Grieving divorce, part 8 of 8

Replacing the lies with truth

I didn’t realize that I’d have so much to say about my divorce (and my ex-husband, Mr. Irresponsible). Oh well. I definitely learned a lot from the experience. I learned how to cry and I learned how to say no. And so much more….

After we separated, Greg told me that he married me because he knew I could help him. Sounds like my dad, the narcissist: “It’s all about me.” I’m shaking my head.

Peaceful Readers, we’re not only dealing with the pain of divorce—the death of our marriage, the loss of our spouse and needing to readjust to being single again. We have to do the work of grieving the various issues that led to the divorce in the first place, which can include some very serious, sometimes-traumatic experiences.

The danger of alcoholism
Here’s an example from my life. One night when Greg had passed out on the couch after downing five or six stout martinis, I felt this urgent need to get out of bed to set the alarm on our house. My mind wouldn’t let me go to sleep. So I got up and set the alarm. Not long after that, the alarm started going off. Greg didn’t budge, even though a deafening alarm was blaring in our house. I got up and shook him physically awake and asked him to check it out. He stumbled around.

Guess what? Someone had used a crow-bar to break open our back door and left the door wide open. We were obviously home. The lights in the living room were on. There were cars in the driveway. Someone meant to do us harm—knowing that we were home. It was only the loud alarm that discouraged the criminal from entering our home that night. That’s scary stuff, Peaceful Readers. God Almighty saved us. He sure did. Greg was oblivious—totally wasted. But I knew what just happened. I knew how serious it was.

I wasn’t safe—physically or emotionally—with Greg.

The daily reality
Here’s a more everyday kind of example. When I was following Greg somewhere in my car—even when I didn’t know where we were going—he would drive off so I couldn’t keep up with him. Jerkus Maximus.

Greg was a liar and he was cruel. Before we got married, he told me, “I want you to be the mother of my children.” After my abortion, he had a vasectomy. I guess that was a more cost-effective solution for him. He constantly complained that I had “the wrong hair color and eye color.” My response? “If you wanted a blue-eyed blonde, you shouldn’t have married me.” I even bleached my hair once. Big mistake. He wanted me to have plastic surgery. I said no, thank God. I won a big statewide award at my job. He never congratulated me. He just said, “How much more are they going to pay you?” Yep. I’m shaking my head again. He was so hateful.

Greg’s mission—breaking
While we were married, I felt like Greg would do whatever it took to break my spirit. The saying Misery Loves Company is true. He was miserable and he wanted to break me so I’d be miserable too. But I wouldn’t let him break me. Sure, it hurt. Sure, I cried plenty. I used to say that I cried a bathtub full of tears while we were married. But I wouldn’t let him break my spirit—my belief in life, my belief in there being a purpose for my life, my hope for the future. I still enjoyed my friends and my life, as challenging as everything was.

God’s mission—saving
Toward the end of our marriage, I got saved—and that changed everything for me. I gave my heart and life to Jesus. I started attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), a weekly Bible study with daily reading and homework. Greg seemed perplexed by my new pursuit. He didn’t understand it, so he didn’t like it.


Unpacking the trauma of divorce
As we wrap up this post about divorce, let’s walk through my list, How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss. You may remember this list from the posts about my parents: The Trauma of Perfection and The Trauma of Disengagement.

How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss
1. Look honestly at what happened.
2. Identify the lies/propaganda involved.
3. Acknowledge the impact, including what was stolen.
4. Express your feelings then and now.
5. Replace the lies with truth.
6. Choose to end the negative impact.
7. Close the suitcase (i.e., the trauma/loss).
8. Walk forward in healing and peace.
9. Share your story with someone you trust.
10. Thank God for helping you on this journey.

Let’s focus on steps 1 through 5. I’ll walk through these steps about my marriage to Greg.

Step 1: Look honestly at what happened.
I’ve mentioned several issues—including Greg’s infidelity and alcoholism. Now it’s time to unpack another major problem.

Pornography
Yes, Greg spent $200 in one visit to a strip club—years before the internet porn industry took off. While this addiction—like all addictions—is financially costly, the true cost is far more devastating to the addict and to those who would be close to him or her.

