Bloom for Women

Happy Thursday, friends! Today the podcast I recorded with the folks over at Bloom is live. Check it out as we delve into the inner workings of betrayal and recovery. It was an honor to work with such a rad organization that encourages healing through so many creative outlets.  Click here, grab a cup of coffee, and give it a listen!  

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Book Teaser: The Magical Garden

This next chapter could easily be a book of its own. Here I go into the hilarious stories that came about during the counseling sessions of trying to save my marriage. Now, these are only my personal encounters with therapy. I have dear friends who are incredible therapists, so before you go on thinking I am totally anti, that’s not the case. Catch the teasers of chapters 1-7 here and enjoy a laugh on this Monday morning as you try to visualize a few of the looney sessions I nodded and smiled through.

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8. The Magical Garden

“Friends are therapists you can drink with.” -Unknown

“I would have labeled myself anti-counseling before my life fell apart. My mind operates in an incredibly reasonable fashion and I am not a very emotionally driven individual. With that, I never understood why people needed a counselor’s opinion to guide them through anything. To be clear, this was not an arrogant stance I took, but more so legitimately how my mind processed things. Spelling out the most reasonable and logical choice has always come easy to me.

When I heard BD’s first (G-rated) version of the story, I called a counseling hotline from an organization I trusted. I felt as if I needed a little guidance as to what the hell to do when your husband is involved with another woman. This was outside of my “reasonable” sphere. When I first called for a free over the phone counseling session, I got a recording saying if I left my name and number I’d get a call back in 72 hours. I thought this was hilarious. I felt like I was being put on hold after calling a suicide hotline. Nevertheless, they called me back the next day and told me something that seemed generic at the time, yet I think of it often. They said, “You can’t go outside the marriage to fix the marriage, you must stay in the marriage to fix the marriage.” Truth right there. If something about a marriage is not satisfying or meeting an expectation you have, you work with what you have in the marriage, you don’t try to satisfy it elsewhere.

During the time we were separated I went to a counselor who looked liked a spitting image of Mr. Bean. He was a pretty sensitive guy who drank a lot of green tea (and in turn was frantically running to the bathroom in between clients). When I first started seeing this particular shrink, I was really hoping he would advise me not to expose our daughter to BD’s filth or immorality. I thought maybe this counselor would take my side on this one. I was afterall the victim here! Well, he didn’t. He encouraged me to let BD see our daughter for her sake. She was still so young and needed to bond with her father. Their relationship needed this time together in order to thrive. After some convincing on his part, I saw where he was coming from and am thankful for that advice he gave. I never regretted letting our daughter see her father. That was my main take home from Mr. Bean. All of our other sessions included finding the balance between giving BD time and being a patient wife, while protecting myself from the pain and torture his affair was causing. A simple feat, really. Not.

When BD and I started “working” on our marriage, we began a counseling program that was designed to help restore marriages after an affair. The counselor who designed this program was recommended to us by another couple who’d gone through a similar ordeal. Now, because this man was so well-known for helping couples just like us (in theory), we thought he was completely worth the rate and the drive. The rate was $175/hour (anyone else in the wrong profession?). The drive was about an hour and a half from where we were living. Long drives are super fun when you are with someone you enjoy being with. Long drives are super miserable if you were BD and I on our way to “save” our marriage. On more than one occasion we arrived early to counseling and would head down the street to the local Island’s (the only place close by with a bar) and chug a few beers to ease the nerves. A sweet bartender once asked us, ‘why we were laughing and what was the big hurry?’ ‘Oh us? Just on our way to a marriage counseling program that allegedly saves marriages after an affair’ … Cricket. Cricket. She responded with sad puppy dog eyes, saying that she was proud of us for wanting to help our marriage.

Now, what struck me as funnier than pre-gaming at Island’s was the fact that this counselor was renting an office above a used car lot. Does it get any more sleezy? How do you take anyone seriously that has an office space at that location? Moving on. We would walk to the lobby and wait to get buzzed in as another couple was leaving. Every time this shameful transaction took place, each couple staring the other one down, wondering who was the cheater and who was the victim. You’d be surprised. Okay, enough trash talking about the used car lot.

