I try to be a positive person. I look to see the good in people....even when those people have failed me or hurt me. As I have been recovering and healing from my broken heart and broken marriage, I've had to fight to move forward. Some days I find myself replaying the highlights from the past 22 years. (Thanks Facebook memories and old photos) Holidays and big events with the kids can be especially difficult and send me on an emotional roller coaster.
As I look back at photos, I idealize the relationship and the person I cared for. My mind plays tricks and begins the "what if" game. This game never leads to healing or moving forward. Instead it leads to depression and feelings of despair and failure.
A few months back, I came across a TED Talk video by Guy Winch entitled "How to Fix a Broken Heart". In this video he talked about the trauma of heartbreak and balancing the idealizing with the truth about the other person. He shared that brain studies have shown that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that are activated when addicts are withdrawing from substances like cocaine or opioids. So every trek down memory lane, every text that you send and every second spent stalking your ex on social media is just feeding the addiction, deepening the emotional pain and complicating the recovery.
You think you're searching for answers and apologies and closure. But you're just getting your next fix. No apology...no answer can make what happened okay. Instead of searching for closure you have to choose to let it go. Let go of the anger and the need for answers. Let go of trying to figure out the endless "what ifs" and "if I had only". You have to fight hard to move forward by stopping the idealizing of the relationship.
In the video Guy Winch says, "Don't just remember the things about them that made you smile. Remember the things that made you frown." He advises people to compile an exhaustive list of the ways the other person was wrong for you. And to keep this list on your phone. Anytime there is a hint of idealizing or a whiff of nostalgia, take out the phone and read the list. Your mind will try to tell you that they were perfect but they were not and neither was the relationship. And you have to remind yourself of that frequently.
I needed to remind myself of that often, especially as the divorce was final and I still had so many unanswered questions and very little closure. I was feeling stuck as I saw my ex continuing to move on with his life with ease and no looking back. So I decided to compile my list...on paper first.....then I added it to my phone. I wasn't sure if I would actually read it or not but I figured I'd give it a try.
It didn't take long before my mind started a journey down memory lane and the "I wish's" began. I pulled up the list on my phone and began reading it. As I read the truth about my relationship, I stopped wishing that we were still one. I stopped wondering why things were broken. I stopped idealizing...at least for that moment in time.
I've read the list several times since putting it on my phone. I've been quite surprised at how helpful it has been for me. It's been a great tool for separating image from reality, what I wanted from what I lived, and the truth from the lies. Reading that list has helped me learn more about myself and what I don't want for my future. The love we shared was distorted and costly to my self worth. There were great moments and wonderful memories but so much of what I lived was not genuine or Christ-like love.
The list puts the past memories into perspective and takes away their power over my mind and emotions. It shows me while there was some personal growth over the years, the most important thing never changed. The respect and value for me as a woman just wasn't there. There was nothing that I could have done differently to make that happen. There's nothing that I can do now to change the past or someone else's choices. Every time I forget that, I can read the list and remind myself.
Now with this list you have to be careful and not let it stir up anger and hatred towards the other person or yourself. That definitely will not help your healing process. That's where grace comes in....grace like a flood. And that's the next piece of the healing process that I'll write about in the next blog.
I've learned a lot about myself over the past year as I've been on a journey towards healing my heart. There hasn't been one magic solution to take away the pain and anger. It has been a combination of different advice, Biblical counsel and self-talk that has helped me move forward and not get stuck in the deep pit of depression and despair. At times my progress has been really slow. But God continues to show me new things and reminds me of some things that I had forgotten.
I know that there are many people who are stuck in the pain of heartbreak and can't break free and move forward. So in the next few blogs, I'm going to share some of the things that have helped me keep moving towards healing.
The first thing I learned was that I would experience a wide array of emotions on my journey and I needed to feel those emotions. Really feel them. Embrace them fully as they hit me. Don't bury them or ignore them or wish them away. I needed to feel the emotion and then give it to God.
There were days that I cried a lot and felt deep sadness. Other days I was more angry than sad. One of the best ways for me to process my emotions was through journaling. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. When my mind and heart were overwhelmed it really helped to put the thoughts and feelings down onto paper. Some of those writings I shared on my blog but many were just for me. As I go back and read old journal posts I can see the progress that I have made.
