Dating: 6 Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Romantic couple holding hands in a field

Were there any signs?

Many people ask this question after hearing my story. A story of falling in love with a Southern green-eyed boy who ended up committing adultery and living a secret life. 

It took me a while to write this, because I had a hard time admitting that I saw warning signs while dating my ex-husband. I saw the signs, but I didn’t trust myself enough to listen to them.

The Enemy hates good marriages. Why? Because marriage is the ultimate picture of how much God loves us. It’s a commitment to die to yourself and the total opposite of selfishness. When marriages are strong, it slaps the Devil in the face! He hates anything that represents God! And, he’s been hitting marriages hard since the beginning of creation, starting with Adam and Eve.

How do we see warning signs aka “red flags?” Each of us have a navigation system, which only works when we listen to God’s voice. However, the Enemy deceives single people into believing that their navigation systems are broken–so that they will ignore red flags even if they see it.

It says in the Bible that the Devil steals, kills and destroys. If the Devil can steal your ability to identify red flags, then he can easily lead you to choose destructive relationships and sabotage your future. If single people keep choosing relationships that are unhealthy, the Enemy doesn’t even have to try to destroy marriages–they’ll do it on their own.

So, what do we do if we’ve been choosing wrongly? We have to start listening to God’s voice, the Holy Spirit. We need to start trusting ourselves when we feel that something is wrong.

Here are the red flags I wish I listened to:

  1. His maturity in faith doesn’t match yours, and he lacks a deep personal relationship with God. Many women I’ve talked to compromise here. Conflicts arise when two people from different religious backgrounds get married, and it also happens when two Christians of different maturity levels marry one another. Your values will match the level of your maturity; thus, different levels of maturity will lead to a clash of values. I found that this was the CORE reason why my ex-husband and I had so many disagreements. 
  2. You find yourself constantly rationalizing things away. You feel as if the relationship is causing you to choose between who you are and what you want. Now, I am not talking about compromising on watching your favorite TV show and letting him watch sports instead. I am talking about MORAL compromising.   I’ll give you an example: I have a strong value of not watching movies with graphic nudity. However, while dating my ex-husband, he told me that he watched movies with nudity (and I mean, graphic nudity). This issue is something we discussed over and over–and each time it was met with a lot of tension. We made an agreement that he could watch whatever he wanted as long as he “looked away” during nude parts. (And, I just had to  trust him because I didn’t watch every movie with him.) At times, I wondered if I was compromising too much, but each time I rationalized it all away. I had a red flag staring me in the face–a red flag that was hinting a deep sexual addiction he had–not just to porn but to prostitutes.
  3. He is vague with parts of his past, and there are topics that are “off limits.” My ex-husband left out a lot of parts of his life–parts that I discovered later that I wish I knew before. I let a lot of things get past my radar during my dating season and ended up finding more secrets than I could handle after we exchanged vows. There were parts of his past that he “didn’t want to talk about.” I felt sometimes I was walking on eggshells when I asked certain questions about his life.  I hold to the firm belief that you should really get to know someone before you marry them. If they are keeping secrets from you while you are dating–there will be more when you get married–trust me. If your significant other can’t trust you now, they won’t trust you later. You should have full transparency with one another–not so you can expose their secrets–but so you can cover each other with understanding and work on things that need mending. 
  4. He has a broken childhood, but never sought healing. I dated several men who ended up being unfaithful to me–and eventually married one. What did they all have in common? A very, very broken past that was never truly dealt with. Just because they share their story with you, does not mean they are getting help. It’s always best for them to have received professional therapy–especially in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, pornography, etc. DON’T BE AFRAID to ask how they’ve gotten their healing. I knew something about my ex-husband’s past that was major and concerning. When I first found out about it, I wanted to ask him how he coped with it, how he dealt with his past. He said he had healed from it, and I tip-toed around the subject because I could tell it was sensitive.  Tip-toeing around such a huge issue was like trying to cover an elephant with a napkin. It wasn’t going to go away just because we didn’t talk about it.  Looking back, I would tell myself, “Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions!” You will only be hurting yourself if you ignore the broken pieces that will become part of a broken marriage later
  5. You’ve caught him hiding things from you. ONE OF THE BIGGEST mistakes I made–was not to break off my engagement when I had the chance. We had just gotten engaged a few days prior, when I found a lot of photos of other women on his computer. One was an entire album of a girl he had dated that I NEVER knew about–and he dated her while we were getting to know one another. I felt so sick, I remember crying. He begged me to forgive him, cried crocodile tears–and we proceeded with our wedding plans after my big discovery. This flag was a warning of his unfaithfulness, and I refused to acknowledge it because I didn’t trust the small voice. My instincts kept telling me something was wrong-but I kept thinking I was making everything too big of a deal. Do you see what a lie that is? The lie that you can’t trust your instincts?
  6. He or she always has to be the one to “do” things. They always have to be “in charge.” I did long distance with my ex-husband so it was hard to recognize his tendency to control until we were married. However, looking back, I remember the first time I had a “check,” a feeling that felt off. We were at his house, and I was trying to wash the dishes when he told me he would do it. I then continued to wash dishes because I assumed he was just trying to be polite–and I wanted to clean up after he had spent time cooking me dinner. Then he snapped and said, “Please, don’t.” But, this time, it was very firm. I was surprised, but wasn’t sure how to respond. He then explained that if I washed dishes I would make too much noise, and he had the ability to do it a certain way. I kept thinking this incident was “small” even though it bothered me, and I didn’t feel right about it. Little did I know, I was getting a glimpse into his controlling and abusive personality that came to light during our marriage. 

