How to Decide to Divorce Your Spouse

divorce-broken-wedding-rings-290x160One of the hardest decisions of my life was to get a divorce.  At some point and time you finally come to the sad realization that you bring out the worse and not the best in your spouse and vice versa. While there were many appropriate reasons for my divorce, airing them out now would only be self-serving.  Rather, after 17 years of blissful marriage to my current husband, my tumultuous first marriage of 3 years has long faded in my memory as if it happened to someone else.  However the reality of its existence still pops up from time again and is a constant reminder to me of God’s mercy and grace.

Perhaps you are struggling right now with deciding if you need to get a divorce and it should be a struggle.  Deciding to break a promise and covenant should not come without challenges, questions, frustrations, guilt, indecisiveness, and doubts.  All of those should exist and it is an indication that you are taking the matter seriously.  Nonetheless, here you are trying to make the decision.  How can you do it?  How can you break up the marriage?  How can you give up on your spouse?  How can you face that person who told you not to get married in the first place?

Separate.  It is difficult to see things when you are right in the middle; it is like trying to see the forest through the trees.  Take a step back and separate from your spouse for a while to gain more perspective.  This should be an agreed upon separation for a period of time to reflect and work on individual issues.  This is not a time to blame the other person but rather to recognize your part in how the marriage fell apart.  The separation can even occur within the same house as long as you have an agreed upon set of boundaries.

Change.  Once you have separated then you can begin the process of changing the things you need to change about yourself.  For instance, you may find that you have become a negative paranoid person when you were not like that prior to your marriage.  Granted, there may be very good a reason for your negativity or paranoia but this is the time to change the parts of yourself that have grown in an unhealthy manner.  Focus on your own change first.

Forgive.  Forgiveness is much easier said than done and is definitely not a one-time act.  First, you must begin by asking for forgiveness for your own poor choices before you begin to forgive your spouse.  Recognizing your need for forgiveness softens your heart and prepares you for the next step of forgiving your spouse.  However, forgiving your spouse is not about releasing him from responsibility; rather it is about your ability not to replay the incident over and over again in your mind inciting huge amounts of anxiety to the point of panic.  Forgiveness is for your benefit.

Evaluate.  After you have completed all of the steps, now it is time to evaluate the state of your marriage and see if divorce is really the right decision.  The steps do not need to include your spouse but the process of restoration is far easier if he is a willing participant.  If he is not willing, then that decision becomes a factor in your final decision.  Weigh your options out more carefully when you decide to break the commitment of marriage than you did when you decided to make the commitment of marriage.

Time.  Take your time making the decision looking at it from a spiritual, emotional, physical, legal, and mental aspect carefully weighing the impact it will have on the people around you especially if children are involved.  Resist the temptation to just get it over with and take your time.  Pray, ask for guidance, read, and talk to trusted family and friends.  Sometimes there really is no perfect solution, only the best out of several bad options.  Once you have made the final decision however, do not drag things out longer than needed.  This will only cause more pain for you and the people around you.

Hope.  Beautiful things can come out of the ashes of shattered dreams.  Whatever your situation, divorce does not need to define you as a person or change you into someone you wish you had not become.  Instead, use your divorce as a fresh start and a chance to do things better the next time.  Don’t be afraid to set new standards and hope for a better relationship the next time.

Deciding to divorce your spouse is a tough decision and should not be taken lightly as it will become one of the hardest decisions you will have to make.  Sometimes you are not in control of the decision as your spouse has already decided it for you.  But when you are, take a step back and choose wisely.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Marriage Tip: Forgive Your Spouse for the Little Things

It’s the little things that count.  Too often the big things in a marriage get the most attention while the little things go unrecognized for lack of importance.  However, if you can begin the practice of forgiving your spouse for the little things, then when the big things come up it will be a much easier task.  It’s like running a race.  You train for the race gradually, increasing your speed, intensity, and distance with each practice.  Eventually you are prepared to run the race at your best because of the practice even if you didn’t feel well that day.  Yet, if you were to run the race cold, even with the best intentions at heart, you would not do as well as if you practiced a little every day.  It is the same with forgiveness.  Practice forgiving the little things each day and when the big things come along you will have your training in forgiveness to fall back on even when you don’t feel like forgiving.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Don’t Lose Your Christianity in Your Divorce Part 2

So what does it meant to love someone who you are divorcing?  Let’s review the second part of this passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Not Demanding.  Wanting things the way you want them is demanding, selfish, immature, and often unrealistic.  It is so hard to see things from your ex’s point of view during a divorce but your Christianity asks this very thing of you.  It takes a great deal of self-control to put your wants aside and see things from your ex’s perspective however if you can do this, your divorce will go far smoother.