Another way that I embraced my emotions was through music. Some days I listened to the "you don't deserve me" girl power songs or the sad country love songs. Praise and worship music helped lift my spirit and remind me who I was. Singing Scripture help dispel the lies that filled my mind, Lies about being forsaken, forgotten and rejected. Music is still a powerful tool in my healing journey. God uses it to speak His love over me.
It's ok to be emotional. I think too many people think it's a sign of weakness to be hurt or sad when someone betrays them. For some reason we think that we have to just buck up and put on a strong front. But all that does is delay the complete healing of the heart.
There will be good days and there will be rough days. You just have to face each day as it comes. Don't get overwhelmed with looking too far ahead. Don't get depressed by continuing to look back and ask "Why me?" Start each day thanking God for the progress that you have made so far. Ask Him for the strength and courage to make it through the day or just the next hour if it's a rough day. At the end of the day write down the things that are on your mind. Write your fears, your questions, your victories for that day. Write it all down. Get it off your mind and onto paper. You will be amazed out how freeing it is to just dump it all out.
Once all the junk is out, then you can replace it with truth and healthy self talk. It's a slow process but over time you will begin to see signs of healing.
I was listening to an online message this morning from Pastor Michael Todd entitled "U R Loved". He said that love and value go hand in hand. When you love something or someone, you value it...you take care of it. When someone truly loves you, they value you. And when you are loved and valued at a young age, it can make a huge difference in your life as an adult.
"There are extreme differences between children who were valued at a young age and children who were not valued at a young age. When children are valued at a young age, they have the ability to step out and try things that may present danger. They have the ability to comprehend and get through situations of struggle easier. They are able to adapt in other environments easier, as well as they are able to problem solve in hard situations. They can do all of this because when they were younger they were told that they were valued."
As I thought about that, I realized that the strength and abilities and determination I have now is a result of being valued and loved from a very young age. I was raised by two parents who loved me and praised my accomplishments and supported me. They had rules and most of them were pretty strict. I was required to obey and there were consequences when I didn't...because they loved me. My parents were not perfect and they didn't get every parenting decision right. But there was never any doubt that I was loved and valued.
The core strength that I pull from today was planted in those early years of my life. My ability to never give up and never quit comes from knowing that my parents believed in me. So much of who I am now is because of how I was raised.
I am so thankful for loving parents who understood the importance of telling their kids that they loved them and that God loved them even more. Without that foundation, the struggles of my adult life would have overwhelmed me and I would have just given up. I know that whatever I face in this life, that I can handle it. I refuse to let struggles and challenges defeat me.
As I navigate this new life of co-parenting.....solo parenting.....shared parenting, I realize that I am at a loss. Each day I get up with one goal....do everything in my power to protect my kids from the negative effects of this divorce. I try to work a little extra but not too much. I want to be able to pay the bills but still spend time with my kids. I want to be there for as many of their sporting events and activities as possible. When I have to make a choice, I immediately think about how it will impact their current life situation. When I'm asked out on a date, I decline because I know it's too soon....for me and for them.
There is a part of me that would love to just up and move away for a fresh new start. It would be easy to run into the arms of someone new and start a new life. It would make life much easier to have someone to share the financial burden and help heal the emotional wounds. I could self medicate with alcohol or sex to numb the pain. But I can't take the "easy" way out. It's not what's best.....for me or my kids. I know that. I see that. I understand how vitally important that is. It's a long hard journey to healing but the hard work will be worth it on the other side. Only through God's work in my heart and life can I experience true and complete healing, I have to learn to trust Him.
And yet there are so many things with this divorce that are out of my control. There are choices being made that negatively impact my kids. And that is not ok.
It's not ok that my kids don't get overnight visits with their Dad because he doesn't have his own place. It's not ok that someone else's kids get his time instead. It's not ok that another woman considers herself "blessed" when a man spends time with her child instead of his own. It's not ok for my kids to be an "issue to be weighed". I can't begin to understand the reasoning.
There is so little time left before they become adults. In just over three years, the youngest will be finishing high school and moving onto college. The parenting responsibilities will change drastically at that time. They won't need me the same way that they do now. There will be plenty of time then to pursue my "official" new start.