Who you are with will determine where you will go.

If you’re getting red flags in your current relationship, here are a few suggestions. Remember, they may not look like the ones I’ve listed.

  1. Pray and ask God, why you are feeling the way you are feeling.
  2. Write out the EXACT event that bothered you. Don’t sugar coat it or water it down. Then, read it to a friend–one that will be honest with you. (I’m serious about this step. It’s important. Don’t isolate yourself to your own thoughts. Ask someone what they think about the warning signs you are getting.)
  3. If you start seeing a pattern, there is something major and you shouldn’t ignore it.
  4. Analyze any “warning signs” against your morals. Figure out if it’s something you can actually live with the rest of your life if that person never changes.
  5.  Make a decision to love yourself and trust yourself. There’s no point continuing to date someone that you aren’t sure about, especially if you are leaning towards marriage. It’ll only make for a rocky foundation that will fall apart later on. If you end up having to break off the relationship, you’ll have the freedom to choose again.

After being single for almost a year, I’ve learned to trust myself. It’s made all the difference. I’ve learned to say “no” to men that I had a bad feeling about. I’ve trusted my gut even when it didn’t fully make sense. I can say, I haven’t dated a single jerk since. And, it’s only made me love myself more for making good decisions.

I’m waiting for the right guy; in the mean time, I’ll keep writing.

-Jen, Writer for the Healed Heart

After my husband broke his vows… How I let go and found myself again

jen2.jpgHow do you let go of someone you vowed your life to? How do you stop thinking of yourself as a wife when that’s what you planned on being forever?

After finding out that my husband was committing adultery, I had to face the reality that the life I had always imagined was crumbling before me.

In this article, I am going to tell you how I picked myself up, how I discovered who I was, and how I began to love myself–not as his wife, not as someone who is single or married, but as me–Jensine. 

When I went counseling, I was still getting over the shock that my husband absolutely wanted a divorce and our marriage was completely over. The counselor kept telling me to “love myself.” I thought, what does that even mean? I haven’t a clue.

How can you love someone you don’t know? I didn’t even know who I was.

For those that haven’t quite heard my story, I will summarize it briefly. I fell in love with a man that I thought was my forever, my one and only. My friends thought I scored the perfect man because not only  was he Southern, polite, Christian, and handsome–he was also a medical doctor. He was extremely romantic during our dating days–flying across the country to see me, talking on the phone for hours with me, he sent me jewelry, and did elaborate things to impress me.

Within the first few months of marriage, my husband began to show signs that he didn’t truly love me. One particular day, I was having an allergic reaction and was having trouble breathing. We were having dinner with a few medical professionals. When I told him I couldn’t breathe, he ignored me and kept talking to the people at our table. I quickly exited the restaurant because my allergic reaction was overwhelming. I kept waiting for him to come out. But, he didn’t…not until all of the people at the table had finished eating. He cared more about what his doctor friends thought than how I was doing outside in the cold. I never told my family or friends that this happened and kept this a secret during the course of our marriage.

I was extremely lonely during my marriage.  My husband would come home at odd hours and would tell me he could never promise when he would be home. I was extremely depressed and began to spend all my energy working to impress my husband (even if I could see him for only about an hour or so a day). I would cook elaborate meals, make things for him, spend time cleaning, pack his lunch, wake up early to make his breakfast, and made sure he had a hot meal if he came home for dinner.  If he ever called, I would drop whatever I was doing and rush home to see him. Because, I never knew when I would be able to spend time with him. I started to notice that he was becoming aloof, and at times–I wondered why he ever married me.

Several times, I tried to spend time with my husband when he went out with friends–but he told me I was not invited because it was “doctors only.” I felt so rejected and inferior to my husband. Am I that undesirable? Why is he so embarrassed of me? I started to look in the mirror and tell myself I was unattractive and ugly.

After our 1st year anniversary, I discovered that my husband was soliciting services from prostitutes-and had been seeing prostitutes before I ever met him. His sexual addiction had started perhaps while he was in his early college years and he had hidden it from me as long as he could.

So, how did a broken woman screaming out for love learn to love herself? How did a woman who felt rejected, lonely, and ugly learn to see herself as beautiful, powerful, and desirable? 

