Running on Empty…or Just Running?

Most of us of a certain age are familiar with the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” in which Julia Roberts portrays Maggie, a young woman who really wants to be in love and happily married, but every time she gets set to walk down the aisle to marry the man she thinks is the man of her dreams, she turns and runs away as fast as she can. In her wedding gown, leaving her bewildered fiancé alone at the altar.

This romantic comedy, actually filmed in a small town a few miles from where I grew up, of course had a happy ending. After all, Maggie knew she wanted to be in a happy, committed relationship; it just took her awhile to find that right person who could ease her fears of rejection and give her the confidence to make a marriage work.

But so many times it doesn’t work that way.

Because we’ve been hurt so badly, and have so many scars and bruises, we form a shell around our heart that’s so hard, almost nothing – or no one – can break it.

And those scars, those terrible memories, keep flooding back to us when we’re getting comfortable in a relationship, when we finally think this one will work. And all of a sudden the bad memories outweigh the new happy ones we’re making. To the point we become so scared of being hurt again, we’d rather give up and be alone, bury ourselves in other interests, in order to avoid the slightest possibility of being hurt again.

Sure, our friends are happy with their husbands or wives, but we tell ourselves we’re happy just the way we are. We go places with them, have a great time, and then go back home, by ourselves, and wonder why we can’t find what they’ve found. Surely that happiness exists somewhere? But then we remember those other, really bad times, and grab a book and read til we fall asleep.

All too often men and women both are so afraid their past mistakes, their past hurts, will repeat themselves, they’d rather give up than try, because giving up doesn’t hurt as much as failure. Trust is hard to earn, and harder to give, especially when past relationships ended badly.

But running away isn’t the answer either. Running as a sport may be healthy, but running from problems or perceived problems isn’t. Facing them is hard; letting yourself trust and love again is even harder.

When I met my husband of 32+ years, I was just coming out of a second and disastrous marriage, and the last thing I wanted was another relationship. In fact, I’d decided I was done, and wanted nothing to do with dating, and certainly not another serious relationship. My trust factor was gone, and I didn’t want to revive it.

Fortunately my now husband eventually convinced me to trust again, to love again, and to stop running FROM and start running TO.

No, it isn’t easy. There are always going to be a lot of twists and turns!

Guarding your heart is a good idea, because you don’t want to give it away to just anyone. But in the same context if you hold on to it and never give it to anyone, your heart will eventually waste away. Love is meant to be shared with someone else, and no matter how badly you were hurt previously, your heart still longs to try again and take a chance.

It’s your head that’s preventing it. Your memories of those bad times you’d rather forget, and every time your heart ventures out of its comfort zone to possibly love again, your head grabs it and locks it up again. And eventually your heart gives up.

While your head wonders why you’re so lonely.

We weren’t created to be solitary people. We were created to be with someone we love. We make mistakes, and sometimes we get hurt. But that shouldn’t mean we don’t try again.

Because that person we were created for, we were meant to be with, could just possibly be standing there waiting to love us. And we miss it because of fear.

I could’ve missed it. Thank goodness I didn’t.

If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to put those emotional running-away shoes away and let your heart venture out again. To give it a try one more time.

And instead of running away, run somewhere together. Take a short run at first, then gradually make those runs a bit longer.

You may be surprised at the results.

Hidden Lives

Almost all of us have them, or have had them at one time, in one form or another. Secrets we don’t want others to see. Secrets that are so embarrassing and hurtful that we sometimes tell ourselves those secrets aren’t even ours; they’re someone else’s; we just THINK they’re ours. Then we stand by and gasp in horror as we hear how someone we know and care about has fallen from grace; has hurt someone they love in such a bad way we don’t know how they’ll recover from it.

Then we go back to our own secret lives and say…but that’s different. I’m not really hurting anyone by doing this thing or that. After all, who really knows about it anyway? And as long as no one else knows, except maybe one or two other people who won’t say anything anyway, it’s not hurting anyone, right?

Those secrets can be so many things. As simple as shoplifting and never getting caught when you were a teenager. Cheating on a test in high school or college. Hitting another car when no one was around and telling your parents or your spouse you came out to the parking lot and found it like that.

Or much more serious secrets. Cheating on your spouse, or cheating with someone else’s spouse. Illegal drug use or even dealing. Secret drinking or even alcoholism. Embezzlement or other stealing from your workplace. Pornography. Prostitution. Failure to pay your bills because your money is going to gambling or other illicit activities. The list of hidden lives can go on and on, and many people may have even more than one secret life they’ve buried.

On the outside everything looks perfect. We go to work as usual, and usually put on a really good front. We take care of our families and go to our children’s sports events and concerts. Go out with friends. Go to church, sometimes even being in a position of ministry. In fact, because we do so much good, we sometimes don’t even consider that those hidden lives are wrong.

