We started our marriage out great and were great friends. We eventually had awesome children who I was blessed to be home with full-time. I didn’t want to miss out on any time with them. Then when I realized they would all be moving on, I wanted to boost and improve the relationship with my husband who, over the years, had changed from my friend to a lustful husband. When I tried expressing this and how I really wanted a more intimate partnership, he said he had the marriage he wanted and didn’t want to hear how it has been for me.
He figured I would take the blame and continue life as it was, which I always had done. He didn’t realize I was stronger and determined for a better marriage.
The divorce was final a year and a half ago, but I’m still fighting feelings of anger that he wouldn’t listen to me. I want to let the lustful and selfish side of him go, but I really miss the kind, fun, helpful, loyal man I married!
How can I leave him behind when I still feel so connected to him?
When you give everything to anything, especially a marriage and family, you can’t just turn your back and walk away. In fact, someone who could instantly do that was likely never fully committed in the first place. Your struggle of letting go reflects your years of holding on despite difficult opposition. Let’s talk about how you can move forward now that you’ve divorced.
It’s true that none of us are one-dimensional. Even though we make mistakes, we are not our mistakes. You know your ex-husband has redeeming qualities and I’m certain it was an agonizing decision to end the marriage. Just because you had to bring his threatening and harmful behaviors into sharper focus so you could protect yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t see his strengths. In fact, it was those strengths that kept you hoping and believing in a future when reality showed otherwise.
I imagine that as you walked toward the edge of divorce, you hoped he would turn you around, recommit to sexual integrity, and restore your marriage to wholeness. I realize you weren’t playing games, but there is often a strong element of protest in divorce. You probably hoped that something as permanent as divorce would change his mind.
Your anger and hurt is understandable. You asked him to join you in building a strong marriage. You saw his unhealthy behaviors and still extended an invitation to partner with you in creating something different. His rejection of the marriage understandably feels like a rejection of you. Your grief and loss of this marriage is a long exhale that won’t disappear quickly just because you chose divorce. Allow yourself to feel the wave of grief and trust that it will rise and fall for the foreseeable future. Feeling something doesn’t mean you have to do something. Embracing painful emotions isn’t something that comes easily to most of us, but you can experience tremendous peace when you learn how to do it.
Our Savior’s entire life on earth was filled with discomfort, unfairness, misunderstanding, rejection, and other personally painful experiences. Even though the agony of his atoning sacrifice in Gethsemane most likely wasn’t something he could have fully anticipated without experiencing it, I wonder if his willingness to embrace the ongoing pain of his daily existence prepared him to accomplish his full mission. We can learn how to be at peace when we’re in pain, especially when we are filled with Him.
It’s also quite normal to look back and wonder what else you could have done in the marriage to hold things together. I’m sure you’ve done plenty of reflecting, as anyone would do in your situation. I’ve observed that many individuals struggle to let go of a past relationship because they feel responsible or guilty for its demise. I hope you know your husband’s descent into lust wasn’t your responsibility. I don’t know your full story and what regrets you might have about how you treated your husband in the marriage, but please don’t hold onto him as a personal atonement for any regrets.
You don’t have to erase him or your memories with him from your life to fully heal. You can allow yourself to embrace both the reality of the good times and the hard times. I believe we suffer more by trying not to feel things instead of allowing ourselves to embrace all truth. It’s true that you married a great man who promised to be faithful. It’s also true that he ultimately chose a path of infidelity.
You will heal more thoroughly as you allow yourself to embrace the opposites along with the opposition. In fact, opposites and opposition are a central part of bringing about God’s eternal purposes. The Book of Mormon teaches this truth clearly:
“And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”[i]
Sometimes we hold onto the sweet and ignore the bitter. At other times we embrace the bitter and ignore the sweet. As we learn to embrace both the sweet and the bitter, we will feel more peace and purpose in our experiences. Our regrets and losses can’t define us and our happier moments won’t blind us from the lessons and growth we need to progress.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
Download Geoff’s FREE guide to help you quickly end arguments with your spouse: https://www.geoffsteurer.com/3-steps-to-end-your-marriage-argument
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[i] 2 Nephi 2:15