  1. I decided that my life was worth fighting for. When my husband boldly declared his new relationship with his mistress all over social media, I was crushed. I thought, we are still married and he is brazen enough to declare his love for another woman? I was embarrassed, ashamed, rejected, but mostly–I hated myself. I hated my life. I went to the window in my room and opened it. I started having a panic attack–and in an instant, I found myself thinking about suicide. I began to wonder how far down it would be if I jumped out. And somehow, I mustered some strength to fight back with the lie that had been plaguing me for so long. The lie that told me that I was worthless–that I would be better off dead. I said, “No, I want to live. I am going to live! I am going to live.” 
  2. I started fixing my relationship with God. One day, I was driving home and I heard God say “Divorce but Not Defeated.” I had not been hearing God’s voice because during the whole breakdown of my marriage I was too confused and angry to listen. But, it was when I was not even expecting to hear from God that he began to speak to me; it was when I was quiet and not yelling or shouting in anger at him. When I googled the phrase, I discovered it was the EXACT title of a book written by a Christian woman who had experienced a similar situation with adultery and I quickly ordered the book. That book helped me through many rough and lonely nights. Before this, I didn’t want anything to do with God while I was hurting because I was so angry that he let everything happen to me. What I realized later is that what my ex-husband did to me was not God’s fault and had absolutely nothing to do with God. In fact, it was God’s grace that gave me the strength to get out of an abusive and extremely unloving marriage. After my perspective changed, I started seeing God as good and loving.
  3. I learned to love MYSELF without any labels; I learned to see who I was when I stripped away my skills, talents, abilities, physical attributes. If you don’t love the raw and real you. Then, who else will? You’ve got to love yourself in order to tell others how much they should love you.  If you don’t love yourself, it will be impossible to know if someone truly loves you–and it will be almost impossible to love others deeply.
  4. I learned to be easy on myself. I realized that in order to heal, I was going to have to start putting my needs first–which meant saying, “no” to some things.  I turned down invitations to parties, celebrations, and baby showers because I needed space to heal. I let myself rest–and on some days, I called out from work because I needed it. Some days, I didn’t feel like going to church, and that is okay. I learned that God knew where I was at, and he knew what I needed.  You don’t have to explain yourself to God or your friends  because the way you feel is completely normal! And, if your friends or family can’t understand you, have them read my other post by clicking here. I had to learn that it was okay to ugly cry; I had to learn that my emotions would range from being on top of the world to feeling dreadful. I learned to tell others what I needed from them–and learned to stop living in the land of regret. I also stopped going back into the past and had to stop “replaying” my life over and over. The bottom line is, the healing process of a broken heart does not belong to us–it belongs to God. So, when we start letting go of the healing process and quit trying to heal ourselves, that is when we can allow God to do what he does best. He is the best healer in town!
  5. I began to do practical things–I began to physically take care of myself. I began to tell myself that I was worth it by taking care of my body. I started going to the gym, started changing my wardrobe and my style. Sometimes, you have to do things that require physical action and then later your mind with catch up.
  6. I began to realize that not everyone’s opinion mattered. This is KEY. Everyone and their mom will have an opinion on what you could have done, should have done, or should be doing–but all you have to worry about right now is what is right for YOU. I decided which friends to lean on-and which friends to keep at a distance until I was healed enough to hear what they had to say. I didn’t allow everyone to speak into my life because I knew I had to protect my heart from hurtful opinions and judgmental accusations.
  7. THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE….I began to slowly let go of him….. AND, IT IS A PROCESS STILL. This is probably the slowest and longest step in my journey. When I first was away from my husband, I kept seeing him everywhere (even though he wasn’t actually there). Every man that slightly looked like him instantly brought him back into the room. And, at times it was so overwhelming I would break down and cry. I was so depressed that I would lock myself in the bathroom at work and cry because I missed him. I just wanted to be back in his arms. But, what I missed–was a mirage. Part of letting go was stopping all communication with him–even writing to him and sending letters to him had to stop. When we got divorced–all of the marriage debt defaulted to me by a fluke in court. I kept filing papers to try and fight it, but I didn’t realize that all the legal fighting was actually delaying my healing process. It kept re-digging old wounds from the past, with every phone call, every email, I would get reminded of the pain of my husband’s infidelity and unfaithfulness. I would begin to feel all the same feelings of betrayal and it would just reopen the wound. I had to LET GO of everything–including fighting for what I thought was justice, and eventually I just let go of the court case. Sometimes, you have to give the justice to God. Because he brings justice in his own way–which is always better.
  8. I began to do a lot of healthy self talk. I have a sign that I read to myself that hangs in my bathroom. It says, “I am a desirable, powerful, and influential woman.” And, I look at myself and tell myself that I am super sexy, beautiful, and hot. Because if you depend on someone else to tell you that you are beautiful, then when they stop saying that you are—you will believe that your beauty is gone. You need to tell yourself who you are because if you don’t, someone else will. 
  9. I began to hold the hands of others who were in the mud with me. It is so important to identify with others during this part of your journey. Part of the devil’s lie is to tell you that you are alone. This lie is what usually causes people to keep things secret and to keep things in the dark. Well, the devil is a liar! And, God’s truth is what will set you free. When you begin to surround yourself with women who know what you are going through and have been there or are there themselves, you will be able to have a great support system. Don’t keep quiet.
  10. I began to discover my past and figure out what wounds I had from my childhood. This is super key. You can’t try and fix the most recent problem in your life without retracing your steps back to your childhood. Unhealed wounds won’t heal themselves. They have to be dealt with or the infection will just spread into other places in your life.

