The following is a common story I hear in my counseling practice. So common it bears writing into a blog post. The details vary a bit between each couple, but the question that stems from it does not: Why should I want that person back? What ultimate benefit will come from sticking through the heartache now, to keep the door open for a person who has hurt me deeply, for the unlikely hope that maybe a reasonable reconciliation will happen? What’s the point?
I don’t have a very satisfactory answer. In fact, like any good therapist, I answer the question with deeper questions. Here’s the common story:
My wife walked out on me 3 years ago, just a few days before our 23rd anniversary. She said she didn’t love me, that she never really had. She said she was tired of being a fake, and now that our children were grown and on their own, she wanted to make a new life for herself. Both my wife and I are Christians, and I told her I will not finalize the divorce, but leave that up to her. I don’t want that on my head. I took on her debts, let her take what she wanted, and have kept the door open for her to come home because that is what I thought I was supposed to do.
But, I’ll admit I was deeply angry at the world, at God, at my own struggle between loving and hating her. I also found that the reprieve I experienced when she left was powerful, even as it was bittersweet. My physical and emotional health actually improved, and I began to ask myself this question: Why would I ever want her back? Why should I? I love her, but at this time she is not welcome in my life.
My response: I think what I hear between the lines is the struggle between what you “should” do based on your Christian background, and what your gut is telling you to do to protect yourself from being hurt by her further and move on with your life. And, in the end, only YOU can answer the question of why you would want her back. I can, however, give you some things to consider as you wrestle with that question.
- What work is God doing in your heart as you work through all this loss, heartache, and confusion? How is He inviting you to trust Him more with every detail of your life, including your feelings toward your wife? Where do you sense Him pulling you? Transforming you? Shaving off the rough edges? Ultimately, I believe every situation we are in boils down to God’s work in our own brokenness to reveal His sovereignty.
- How are you living out being a conduit of grace and mercy? God calls us to honor him by imitating him. What does grace and mercy toward your wife look like? Like each of us, she is a broken person in need of God’s grace. (It does not mean enabling/tolerating. Think of the times Jesus spoke out harshly against sin, self-righteousness, and evil.)
- How is the Holy Spirit leading you? What do you sense Him saying to you? It could very well be that He shows himself strongest in your life by not welcoming her back. Or, maybe, His strength is most evident by reconciliation. The most important part is that you are letting your life be poured out to Him and that you follow His lead… And that takes intentionally daily laying yourself at the foot of the cross and surrendering your day to Him.
I know that doesn’t answer the question. I do hope that it helps give a hopeful perspective for healing and moving on with life (which still has to be done with or without reconciliation).
If you are struggling in this same type of story and would like to tap into my perspective to help you explore these questions in your own life, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or set up an appointment here. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.