But if your spouse knew what was going on behind his/her back, most likely that spouse wouldn’t be your spouse much longer. How would your friends and family feel if you were suddenly arrested for dealing drugs, selling pornography, or dabbling in prostitution? If your employer discovered what you’d been doing behind his back, do you think you’d still have that job; do you think you’d not have to face the consequences, including possible jail time? If your family knew the bills weren’t being paid, how would they feel, knowing their lives were only an inch or two away from being turned upside down and their ending up on the street?

Think about it. If those lives have to be hidden, doesn’t it mean that maybe, just MAYBE, there’s something wrong? We think no one sees our hidden lives, and we’re quite happy about that. Relieved, even. Because we like to keep our little secrets, don’t we? After all, who are we really hurting as long as no one else knows what’s going on?

We even think we’ll never be found out, and that we can end that hidden life any time we want to. But we don’t. Because it’s too much fun. It’s a break from the boring routine life has become; it makes us feel better about ourself; or it’s a way to potentially make some extra much-needed cash we won’t have to share with anyone, or pay taxes on!

But we’re wrong. Someone does see those hidden lives….has seen them from the time that hidden life, or lives, started. Our conscience sees them, knows they’re there, knows what we’ve been hiding is wrong. But we tell it to be quiet, because we know what we’re doing, and we KNOW we can handle it.

Those hidden lives only get stronger the longer we live them; the longer we try to keep them hidden. And sooner or later, they’re going to break out, and stop being hidden. Because they will destroy the life we’re currently trying to live, or make everyone believe we’re living. The world will then see what’s been hidden, and then what will we do?

The things we keep hidden, whether they’re thoughts in our mind we don’t want to acknowledge, or something we’ve done in our past that we hope no one ever discovers, or an entire other life we’re living in secret…these things will eventually destroy from within. And as they destroy us, they will also destroy the ones we love.

What are you going to do with your hidden lives? Are you going to keep trying to live within them as an escape from your real life, or will this be the day, or the week, or the month that you finally kill that hidden life, and bury it forever in the sea of forgetfulness? Never to be remembered, retrieved, or resuscitated.

The decision is yours. The choice is yours.

You have so much to gain, or everything to lose.

 

Author’s Note: This is not aimed at anyone we know. It’s a piece I have been working on for a year, and felt this was the time to post it. If it touches someone’s heart, please act accordingly.

Rocky Road – It’s Not Just Ice Cream

Whatever the reason for one spouse deciding to leave the other, it’s never easy. Sometimes it’s a total shock; with no warning whatsoever. One day they’re there, and the next day they’re not. Sometimes it’s a cumulative effect from weeks and months of arguments and miscommunication. Try as you might, it’s just not working like it should any more, and one of you decides something has to be done.

Sometimes decisions are made in anger. Without thinking them through; without thinking about long term consequences.

Without stopping to think you may be wrong.

And after a few months, one or both spouses realize they may have been wrong. That they acted in haste. They should’ve tried harder; should’ve talked things over more; should’ve thought about the other person’s feelings just a bit more; should’ve looked at things their spouse’s way, instead of just their own.

Maybe they should’ve truly listened to what their spouse was saying, instead of blocking out the words because they knew THEY were right, and the other person was totally wrong.

So now what? How do you go about putting things back together? And what happens if the other person says no?

But what if they say yes? How do you begin again?

What if you both really want to try, but you’re both too proud and too stubborn to admit it?

There’s a rocky road ahead of you to work this out. A road full of little pebbles, big rocks, mud puddles, pot holes, and even pieces of broken glass. That’s the hard part…navigating through those hard places to get to the soft and comfortable parts.

Like rocky road ice cream, every relationship has its portion of hard pieces and soft pieces. But part of what makes rocky road ice cream so popular is how the combination of those textures feels so good, so right. Because one compliments the other.

In every relationship there are hard times as well as easy times. All nestled in the comfort of a delightful sweetness.

But what happens when there are too many hard places and not enough soft hearts? When that rocky road is just that…hard rocks and broken glass.

When you can see what’s at the end of that road, but there are so many obstacles to navigate through to get to that end, you just don’t know if you have the energy…and the strength…to try.

At one of the first weddings I coordinated, the bride and groom chose the song “God Bless the Broken Road [that led me back to you]” for their first dance. Why? Because it took them ten years to get their relationship back on the right track. But they didn’t give up, or when they did, they found out they really didn’t mean it. They kept on trying until they finally got it right! And nine years and four children later, I’m happy to say they’re still getting it right.