This program was full of valuable information if two people were willing and committed. At first, the exercises we did to rebuild trust were very helpful. BD would assure me daily. He would take pictures of where he was and show me that he was wearing his ring proudly and brag about the type of husband he knew he could be. He would happily talk of our future and simply, I thought, I can see how we will rebuild and come back stronger! Wow! This is totally possible. Sadly, this didn’t last long, and our counseling sessions started to look like this: BD asking what a professional time frame looked like for improvement in the marriage before calling it quits, BD saying he wasn’t attracted to me, didn’t want to spend time with me, and had stronger chemistry with the other woman. The counselor looking at me with cancer eyes (a term I created after about the millionth person looked at me, blank gaze, as if I just broke the news that I had terminal cancer) and telling me how bad he felt for me. Um, can I get my money back because your pity just made me feel worse!

After not completing this program in full due to the hopeless prognosis from the counselor and BD’s mind on his way to being made up already, we tried another counselor who specialized in emotional intimacy. This was one area of our marriage BD felt that we lacked. This guy had some good things to say, but his prices were outrageous. Once again, BD was a skeptic about all people or things that would potentially help us. This particular counselor did say it may take BD years to get over the affair and that I should be “open” in helping ease his transition back to the marriage. This made me want to throw up. We didn’t go back to that million dollar joker.

After BD checked out from all counseling endeavors, I started seeking some counseling for myself. In hindsight, this was hilarious. I went to two women. I had only gone to men counselors before because I felt as if I would connect with them better. I had the preconceived notion that female counselors would just be sobbing at the story I told and would only give me emotional advice. I know in reality this was a silly thought and had little truth to it.

Anyhow, I made an appointment with a lady whose office was close by and who was covered under our insurance. Our first and last appointment went a little something like this… Me telling her our story, her looking at me with a blank stare. Me judging her velvet choker and the fact that she still had the price tag stickers on the bottom of her hideous heels, her ranting about how there’s no magic number in terms of a time frame for emotional attachment between BD and the homewrecker. After hearing the phrase, “magic number” 100+ times that hour, I decided to just say no to the velvet choker.

A preview of the next lady I saw includes a garden, chanting, communes of open marriages, and a whole lot more crazy where that came from. (more on those sessions in the book).

Even through all of the laughable moments of counseling, I do now see how they are beneficial. In a marriage, sometimes that third party is necessary (and not how BD would define “third party”). I did learn a lot from the advice of these professionals. I would encourage women and couples to seek a counselor you connect with and that shares your beliefs. With that being said, I wholeheartedly stand behind that trusted friends who share your beliefs and know you intricately can at times be the best counselors. I suppose, for what it’s worth, that’s where I stand on counseling. Not quite as anti as I was before, but not completely sold either.”

Embrace the Detour

I am excited to announce that this morning my story will be up on Life of Scoop! Check it out! 
“Life of Scoop exists to encourage bold authenticity rooted in grace. This is accomplished through writings about personal growth, Biblical truths, encouragement, and challenges to daily living. Basically, it’s some good soul talk mixed with the real of life.”

embrace divorce life of scoop

 

 

Book Teaser: All You Need is Love (not)

As I read through what I have for this chapter of the book, I felt that it started off a tad too cynical for my liking. The point that I was trying to make was that the love you need for marriage is not one solely based on infatuation, but on committing to the action of love. You’ve heard it before, love is a verb. Anyhow, I took this teaser from a little further into the chapter. The time frame for this chapter was 9 months into the affair, 5 months since he had moved out. This chapter was our turning point, the period of time where everyone thought a miracle had happened in our marriage. My ex-husband came home, wanting me back, wanting our life back, scared to death that he almost lost it all. Well, spoiler alert! These desires weren’t exactly genuine. Here’s a little preview of the chapter that could have been a turning point toward a restored marriage, but instead was a turning point toward the new life God wanted for me. And as always, read chapters 1-6 if you haven’t already!

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7. All You Need is Love (not)

“…I love holidays, probably more than the average female. The flowers, the cards, the gifts, the dinners, the cocktails … I just love celebrating! With this in mind, BD took full of advantage of making his grand take me back plea on Mother’s Day. And was it ever grand. Had he followed through with anything he said that day, we would be sipping pina coladas on a beach in Mexico right now. Mother’s Day morning we went to our favorite restaurant where we’d celebrated many occasions in the past. It’s not a real kid type of place, but we brought our daughter anyhow and it made it all the more wonderful. I sipped mimosas, she was smiley and adorable, and there was the man I married returning from a five month “deployment” from our family.