Not Irritable.  Being irritable at you ex will come very naturally for you as just a text or picture of them is likely to spark intense feelings.  This is one of those times when either your emotions will control you or you will control your emotions.  It is normal for you to feel irritable towards your ex but that does not give you permission to act irritable towards your ex.

No Record Keeping.  Forgive, forgive and when you don’t know what else to do, forgive again.  Your ex may entice you to anger every day during the divorce proceedings, forgive them.  Your ex may make rude comments or remarks on texts, emails, in person, or by phone, don’t return the remark but forgive them.  Your ex may relive the past over and over, don’t return the record keeping but forgive them again.  You will have to forgive your ex a thousand times during your divorce and when the thousand is up, forgive them yet again.  This is not about being a door mat or letting your ex take advantage of you, rather it is about not letting your ex control you through your unforgiveness.

Truth Wins.  You may not see the truth win out during your divorce, you may not see it win out after the divorce, and in fact you may never see the truth win during your lifetime.  But the end of the story is that truth does win when Jesus comes to reign as King and you may not even know the full truth.  So don’t rejoice when things go badly for your ex for you never know when things may go just as badly for you.

Don’t Give Up.  Too many times this verse is quoted trying to convince the other person that they should not give up on their marriage.  It is often wrongly used in the context of trying to control and manipulate behavior by saying that you should never give up on your marriage.  But when this verse is put in the context of love, it is love doesn’t give up.  Not giving up on your ex is not about the marriage, it is about your attitude towards them.  Because you love them, you will not give up on loving them regardless of their behavior.

Don’t Lose Faith.  Having faith in your ex is having faith that their intentions, however horrible they may have been at one time, are honorable now.  Again, if evidence proves to the contrary and your ex’s intentions are not good, you don’t have to keep expecting a different more hopeful result.  But you can remain faithful in love and with good distance that one day the tide will turn and there will be closure and restoration of a limited relationship.

Hopeful.  Love is hopeful that in the end all things, issues, differences, struggles, frustrations, troubles, and relationships will be resolved.  Our hope is not in this world or in this lifetime, rather it is a hope and promise in meeting your Creator and spending all Eternity with Him.  Keep your perspective big picture instead of little picture and your ability to remain hopeful will return.  By the way, the hope for the future includes spending all of Eternity with your ex and if you have not prayed likewise for that, now is a good time to start.

Enduring.  Last by not least, love endures through every circumstance.  Not some circumstances, not most circumstances, not the circumstances you want to endure but every single circumstance that you could or don’t even want to imagine.  This translates into loving your ex even when they are speaking lies about you, even when they are yelling at you, even when they are unfair to you, even when they are unforgiving towards you, and even when they use the children against you.  You can still choose to love.

And that is the finally conclusion, that you can still choose to love despite all of the rejection, stress, anxiety, struggles, lies, manipulation, abuse, destructive behavior, broken promises, and betrayal.  Yes, you can still choose to love and in that you will experience what Jesus experienced on this earth and have an even greater appreciation for what He did by dying for your sins.  You can lose your Christianity in your divorce or you can allow your divorce to draw you even closer to God.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Healing from an Abortion

Charlotte's Newborn Session

Charlotte’s Newborn Session (Photo credit: Christine ™)

This is a wonderful heartfelt letter from a mother to her aborted son.  The “F Word” is forgiveness and in it she asks for forgiveness from her son.  If you have struggled with how to heal from an abortion and find yourself thinking about how old your child would be or what he/she would be like, then this letter is an excellent example of a portion of the healing process.  You can heal from abortion.  You can be forgiven.  But you can neither be healed or forgiven if you don’t acknowledge the pain and seek help.  Hopefully this letter will inspire you.

The F Word, Part 2: A Letter to Aiden.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Love your enemies quote

I love this quote from Martin Luther King Jr about loving your enemies. Take a moment to reflect on the meaning and where you can apply this to your life today.

“I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.”