There’s an old saying: “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” That first step is sometimes the hardest one to take, but after that first one, the next is just a bit easier, a bit less frightening. There may be a few times you take a step or two back, but then you press on and move forward, taking those steps back and taking a few more. Until you wind up where you’re supposed to be.

There may be a rocky road ahead, but at the end, there’s an incredible sweetness that makes it all worthwhile.

Suddenly Single…and the Holidays

Last year you thought you had the perfect family. The perfect life. You were so thankful for your good fortune, and worried about some of your friends who were going through a tough time with their families. You felt so bad for them, but you were secretly relieved your life was so much different; so much better.

What a difference a year makes.

Now you’re the one who’s hurting. The one whose life has been turned upside down. And you never saw it coming.

Your spouse didn’t pass away; that may have been easier, almost.

He/she left you, and your children. For someone else. Unexpectedly. How long they’d been having an affair, you have no idea. All you know is, your life is shattered, and you have no idea where to begin to put it back together again.

Your home that had been so beautiful, so comfortable, that had held so many family celebrations, is now gone. Another family is living there, and you envy the memories they’re making. And hope they’ll have a happier ending than you did!

Thanksgiving was terrible. Fortunately you and your kids had your sister’s family to share it with. But all you could think of was about last year. How you and he/she had hosted since a wonderful family dinner, with everyone happy, talking excitedly about Christmas plans and gifts and family parties. Everyone had pitched in to help, and the rest of the weekend was spent decorating for Christmas and beginning to shop for gifts.

Now you spent half of your Thanksgiving day wondering what he/she was doing; where their Thanksgiving meal was. Were they with his/her family, and excitedly making plans for their first Christmas together? Did they sit around laughing about you and your kids, and joking about how miserable you probably were and saying how lucky he/she was to finally be rid of you?

Did he/she even think about how the kids were doing without him/her, since there wasn’t even a phone call to check on them, or tell them Happy Thanksgiving! His/her parents didn’t bother to call their grandchildren either! It was as if they didn’t exist any more.

Did he/she even bother to have a moment of regret?

A small moment where he/she maybe realized this was all wrong? That he/she made a mistake?

Thoughts like this are natural in this situation. Especially that first year. You’re feeling betrayed, unloved, and unwanted.

But dwelling on your situation doesn’t help. It only serves to feed your loneliness and extend your stay in the land of regret.

Which is not a place you want to stay. It’s not fun there, and there’s no way it ever will be.

Your memories of other holidays are just that. Memories. Memories you cannot keep replaying over and over, because the outcome will still be the same. Now you need to start making new memories. You may not think you ever will right now, but you will. And they won’t all be bad ones.

For now, as difficult as it may be, you have to move forward. You need to be an example for your kids who have no idea how to handle the situation either. You have to show them how; show them how an adult handles the tough times, and makes the best of a bad situation. Even though you’re not sure how to handle it yourself.

You start by holding your head high. By not continually dwelling on what happened and telling your story over and over. That chapter has been written, edited, and put to bed. Now it’s time to write a new one.

Easier said than done? Yes. But you’ve survived so far, and will continue to. You won’t be the same person you were any more. You’ll be stronger. And an example for so many others.

Be thankful for what you’ve learned, and that you have another chance. Be thankful for those around who love you and support you. Be thankful…because as bad as it seems now, it could be so much worse.

Next Thanksgiving will be so much better, and you will have so much more to be thankful for.

And yes, I do know. From my own experiences.

The best is yet to come.

When You Finally Get It Right

Today marks our 32nd wedding anniversary. Sort of hard to believe, in all honesty. Because it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. Because when you finally get it right, that’s what happens. And sometimes it takes a while to get it right.

Unfortunately I got it wrong the first time. All of my friends were getting engaged and getting married during the same time I had my first marriage. I guess it was the thing to do at the time. Many of them are still happily married to that same person. They were fortunate enough to get it right the first time.

Thinking back on it, I do wonder if I was in love with the guy I married in the early 70’s, or if I was in love with the idea of BEING in love. Or if I was just caught up in the excitement of wedding gowns with long trains, lacy bridal veils, (sometimes) tacky bridesmaid dresses, cascading bridal bouquets, and sugary wedding cakes with the plastic bride and groom on top! (How wedding styles have changed!)

But that marriage was only a wedding. I should’ve listened to my doubts and the “what ifs” that played through my mind the last few weeks before that wedding. But I didn’t; I thought it was just pre-wedding jitters. That one only lasted two and a half years. We just grew apart; we weren’t really in love; and it wasn’t in the Plan.

The Lord knew who He had in mind for me all along; He had his Plan. I just didn’t know it. Because I was impatient, and I didn’t want to wait.

I tried too hard to make it happen. I want to be married so much, that I made another, even worse, mistake.

I really REALLY got it wrong the second time. I settled for someone who was totally wrong, violent, and abusive, which had been well-hidden. Yes, I had misgivings before that wedding as well, but once again I didn’t listen to what I was feeling. Yes, I knew he wasn’t perfect, but neither was I, and I figured I could change him. We could make it work.

That 11 month marriage was DEFINITELY only a wedding, if you can even call it that. A nightmare was more like it. And I was fortunate to get out of that situation, both physically and emotionally.

All along, the Lord knew who He for me. And I still didn’t know it.

All I knew was, at that time I was glad to be free. The last thing I wanted was another man in my life. Finally, I started to discover who I was, and what I wanted out of my life. I actually enjoyed being with myself, instead of thinking I needed to be with a man; that I needed to be married.

And that’s what the Lord had been waiting for me to realize. I can imagine Him saying, “You finally figured it out. Now you’re ready for the one I chose for you!”

Needless to say, when I wasn’t expecting it, or looking for it, or even wanting it to happen, the Right One walked into my life. Actually, he was a store manager at the mall where I was Marketing Director, and he walked into the mall office and asked me to lunch. And thinking that he wanted to discuss mall business, I went.

The rest, as they say, is history.

And this time, instead of a fancy wedding, we were married at my mother’s house, with just a few friends and family in attendance. Instead of a wedding gown I wore a white suit and carried a few red roses. My mother’s friends provided a light lunch for us, and as we cut into our small wedding cake topped with a pair of white doves, I knew I’d finally gotten it right.
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Waiting for the one the Lord has for you may not always be easy, but it’s worth it. Because His Plan is always so much better than ours.

Happy Anniversary, Ben. I love you, and I’m glad we both finally got it right!

Waiting for the Right Time

The right time? That isn’t really why you’re waiting, you know.

You’re not really waiting until you have more money. Or until you get that better job so your finances will be more stable. Or until you can afford a big blowout wedding to impress your friends. Or until you can afford to go on that dream honeymoon in Aruba!

It’s all a bunch of convenient excuses. You’ve already been living together for several years. You’re playing at marriage. You share your money; you share a home. You may even have a child together. But there’s no ring on either of your hands. But there’s no real commitment. If there were, you’d get married.

So what’s the real reason? You want to be able to leave if you need to? Then you don’t need to be living together, because you’re probably already looking to see who else is out there.

Or you say you want to be sure? So there won’t be a divorce? Let me tell you, if you’ve been a couple for a while, you should know there’s no such thing as really being SURE it’s right. Some days you are, and some days you aren’t. Marriage is a commitment between two people who love each other. You’re as sure it’s right as your commitment to each other. There’s no guarantees. Marriage is what you make it. It’s a work in progress. Each and every day.

I’ve said many times before there’s a big difference in a wedding and a marriage. A big wedding takes a long time to plan, and is over in a few short hours, and forgotten within a few days. A marriage is a lifetime commitment that shouldn’t end. You don’t need that big dream wedding to start off your marriage on the right foot. It might be nice, and produce some awesome photos, but it doesn’t guarantee a successful marriage.

Nothing does. Marriage doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee, or a trade-in policy if you’re not happy. But if you’ve decided to just live together as if you were married, then for heaven’s sake, go ahead and get married!

And if you can’t afford all the trappings of a big wedding, remember you’ll be just as married if you go to the justice of the peace as you will with a formal wedding. (You can still wear a simple wedding dress and carry a bouquet of flowers if that’s important to you…I know several women who’ve done that!) In fact, smaller weddings can be more intimate, more about the two of you, than a huge formal affair that’s about the venue and the guests! Get married on the beach, or another place that’s special to the two of you.

What matters is the TWO of you. And your commitment to each other. That’s what makes a marriage!

You have no idea what tomorrow will bring, so stop saying you’re waiting for the right time. If you love each other, THIS is the right time.

On the Night Before Your Next (and last) Wedding

You never really believed this day would come. You’re so excited you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to sleep! Because tomorrow is the day you never thought would happen. The plans have all been made and everything has been double and triple checked. The rehearsal went off without any problems. And now, in just a matter of hours, your life will be changing once again.

But this time, the change is for nothing but good.

The last few years have been long and difficult. Those first few months after the breakup and divorce were some of the worst times of your life. You didn’t know how you were going to continue on.

But you did.

It was rough at first. You had no idea what to do to make ends meet. You were depressed. Scared. Angry. Hurt. Lonesome. So very lonesome.

You tried to avoid going places with friends because every time you saw a couple out together at dinner, you got upset, because you knew they had to be happy. Well, they may not have been happy, but at least they were together.