In the mean time, I have lots of work to do. There are bills to pay to keep us in our home. There are appliances needing replaced and rooms needing updated. There are decisions to be made about college choices and career paths. There are lessons that God wants to teach us if we are open to His working. This time is crucial in their lives to help set them on their way into adulthood. My focus has to be on them not me.
I have been on a journey to emotional healing. I have made some progress but I know I have a long road to walk before I am emotionally whole again. Right now I'm dealing with lots of anger. I have processed much of the anger about the affair and the divorce but now I'm finding that I'm angry at myself.
I am angry that I was silent for so many years. I am angry that I didn't have respect for myself and allowed others to disrespect me. I am angry that I didn't understand my value and worth. I am angry that I didn't use my voice. I am angry that I believed that little voice inside that told me that no one else would love an unwed pregnant 23 yr old.
I am angry that I exposed my heart and mind to pornography early in my marriage to help me "connect" with my spouse. I am angry that I chose to walk on eggshells to keep peace instead of speaking truth in love. I am angry that I didn't seek counseling for myself sooner. I am angry that I apologized for others insecurities. I am angry that I was so desperate for love that I ignored red flags. I'm angry that I ignored observations and questions from extended family who loved me.
Recently I've noticed that when I allow myself to be triggered by certain people, I give away my power and allow them to push my buttons. I get sucked in and then get angry at myself for it. I vow to not let it happen again. I do great for a few days and then something is said and I respond instead of ignore. It's such a vicious cycle. And that cycle needs to end in order for me to become emotionally whole again.
Let the next level of healing begin.
The final court hearing took place yesterday. My attorney was allowed to withdraw from representing me. I initially opposed his motion but when he said that I had disrespected him and it was evident that he would take no responsibility for what he had told me, I approved his withdrawal. I was perfectly ok with doing it when I found out that his signature was not needed on the documents.
The documents had been signed by the defendant before the hearing but since the child support worksheet did not reflect his new employer and increased income, I had been advised to not sign. When I explained that to the magistrate, he informed the defendant and his counsel that we would not be filing documents with fictitious numbers. The defendant's counsel used this as an opportunity to bring up my second job and ask that it be included in my income. They also fought to have 2 clauses removed from the shared parenting agreement. One was a clause preventing adults in the home from consuming alcohol when the minor children were present. The other was a clause that had been part of the original document that they drafted stating that the parents would equally pay the costs for extracurricular expenses and school related activities, car insurance and cell phones until the minor children graduate from high school.
I argued for both of those clauses to be kept in there. Raising teenagers is expensive, especially when they play sports and are driving age. The magistrate informed me that when the non-residential parent is paying the required child support then that is suppose to cover any and all expenses. I argued that the clause was in the original agreement that the defendant's counsel drafted. I fought so hard for that to be kept in the agreement. But in the end I lost because that section was not read on the record during the hearing on the 17th. The defendant's counsel was working to make things financially easier on her client.
I thought that decisions that are made during a divorce are supposed to be in the best interest of the children. To keep consistency and a stable environment for the kids. To allow the kids to maintain the same lifestyle that they had before the divorce. I've learned through this entire process that so many things are messed up. The residential parent is responsible for keeping a roof over their head, putting food on the table, providing clothing, making sure that they have transportation, cellphones and paying for all extracurricular expenses. The non-residential parent is responsible to pay a small percentage of their income to financially support their children. This percentage ranges from 10 - 25% in most cases. In many situations the residential parent works multiple jobs, picks up extra hours, and is stretched extremely thin as they try to make ends meet and still be there for their kids. It's almost like the kids lose 2 parents....one moves out and starts a new life with someone else and the other one is constantly working to keep the lights on and food on the table. Neither of those things is in the best interest of the children.
I am thankful that this part of the process has come to an end. I feel like I've been trapped in hell for the past few months. Today I woke up feeling a little lighter and a little freer. Even though things went differently than I wanted yesterday, I know that God is ultimately in control. He has carried me and the kids through so much over the past year. He has provided food, financial support, and friends who show up at just the right time. And today for the first time in almost 3 months, I received child support from the defendant. It's the first step into a better future for my kids.
* Updated for accuracy.
Since I filed for divorce in September of 2017, there has been a series of negotiations between my estranged spouse and myself. We have divided debts and assets. We determined custody and visitation schedules. We argued about what would be acceptable financial support. We argued about him getting a real job. Finally the court set a hearing date for us to finalize our divorce.
