Empty bench

Marriage is supposed to be forever! When you said “I do” you looked forward to joining your lives, building your family, and probably growing old together. And then something happens. Your spouse leaves, and you can’t let go.

Here’s part of a message Gerry (not her real name) wrote to me recently: “I am unable to let go of my husband. He left me a few years ago for another woman. He still relates cordially with me and our kids, but it’s so painful to watch him go home to another woman. It hurts. I desire to have him back but he seems disinterested. I am sexually starved and feel so empty and worthless. I don’t know how to cope.”

It’s difficult to describe the trauma that happens when your relationship breaks apart, and your former spouse acts as if there was never anything between you. In some ways it’s more painful than if that person had died. They’re still out there, but they’re not with you. You can’t get rid of the images in your mind – either real or imagined. The what-if’s won’t leave you alone.

A marriage unites two people together, and there’s no way to separate them from one another without significantly tearing your soul in shreds. God hates divorce not because of some arbitrary directive from on high, but because of the way in which it hurts his children. And it’s especially painful when it appears your former spouse is doing great even though you’re in agony.

It’s bad enough to have to learn how to live single again after being married. But Gerry talked about something much deeper. This has affected her sense of who she is, her self-worth, her belief in her ability to make decisions and navigate life successfully. The loss of her marriage has threatened to rob her of herself.

What Do I Do Now?

Only God knows for certain whether your marriage has any chance of reconciliation. But when you are certain that you’ve done all that is within your power to do and there’s no realistic hope of coming back, it’s time to take steps to move on. Moving forward is not easy, but here are some points to consider.

  1. Do your grief work. Recovering from the loss of a marriage may be more complicated than grieving the death of a loved one, but many of the steps are similar. That involves remembering both the good and the bad, mentally accepting that the marriage is truly over, and feeling all the feelings involved: sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, loneliness, etc.
  2. Choose to step forward. Nobody can make you move forward. How fast you do so is completely up to you; there’s no right answer. But you do have the choice to remain stuck in your brokenness, or to proactively begin living the next season of your life. I invite you to choose to begin living again.
  3. Do the work of forgiveness. Ask yourself how long you’re going to let that person have control over your life? Forgiveness does not say everything is OK. Forgiveness simply means choosing to no longer give the other person the right to cause you pain. You leave retribution up to God; He has promised to handle that person either now or in eternity, or both.
  4. Accept God’s evaluation of you. Life, and the hurtful things your ex-spouse probably said about and to you, have beat you up and made you feel worse than worthless. But that’s not God’s assessment of you. There may be things God wants to change about your character; let Him do so. But God sees you as His child, valuable, beautiful, and with a purpose. Fill your mind and heart with those messages from His word and from spending time with Him.
  5. Decide to grow. For a plant to flourish it needs sunlight, water, and healthy soil. You need the same. You need people around you who will speak hope and truth, places where you can reach beyond yourself and help others, and input that stretches you such as meeting new people, learning new skills, etc. Consciously choose the input you allow into your life.

I don’t believe you can let someone go by “trying harder” to do so. You need to gradually replace the place that person had in your life with other things. That does not mean a new relationship! It does mean filling those empty places in your soul with God’s presence, helping others, and personal growth.

Is it easy? NO!

Is it possible? YES!

And remember the promise God makes to those who are single: “Your Maker is your husband!” (Isaiah 54:5) He will be that for you if you let Him.

Your Turn: Have you lost a relationship that you struggle to let go of? What’s the hardest part for you? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • Letting go of an ended relationship is painful. Here are 5 steps to help you move forward.    Tweet that.

Did you enjoy this article? Interested in more to help you live FULLY ALIVE?

Get your FREE Resource Guide: 7 Keys to Living Fully Alive – from the Inside Out.