Everywhere you looked there were couples. Walking and laughing together. Holding hands. Or arm in arm looking in store windows and pointing to things they liked. One time you saw a couple in a jewelry store looking at rings and you almost ran out of the mall in tears.

Everything was a constant reminder of what you’d lost. What you didn’t have any more.

What you thought you’d never have again.

Then you decided you had to go find someone. You couldn’t take it any more. Every person you knew who wasn’t married or in a relationship was a potential target. Even though you’d known them for years, and never ever thought about the possibility of a romantic relationship (Well why would you; you were married then! Now it’s time to find someone, and find them now!)

Every time someone of the opposite sex paid any attention to you, you were sure that was The One! Even if you weren’t attracted to that person. You tried to be attracted, because you were afraid there would be no one else. You didn’t want to be alone and you felt time was running out.

And none of those “The One’s” were the one, were they? Because you were trying to force something to happen, when that wasn’t the plan the Lord had for you. He had The One picked out for you for quite awhile.

But until you were ready, you couldn’t meet The One. And you never thought about how The One had to be ready to meet you as well.

And just when you’d given up, when you’d stopped looking, when you KNEW you’d be single and alone for the rest of your life, it happened. And you didn’t even realize it at the time. Because you’d stopped trying to make things happen before it was time.

You didn’t even realize you were both falling in love. You started out as friends, talking and laughing and comparing all your life experiences, and realizing how much you had in common. You liked each other’s kids and grandkids. You gave each other little gifts for no reason, and talked for hours about nothing. You liked each other’s friends, and they all liked your new friend. And you almost never compared that person to your ex. You didn’t need to, because there was no comparison needed.

And surprisingly, all your friends knew before you did, that you’d finally gotten it right. They weren’t even surprised when he asked you to marry him and gave you the most beautiful engagement ring you’d ever seen. You were the only one who didn’t see it coming, because you’d finally stopped trying to force your life into the mold you wanted it to be, instead of letting it happen the way the Lord had planned.

And now, tomorrow, you will stand on the beach, in a long pink dress, with flowers in your hair and in your hands, with all of your children around you. He will be beside you, take your hand, and as you slip those shiny gold rings on each others’ fingers, you will promise to love and cherish each other for the rest of your lives. Your friends will all be there laughing and crying with tears of joy. Pictures will be taken and your smiles will show the world how happy you are!

You’ll slice into a beautiful wedding cake decorated with flowers and seashells, and you’ll carefully feed each other the first slice, and toast each other with crystal glasses, celebrating your new life together. And after dancing on the beach under the stars you’ll head off to a romantic honeymoon, just the two of you!

No, it’s not a dream. It’s finally your dream come true. This is real. It’s been a long time coming, but tonight is your last night of being alone. And this time, you’re not scared, not worried that you’re making a mistake. This time it’s right.

It’s your last wedding.

And this time the wedding is also a marriage.

Be blessed! Your time has come!

Choose Wisely

Because you don’t want to make another mistake.

Because a beautiful face is not nearly as important as a beautiful heart.

Because you don’t want to wake up one morning and discover Prince/Princess Charming is an ugly toad with more warts than you can count.

Because there are worse things than being temporarily alone and without a special person in your life. It doesn’t mean it’ll be that way forever.

Because you can’t make yourself be truly happy by settling for the first person who comes along and promises you the moon and the stars. Besides, they’re not his/hers to give you.

Because the last thing you want to do is select someone out of desperation, thinking it’s your only choice. Settling for second, or even third best, because you don’t want to wait for the right one.

Because you do not want to be in another failed marriage. One that failed because you wouldn’t choose wisely, but chose quickly because you didn’t want to wait; because you thought you had to settle for the first person who came along and showed interest in you, because you were afraid you wouldn’t find anyone else.

Because when you finally meet the right partner, the one The Lord has intended for you, you’ll know it. You’ll know that you know that you KNOW! And if you decide to marry that person, there won’t be those moments of nagging doubt at the last minute, wondering if you’re making another mistake. The butterflies in your stomach will be from happiness and anticipation, not doubt and concern that this one won’t work out either.

And you WILL feel like running, but not away. You’ll want to run down that aisle to your new spouse. Because you KNOW it’s right.

You’ll know in your heart, and you’ll know in your spirit. You won’t have to question, and you won’t have to ask your friends, “do you think he/she is the ONE?” Because you’ll know, and so will they. You won’t need reassurance.

He/she won’t try to change you into something you’re not, because they’ll love you for who you are, not who they plan to make you into.

You won’t need to say, “I really need to try to make myself care more about him/her because I don’t want to be by myself.” Or, “I really think I like him/her (as a potential spouse), but I wish he/she was….”