Still another quote…

“Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Power of Unforgiveness

Angry Penguin

Angry Penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

College towns are hard to get around just on foot because of the distance between classes and dorms, so as a college student, I took up bike riding.  One day while riding in the street, granted I was riding in the opposite direction of traffic which is strangely prophetic of my college years, my wheel got caught in an old railroad track causing my bike to twist and overturn.  As my head was falling to the ground, I looked up to see a car headed straight for me.  Suddenly, my life literally flashed before my eyes with all of its highs and lows.  Thankfully the car stopped just before it reached my head and I suffered only a sprained ankle and a fractured arm.

Take a moment and imagine the highs and lows of your life right now, what images or people would pop into your head?  More than likely there are high moments with people and places of great excitement, joy, and love.  More than likely there are also low moments that are still causing you some residual anxiety, stress or anger.  One of the reasons those low moments leave residual emotional scars is because of unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness of past events or people can be powerful and destructive even to your current relationships.

Quick to anger.  if you find yourself quick to get angry over little issues, taking too many things personally,  or to blowing things out of proportion to their significance, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Anger is a powerful emotion that often has its roots in past rather than current events.  Our unresolved past events especially those events that were traumatic in nature creep into our current anger outbursts.

Biting sarcasm.  If you find yourself using biting sarcasm which is sarcasm that takes a dig at another person and find them not laughing or nervously laughing, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Biting sarcasm is anger’s close cousin and it is an effort to mask true feelings of anger and resentment.  Perhaps quicker than an angry outburst, biting sarcasm can destroy a relationship because it is a back-handed attack.

Malicious gossip.  If you find yourself needing to talk to several people about the same issue or person over and over to get just one more perspective, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Gossip is talking about someone behind their back.  Some even go to the lengths to justify their gossip by saying they were just trying to inform or protect someone else.  This is still gossip and your present relationships go on guard each time you talk about someone else behind their back.

Dreaming of revenge.  If you find yourself daydreaming of getting back at someone or seeking out ways to outdo someone else to prove you are better, more than likely you are harboring unforgiveness.  Revenge comes in many forms and it does not always have to be physically harmful to another person.  Just wanting a person to get what they deserve, lose a relationship, have financial hardships, or feel pain is vengeful thinking.  Your present relationships will then be in fear of retribution rather than feel your love.

Unforgiveness is powerful in that it gives you the false sense that you are in control.  By harboring the negative feelings, a person can feel like they are in charge.  But sadly, the person or event that caused the unforgiveness is really in control and in charge as you are merely reacting to the person or event.  Take charge of your own life and don’t allow someone else or something else to control what you are doing or how you are reacting.  Better yet, turn your life and your unforgiveness over to God and allow Him to take care of the person or situation.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

When You Are Parenting Your Parent

There is a strange occurrence in the parent / child relationship when the parent begins to act more like the child and the child (now an adult) begins to act more like the parent.  This can happen at almost any age, even when the child is still a child, but it most definitely happens as the parent ages.  As the adult child, you eventually find yourself reversing roles with your parent and suddenly parenting him or her.

Perhaps your parent is refusing to take medication that would help them, driving when they can no longer see correctly, spending ridiculous amounts of money on late night TV ads, forgetting relatives or close friends, becoming angry for no apparent reason, and alienating themselves from others.  When confronted about their struggles, your parent acts more like a two-year old that has been told “no” then an adult.  Frustrated, you respond in a controlling manner which in turn is met with more frustration from your parent, tempers mount and unnecessary words are exchanged.  But there is a better way and it begins with you.

Honor your parent.  The reason this is one of the Ten Commandments is because this often becomes difficult to do at some point.  Honoring your parents means showing them respect for the years they provided for you, listening to their point of view without condemnation, and lifting them up to a place of high esteem in your household.  The difficulty comes when your parents have not or do not behave in a manner in which deserves honor.  Yet we are commanded to show honor even when they do not deserve it.  This is not about gaining the upper hand or manipulating control, rather it is a change in your heart and attitude as to how you will approach your parent.

Forgive your parent.  Once you decide to have an attitude of honor towards your parent, choosing to forgive them for past behaviors becomes next in the process.  At some point, your parent will no longer be able to clearly communicate, think thoroughly, or positively process the circumstances of their life.  Past hurts can no longer be addressed simply because your parent is unable to fully comprehend all you are saying.  Your choice is to harbor bitterness towards them for past behaviors or to forgive.