I am still in progress, but guess what? I love myself! And, I hope after reading this, you are encouraged to find a road to healing. Just know, you are loved–and you were created ON PURPOSE. God didn’t make a mistake when he made you. Humans make mistakes–but God does not. And He can work around mistakes and make your story into something beautiful.  If you have read this far, then I am talking to YOU!

Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Jesus didn’t casually die on the cross so we can build churches and celebrate Christmas. He came so that he could take you where you are and transform your messy life into a miracle. God transformed my view of who I was and He can do the very same thing for you. No matter how ugly you think you are, no matter how undesirable you feel, no matter how much you want to commit suicide, God WANTS YOU. He says, “I pick you! I pick you! And, I always have wanted you.” Will you let him in?

If so, say this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I invite you into my heart. It is broken, it is messy and I don’t know what to do with it. But, I trust what you can do with my heart. Will you heal every part of it? I believe that you died and rose on the Cross and you paid not just for my sins–but for the things that would happen to me to make me broken. I pray that in this moment, you begin to show me what I need to do to become a whole person. Amen.

After you have prayed that, ask God to show you what things or steps you need to take to start loving yourself.

Your journey is going to be unique, just like mine is. I don’t have it all together. But, I often tell others, that you only need to be one step ahead of someone to lead them. So, will you let a perfect God turn your broken heart into a beautiful story?

-Jensine, writer for the Healed Heart.

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It seemed impossible to get closure after losing my ex-husband to adultery, but I learned that closure can come in many ways…

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I woke up in a daze from a disturbing dream that I had this morning. I dreamt that I was on the phone with my ex-husband asking all the questions that I still don’t have answers to…

In my dream, I went through the list of women that I had discovered he was secretly seeing during our marriage. I began to name all of the women one by one. I went on to ask him why he called them so many times each day. I wanted to know why he chose to commit adultery even though I supported him financially through medical school. I wanted to know why he chose to begin committing adultery the minute he received a job offer. I felt my anger in my dream as I continued to question him. But, during this dream, he failed to answer me.

In my desperation, I began to panic. I thought to myself, “I need those answers!”

Thankfully–the dream ended, and I woke up.

When I woke up, I knew that my dream was a LIE. I have learned that true closure does not come in answers; closure is found in trusting God enough to let him heal your heart so that you can begin your next chapter. I used to feel like without obtaining all the answers, I would never be able to fully heal and move on.  I have to admit–sometimes, I wish I had answers. If you are like me and found out that your spouse was hiding secrets, I am sure you can relate.

Recently, I had a conversation with my adopted sister. I was struggling with feeling like I needed closure through my ex-husband paying me back for everything I lost. I told her that though it sounded terrible, I would rather take $50,000 from my ex-husband over a million dollars from someone else. My reasoning behind it was that, I wanted my ex-husband to be personally responsible.  I didn’t want someone else to pay the price for his actions. I knew it didn’t make sense, but I said that I would feel more satisfied seeing him feel the pinch of paying me back. But, wouldn’t the scenario of someone handing me a million dollars be much better? Of course.

I spent a long time playing detective, trying to piece together my ex-husband’s secret life, his motives, and actions. I spent a long time wishing that he would one day give me a full confession or apologize for his actions. What I didn’t realize was that by doing this, I was giving my ex-husband too much power over me. It was as if I was placing the power in his hands and saying, “Whenever you apologize, then I can finally live my life. Until then, my life is on hold.” I had given power to the Enemy through unforgiveness, pride, bitterness and anger and told God that I only wanted closure through my doing.

By demanding closure through our fleshly way, we forget what God did on the cross for us. Before Jesus died on the cross for us, the penalty for sin was death! God could have said, “No, I want closure for their actions against me, and I don’t want anyone else to pay for their sins.” But, instead he sent Jesus to die for us. Can you imagine if God did otherwise?

The truth is, you could get all the answers you’ve ever wanted, you could finally get that apology you’ve hoped for–but you still may never fully be satisfied. True closure is knowing that God has restored you beyond who you used to be–and is making you someone even better than before. True closure is realizing that God doesn’t just repair–he makes NEW things.

