write down all the reasons you haven’t made the break emotionally even though you went through with the legal papers of divorce.
For example, you might write down, I’m afraid to live on my own. I don’t want to leave him alone, I’m afraid he’ll deteriorate and I’ll feel responsible. I feel too guilty. I feel too selfish. I feel scared that no one would ever want me, or I still love him.
You’ve already gotten divorced but perhaps you’re also thinking that God will be displeased with your decision, your children will take sides making it uncomfortable for you to celebrate holidays or family events, or that financially, you will have to live with less. (Although you say he doesn’t work and gets money from his mom, you did not say you if you were financially independent, had a good job and could support yourself).
One clue as to why you stay is you say he’s nice to you sometimes. Especially when you have something he wants. You don’t say what that is but it might be sex, or money (that he doesn’t get from his mom) or favors, acts of service like cooking or laundry. It makes you feel good (important, needed, special) when he treats you nice and maybe you stay because a little niceness is better than none at all.
Once you allow yourself to list all the possible reasons why you have stayed, read them all out loud. Is there one that jumps out that feels “more true” than the others?
Second, I want you to ask yourself what would you feel if he suddenly died? You would no longer be living with him but would you feel the same way as if you didn’t live with him now? Why or why not? Write those things down. Does losing him through death feel easier than losing him through divorce? If so, why? That will give you some more clues as to why it’s hard for you to leave.
Third, I want you to imagine yourself two years from now healthy and happy and no longer living with him. What specific things would be different about you? Write them down.
Now, what I want you to do is to write a letter from your future self – the one that is happy and healthy and no longer living with him and I want you to share with your current self (the one who is stuck) what you learned about yourself from this unhealthy attachment to your ex-husband and how you broke free and grew stronger. What were the steps you took? Who helped you? What specifically did you need to do to get where you are right now (two years in the future?)
Sometimes we hit brick walls and we don’t really know why we’re acting in a certain way. Taking some time to ask ourselves important questions and not only asking, but listening to our answers provide some important wisdom.