“Letting go helps us to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.” – Melody Beattie
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” – Dr. Henry Cloud
(** If you are in a physically abusive relationship, please be sure you have support and a safe place to go before drawing boundaries. An angry, physically abusive man will not like boundaries or the truth. Seek help and safety before you do anything.)
I have been receiving questions on how to let go from my post “Let It Go.” I understand how difficult this is, so I will attempt to paint a better picture. Please understand this will look different for everyone and at the same time, the concept is the same. Let me start by saying I get it. You are in a very difficult place and my heart aches for you. For those who feel they have never been seen or heard ….. I see you and I hear you. I want to acknowledge and validate your pain, fear, loneliness, and confusion. As a betrayed partner you may have experienced being lied to, blamed for their problem(s), they may have minimized, justified or rationalized what they are doing, gaslighting (making you feel crazy), and projecting their stuff on to you. This is tough stuff!
For me, the first part of letting go was to draw a line between my stuff and his stuff. If you have to, sit down and write it out. On one side of the page are the things he is bringing to the relationship (porn, affairs, self-centeredness, anger, etc.) and on the other are the things you are bringing (anger, bitterness, hatred, silence, etc). When we are able to see which side of the line is ours and which is his, then we are better able to know what we need to work on. Yes, your husband has much work to do, but even if you came from the best home in the world, because of the betrayal and hurt that has been done to you….. you now have work to do. “Work” meaning working with a therapist that specializes in betrayal trauma. It is very difficult to see the damage until you start going through everything piece by piece, and the support of a trained therapist is invaluable.
It is devastating when our spouses betray us. We go into marriage thinking he will be the one person we can trust and rely on, and all of that comes crashing down when we discover the truth. One of the biggest ways we can let go of things we cannot control is to invite our spouses to do their own work with a therapist while we do ours. We cannot change our spouse, and we cannot do their work for them. Give them space to do the work they need to do. More than likely, the men who betray us have huge wounds from their past they are not dealing with. As a wife we want to have compassion for our husbands and their stories. I never knew my husband’s story until after we were married. It did not make the betrayal okay, but it did allow me to see things in a new light.
Please understand what I am saying. Having compassion does not mean you allow abuse or have no boundaries with consequences. We must be very clear in what we are wanting and what we need to happen. For example, you can request that your husband see a therapist that deals with sex addiction if he is wanting the marriage to work. (CSAT trained) Then it is up to him to find someone and schedule an appointment. Too many times we jump in and start taking over and he is not interested in doing what needs to be done. We become even angrier, and the fighting begins getting us nowhere. You need to know what you are wanting from the relationship (I need to feel safe. I need to be able to trust you. I need you to be committed to our marriage.) These are ideas to get you started. Again, this would be a great place to journal and figure out what your needs are. Also, a therapist can help you establish your needs. Once you know your needs you can move to the next step.
You must set very clear boundaries. State specifically to your spouse what you want. For example: I want our marriage to survive. I want us to have a safe marriage. I want to be able to trust you. What do you need for this to happen? I need for you to get help with a therapist and work on your life. I will not continue to be in relationship with you if you continue to act out or see the affair partner. I need you to sleep in another room. Or maybe, I need you to move out so I can process and heal. (This will depend on the situation and you.) When do you want this to happen? I need to know you are wanting to save this marriage, and I need you to have a scheduled appointment with a therapist by the end of the month. Open ended requests will lead to open ended responses. What will you do if this doesn’t happen? If you aren’t willing to do this, then you are sending a message of where you really are, and I will leave OR you will need to leave until you are willing to do the work to save this marriage. When we let go, we put the responsibility on the betrayer where it belongs. Again, it is not our job to rescue them. Each person is responsible for their own action and reaction.
After setting clear boundaries, we must stick with them. It has been said, “A boundary without consequences is a mere suggestion.” Don’t be surprised if your spouse tests you to see if you really mean what you are saying. Make sure you set a boundary that you are willing to follow through with. You will need to spend time on this and put plenty of thought and prayer into it. Do not throw out a boundary in the heat of the moment when you are angry and upset. You might want to write down your boundaries. Give your spouse a copy so he knows exactly what you want. If he has questions, he can ask. By writing boundaries down it will give you time to reflect and be sure you are saying what you mean, and you will have this to look back on to see how things are progressing. This is a place where a therapist can be very beneficial to you. If your spouse is willing to do the work and save the marriage you will begin to see small steps in the right direction. If they are not willing to do the work, you will see this as well. At this point, you may need to modify your boundaries. Once you have a boundary you can change or modify as you see fit. Boundaries change as life changes.