After we had been sitting and sipping for a little while, BD handed me an envelope. Inside the envelope was a heartfelt card (he always had a way with words) and some hand-made coupons. After I read each coupon, he then went through each promise adding his own personal explanation. As we both had tears in our eyes looking at one another, he said, ‘if it’s okay with you, I’d like to put this back on for good’ and pulled his wedding ring out of his pocket.

Sounds like the scene of a (somewhat twisted) romantic comedy, right? Well, in the months to come there was nothing romantic or comedic about anything in our marriage. I knew this was going to be real hard. I knew that trust needed to be rebuilt and restored. I knew there’d be sad days and even more awkward ones. I knew that we needed joint determination for our marriage to be salvaged. Most disturbing, in a sense, I knew I was going to have to watch my husband go through a breakup. Well, the homewrecker was not ready to let him go and her hold on him was pretty damn strong.

The day BD moved all of his belongings back into our home was full of crazed emotions. I left for the day with our daughter and gave him time to sift through and re-organize his life back into ours. I recall this day being difficult for him. We didn’t go into details of sorts, but he was leaving behind this disgusting life that he wasn’t ready to completely let go of. Leaving behind a whirlwind of elated forbidden experiences. Both of our hearts were sad this day, but for different reasons. That night was a fun and familiar one. We watched a movie together, enjoyed some favorite foods, and drank some beers. We felt like us again. The fun was there. Smiles, laughter, and our familiar love for one another. If only we could ride that high out for longer than an evening.

The happy would happen and then, what felt like immediately, the sad came to match it. The next day, I was reorganizing our closet and dresser. Finding places for his clothing to once again live. As I was unpacking his bright blue duffle bag, I started noticing shirts I didn’t recognize. Ones he had most likely purchased with her. A style that wasn’t quite mine or his …

The first month BD was home, he was still in contact with the other woman (behind my back). Their attachment was strong and seemed to have this delusional power over him. Emotional attachment is a bitch and is not easily broken. When the attachment is strong and still alive, no real work can be done on the marriage. And any work on the marriage that is attempted while the supposed attachment is still alive is not beneficial. It gave BD a false sense of ‘impossible’ in terms of the outcome of our marriage. All he could focus on was the fresh ‘heartbreak’/loss of ‘real love’. It became pretty clear, BD was not really ready to fight …”

Image by Philip Leclerc

Book Teaser: Judge Not

First off, I want to keep you in the loop and let you know that Her Soul Repair is officially on Pinterest and Bloglovin. If either of these sites interest you, please follow along! 

My book has been at the forefront of my mind lately as a release date has been put in place. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I have a lot more to do in order to complete it on time, but there have been many moments of inspiration lately that have once again confirmed this endeavor. If you haven’t read the teasers of chapters 1-5, you can catch them here. The teasers may seem choppy, but only because you’re getting bits and pieces of a full chapter. Everything you read actually happened. The events, conversations, reactions and so on are not exaggerated. Chapter 6 has been one of the biggest life lessons learned from this saga. Read on for a glimpse at that lesson.

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6. JUDGE NOT

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” -Mother Theresa

“I would say I generally like myself. There’s not a whole lot I would change about who I am. However, the one thing that I could do without is what feels like the constant judgments that float around in my mind. I’ve always been more judgey than I’d like to admit. Some days it seems that before noon I’ve already judged your outfit, your boyfriend, your bedding, your parenting, and your choice of Instagram filter. If I’m not careful, my mind will be on the slippery slope toward Judgey McJudgerson. That being said, I do try to redirect my thoughts and not fixate on the tendencies that leave me judging everything in sight.

My perspective definitely shifted during my time of limbo. I was all of a sudden feeling judgment from total strangers. Yes, I brought my 1 year old daughter to happy hour and yes, she is crying and yes, I need this drink more than you and your fake boobs (insert the irony of me making a judgment about her latest enhancement).

I look like death at Target? Puffy eyes and pissed off scowl? Well, turn your dirty look the other way. My husband just left me, out of nowhere, and for no good reason. Back off!

Then, there’s the age old comparison/judgment among mothers. Your kid is speaking in full sentences at the age of one? Awesome. Mine is fed and alive. Considering my current circumstances, I’d call that even.