After a meeting with my attorney a few days before the hearing, I felt confident that my children would be provided for and that I would be compensated for some of the financial burden that I had carried on my own for the last half of 2017. I thought he would finally have to do what was right. But I had been misinformed.
There would be no financial compensation for my expenses. There wouldn't even be any retroactive child support because a temporary support order was never filed. When I arrived at court that morning, my estranged spouse and his attorney decided to agree to our final proposal. Changes were made and typed up by the paralegal.
We went before the magistrate and the agreement was read on the record. We both stated that we had willingly come to the agreement and believed that there was no chance of reconciliation of our marriage. All that was required was our signatures on the documents so they could be filed with the court.
However, that did not happen. My attorney had agreed to allow my estranged spouse to take a copy of the agreements home to read before he signed the final copy. When I asked my attorney about the filing of the child support order, he told me that it wouldn't be filed until the agreements were signed.
I left court that day so disappointed in what had transpired. My estranged spouse was getting to walk away from ALL but 12% of the financial responsibility for the care of his children from May to December of 2017. And now there would be no child support for January and probably February as well. Because after court I learned that he could take up to 20 days to read the documents before he signed them. And the child support order would not even go into effect until the final divorce decree was signed by the judge. And that could be 2 weeks or more after the documents were filed. The couple that have been providing financial and emotional support to my estranged spouse were at the hearing. Upon seeing them there my attorney informed me that they were clients of his.
It has now been 8 days since we appeared in court and I am still waiting on the documents to be signed. I feel that my attorney failed me and when I confronted him about that he stated that he would be withdrawing as my counsel. Today I received notification from the court that if the documents are not filed within the 20 days then the motion for divorce will be dismissed without further notice.
I have dealt with a lot of emotions over the past week. I have screamed and yelled and cried a lot. I have tried to write this blog several times and just couldn't find the words to explain it clearly. I have felt the sting of betrayal all over again. I have felt hopeless and overwhelmed. But God has been so faithful to show me that he's got me and my kids right in the palm of His hands.
On my way to work at 4:30 this morning, I felt His presence and a peace came over me as He reminded me that He had provided so many blessings in the month of December and January. It may not be right that my estranged spouse gets to neglect his responsibility but you cannot legislate the human heart. Only Jesus can change that and cause someone to do what is right by his children. No court ruling can rebuild what has been broken. No judge can repair the trust in a family. No amount of money can make up for choosing someone else and their children over your own.
There are limits to what a broken legal system can fix. I have come to accept that. Life is not always fair but God is always in control. There is nothing that can stop His plan for my life. I have to be willing to trust Him to deal with the difficult people in my life. I can't expect a secular court system to deal with spiritual issues of the heart.
I will continue to fight for what is best for my kids by standing up for what is right and by kneeling down to give Him what I can't control.
Memories flood my mind today and out of nowhere tears begin to fall. When I think about what could have been it reopens old wounds. When I think about him doing life with her, I get a little jealous. And then I hate myself for caring for someone who chose to walk away without a second thought.
What is going on in my heart and mind today? I have made some great progress in healing my broken heart but all of a sudden I want to know why he didn't fight for me. How was it so easy for him to just move on with someone else? Why am I torturing myself with these questions? I know it must have something to do with our upcoming court hearing.
Tomorrow I will stand before a judge to officially end my marriage.... the clock will stop at 22 years. Twenty two years filled with so much life together......at times it's been messy and chaotic, sometimes beautiful, and other times broken. But now it's ending.
The events of the past year have made it necessary to end the partnership as husband and wife. My head knows that but sometimes my heart tries to ignore the truth. My heart just wants to remember the good times, the loving times, the beautiful times.
But my mind can see the cracks. It remembers the broken promises and hears the hateful words. My mind reminds my heart that he didn't persevere when I needed him. He didn't fight for me above anything else. He didn't uphold his vow to me or to God. He didn't know how to love like Christ. Sometimes he said just the right words but there was no follow thru.