Can I tell you that God is so much more creative and has the BEST version of closure for you and me? No matter what kind of trauma you have faced, God has the best idea for your next chapter and He wants you to move on with your life! My closure has been letting go and letting God restore me in his time. My closure has been learning how valuable I am, and learning more about who I am as a Daughter of God. My closure has been pursuing my lifelong dream of starting an orphanage. My closure has been finding my joy again. More and more, I have been able to let go of the idea of ever receiving a full confession or apology from my ex-husband. Frankly, I don’t need it.

So let God give you the closure you need. It’s time to close an old chapter and start a new one.

 

-Jen

 

 

 

A Second Chance For My Wedding Dress

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I stuffed my wedding dress under my bed, so I wouldn’t have to look at it in my closet. It was too painful to keep in sight, but too precious to give away. What an irony, right? Yes, that is how I felt about my dress after my marriage fell apart. I never thought I would sell my wedding dress.  I always thought it would be passed down as an heirloom to my future kids. But, life takes turns you don’t see coming.

I listed my wedding dress on Craigslist and was contacted by a woman interested in buying it. My heart skipped a beat when I read her message. Part of me felt relief; however, part of me felt sad that something so special would now belong to a stranger.

The Craigslist buyer told me that she was saving herself for marriage and was a Christian. I thought, what are the odds that a woman, who is saving herself for marriage (like I did), would be the next person to wear my wedding dress? Also, what are the odds that we would both share the same faith? From the things she was saying, I saw myself in her.  I was surprised.

A few weeks before this, I decided to take out my wedding dress and look at it. It was absolutely breathtaking. I began to reminisce on the day I bought it. I was at David’s Bridal and had only been trying on dresses for 20 minutes and decided right away that was it.  Most people spend a long time finding the perfect dress–but I knew that dress belonged to me at first sight. From the delicate placement of sequins, to the soft layers of fabric, to the curve of the seams—every detail was full of character.  I felt like a magazine bride in that dress.

Now, that gorgeous dress was tainted with the pain of divorce. As long as the wedding dress was in my possession, it would represent heartache. It held memories of walking down the aisle to a man that would later break all of his vows, mistreat me, and choose other women instead of me.

The Craigslist buyer met with me to try on the dress. As emotional as I thought I would be, I calmly removed the wedding dress from the garment bag and offered to help her try it on.  As I was lacing the back of the dress, I noticed that it fit her perfectly. The crazy part is the dress fit her even though I made a lot of custom alterations to fit my body shape–including shortening the dress, taking in the waist, and altering the bust.

It gets better:  I ended up giving her my wedding shoes and corset because they were her exact size too!  God cared about the details so much that he arranged for us to meet: two people with the same dress sizes, same shoe sizes, same faith. He knew that this would be a healing experience for me. It almost seemed too obvious: God was saying that I get to recreate my fairy tale again.  

As she stood there looking at herself in the mirror, gasping with disbelief that she was going to own everything she was wearing—it became clear. She would write a new story for my wedding dress. A dress that had been stuffed under a bed would now be part of a beautiful and loving marriage. It was now her treasure.

IN ONE SINGLE MOMENT, my wedding dress went from being a symbol of heartache to a symbol of pure joy. She said God answered her prayers through me! Can you believe that God used me to bless someone’s marriage in the midst of my divorce?  He sure has a sense of humor. God works EVERYTHING for good…everything. Nothing goes to waste if we let Him redeem it.

Now, when I think about my wedding dress…I smile. In about a month, that bride will walk down the aisle, and my old dress will shine just like it did on my wedding day. Except now, there is a tale to be told. A tale of redemption, second chances, and answered prayers.  And, one day, she will pass that dress down as an heirloom–just as I have always hoped.

-Jen, Writer for the Healed Heart

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What You Should & Shouldn’t Say to Someone Facing Divorce

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What do you say to someone going through a divorce ?

Many people feel awkward when they hear of divorce. They say the wrong things out of ignorance–not because they mean any harm. Now that I’ve crawled through the mud of divorce, I have some insight into what you should and shouldn’t say. Remember, there will never be a perfect thing to say, but hopefully this article will point you in the right direction!