Another way of letting go is grieving the loss of the marriage you wanted or thought you had. Begin to live in the reality of what is true. I know I had my idea of what married life would be and when it did not turn out the way I had imagined, I did everything I could to create this “imagined” marriage. Sadly, in my attempts to create this, my heart was becoming more and more angry and bitter because my partner was not imagining the same thing. Over the years I became an emotional and physical wreck! I had to face reality and stop denying the truth. As I look back on our life together, no, I would not want to go through discovering the betrayal, the fear and a shattered heart again. At the same time, I am in awe of how different God’s plan for my life and our lives has been. I would not trade the depths He has taken me to for my fairy tale dream. Holding on to our dream keeps us stuck and going in circles. Letting go of that dream and shifting our focus to God gives us fresh eyes to see, an open heart to allow change, and ears to hear what God wants for us. Jeremiah 29:11-14 tells us that “God knows the plans He has for us.” I cannot know His plan when I am set and determined to do my plan. “His plan is for my well-being and to give me a future and a hope.” I had no hope in my plan. I felt lost and abandoned. It may have looked great on the outside, but my soul was dying on the inside. Jeremiah tells us this is the Lord’s declaration! The Lord tells me that when I call to Him and pray to Him, HE WILL LISTEN. Not might, but will. He says I will find Him when I seek Him with all of my heart. Our only hope is in Christ. Our attempts at being God are sad and pitiful, yet we try so hard. I was tired and weary and at the end of my rope. This is where God met me and began changing my heart. “God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways.” The Lord’s declaration is “As heaven is higher than earth, so God’s ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts than my thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Amen!
As wives, moms and women we have our arms full! We do have many responsibilities and wear many hats. Too many times, though, we take on responsibilities that are not ours and we wear hats that are meant for someone else. I get it. We are trying so hard to keep everything as normal as possible. Our already full arms begin to overflow, yet we keep grabbing and reaching to keep everything together. How can we possibly look up to the Heavenly Father when we are so crouched down with overflowing arms of things to do? What would it be like to raise our arms to our Heavenly Father, Our Shield and Protector and the Lover of our Soul and allow all of those responsibilities to fall down around us? To sit for a moment in the presence of Christ and allow Him to minister to our hurting hearts and soul. Then, as we return to gather our responsibilities and hats, we only pick up those that truly matter and are meant for us to do. The rest can lay there. I was an overburdened pack mule and terrified that if I took my hands off of things, everything would fall apart, yet God never meant for my burden to be that heavy. In many ways things did fall apart and I had to live in ways I never dreamed of or thought possible. In doing this, though, it gave me the space to breathe and discern where I began and where my spouse began. We are still two separate people when we get married. We do not merge into one person.
We must be willing to stop. I can assure you that releasing everything and sorting through those things you are responsible for will be one of the hardest things you will ever do. Yes, it is very difficult, especially if the outcome is not so great. And yes, it is so worth it to free your mind and soul of another’s responsibility. Especially when going through betrayal and uncertainty, we need to care for ourselves so we can care for our children. Be kind to yourself and believe what God says about you. In Psalm 139 we see that God formed us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. When we were being made in secret, God’s eyes saw our unformed substance and knew all the days of our lives before we had one. The Lord knows us! He knows when we sit down and get up. He knows our thoughts and the words we will speak. The Lord is behind us and ahead of us. We have His reassuring presence, coming and going. We can trust Him and believe Him. We can go to Him with our pain, our fear, our anger. He will not leave us. He knows exactly what we need, and He will show us. So, what do we need to do for this to happen? Drop all of the crap and sit in His presence. Let Him love on you. Let Him guide you. Let Him help you determine what you need to work on. He will show you and He will do it in love and compassion. He longs to hear from you. He is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” – Brené Brown
“Intimate Deception” Dr. Sheri Keffer
“Worthy” Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher
The following are by Leslie Vernick:
“The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”
“The Emotionally Destructive Relationship”
“How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong”
“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands; the walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.” Isaiah 49:15-16