Being single after so many years of being a couple isn’t the easiest thing to go through. You see your friends who are still a couple and wonder when it’s ever going to be your turn to be part of a couple again. And finding that person you can become a couple with again becomes an obsession.

But it’s not something you can rush. You don’t want to start thinking, “is he/she is THE ONE?” every time you meet a new person. Healing is important, and until you’re healed from the hurt and pain you’ve gone through, you’re not ready to be in any serious relationship. Sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it doesn’t, depending on your circumstances. And before you can be thoroughly healed, you have to discover who YOU are; what your own desires and goals are for your life; and you have to be comfortable being with yourself. Because if you don’t like your own self, how can you expect someone else to?

Be careful when you make this next choice. It’s your life, as well as theirs, that’s hanging in the balance.

Choose wisely. And carefully.

And Now…Who am I?

And where do I go from here? What do I do? And how do I do it?

Words from a “suddenly single” woman. Words many “suddenly single” women…and men…have asked themselves. Many times. They’ve asked their friends. Their families. And they have no answers. At least not any answers they want.

For so many “suddenly single” women, it’s a frightening thought. Especially those who’ve been married for many years, and within a matter of a few days, that all changes. And they have no idea what to do; no idea where to start picking up the pieces; no idea what the rest of their life will be like. Or what the next few weeks or months will be like.

Along with being “suddenly single” they’re suddenly scared. And usually unprepared for living on their own.

Whether you were married five years, ten, thirty, or more, it’s still a loss, and it’s still hard. The longer the marriage, the harder it is to re-adjust. And I’m not speaking from a financial standpoint. That’s difficult enough, especially if the spouse left a financial disaster, causing you to have to totally change your entire way of life, from where you’re going to live to how you’re going to earn enough money for you, and your children, to survive.

Caring for your physical needs, though vitally important, is often many times easier though, than caring for and dealing with your psychological needs.

Because in the wee hours of the morning when you can’t sleep, you begin to re-think about everything that’s happened, over and over again. You relive the day he left, trying to think about what you could’ve done differently. Could you have said something that would have changed his mind? Why didn’t you see this coming? What did you do to cause it? How can you change things so he’ll come back? And would it really be better if he did?

What if? Why? How could I have been so wrong? Where do I go from here? How do I put my life back together with no one to help me? How will I ever find someone else and how long will that take? I can’t do this by myself….

So many questions that keep you awake at night, because there are no clear cut answers. Only more questions. The “woulda, shoulda, coulda’s” go on and on until you beat yourself up so much, you’re almost unrecognizable.

You feel embarrassed and think everyone who knows you is embarrassed to be around you, afraid your circumstances will somehow rub off on them. Or you feel you have to explain your current circumstances, sometimes in great detail, to everyone you meet, because otherwise, how will they know what you’ve been through!?

Why do they need to know? Really, why do they? It’s not their business. It’s yours. And telling your story over and over won’t change it. It’s like scratching off a scab that’s formed over a cut; removing the scab opens the wound and the healing process has to start all over again.

Dwelling on the past will also keep you from moving ahead into your future. Because as long as you continue to dwell on the past, you stay stuck in it, and can’t move forward. The cut re-opens over and over, and just can’t completely heal.

You may no longer be part of a couple, but you also cannot continue to be the victim you keep making yourself be! Unless you want to stay in that role. And that’s not the place you want to live.

But before you can completely begin your new life, and live it to the fullest, there’s an important step you have to take. One that’s also difficult, although necessary.

You have to discover who YOU are. What makes YOU happy. You have to be content being with yourself before you can even begin to think about bringing someone else into your life. Being lonely is hard, especially to a “suddenly single” woman. (I know. I’ve been there.) But being desperate to fall back into a relationship for comfort and security doesn’t work either. Until you can honestly say you know who you are; you like bring you; until you are no longer defined by past hurts, you won’t be ready for that new relationship you want so badly.

Because a new relationship doesn’t make you who you are. It doesn’t define you. You have to define yourself. It’s one of the most vital parts of the healing process.

Spend time with yourself. In fact, purposefully make time each day to just be with YOU. Go for a walk. Write a note to yourself in your journal. Sing with the birds outside. Talk to the Lord. Enjoy a private cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of wine. Have a conversation with yourself about your feelings. And be honest. Then pretend you’re a friend listening to that conversation, and give yourself advice from their point of view. And yes, that’s the difficult part!

But to heal and be ready for the next part of your life, it’s vitally necessary. If you’re not happy with yourself, how will you ever make someone else happy?

It’s a new day. Don’t waste another one in the past. Your future is ahead of you, starting right now!!! Don’t miss another day of it.

After the Ink Dries

You’ve been anticipating and dreading this day all at the same time. You’ve counted the days until you were free. Yes, it was scary at first, because you didn’t know how to act.

First you wanted your spouse back. You’d do anything, try anything. You didn’t understand. It didn’t matter who left who. You just couldn’t deal with the aloneness. The rejection. The desertion. All the changes you weren’t prepared for.

No matter how bad things had evidently been, surely this wasn’t happening! It had to be a bad dream!

But then every morning you woke up, that dream was still reality. Your spouse was still gone. He/she had moved on with their life. And you didn’t know how. You felt stuck. And you couldn’t see ahead as far as the next few hours, let alone the next day, next week, or next month. Those rings you were still wearing kept looking at you every day, and you couldn’t tell whether they were waiting for him/her to come back or constantly reminding you how you’d failed.

Then you heard he/she already had someone else. You’d already been replaced; forgotten. Well-meaning friends had seen them together, laughing, holding hands, smiling at each other like they hadn’t a care in the world. And they told you about it, thinking it might make you feel a little better. But it didn’t. It made you feel worse. You wanted to know what that other person looked like, the one who’d replaced you. They told you, and you felt even worse.

Now you wanted to know more. Did they start their relationship before the split? Is that why he/she left? For someone else? Is he/she happier with that someone else? What’s wrong with you?

Now you feel even more miserable. Because you’re still alone. No one seems interested in you. Your rings finally came off, though. What was the point in wearing them any more when they obviously meant nothing to anyone but you.

Your finger felt naked. And you were sure wherever you went everyone looked at your hand to see what wasn’t there.

Then you got the papers in the mail. He/she had filed for divorce. The very word made you cringe, made you nauseous. Suddenly, it was far too real. You cried at first. Then you actually read the papers.

And the tears switched to anger. And rage!

How could he/she dare make the demands on that piece of paper!? How arrogant! And hateful! How mean can one person suddenly become!?

And all of a sudden, you couldn’t wait to get this over! You were finally ready. Despair turned into indignation. The rings were sold and the money used to hire a lawyer.

The process was at times excruciating. Exhausting. Demands went back and forth. At times you just couldn’t believe how such a wonderful beginning had resulted in such an ugly ending.

Now, finally, the day is here. And after asking you a few simple questions, the man in the black robe takes his pen and signs his name, formally and officially ending the marriage.

The wedding that had taken months to plan, and the marriage that had taken years to establish and build, was suddenly and impersonally over with the mere stroke of a pen. No fanfare, no celebration, no friends standing around wishing you luck. After all, how can a divorce be a cause for celebration? Except now there’s that “ex” you have who started it all in the first place.

But now, suddenly you’re really and truly officially single. You really don’t want to use the word “divorced” because it still makes you feel uncomfortable. You’re still trying to absorb it all, just like the ink was absorbed into the paper the judge signed.

What now? You travel home by yourself. You look in the mirror and wonder where you go from here. Even though you were more than ready to be over and done with this unhappy milestone in your life, now you don’t know where you’re going next.

Yes, you’re free. Free to begin your life again. But how? Where do you start?

Quite simply, you start with yourself. By learning who you are. What you want. And not rushing into a new relationship immediately just because he/she did. It’s not a contest. It’s not a race.

It’s your life. Yours. Use it wisely.

Suddenly Single

Perhaps you’ve known it’s coming. You may have talked about it, screamed at each other about it, threatened it. Your spouse may have brought it up, Or it may have come from you first. At this point, you don’t really know where it started, or how. You just know it’s snowballed, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop it. Maybe you want to, but just can’t find your way back. Or maybe it’ll be a relief to finally have it over with.

Or perhaps you had no idea it was coming. Sure, you both argued, and a bit more than usual over the last few months, but what couple doesn’t have their ups and downs? And then one morning you wake up, go through your regular morning routine, and suddenly your spouse drops the bomb, very casually and calmly informing you that his/her suitcases are packed and in the car, and you’ll be hearing from an attorney soon about the divorce. And with a quick kiss on the cheek (really?) the house keys are laid on the table, the front door closes, and you’re left sitting there in shock, wondering what in the world just happened.

You’re suddenly single. Well, almost.

There are still attorneys to hire, and attorneys to pay. There are court appearances. Division of property. Custody, child support, and visitation to be decided if there are young children. New living arrangements most likely will have to be made. There are more court appearances and more attorneys to pay. Nights without sleep from worrying about everything you’re going through, wondering when you’ll ever feel like yourself again, or who you really are now, because suddenly you’re no longer part of a couple.

It’s not John and Mary any more…it’s just Mary. Or just John. And that’s going to take some getting used to. Things you did as a couple you now have to do by yourself. The little things…trips to the grocery store, cooking meals (or ordering take-out), going to the movies or out to dinner…take on a new meaning, because you’re now having to do them alone, or as a third or fifth person in a couples group…one in which your spouse had usually been beside you.