What Not to Say:

  1. “OK, I want the whole story. What happened?” Don’t ask for all the details–it won’t kill you if you don’t know!  When my marriage was falling apart, a lot of my friends kept asking me to repeat what happened between my husband and I. I would cry at all the same parts in my story, feel all the same emotions, and I kept feeling depressed even though I thought talking about it would make me feel better.  In retrospect, I realize that repeating my story to them was more for their sake rather than for mine. Making your friend repeat their story is like making them watch a horror movie over and over again. If you want to be there for your friend, think about their emotional health first. It is selfish to make them relive their pain just to cure your curiosity.  When they are ready, they will tell you what they feel comfortable sharing.
  2. Don’t tell your friend to stop being sad, depressed, and expect them to instantly get over their heartbreak. When I was grieving over my husband’s infidelity and the breakdown of my marriage, I heard people say: “Stop giving your husband so much power by being sad.” “You should move on and just not think about it…”  If someone fell and broke their leg, you wouldn’t tell them to get up and start running–it would be ludicrous! That would only cause more injury! They would need to get medical attention, take the weight off of that leg, and take care of it so that it was not injured further. So, why do we expect someone with a broken heart to “get back on the horse” and be instantly healed? We coax our friends to immediately start dating again, to start being happy again–when actually, this will cause more injury. Even though you can’t physically see a broken heart, it needs to go through a healing process
  3. “Well, your marriage was a mistake.” Some of my friends wanted me to admit that my marriage was a mistake. However, it was not their place to make that judgment. It is wrong to think that you can determine whether or not they married the wrong person. That is for God to decide.   People have the free will to make wrong choices within a marriage, but that does not mean the marriage was a mistake to begin with.  Countless times, the Bible shows how God had plans for things to go one way, but the free will of people changed those plans. God can place two people together, but we can choose to walk away because of our own free will.
  4. Did you try to make your marriage work? Though you may mean well, this statement can come off as judgmental. This question is also a bit nonsensical. Most people try to make their marriage work before calling it quits. Your friend obviously did not get to the stage of divorce overnight. Most likely, they have exhausted every option before this and have been mulling over every detail for some time now. Recognize that they don’t need to give you a report of what they did or didn’t do to save their marriage.
  5. “If only you would have [insert opinion here], you could have prevented this.” A lot of people told me that if I had done things differently, I would not have been in my predicament. “If only you would have…”  Do you know that by telling your friend that they could have somehow prevented the mess they are in, you are claiming a false statement as truth? It is prideful to predict what would have happened in your proposed scenarios. Moreover, it absolutely impossible for you to know exactly what would have happened had YOU been in their shoes and done all the “right” things; in actuality, the outcome may have been the same or dare I say, even worse.
  6. Don’t play counselor if you aren’t professionally licensed. I was given tons of “advice” when I first began to share what was going on in my marriage–most of the “advice” was actually an opinion. Those opinions only brought confusion and sometimes guilt. You could be doing more harm than good. The thing is, you don’t have what it takes to give clear advice unless you have been professionally trained. 
  7. Don’t tell them that their marriage was not real. Just because their marriage did not work out does not negate the fact that they built a life with their spouse. They have every reason to grieve and feel the pain of their loss. It is also insensitive to tell someone that their marriage was fake when everything they are feeling is very real.
  8. Don’t pressure your friend into going to parties, events, or other social outings. People have the false notion that in order to heal from heartbreak one needs to resume all regular activities. You need to understand that your friend will have some very tough days and may not feel social. They may not want to celebrate birthdays, holidays, weddings, baby showers for a while–and you can’t take it personally or guilt them into “stuffing” all of their emotions in a box. Understand that they need to have some space and celebrations may be out of the question for a few months.
  9. Don’t share their situation with others. I know it may seem ridiculous that I put this on the list, but most of my friends ended up sharing my situation with someone that was “close” to them even though I specified that my circumstance be kept only between them and me. Your friend has every right to choose who knows and who doesn’t know about their situation. It is not your story to tell.  Yes, I know it may be hard not tell your mom, sister, pastor, boyfriend or spouse–but if that person confides in YOU, make sure you are a trustworthy friend. And, if you think it will be a struggle to keep their situation confidential then be honest with them–don’t let them find out you told someone else through a third party. Rule of thumb, don’t talk about their situation unless they are present.  ***Note: There are exceptions. If your friend is being physically abused or is in immediate danger you need to report this to the police. If your friend is suicidal, you need to call the suicide hotline.

What You Should Do & Say:

  1. I am here for you. Your role as a friend is to be there for them. To be a shoulder they can cry on. My adopted sister has been there for me during my worst moments. She has stayed on the phone with me when I thought I couldn’t drive because the tears in my eyes were blinding me from seeing the road. She’s been there for me in the middle of the night when I thought I was losing my mind. All it takes is finding out what your friend needs in that moment.
  2. Make a “comfort bag” of goodies for them. Grief for anyone going through a divorce comes in waves. You can put together a few of their favorite things–maybe their favorite movie, some encouraging words in a card, candy, inspirational art, a blanket for them to cuddle in, a journal. I had friends who gave me a blanket when I first separated from my husband. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I still sleep with it every night. Things that bring comfort are so important.
  3. Tell them: “If you don’t feel like talking about anything, you don’t have to.” One of my dear friends said this before I went over to her house. Wow, what a relief it was to hear this! It was such a breath of fresh air. She just let me sit at her house, play with her kids, and she let me be. I can’t tell you how good it feels NOT to feel pressured to talk about your problems. So many people make the mistake of pressuring their friends to talk about their divorce. Sometimes, they just need a good distraction and some fresh air.
  4. Focus on your friend, not their church attendance. One thing my counselor said was–sometimes, people are more concerned with whether you are going to church than with how you are actually doing. When I first separated from my husband, the last thing I wanted to do was go to church. I wasn’t backsliding or partying it up on the weekends–I just needed time to adjust to a major crisis. God sees your friend where they are, and if they need a break from church, keep supporting them. Eventually, they will be ready to come back to church on their own time.
  5. Recognize that a divorce is not the same as a breakup. A marriage is very different from a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. I have weathered a few breakups of my own, but I can truly say they do not compare to a divorce. After breaking up with my ex-boyfriends, I was able to move on rather quickly and resume my normal routines–no matter how painful those breakups were at the time. But, when the reality of divorce first set in–I did not know what hit me. It is hard to understand until you experience both a breakup and a divorce. Divorce is a slow, painful death that rips at your heart, and it is exhausting because it is both an emotional and legal process. A divorce takes many months–whereas a breakup happens in a moment. The agony and dread of facing your spouse in court, drafting legal documents with your attorney, and fighting over property division is extremely excruciating. Be sensitive to their pain–even if you cannot personally relate.
  6. Buy them some helpful books. Please click here to find some books that have helped me through the mud of divorce. A book goes a long way, trust me. They kept me sane.
  7. Tell me about what you are doing now to cope. What is going on with your life right now? A lot of my friends were so busy playing detective and figuring out what happened in my divorce, they forgot to ask me how I was doing. They forgot to deal with the present day Jen. Stop digging into your friend’s past and start focusing on them in the moment. What do they need right now?
  8. What can I do to help you? This is probably one of the BEST things you can say to your friend because you are giving them a chance to tell you what they need. It’s better than assuming you know what they need. Believe me, they will thank you for it.
  9. How can I pray for you? Seriously, I have cried and leaned on many people and prayer has been such a strengthening tool for me. God is always BIGGER than any situation–no matter how bleak, confusing, or complicated it may seem.

 

Finally, remember to be gentle with your friend and tell them to be gentle with themselves. Don’t avoid your friend just because they are going through a divorce–they still need you.  They will thank you later for being kind to their broken heart.

-Jen, Writer for The Healed Heart.

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I share my journey through a painful divorce in hopes that it will bring healing to others. Please click  here for “My Story.”

I am pursuing my passion to build orphanages and make a difference in the world. To support me, please visit: www.gofundme.com/jensinedreams 

Why You Shouldn’t Be Jealous of Your Ex

 

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My husband chose his new mistress over me. But, I wasn’t jealous of her–I was jealous of him. My husband seemed to be doing so much better than me; he committed adultery and seemed to be enjoying his life.  On social media, his new mistress claimed she was experiencing some of her “happiest days” with him. Meanwhile, I was trying to pick up the pieces of my heart—trying hard not to break down. I envied his “happiness.”  I was jealous.

I remember sticking my head out of the window to get some fresh air because I had to calm down. My husband went public with another woman, and we are still married! For a second, I wanted to jump out—but immediately I countered the lie—the lie that my life was over. I said, “I want to live. I want to live!”

Being jealous of your ex is poison. The enemy wants you to believe that you are the most miserable, most pathetic person, and that you are alone in your suffering. The enemy wants you to be devastated by the lie that your ex is experiencing the happiest times of his life without you, and that you have no way of experiencing any happiness of your own. Because I believed that my husband was happier than me, better off than me, more successful than me—I allowed myself to get wounded again. I allowed my heart to be vulnerable and experience more heartache over a lie.

Being jealous will keep you stuck in one place. It is impossible for you to be jealous and have joy at the same time. It is also impossible to move on from your old relationship if you are constantly thinking about your ex. Jealousy chooses to focus on what you don’t have. Jealousy will tell you that you have nothing good, nothing to be thankful for, and that you should keep envying your ex. Jealousy is like wearing a blindfold. When we are jealous, we cannot see the truth.

 

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;

jealousy is like cancer in the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)

If you are like me—a wife that thought her marriage would last forever—then you know how difficult it is to rebuild your life after losing your spouse. I had to relocate 2,000 miles across the country after my husband left me destitute, went through severe depression, and didn’t even know where to begin. Meanwhile, everything in his life seemed to remain the same or get better: he kept the same stable job, continued to live in the same neighborhood, and began a new relationship.

The world might say that my husband seemed blessed after committing adultery. His world seemed to get better while my world was turned upside down. Can I tell you the truth? Sin never leads to happiness, and sin never leads to blessing. Don’t believe me? God says it in his word.