Love your parent.  What?  Of course you love your parent but do you love the person that they have become or do you love the person that they once were?  Loving your parent unconditionally means accepting who they have become in light of who they once were and choosing to love them regardless of the outcome.  They may act unloving but you can still make the choice to love them just as you hope that someone will do for you.

Parenting your parent can become difficult but if you remember to honor, forgive and love in spite of the circumstances and their behavior, you will find peace.  While the role reversal may frustrate the old patterns of your relationship, use this opportunity to rebuild your relationship into a healthy one instead of the old dysfunctional patterns.  In the end, you will be the one who benefits from the change in the relationship.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

What can you do when you are hurting?

There are times in our lives when things happen that hurt us.  Perhaps it is the disappointment of our children, the broken trust of our spouse, the betrayal of a friend, the abandonment of a family member, the failure of a business, or the rejection of a neighbor.  Whatever the incident, we have a choice to either deal with the hurt or bury the hurt.

Often the reason we bury our hurt is because we don’t want to feel the pain.  We instead turn to some sort of medication to stop the pain as if the pain is the problem instead of a symptom of the problem.  Medication does not necessarily come in the form of drugs, some medicate themselves from pain through excessive shopping, eating or drinking or perhaps fantasy thinking through gambling, pornography, television or video games.  Whatever the medication, the goal is the same, to dull or distract us from the pain and hurt we feel.

But we can choose to deal with the hurt instead.  The process is threefold beginning with recognizing the hurt has occurred, than responding constructively to the hurt and finally restoring the damaged relationship.  With each step, the hurt diminishes over time allowing the stress of the incident to fade.  However this process is not easy as many get stuck in one of the stages thereby not fully completing the steps and allowing the hurt to continue far longer than needed.  Let’s examine each of the steps more fully to better understand the process.

Recognize.  Our ability to recognize and be honest with the hurt we feel greatly impacts our ability to heal.  Honest is the most difficult step because it requires us to admit to our pain and reach out for help.  We often think feeling pain will make us weak or venerable for more pain, ironically the reverse is true.    For it is in our honesty first with ourselves and later with those around us that we are able to begin the process of healing and restoration of relationships.  By not being honest, we continue to lie to ourselves and those around us thereby setting ourselves up for even more hurt in the future.

Respond. Once we recognize the hurt, our response to the hurt can either destroy or rebuild our relationships.  Angry outbursts, vengeful thoughts, ignoring others, and manipulation schemes are all examples of unhealthy responses to hurt which will eventually destroy the relationship.  Alternatively, by lovingly confronting the hurt and processing it in a constructive environment, we can work towards the next step in the healing process.

Restore.  Only after the hurt is recognized and then responded to properly can true restoration of a relationship begin.  Broken relationships continue to cause pain even if they are distant; however healthy relationships allow us to prosper.  Healthy relationships allow room for mistakes without judgment, for boundaries without control, for security without anxiety, and for safety without fear.  They provide peace in our lives which ultimately brings harmony and freedom from strife.

One of the lessons learned from giving birth to children is that from the greatest pain comes the greatest joy.  Just as in child-birth, the pain is an indication of the upcoming birth of a child so the hurt in our lives can bring about unexpected joy through restored relationships.  We are not created to feel only joy without pain; instead we feel the greatest joy after the pain.  Use the hurt you feel as an opportunity to grow past the pain and into the joy of a restored fellowship with your child, spouse, friend, family member or neighbor.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How not to Shutdown in an Argument with your Spouse

Have you ever experienced this?  You are in the middle of explaining a problem to your spouse and instead of listening to what you are saying, they are picking apart the most ridiculously details.  Frustrated, you try to answer and return back to the problem but they are so stuck on the wrong word you used or your tone of voice that you don’t even want to continue.  So instead of having another argument, you decide to shut down and keep your comments to yourself.

Now you have another problem on top of the original problem and so it builds until you just want to explode.  While there is nothing wrong with deciding not to argue about semantics, not voicing your opinion can breed resentment which turns into anger and eventually bitterness.  So what can you do?  Instead of replaying the argument over and over from your perspective, try to replay the argument as if you were a third-party looking from the outside.  Then evaluate the situation with these points in mind.