And last, but certainly not least, there was the acquaintance judgment. People who didn’t really know me and only knew half of our story. I could just read their thoughts by that look on their face … Oh your husband had an affair? Well, I bet you can’t even remember the last time the two of you had sex? Do you even own a piece of lingerie? I bet you never let him go out with friends, probably suffocate all aspirations he has and demean the hobbies that make him feel alive. YOU must try to micro-manage and control his every move. No wonder he did this. Do you blame him?

Disclaimer: Even if each component I listed above contributed to the crumbling of your marriage, it does not give reason for the selfish act of an affair.

For me, it was worse because I wasn’t the stereotype. Our sex life was plenty healthy. And I love lingerie. BD spent countless nights playing ping pong with his brother. He is a very talented man and I encouraged him daily to use that talent in every way he could. Hobbies? Oh he had em! From playing drums to making cheese! I stood by every side of him. The confusion lay all the more thick.

You don’t know what people are going through or what their story is. If they look like hell in Trader Joe’s, give em a smile or look the other way. No need for the concerned look of disgust. I am not going to beat a dead horse in this chapter. Just be careful of the look you give the lady with a baby in the bar. You don’t know what her life looks like behind the scenes.”

Keep On, Keepin’ On

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Women write in by the week who are victims of infidelity. More often than not they are on the verge of finalizing their divorce or starting life as a divorced twenty/thirty-something. However, some of my most prayed over followers are the ones who are still married and trying to rebuild after the trauma of an affair. I pray for you often and diligently. You are making the brave choice. The choice that some of us weren’t given. Not in any way am I saying it’s an easy choice though. Quite the opposite.

There’s no denying when you’re in this place the days are long, the conversations are awkward, and it feels like you’re living with a complete stranger. You cling to any shared moment of laughter or fond memory that comes about. I am not in any way dumbing down what you are living through. However, it’s not impossible to rebuild with two willing partners. God will honor your effort and obedience.

As I was perusing some favorite marriage blogs the other morning, I stumbled upon a handful of new ones I hadn’t heard of before. I guess I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum for a while now, meaning healing from divorce not fighting for my marriage. Glimpses of that period still feel fresh in my mind though. I still enjoy and of course, stand behind those blogs and writers who have a full ministry based around enriching marriages. One new blog I found was called, Beating The 50 Percent. One piece of advice they offered for couples was something called Navigator’s Council. This includes a series of questions to discuss with your spouse.

“Each week we ask each other a series of questions that we came to a consensus on during our honeymoon. Many of them are similar to the “marriage journal” questions that our premarital counselor’s urged us to use, but we added/subtracted/changed a few. These are the seven questions we ask each other and record our answers in our Navigator’s Council journal every Sunday.

Navigator’s Council:

  • What brought you joy this week?
  • What was something that was hard this week?
  • What’s one specific thing I can do for you this week?
  • How can I pray for you this week?
  • Is there anything that’s gone unsaid, convictions, confessions, unresolved hurt?
  • What’s a dream, desire or thought that’s been on the forefront of your mind this week?
  • How are we stewarding our finances?
  • How is our sex life?

Ask each other a question. We always end our time in prayer.”

These questions are easy to think about when you’re bright-eyed, riding the newlywed train. They are much harder to delve into when you’re attempting to bounce back from an affair. While you’re already making the bold choice to work on your marriage after the heartache you’ve experienced, give it that extra go and embrace vulnerability. Stay open to the connections that are looking to sync up again. Look to the future and the vision of your restored marriage. Be the couple that will come out of this on top. Three cheers to you for choosing faith over fear.  

Image by Jen B. Peters

Book Teaser: When in Limbo

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Is there anything worse than a season in limbo? Especially when it comes to your marriage, something you’ve deemed unwavering and permanent. The post-affair waiting game is a suffocating time of uncertainty. There’s no real way around it. However, there are ways of handling it wisely. I spent a lot of time reading, praying, and strategizing my next steps during this period of separation. Chapter 5 will let you in on what I discovered. As with all of the teasers, please read the previous chapters if you haven’t already.

5. WHEN IN LIMBO

“‘Death itself would be easier to tolerate than being tossed aside like an old shoe. Those who have experienced such a loss tell me that the most painful aspect is their own loneliness- knowing that their unfaithful partner is comforted in the embrace of another.’-James Dobson

During the time we were separated, the emotions I experienced ranged from the pits of hell to the most hopeful of optimists. Allow yourself both. You ARE going through hell. There’s nothing worse. Don’t pretend otherwise, but get through each moment, one by one. Moments of joy will come that have nothing to do with the state of your marriage. This is good! Take the happiness when it comes. Do what you can to take care of your soul and be proactive about keeping yourself in a healthy state of mind. Keep your mind in check, focused on all that is right and just. Wondering what or who your husband is doing will not help anyone. Focus on what will help the healing of your CURRENT heart and mind. Don’t get too ahead of yourself. It’s all a lot to take in.

What helps the empty bed and lonely nights? Well, there are many ways to fill that void. Ones that don’t include other men in that empty bed. Stay super busy, make dinner plans, find a new favorite TV show (a comedy), go outside, bask in the sunshine, surround yourself with encouraging people, be honest with yourself about what you need, and communicate those needs to loved ones.

Think about yourself and maintain self-respect, BUT make the decision to be a fighter. Your husband has been taken from you! Nothing about this was your doing. Will you sit back and play the victim or will you pull out the big guns and give your marriage the 110% you agreed to on your wedding day? Fight like hell to keep your marriage and family together. That is the way it was intended to be. Some seasons of marriage are light-hearted, all full of laughter and joy. Others bring us to dark and desperate places. These seasons are only meant for the strong of heart. The ones who won’t give up on the vows they took.

When you’ve been hurt in unimaginable ways, it is time to fight with unimaginable might. And this doesn’t have to be made known to your husband necessarily. Actually, if he’s left you, I recommend you sharing very little about where you stand in terms of the marriage. It may seem childish, but it is how they operate (like children). Tough love at its finest. James Dobson wrote a wonderful book called, Love Must Be Tough. Here are a few of my favorite and most helpful excerpts …

‘Some especially immature people absolutely have to feel there is a challenge in the relationship to be satisfied with it. Such individuals might even need to hear the door starting to close on the marriage before wanting to hustle back inside.

‘Ridiculous!’ you say. Of course it is. We only have one life to live so why spend it testing our loved ones and measuring the limits of their endurance. I don’t know. But that’s the way we are made. Why else will a toddler or a five-year-old or a teenager deliberately disobey his parents for no other reason than to determine how far Mom and Dad can be pushed? That same urge to test the limits causes students to harass teachers, employees to challenge bosses, privates to disobey sergeants, and so on. And regrettably it leads some husbands and wives to test the ones they love, too. What is required in each instance is discipline and self-respect by the one on trial.’

‘Instead of begging, pleading, wringing your hands, and whimpering like an abused puppy, you as the vulnerable partner must appear strangely calm and assured. The key word is confidence, and it is of maximum importance. Your manner should say, ‘I believe in me. I’m no longer afraid. I can cope, regardless of the outcome. I know something I’m not talking about. I’ve had my day of sorrow and I’m through crying. God and I can handle whatever life puts in the path.’ …

Love Must Be Tough was a hard pill to swallow for me as I shifting out of the role of loving and devoted wife. One day it hit me though. That phrase, “Have your cake and eat it too.” BD was having endless helpings of cake. He had his wife, his baby, and his house in one hand and the homewrecking girlfriend in the other. Livin’ the cheater’s dream. This scenario takes much more strategy than the loving and devoted wife had up her sleeve.

He has left you for her (barf). You’ve been wronged. Really wronged. But!, as long as there’s still hope for your marriage, continue protecting whatever character your husband has left. If your marriage is restored and all works out happily ever after (with a shit ton of work), you won’t want to justify to people why you stayed and why you’re still married. Not everyone NEEDS to know. Sharing with people who will show the support you need is crucial, but be mindful. You have more grace for your husband than your girlfriends or your parents do. You don’t want a million awkward dinners in the future.

Come up with a standard and succinct response for anyone who asks where your spouse is or how you two are doing. This will keep you from telling unnecessary details to unimportant people. I laughed out loud one night while watching Sex and the City. One of the main characters, Charlotte, was recently separated from her husband. She was at a party and when someone asked her about the separation she said this, ‘We’re separated – not legally separated, nothing legal, oh God no!’ It gets real awkward real fast and it’s easy to ramble. I am not proud to admit how many conversations I found myself in with people who simply wanted a one word answer as to how I was doing, and were given the latest episode of Jerry Springer. Practice your responses. It will save you from that conversation at the party when you’re ranting to a stranger when they simply ask how you are. ‘Oh, I’m fine, well, not really fine. My husband and I aren’t really ‘together’ right now. But nothing is final and no, we haven’t talked to lawyers!’

Keep your head up, keep fighting, and stay true to all of the wonderful things that make you who you are.”

 

Book Teaser: The Blame Game

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If you haven’t read chapters 1-3 of my book teasers, check them out here! This next chapter is near and dear to my heart as it is a slippery slope women can fall into once they’ve found out about their husband’s infidelity. News of an affair is a huge blow to even the most confident person. One thing I can assure you is searching for ways to blame yourself won’t lessen the blow. Enjoy the teaser and I beg of you, steer clear of the blame game.  

4. THE BLAME GAME

“Sadly (and believe me, I wish this wasn’t the case), it is not all the seductive act of an adulteress as to why any of this happened. Why she picked him and why he embraced her is not always important. Those details are rarely helpful in the healing process. She may have “came after” him, but life is about choices. Every. Day. And when we talk about severity, he broke his lifelong vows and abandoned his marriage. She cheated on a silly boyfriend. There’s a big difference.

When I first found out about the whirlwind that was my husband’s double life, my mind was playing the rerun on steroids game. I would rethink every conversation, every phone call, every place he had been, doubting the truth in all of it. And how easy it is to assign every personal flaw or insecurity to a different portion of why this happened in the first place. If your mind has the tendency to play this game, STOP IT.  The reasons husbands cheat have very little to do with their wives. There is no perfect spouse, so why focus on any flaws you brought to the marriage. Any mature beings would voice unmet needs, work together to improve them, and above all commit to one another regardless of feelings or circumstances. Welcome to marriage!

The reasons given for why an affair happened are never the REAL reasons. There are much deeper emotional issues behind why a man leaves his wife and family. The selfishness is deep rooted. The delusion is thick and the lies are ones they have clung to for far longer than you know. Don’t blame yourself. Nothing about who you are excuses your husband’s choices.

One of my life lines and recommended reads to anyone who has experienced this type of betrayal is, Shattered Vows by Debora Laaser. It’s funny how before this happened to me I would have glanced at this self-help book, thinking to myself, ‘How dramatic! Get a grip, women!’ Now, of course, I see the title of this book as nothing but fitting. Shattered is the only way to describe the state of your world when there has been such an intense deception. This book helped me understand the whys behind affairs. It shed some much needed light on the common issues that lead to an affair.

The chapter I will focus on helps answer, “How Could This Have Happened?” … Who to blame? The wife? The husband? The culture? Well, let’s be real the reason behind this poor of a choice comes from a web of undealt messes.

‘Infidelity of any kind is really about searching for something that is missing in one’s life- and probably has been missing for a very long time. It is about using a false substitute for something genuine that is desired. It is an intimacy disorder- a need to connect at a deep emotional and spiritual level with one’s spouse and with others but a lack of the skills to do so. The problem, then, is much deeper than sexual impurity itself. It is about a yearning for something more and a determination to find more- even at emotional, spiritual, and relational prices no human being can afford.’

The problem is never the problem! The way we cope with the problem is the problem … Sexual acting out is always a sinful choice. Still, you need to understand that it is about coping with feelings such as anger, fear, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, boredom, and disappointment.’

‘I want you to hear again: your husband’s sexual betrayal is not about you. You didn’t cause it. It is one of his ways of coping with painful feelings, and it is a horrible, sinful choice. All coping is destructive to those who turn to it. Over time and with repetition, any coping mechanism can become addictive. And whether it is sex or food or work or rage or withdrawal, the consequence of turning toward coping mechanisms instead of safe people and healthy choices is that you will slowly lose your heart- your connection to God and to people you love.’

Oh my!! These words were, and on the hard days, still are my saving grace. It is very important that you do not wear the weight of your husband’s choices in any way, shape or form. New insecurities will be coming at you hard, fight em off. Hold on to the core of who you are. Remind yourself of the amazing qualities that make up your worth. It may seem odd and some may even deem it vain, but for the time being, it’s very necessary. Don’t focus on why your husband made the choices he did. You can’t control his choices. You can’t control his desires. And you sure as hell can’t control the path he will ultimately take. However! You can control your reactions to this horrible hand you’ve been dealt. You can control what you allow your mind to fixate on. Above all, you can control the path you take, the one lined with obedience that WILL move you forward.”