There is no need to try to figure out the why. It just makes me crazy. I must keep moving forward. I must embrace the emotions as they come. Feel them fully then give them to God and ask for His comfort, peace and understanding. I can't get stuck in the "I wish's" or "What if's". This is not a Hallmark movie. This is real life and it's messy and it's complicated. The healing process takes time. And if done correctly then I will learn from what I've been through and become stronger because of it. If I try to move through it too quickly I will just repeat the pain and brokenness with someone else.
Today I will feel deeply and fully all of the emotions from all of the memories from the past 22 years. As I continue on this journey of healing, I will embrace it all....the good, the bad and the heartbreaking. I will continue to embrace it as long as it takes to heal it. I will acknowledge the past's influence on shaping me into the woman that I am. I will also remind myself that my value and worth are found in Christ and not the acceptance or rejection of anyone else.
The words echo over and over in my head, "You helped this situation by being the victim, you are good at that rather than take responsibility. You never appreciated what I did. It was never enough for you....never." I know that they are lies but yet they play on repeat in my head.
I begin to doubt the truth....the real truth of what I know. I must fight the lies with the facts. Denying the truth does not change the facts. Just because someone says something doesn't make it true. It could be their perception or their opinion. That does not make it my truth. I don't have to accept it.
When I weigh the facts, I erase the doubt and silence the lies. I take away their power over me. When I win the internal battle then I have peace and joy. I gain strength and courage to stand up and fight.
I am not a victim. I am a survivor.
I am not a victim. I am a warrior.
I will stand with confidence on the truth. I will not let the lies steal my peace and joy. I will not let the attacks weaken me. I will continue to be strong for those who depend on me.
God is my defender. He will fight for me against my enemies to give me victory. He will go before me and make a way. He is my strength and makes me brave. He walks me through places of trouble and suffering.
There is nothing that anyone can say to me or about me that invalidates who I am and what I am becoming. You can criticize me, attack me, curse me, withhold things from me, speak badly of me, bring false accusations against me or try to shame me to try to defeat me. But I will not be defeated because I am a warrior.
I wasn't born a warrior. My pain shaped me into a warrior.
I became a warrior when I chose to get back up after I was knocked down.
I became a warrior when I refused to back down and stood up for my dignity and my self worth.
I became a warrior when I refused to be a silent victim hiding in the shadows.
I became a warrior when I fought in spite of the fear.
I became a warrior when I refused to allow the pain and struggle to make me a victim.
I became a warrior when I shared my story and refused to be ashamed of it.
I became a warrior when I wiped the tears away and refused to be a slave to bad news.
A warrior is that woman who gets up despite others trying to destroy her. She declares victory even when she can't see past the battle in front of her. She knows God is by her side and that he will work miracles on her behalf.
I am that woman.
Tonight you close the chapter on 2017. Tomorrow you will wake up to a new day....a new year.....a new chapter. Be proud of what you accomplished this year. You have learned about the strengths that you didn't know you had. You have seen how God used your weaknesses to grow your faith in Him. You have provided a home and a stable support system for your children in the midst of chaos and brokenness. You have smiled through the pain and not given up...even when you really wanted to.
2018 will be a year of more growth and new opportunities. Your heart will continue to heal. It's a long process and there will be setbacks. There will be days when you will feel peace and joy overflowing. Then there will be days when the raw pain will resurface and you will find yourself struggling to make it through the day. Don't beat yourself up for having bad days. You lost a lot in 2017 and there is no quick fix to handle the memories and emotions triggered by those memories. You are creating a new normal and a new life. It takes time and patience to process it all.
Continue to trust God to provide for you. He sees what others are contributing and he knows how much your bills are. Nothing is too difficult for him to take care of. He makes the impossible possible. Seek Him and His plans above everything else. He will comfort you like no one else can. He loves you deeply and cares for every detail of your life.
Focus on what's important. Don't get distracted trying to change the behaviors of others. Don't waste time and energy exposing character flaws. Instead focus on growing closer to God and to your kids. Pray for them and continue to teach them to honor God with their choices. Work hard and always strive for excellence in your job. Remember that you represent Christ to your coworkers and customers.
Take time each day to thank God for His work in your life and for the blessings you experience. He has great plans for you in 2018. You can rest knowing that He's in control.
Go to sleep tonight confident in His love, provision and faithfulness to fulfill His promises. Wake up tomorrow with no fear of what 2018 will bring.
Happy New Year!!