If your spouse committed adultery and walked away from your marriage, there is no reason to be jealous. Jealousy says, “I want what he has.” But, let me tell you, your ex has nothing to give you that you haven’t already gotten. They may tell you they are having the best time of their lives. However, they are merely chasing another mirage, another shadow—in hopes that the grass is greener on the other side. Their inability to know real intimacy and love is spun from a web of many complex issues—and that is nothing to be jealous over.

Ways to stop being jealous and move on:

  1. Be thankful. Start writing down things you are thankful for….you may not have much come to mind, but write down the little things—like clean socks. Eventually your list will start to get longer as you begin to focus on the positive.
  2. Pray. Start praying for your ex to know God—not for your sake but for theirs.
  3. Realize your life is not over. Realize that YOUR life has so much potential and that you don’t have to end your story with heartbreak.

 

When the lie begins to creep in that you are second best because your ex chose her instead of you, remind yourself that God chooses you every time. God will always put you first, you are always on his mind, he will never leave you, and he doesn’t break promises.

 

-Jen

 

If you would like to help me pursue my dream to build orphanages, please go to www.gofundme.com/jensinedreams 

This website is meant to tell others who are facing separation or divorce that they are NOT alone. Please use the links on this website to see a list of helpful books, resources, and parts of my own journey that may be able to bring some sanity to your own situation.

 

 

 

 

How God Redeemed My Wedding Song

 

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When my husband and I first fell in love, we had this CD that we were just obsessed with. It was this David Brymer worship CD, and we played it until the songs themselves were tired. I am not kidding! We loved all of his songs. But, our favorite song on that album was, “Eyes of Redemption.”

When my husband proposed, he installed a little device inside of a scrapbook that played our song. When I opened the scrapbook, it played “Eyes of Redemption” and on the last page, were the words, “Will You Marry Me?” That song was also the song I walked down the aisle to on our wedding day.

Right after I separated from my husband, my brother made the mistake of playing David Brymer’s songs while we were making the 2,000 mile trip to the West Coast. I freaked out and immediately told my brother to turn it off. I couldn’t stand reliving the emotions that the album represented. It was too painful. I knew every song on that album.

Anyone going through a divorce will know that listening to your wedding song is incredibly painful. You don’t want to relive the memory of feeling so nervous that you thought you would trip on your dress while walking down the aisle. You don’t want to relive the memory of looking into your husband’s eyes and seeing him grin from ear to ear at the sight of your big but beautiful dress. You don’t want to relive the memory of how your bridesmaids and mother in law scrambled at the last minute to get the wrinkles out of your veil. You don’t want to relive the memory of how you kept checking your teeth to make sure there was no lipstick on them. You don’t want to relive the memory of how you hurried to make sure your vows were in place–and the anxious feeling you had as the wedding planner told you the doors were about to open.

You don’t want to relive your wedding song because it represents pain. The reminder that you invested everything you had to give: your heart. 

Recently, I went to a women’s conference where the speaker, Kim Johnson, began to sing one of David Brymer’s songs, “Worthy of it All.” Normally, I would have had a panic attack just by hearing anything from his album. But, because God had been healing my heart so much, I was unable to recognize the song. I know it sounds bizarre, but I literally kept thinking to myself–what a beautiful song, I wonder who the artist is. It felt familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on where I had heard it before. I began to sing along with her and the song really touched me. God had somehow made that tune sound new again. I went to bed that night completely unaware that I had sung a David Brymer song from the very album I had been opposed to listening to–the album that had represented pain for so long.

The next morning, that song began to play in my head. Immediately, I felt like I needed to find out the name of the performing artist. I Googled the words “worthy of it all” and to my surprise, David Brymer’s name popped up. I was shocked and said, “I can’t believe that Kim Johnson got me to sing a David Brymer song!” No wonder it sounded familiar!

Immediately, I knew what God wanted me to do next: He wanted me to sing my wedding song, “The Eyes of Redemption.” Tears began to stream down my face, as I sang my wedding song–but this time I wasn’t singing it to my husband, I was singing it to God. Emotions of pain associated with the song began to gently wash away as I sang the lyrics over and over again. I heard God say, “This song belonged to me and you first. I loved you before your husband ever loved you.”

Something began to break in the atmosphere; I felt so free and at peace.

 If you have ever heard my wedding song, “The Eyes of Redemption,” it starts out with these lyrics: “I’m falling in love with you all over again, there is no one who redeems like you….I’m falling in love with you all over again, you’re the shepherd who will see me through. You see my pain through the eyes of redemption. And the sorrow that was mine you took away. ”

God was definitely making a point by redeeming a song about redemption. The Enemy had taken that song and tried to corrupt its meaning in my heart. That’s what the Enemy does, he tries to turn God’s redemption into pain.

I believe that God wants to redeem the wedding song in your heart. He wants to give you HIS love in exchange for the disappointment, the pain, and the brokenness of your marriage. If you think you have nothing left in your heart…let me tell you this, God loved you first before anyone else ever loved you.

So, fall in love again. It’s worth it.

-Jen