Originally posted on The Family Greenhouse on February 2, 2017 by Abigail Doust
It is when we our feelings get involved that any real change happens. It was when I saw that picture of me 50 pounds overweight that I got mad at my way of living. It wasn’t until my kids rooms were so packed to the gills that they couldn’t find their floor that I was able to dive in and remove bags and bags of stuff with a vengeance. It wasn’t until my friend got cancer that I started putting friends on the calendar and telling work with firmness to “move over.” Feelings are good and are impetus for change.
Emotions that say to Leave
When we wait for emotions to click in marriage, the feeling that sometimes sets in is that you want to be done. You want to leave. When you realize how incredibly bad things have been and how ridiculous it is that you put up with it, you want to stand strong and take action. That might mean move out and proclaim “DIVORCE!”. And you are so glad to be feeling again because you might have been almost stoic in the months prior.
Why stoic? There are times when we don’t have emotion. Dr John Gottman calls this stonewalling, one of the signs of the end times of relationships. We are shut down, apathetic, OVER IT. If you find your self in this category of not really even caring what your spouse does or doesn’t do because you are tired of fighting and seeing no change, you are near the end. Go get help- cry out to a counselor or a pastor of us at Family Greenhouse and say you don’t feel anything anymore and you know that’s not good. A lack of emotion means you are not too late, but you don’t have any time to lose.
Feelings try to be in charge
Feelings are confusing because we feel them so intensely. You imagine the grass being greener on the other side (your own place, no tension with spouse, absence of problems) and you get hopeful. And day after day of imagining that place leads you to be more resolved that leaving/ending/starting over is the answer. Those feelings begin leading you in ways you don’t realize. You may have values that would override them or logic that you should slow down and not just run, but you are powerless to fight the feelings because you have them too much power. Feelings are not in charge. Letting your feelings be in charge is like letting the toddler decide what to eat and when to take a nap. It’s crazy!
Values first, or you drive off the path
Your faith and values come first- what you read in The Word of God, your value for family, your desire to break the cycle of past family members. And your feelings [are supposed to] fall in line after that truth. If you have cut off or limited the input of God, the Bible, people who follow truth and people who are for your marriage, then you are cutting off essential input. Rational input. Feelings are driving the car and it is going too fast and down the wrong roads. Feelings can lead us astray. And while you can ask for forgiveness after you drive the truck off the road, the damage is still done. The impact to your children, family members, friends and community is already done and irrevocable. Repairable only because God is gracious, but never without scarring because that is life.
Share and then Work (take your time)
I would love to put some kind of time on emotions, but it’s not that easy. But if you are having emotions that you are not sharing, like I am exasperated, hopeless, discouraged, overwhelmed, full of despair, etc. you need to share those emotions and bring them to the light. Don’t say you want a divorce and then it’s over. Share what you want or need and then plan to get help. Get help for a year and work diligently to make change for a year. Not a month, not 3 appointments, not 2 weeks, not 90 days. Say how bad it is and then be willing to work for a long time. How long did you plan your wedding? Take at least that long to work on it openly with a trained someone and your spouse. Your relationships are worth it! And God is capable of redeeming them! And help exists for you, so why not take advantage of it?
Our feelings are important clues. They need to be voiced. And they are only the beginning of true life change. Take your time, speak up, and together make change with your spouse.
[This is Part 2 of a blog post about divorce and feelings. Read Part 1.]