How to Embrace a New You after a Long Marriage (Lent, Day 14)

Women have an amazing way of folding inside themselves.

We don’t intend to start that way, but it happens over time.

We’re told we’re too loud. Too flirty. Too annoying. Too much.

We’re told to be seen and not heard. We’re looked at as pieces of meat instead of hearts with value.

Oftentimes, we’re the ones in the family who try to hold it all together. Even as children, we become the peacemakers of our family, seeking to make everyone and everything okay.

It’s exhausting, the whole woman thing.

Women are expected to be all, have all, do all. And if we complain? Need a moment of solitude? If we’re snarky, stay in pjs for a day, eat a bag of chips with carefree abandon? Oh, no. Cue guilt and shame.

There was a time in my life I felt all of these.

My hatred of myself started young. I was raised in a fundamentalist/chaotic environment where one minute we were watching MTV and the next, we were listening to Christian Contemporary Music and turning off cable.

My father went from a smoking, drinking, bass player in a band to a drinking Bible-carrier who bashed his children over the head daily with fears of hell and the end-times.

babies having babies

I love my father. But one of the beliefs he instilled in me from a young age was that my job as a woman was to stay home and care for my man. To stick it out at all costs, to never think of myself or my wants, and to allow my husband total control.

And granted, my husband does like control. But it’s control I’ve given him. He has gifts that I don’t, and I have gifts that he doesn’t, and we balance each other.

My husband and I have managed to stay married over two decades because we allow each other the space, freedom and respect to grow, stretch, change and thrive.

But it wasn’t always that way.

For the longest time, I didn’t know how to get back to who I was before I had children.

I’d been a vivacious gal. Loved to eat good food, have good sex, travel and dance.

the early years

I loved to dress eclectic, and I was unafraid of who I was.

But always in the back of mind was this shame.

It was borne from years of being mentally, spiritually, physically and even sexually abused.

I believed my value was worthless. That even if my Creator loved me, He sure didn’t like me and wouldn’t have chosen me unless forced to.

I realize now that was terribly faulty theology. I was taught a bunch of lies from men (and sometimes women) who were fearful of their own desires, of losing power, of change.

Around 33, I entered a deep depression. It wasn’t my first one–I’d struggled with post-partem depression after the birth of my second child–but this was worse.

I felt hopeless, used up and permanently lost.

first date in a new city

I believed I was never going to find my way.

Then came 2020-2022. These have been the hardest couple of years I’ve endured since my parents’ divorce, but man, have they been worth it!

Going through a pandemic, getting sick myself, losing people I love, leaving jobs and friendships, etc. has changed me. It has brought me back to who I used to be.

If you want to change your life while you’re still married, working a job you hate or living in a place you’re not fond of, here’s what to do:

Create a vision of the person you want to be and the life you want to live: You must have a picture of where you’re going before you start. Create a vision board–either literally or online–to get down to the nitty-gritty of what it is your looking for. Draw pictures, cut out magazine images, or pin using Pinterest, the “perfect” version of your life (there is no perfect, so take that with a grain of salt). Have no worry about if it’s what anyone else wants, if you can afford it, etc. Just imagine it.

Write down your values: You will never find yourself if you don’t know who you are. And you don’t know who you are until you know what you care about, what moves you and drives you to do a or b. Write down any and everything that matters to you. Try as much as possible to put it in order of importance. For me, it would look something like this:

  • Having a real relationship with the Creator, instead of one based on fear
  • Enjoying my family without criticism or judgment–just love
  • Creating something of value that helps others feel better about themselves
  • Leading people to see who they are in Christ
  • Being a helpful citizen, family member, and friend
  • Loving my life with no regrets

Take ownership of your own peace and happiness: This is tough, right? Because all of us wants to believe the “if, then” dichotomy of life. If I had a bigger house, I would be happier. If my husband treated me kinder, I would have more peace. The truth is, however, every time you place expectations on external sources, you’re giving away your power. Take ownership of your life, your forgiveness, your peace, your happiness. And don’t apologize for wanting what you desire! God gave each of us unique desires and personalities. They are gifts to be shared.

Stay in your lane instead of comparing yourself to others: There is only one you. And it doesn’t matter if what you say has been said before, what you do has been done before, the house you buy or clothes you wear are similar to others. It doesn’t matter because there is only one you. Whatever you say or do, it is unique because it comes from your mind and heart. Don’t focus on others, except in kindness. Focus on your own goals and your own presence.

Let your man (and children) live: Oftentimes we’d like to control every aspect of our lives. It makes us feel good for others to see us as x, y or z. Sometimes your spouse is all about appearances, too, and good for you if you’re both cut from the same cloth. But many of us are married to our exact opposites, such as I am with my husband. We are totally different, and I’ve learned over twenty plus years of marriage to meet him where he is and lift him up. I know after all we’ve been through that God has a specific plan and purpose for putting us together, and every day I see glimpses of that. I wouldn’t enjoy him now if I had changed him into what I’d wanted twenty years ago, and vice versa.

living our best days!

The same goes with our children. Often, we have so many expectations for what our children will be: athletes, dancers, straight-A students. Gorgeous, popular, etc. When a child shatters that expectation, we’re disappointed. This is wrong! We should embrace the individuality of our children and seek to bring about their most authentic self, the soul God created them to be. Loving without criticism or judgment of choices (mind you, I am not talking at all about stepping in if our child is going down a dangerous or destructive path) is the only way to have safe and real love.

It’s hard to stretch and grow when we’ve been in the same place with the same people for a long time. But nothing on Earth is static; everything is steadily changing and eventually dies.

Women must learn to embrace each season of change with peace. Mourning what’s lost is okay; setting out for new adventures with joy is even better.

See you soon,


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