You never thought divorce would happen to you. But it did. You may feel traumatized, relieved, hopeful, afraid, or all of the above. What choices will help you heal? How can you learn from your mistakes instead of repeating them? And where is God in all of this?
Michelle and Connie have been where you are. They’re Christian women who are a little ahead of you on the journey. Michelle was divorced seven years and now is happily remarried. Connie is ten years into the journey and at peace with being single. They’ve each made good choices and their fair share of mistakes. In this book they rally their collective experience to help you navigate some of the twists and turns of the post-divorce journey, avoid pitfalls, and emerge stronger and more confident. Today at FaithGateway Women we present to you this exclusive excerpt from The YOU Plan: A Christian Woman’s Guide for a Happy, Healthy Life After Divorce
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Have you accepted where you are so that you are able to begin moving ahead? Or are you still living in a state of denial, unable to face the future?
Regardless of your answer, we are here for you, ready to help you navigate through it all. We understand how difficult it is to reach acceptance, and in no way are we condemning you by asking where you are in your journey. We realize acceptance is a process. It won’t happen overnight; it takes years to move through the healing and the forgiveness, believing and trusting that God has you in His hand. Our hope is that you will recognize where you are and then begin the process of baby steps toward acceptance. One foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking through the door.
YOU and Acceptance Actions
So what are some steps to begin the acceptance process? Let’s evaluate some of questions and then address some things that might be helpful for you to move ahead.
Are you still living in the past?
This is definitely something you have to ask yourself every day: Am I l iving in the past? You will constantly deal with memories, places, and thoughts that remind you of the life you once lived. Here are a few strategies to help you move beyond the past into a new future:
- Stay away from old hangouts for a while.
- For a season don’t listen to songs that are reminders of your past.
- Begin to create new memories with your friends or your kids. Purposely do things that will be memory creating. Take photos and post them around your house to remind you of the new life you are living.
Do you find yourself dwelling on things your ex did?
- Instead of thinking about what he did, think about how you could have added more value to the marriage, ways you could have handled things differently. Ask yourself questions about how you can become better through all you have had to go through.
- Make a list of all the things your ex did and then ask yourself what control you have over them and why you are so intent on thinking about them. Do you want revenge? If so, what purpose will that serve? Will it fix your brokenness? Throw away your list as a representation you are no longer going to dwell on what he did but instead look at yourself and ways to improve who you are. Look at the ways you sin every day – the bad thoughts, the compromising, the desire for revenge – and ask the Lord to heal your heart and give you a new outlook so you can move ahead.
Are you still trying to figure out who was wrong?
- Instead of focusing on who was wrong, focus on ways you should have or could have handled things differently. Every time the temptation to think of how “wrong” he was arrives, set your mind on ways you can improve and things you learned from the wrongs you committed.
- At this point, what difference does it make who was wrong? It didn’t matter in the breakdown of the marriage, and it definitely doesn’t matter now.
Do you look for ways to get revenge?
- We have all most likely known divorced people who have spent their entire lives looking for ways to get revenge. Yet we have to give our desire for revenge and justice over to the Lord. Vengeance is God’s business (Romans 12:19). Remember what we said about drinking the poison of unforgiveness. Not only does it embitter your spirit but it also robs you of a future and of your energy. It is going to take every ounce of energy for you to build your new life and for you to care for your children and their hearts, so wasting it on someone who is now gone from your life is not worth it.
- As hard as it may seem, look for ways to think of something positive about your former husband, even if it is something little. Do what you can to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Despite the tragedy of your divorce, the triumph is yet to come.
Do you feel you have unhealthy boundaries with your ex?
- Are you still operating as if you are husband and wife even though you are divorced? Does he come over when he wants? Does he knock when he comes over? Does he expect you to respond immediately to whatever he needs or asks? Are you still afraid of him? These are some serious boundary issues you should consider and definitely discuss with a professional about how to handle them. It’s easy to get divorced and yet have your ex expect things from you only a married person would expect.
Are you harboring resentment or bitterness?
- Are you focused on everything “he” does? Everything “he” says? Try to keep your thoughts focused on ways you can change and get better, and less on what he has done, did, or is doing.
Are you seeking out a relationship or new marriage to replace your ex?
- Do you find yourself looking for someone? Do you go into each date hoping he will be “the one”? We know how hard it is to fill the void you are currently feeling with the right things. This is why girlfriends who are healthy and further down the road than you in the healing process are so important. Spend time with your friends, and make sure you have plans when the kids are away. Otherwise it is easy to find yourself compromising.
Do you find yourself self-medicating or demonstrating extreme behavior?
- Are you self-medicating with shopping, food, alcohol, men, and distractions to keep you from facing the reality of your life? When we talk about “self-medicating,” we are not referring to medication prescribed temporarily by your counselor for depression or anxiety. We are speaking of how you fill the longing, the hole in your heart, with unhealthy choices. At some point you will have to stop these destructive behaviors to begin the process of healing, and the sooner you rid yourself of the Band-Aids, the faster the healing process will begin. Anything other than the Lord will continue to add heart bruises, destruction, and most of all distraction from your future and from your children.
- When we are in a vulnerable state and dealing with overwhelming feelings of loss, we have found it’s almost impossible for most women to stay completely on track. We are not suggesting you act as if nothing is wrong, but we are suggesting that the road back to a new you is not the road of destruction. Look for things to fill your time that are going to feed your soul and lift you up instead of take you further down into depression. Some things we suggest are feed the homeless, volunteer once a week at a community outreach, or take up a new hobby or sport. These are all things we have both seen women do that have not only helped them stay away from more destructive behaviors but have also helped in the healing of their hearts.
Do you feel stuck or in limbo?
- Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps will help you begin to move out of the fog and into the light. Every day, plan to do one thing to help you forge forward. It could be simply creating a new account in your name, or organizing a family dinner with you as the new head of the household. It’s true, you are the new head of your household, and the kids are looking to you, and other people are looking to you.
- As hard as it is, be the leader and move forward. Day by day begin walking that out. It will get easier, and the longer you walk in your new shoes, the more you will begin to feel comfortable in them.
Do you look for ways to find out what your ex is doing, even if it means using the children?
- I know it is hard not to be curious about what he is doing, who he is seeing, if he is happy, if he’s moved on more easily than you had hoped he would. These are normal curiosities, especially for those who didn’t want the divorce. However, your kids are hurting, and the last thing you want to do is put them in the middle of the two of you. Set aside your desire to know these things in order to keep your kids from feeling more instability and having to make a choice between their mother and father. Their healthiness is dependent on you and your former spouse being able to continue to make them feel loved and not forcing them to choose sides.
YOU and Acceptance Prayer
Lord, help me accept the things I cannot change. Help me entrust to You the things that are unjust, unacceptable, and painful beyond words. Lord, help me let go of my past so I can begin the process of building a future. Help me know what boundaries to create, and give me the strength to implement them. Lord, help me focus on what is of good report and the ways I can become better and not bitter. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Excerpted with permission from The YOU Plan: A Christian Woman’s Guide for a Happy, Healthy Life After Divorce by Connie Wetzell and Michelle Borquez, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014.
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Did you pray that Acceptance Prayer? Go pray that again, slowly, my friend. I know I need to, as well. God wants us to be healed and whole and moving forward in our lives past rejection, abandonment, pain, and bitterness. What question hit the target most for you? Joint the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you!