Recognize.  As you replay the argument, look for similar patterns of behavior from previous exchanges.  For instance, if the argument involved another person is there a tone in your voice that indicates aggression, depression, obsession, or oppression towards that person?  Could the way you say something trigger a response in your spouse because they are naturally inclined to defend that person? Recognize the non-verbal communication and see if there is a look, a lack of engagement, or a distraction that is also triggering a negative response.  Oftentimes it is not the obvious answers that are the most revealing.

Remember.  Replay the argument again and this time, take into consideration the timing of the argument.  Did you confront your spouse while they were in the middle of something else?  Did you confront them on the same day when a thousand other things went wrong?  Were they overly tired and would have benefited from some sleep first?  Remember the circumstances surrounding the argument and see if their response would have been similar no matter who was confronting them in that moment.

Restore.  One more time, replay the argument and look for ways you could have resolved the conflict without shutting down.  Sometimes it is as simple as telling your spouse that you will answer all of their questions at the end of your explanation or not entertaining their question at all until you are done speaking.  Instead of refusing to get your point across, look for shorter ways to explain your point or start with your point first and then share the story.  Restore your relationship rather than allowing an argument to tear it apart.

Having said all of this, there are some spouses who already have disengaged from their marriage and the distraction tactic is an effort to reinforce or justify their disengagement.  If this has happened, then when you try to bring up the argument again, they will reply in a similar manner.  If not, then review the three points and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Forgive, Forgive, and when you don’t know what else to do Forgive again

Asking For Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

I would be out of a job if husbands forgave wives, wives forgave husbands, children forgave their parents, siblings forgave one another, friends forgave each other, workers forgave their bosses and nations forgave nations.  Imagine for a moment a child forgiving a parent who verbally belittled them instead of harboring that resentment well into adulthood and either repeating that pattern with their own children or worse internalizing the thoughtless comment.  Imagine a worker forgiving their boss for taking undeserved credit for a job well done instead of finding ways to even the score.  “Impossible” you say?

Signs of unforgiveness are everywhere in our culture.  Just turn on a talk show any day of the week and you will hear story after story of one person who believes they are justified in their anger.  And sadly, sometimes they are justified but there is a better way.  If we can identify the early warning signs of unforgiveness in our own lives and learn to forgive others before they ask or even if they never ask for forgiveness, then our own lives will be blessed.

Angry Outbursts.  Have you ever been around someone who just blew up over what seems like nothing and you are left wondering what just happened?  Their outburst may be a sign of unforgiveness in their own life; something you might have said or something you might have done may have triggered a memory completely unrelated to the event itself and their outburst has more to do with the past then the present.  But here’s the kicker…you need to forgive their outburst even if you don’t fully understand who, what, where, why, and how.  Otherwise, you are likely to fall into the next category.

Cold Shoulder.  Have you ever gotten the cold shoulder from a friend and you don’t know what is happening?  Or better yet, someone pretends not to know you when you know perfectly well that they do know you.  The cold shoulder routine may be another sign of unforgiveness in their life as they would rather stuff the issue than address it openly.  This is a favorite tactic of most married couples as one spouse ignores or minimizes communication with the other.  The one doing the ignoring is the one who is harboring unforgiveness.  But here’s the kicker…you need to forgive their cold shoulder routine even if you don’t fully understand who, what, where, why, and how.  Otherwise, you will be as guilty as them.

Gossip.  Have you ever been around someone who says they are just trying to inform or warn you of someone else?  Or perhaps, they are more spiritual in their tactic by saying they are just trying to find out how to specifically pray for someone else.  Any way you look at it, this is gossip and unforgiveness is at the root.  The person gossiping is actually distracting themselves and others away from their own issues in an attempt to look better.  This is the worst type of unforgiveness as it is internal, revealing they have not forgiven themselves for an offense.  So here’s the kicker…you need to forgive their gossip to show them that they are worthy of forgiveness and perhaps help them to learn how to forgive themselves.

As I am writing this article, my own lack of forgiveness for others becomes all too glaringly obvious.  The best way I know how to forgive is to pray and turn it over to God.  Sometimes I write it down and then destroy the paper as a demonstration of my forgiveness but mostly I just pray.  Having received forgiveness for my own faults as a believer in Jesus Christ, I welcome the opportunity to show forgiveness to others, even if they never ask.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.