Image by Elissa Anne Photography

Valentine’s Survival Guide

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Only a few short weeks after my ex-husband initially left, Hallmark’s favorite love holiday greeted me in full force. The timing of this felt like pounds of salt being poured on my broken, wounded heart. As if losing my husband to the other woman wasn’t enough, I was now reminded that she would also be his valentine. This very notion still gives me a stomach ache if I think about it for long enough. Not spending this day with my husband was a piercing reminder of how much pain I was in. There’s nothing worse than a man who’s already accounted for in the arms of another, especially on days marked by love and romance.

This day should have been excruciating. And believe me, it was no walk in the park. However, the body of Christ showed up. Family and friends decided to host a dinner all together and save the coupley outings for another time. Halfway through the gathering, my sister-in-law (who has the heart of a saint) handed me a basket full of wine, chocolate, spa gift certificates, and handwritten cards of encouragement. These cards were not only from people who knew me, but from people I had never met. Each one expressing they were praying for me and my marriage. Thinking back to this moment makes me weepy. Strangers and loved ones alike praying for my heart, my marriage, and the reunion of my family. Couples sacrificing a date with their spouse so I wasn’t alone. There I stood, immersed in the body of Christ. I could hardly believe the compassion and generosity.  

Psalm 34:18 tells us, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I clung to these verses. Accepting these promises did comfort me, but tangibly seeing God’s closeness through the support of my friends and family was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It felt different than a simple act of kindness. This community of Christ was near to me, holding my broken heart. If you are further along in the process of grieving your valentine, I encourage you to find a broken heart to comfort. The only ones who truly know the pain are those who have gone through it. James 1:27 says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” I believe that women who have been left by their husbands are modern day widows. We are called to visit, comfort, and help them through their grieving. Find a way to create some cheer for their broken heart. Surprise someone with flowers, send them a card, take them out for coffee, offer to babysit their kids … Do something to make these women feel appreciated and loved.

If you are that broken heart, I am sorry. There’s nothing worse than feeling like not only is your life in pieces but your heart and soul are as well. Your pain is real and consuming, but here are some tips to get through this day of love.

  1. Stay off Social Media. Knowing what all of your friends’ boyfriends/finances/husbands are doing to make their partner’s Valentine’s Day romantic perfection will not help the state of your heart. Comparison is the thief of joy. When your joy is low and your heart is hurting, comparison will destroy you.
  2. Keep it Kid Focused. If you have littles, start the day with heart pancakes and strawberry milk for breakfast. Line up crafts galore. Make love bugs and handmade cards. Break out the heart aprons and bake some festive cookies. Make a special dinner. Pick a movie and let your kids stay up late with you. Cuddle up and hold those tiny hands.
  3. Rally Your Single Friends. If you don’t have kids or if you do and would rather go this route … Plan a spa day or day trip with single girlfriends. Have a night in with fun cocktails and a delicious dinner (takeout counts). Line up the romantic comedies and cheers to the love of good (single) friends.
  4. Treat. Yo. Self. I must warn you of this slippery slope before I encourage your next big purchase. During the course or my separation and divorce my home went through a top to bottom makeover. New paint, new furniture, new decor. Every holiday (or weekday, at that) warranted a new item. Be careful with this one, but on Valentine’s Day, please buy yourself some sort of pick-me-up. It will make for some temporary happiness, which is sometimes the best we can do.
  5. Solo Retreat. It’s often difficult to discern the future when you’re mid-separation/divorce. There are so many unknowns and sometimes you really don’t know if you’re doing the right thing by proceeding with the divorce. Perhaps this Valentine’s Day you can spend the day at a retreat center or a mission. Go to mass, talk to a priest, spend the day in prayer, listen for God, read and meditate on scripture. Spending time alone to spiritually reflect on what to do now or simply fixating on God’s love for you is a peaceful way to spend this holiday.

Hopefully one of my suggestions resonated with you and will be of help. If you are on the healing end, I encourage you to be the body of Christ to someone who needs love. We are His hands and feet, let’s do what we can to mend the sadness of heartache. My Valentine’s prayers will be for all of the Her Soul Repair community. Whether you are freshly separated, just trying to survive your first Valentine’s Day alone or your heart is healing, but you’re still on your own or you’re discerning what a new love looks like on this day, I am praying for you. You will get through this and your heart will be whole again.