Acting out
True to the comments in marriage expert Gary Thomas’s article, “Enough is Enough,” men who view pornography deteriorate into more and more deprave cravings based on the downward spiral of the pornography that they view. They want to do what they’ve seen. In this way, husbands who are addicted to pornography demand things of their wives that healthy, respectful husbands do not. I state this from experience. I’ve had two husbands—one addicted to pornography and one who won’t have anything to do with it.

Let’s take a short, but closely-related detour—also about the impact of something that was seen.

I have a disturbing story to share with you from my days as a caseworker for Child Protective Services. A three-year-old little boy was shown horror movies, including one where a character who was dressed up like Santa Claus killed people. The child was obviously terrorized by what he had seen. What did he do? He stabbed his grandfather in the leg with a knife.

When images are planted in our minds, those images have an impact on us. That is one of many reasons why I strongly recommend extreme controls on our media intake. Remember the section including The Box of Chaos in part 4 of this post.

A changed life
Pornography does to people what the horror movie did to the little boy. It plants seeds—thousands of them. And those seeds are sick and sinful. They’re cancerous. Those seeds grow inside the addict and result in a changed person—a changed mind, changed pursuits, changed appetites, changed obsessions, changed behavior—a changed life.

The thief
Wives who are married to porn-addicted husbands will placate their addicted husbands sexually to some degree and will draw the line somewhere. But—suffice it to say—the pornography addiction has a profoundly-negative impact on the natural husband-wife emotional and physical bond/attachment. By substituting a depraved counterfeit for the beautiful truth, by substituting a two-dimensional picture/video for flesh and blood, by substituting a stranger for a spouse, pornography is The Thief of True Intimacy.

The real wife can’t compete with the purchased product… the image… the fantasy. Greg pressured me to get plastic surgery so I would look more like the fantasies that swirled in his mind. This pressure communicated loud and clear: You’re not good enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re missing the mark.

The pain
Obviously, being married to a porn addict creates great distress in otherwise-healthy individuals. The addiction impacts the spouse’s self-esteem as he/she asks “Why?” I’ll say it again. This addiction steals the natural husband-wife connection—both physically and emotionally—by bringing other people constantly—obsessively—into the addict’s mind.

And let’s not tap dance around the obvious truth. Viewing pornography is a form of infidelity. It substitutes someone else—a vision of someone else—for the beloved. Seeking sexual gratification from anyone other than your spouse is being unfaithful on the most fundamental level.

Infidelity is the ultimate rejection—whether it’s the flesh-and-blood type (i.e., an affair) or the fantasy type (i.e., pornography). It says: I choose someone else instead of you.

The truth
Common sense tells us that pornography is wrong. It turns people into things. It turns the most private, intimate uniting of husband and wife into a public spectacle for strangers who will never meet. It turns the beauty of the human body into a cheap, depraved, dishonorable commodity.

We are not cheap. We are not commodities. We are not for sale. We were created in God’s image and for his glory.

Essential reading
Your attitudes about pornography will impact how you teach your children and your grandchildren, as well as your clear (or unclear) position on this crucial life-destroying, marriage-destroying, family-destroying issue. I highly recommend that you read this article in its entirety: “The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain” by William M. Struthers, Ph.D.

Lives, marriages, families and careers are ruined daily by this tragic addiction. We must equip ourselves with the truth of who we are and who God made us to be. I hope you’ll take the time to read Dr. Struthers’ article. It’s worth sharing with others.

Let’s continue with our list: How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss—about my marriage to Greg.

Step 2: Identify the lies/propaganda involved.

Greg’s lies:
Your appearance is wrong.
Your morality is wrong.
♦ You aren’t fun.
♦ You should be more like me.
♦ I’m right; you’re wrong.

Step 3: Acknowledge the impact, including what was stolen.
Negative impact
The long-term trauma of abortion and the seemingly-permanent loss of motherhood
The trauma of his infidelity
The abuse of his addictions: alcoholism and pornography
The abuse of his hateful words
The trauma of divorce

What was stolen
Our son
My dignity
The opportunity for a true marriage during those nine years

Remember from part 1 of this post:

A true marriage is a loving, truthful,
healing partnership and covenant.

Positive impact
♦ I learned how to cry.
♦ I learned how to say no.
♦ I experienced the value of counseling.
♦ I got saved! I made Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord.
♦ I learned how to trust and listen to God.
♦ I learned how to say good-bye at the right time.
♦ I learned how to establish healthy boundaries going forward.