It’s not like it was, and you most likely don’t like this new normal, even if you’re actually relieved to be out of a bad situation. You still don’t want to become the person you used to feel sorry for because they were doing things or going places by themselves.

But now you’re suddenly that single person. Waking up in the morning with the other side of the bed empty and unused. Setting the dinner table for one. Wondering how to fill that half empty bedroom closet so it won’t be a constant reminder of what’s happened.

Unraveling a marriage is sometimes almost harder than keeping it knit together. You don’t plan a divorce like you do a wedding. And you shouldn’t. Because it shouldn’t happen. You certainly don’t enter into a marriage thinking about what happens if there’s a divorce, and if you do, then perhaps you shouldn’t enter into that marriage!

But it does happen, unfortunately, and as I’ve said before, I’ve been divorced twice, so I’m not criticizing anyone. I’ve been there.

It’s not a fun place to be. It’s a journey that too many of us have gone on. And it’s a journey I don’t want to see any others go on.

Being married is tough. Returning to being single again is just as tough. Or sometimes even tougher.

You’re not alone. Someone gets divorced every 23 seconds. It’s a sad but true statistic. But it doesn’t make you feel any better.

The good news is, though, you will get through it. And contrary to what others may tell you, the Lord still loves you, and He hasn’t given up on you because your marriage failed. No matter whose fault it was. You see, He knows your pain, and He knows how you’re feeling. He cries for you as He reaches out to comfort you. He doesn’t blame you or pass judgement on you. He simply loves you.

He still has a plan for your life. It may have taken a detour for now, especially while you’re getting your life back in order, but the plan He has for your life will not be forgotten. He’s going to use this detour to take you places you may not have gone were it not for your present circumstances. And who knows what you’ll find along this new journey? It may not be what you planned, but it will turn out all right in time.

You may have found yourself suddenly single again, but there’s something better coming. When you least expect it.

It just doesn’t seem like it right now.

Smashed Promises

Yes, you promised. You both did. And you meant them. You really, truly did.

Life was supposed to be happily ever after. Good jobs. A nice house, with nice cars in the garage. Two or three well behaved kids who made good grades, played sports, and participated in dance and music recitals. They’d grow up, go on to college, find great careers. They’d get married and have their own kids, and soon you’d be grandparents, and enjoy your retirement years together with your kids, their spouses, and your grandkids. Probably somewhere warm and sunny.

But then life happened and although you both meant well at first, and were sure nothing could tear you apart, something changed. Something happened. Things happened. Bad things. Dangerous things, even.

Financial indiscretions. Alcohol abuse. Drug abuse. Infidelity. Affairs. Lies. Screaming arguments. Storming out of the house and not returning until the next day. Verbal abuse. Broken furniture and holes in walls. Sometimes even physical violence against you. Incarceration of your spouse for any number of serious reasons.

You tried. Many times. He asked for forgiveness; you gave it. And gave it. And gave it again until the words were just that. Words spoken just to stop another argument.

But you both had promised. And promises are never supposed to be broken, right?

You still have a few framed pictures sitting around from that day so long ago when you both promised each other before your families, your friends, and most importantly before the Lord, that you would love and cherish each other in sickness and in health until death do you part. You both looked so happy.

Who knew how things would eventually be?

You both believed those promises you made that day, and meant every word of them. But what happens when the death that parts you is the death of the marriage, the death of the love, the death of respect and trust, and not the death of your spouse?

I’ve said it before. Marriage is hard. It’s not to be entered into lightly, or on a whim, or without seriously talking it over and knowing what you’re getting into. It’s a lot of work.

But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the marriage just can’t survive. There are lots of reasons. Sometimes only one partner is willing to try, and it takes both partners to be totally committed to make a marriage work. It usually involves a serious change in lifestyles and actions. And sometimes, unfortunately, even with both partners trying, it just won’t work any more.

And that’s beyond sad. It’s a tragedy. But look at the reasons I listed for these failures. They’re serious reasons. You may even still love your spouse, or the person your spouse used to be, even after some of those situations have been uncovered.

But sometimes love just can’t fix it all. And sadly you have to move on.

Does that make you a failure? Not at all. Does it make you sad? It should. It’s never a happy occasion when a marriage truly cannot continue to exist.

But as long as you know you did everything you could, you can still pick up the pieces of your life and move on, knowing you gave it your best, but the circumstances you found yourself in were too profoundly difficult, and sometimes too dangerous, to allow you to continue.

Yes, you promised, but sometimes there’s no other solution. For your own safety, and your own mental, and sometimes physical, health, sometimes you just have to let go.

And know that there’s something better on the horizon.