What he meant and what God meant
The lists I wrote for Step 2 and Step 3 are filled with life-altering realities—both good and bad. I think this verse from the life of Joseph says it all:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good….
Genesis 50:20a, New Heart English Bible

Yes, Greg sought destruction—self-destruction, Frankie Ann-destruction and marriage-destruction. He did evil things to me. But God used them for me—to heal me, to strengthen me, to change me. You’ll read more about that in the next post.

Step 4: Express your feelings then and now.
I was devastated then. I ended the abuse by divorcing Greg and I forgave him for what he did to me. Now I’m free—free from his abuse, free from his lies, free from his destruction.

How do I feel now?

Relieved.

Most importantly, I feel extremely grateful for how God used Greg’s evil to accomplish good things in my life. While Romans 8:28 can produce bewilderment during times of trauma, after a trauma is behind us, those of us who love Jesus can declare with confidence:

We know that all things work together
for good for those who love God,
to those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28, World English Bible

Step 5: Replace the lies with truth.
Before we replace the lies with truth, let’s review this section from part 2 of this post.

What’s ahead
During this healing process, you’ll learn how to separate the hurtful words and lies that your spouse said to you or about you from the truth of who you are—and who you’ll be moving forward.

You’ll learn or re-learn how to dream dreams and have hopes for the future—for your future. Because you’re still alive. God still has plans for your life….

Greg’s lies
♦ 
Your appearance is wrong.
Your morality is wrong.
You aren’t fun.
You should be more like me.
I’m right; you’re wrong.

The truth
♦ 
God gave me brown eyes and brown hair. I’m very thankful for my appearance.
♦ Following Jesus is good for me and for those around me.
♦ I am fun! (And my fun doesn’t hurt me or anyone else.)
♦ I seek to be more like Jesus.
♦ Greg was wrong. Jesus is right.

Thoughts on marriage
Speaking of truth—as we’re all keenly aware, our society increasingly marginalizes, criticizes and ridicules the marriage of a man and a woman. To read more about the goodness of marriage and the true purpose of marriage, I highly recommend The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. You may be thinking Why in the world would I read a book about marriage when I’m going through a divorce? I’ll tell you why. The fact that your marriage ended doesn’t indicate that there’s something wrong with marriage itself. It indicates other things.

A good marriage is a beautiful thing.

Read The Meaning of Marriage within the next year to retain or regain your belief in—and to strengthen your understanding of—the beauty of marriage. Embracing this truth will be a part of The Healing Journey in your life.

Your turn
Peaceful Readers, if you’re going through a divorce, learning how to dream and have hopes for the future will be a natural part of The Season of Grieving a divorce. As you do the work of grieving and experience healing from your divorce and the associated traumas/losses, your confidence will grow and your focus will change—from looking at what happened in the past to seeing the blessings of today and looking forward to the future.

Because divorce is a traumatic experience, take the time to walk slowly and thoroughly through all of the 10 steps of How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss.

How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss
1. Look honestly at what happened.
2. Identify the lies/propaganda involved.
3. Acknowledge the impact, including what was stolen.
4. Express your feelings then and now.
5. Replace the lies with truth.
6. Choose to end the negative impact.
7. Close the suitcase (i.e., the trauma/loss).
8. Walk forward in healing and peace.
9. Share your story with someone you trust.
10. Thank God for helping you on this journey.

For a detailed example of these steps as I was unpacking one of my traumas, read The Trauma of Perfection post—all six parts.

I hope you’ll find, as I did, that divorce—like all traumas—offers us the opportunity for a remarkable spiritual awakening.

Hold fast to God.

Your story
I look forward to hearing your story and your thoughts. Please leave your comments below. (You can use your real name or a pen name like I do. I won’t show your last name or your email address on Choosing Peace.) You can also send me a private email at blog.frankieann@yahoo.com.

Coming next: Come back next time on Choosing Peace for The Post-Trauma Transformation. You’ll read about a mom, her cousin, a gun and oh-so-much more.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: My salvation from the Lord is truly a wonder. Experience the joy of Isaiah 61:10-11.

Song for Healing: “The Fire” by Ginny Owens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *