Jill: I discovered Mark’s affair two months before the holiday celebrations started in 2011. (If you haven’t read about our dark season, you can find our 10-day blog series here.) That holiday was spent waiting, and it was a circumstance I never imagined. I felt heartbroken. I felt confused. I felt angry.
Mark: I didn’t officially move out until February of the following year (temporarily), but I was “checked out.” I was present for the holiday season. In my mind, I was focused on being there for my kids. However, I was disillusioned, I was done with our marriage, and I was remaining committed to the other relationship.
Jill: Navigating the holiday season with a disengaged spouse feeling like the future is uncertain is incredibly difficult. At the same time, trying to stay strong for your children and extended family, trying to hold it all together, can be incredibly isolating and exhausting.
Mark: This is true for so many. For some, it may look like waiting for a spouse to literally come back home, a spouse who is waiting for their partner to pursue the relationship again, or even the couple that is still together but are feeling disconnected and walking through complicated issues together. The holiday season in particular can be a difficult time to show up when you are going through heartbreaking seasons in your life and marriage.
Jill: If you resonate with that circumstance, we want you to know that you are not alone. Your feelings and confusion are real and they are valid. The first Christmas after discovering Mark’s affair, I was overwhelmed. It’s hard to feel cheerful and merry when you have to come face-to-face with numerous reminders of the way things used to be. All the while I was holding out hope that God still might do something big; if not in my marriage, in Mark’s life.
Mark: Even though that period of waiting was hard for Jill, I needed that time to come to a place of surrender in my heart. I was fully “out” of our marriage and it took time for God to do a work on my heart and bring me back “in.”
Jill: What I would come to realize as well was that God was using this painful waiting season to work on my soul as well. What we would both eventually understand is that God doesn’t waste our seasons of waiting. In fact, it’s often during these seasons that He can grow and transform us in some incredible and meaningful ways.
Mark: If you are navigating this holiday season while you’re in a season of waiting yourself, here are a few principles we have found helpful:
Principles During This Season of Waiting
#1: Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t.
Jill: Nothing can fully take away the pain and discomfort you are having to navigate during the holidays. However, it’s important to focus on what you do have instead of fixating on what you don’t. You might focus your thoughts on the positive memories being made with your children, the blessings God has given you this past year, or your favorite traditions during the holidays. What we allow our minds to dwell on can often overtake the rest of our thoughts until it’s all we can think about. By giving attention to all the things we do have, we can help ourselves avoid getting stuck in overwhelm.
#2: See your spouse as lost, confused, and wandering rather than rejecting you.
Mark: While it absolutely can feel like your spouse is rejecting you, it’s crucial to remember that there is likely a whole lot more happening under the surface. In my story, it wasn’t until I was able to make a complete U-turn in my thinking and was fully “in” on my marriage that things began to change. It takes time to get there and a whole lot of personal work has to be done during the process to truly be ready. In the middle of a waiting season, remember that they are not rejecting you specifically, but they are experiencing confusion about who they are and where they are going in their life.
#3: Treat your spouse with kindness even if they “don’t deserve it.”
Jill: God’s way of handling things is different than ours. You’ll often be tempted to lash out and throw your feelings of hurt back at your spouse. However, God calls us to respond with kindness. He wants you to be honest about your pain without throwing your pain at the one who hurt you. This is easier said than done, but that’s why we need to be surrendering to Christ daily! I encourage you to check out Episode 20 of the No More Perfect Podcast for more on this: How to Love Someone Who’s Hard to Love | Episode 20
#4: Focus on the reason for the season rather than the traditions that are affected by difficult circumstances.
Mark: Your traditions are going to change or feel different this year and maybe even the next and the next. While our traditions are affected by difficult circumstances, Christ remains the focus of Christmas. Give the coming of Jesus your attention this year so your focus is not just on what is being lost. You might even use this as an opportunity to start new traditions! We like to use December to read through the book of Luke since it has 24 chapters and includes the Christmas story. How can you focus on the reason for the season this year?
#5: Pray regularly.
Jill: This is a season when you will need to lean on your heavenly Father, perhaps more than you ever have before. He will hold you steady, minister to your soul, and comfort you in your darkest days. If you are looking for a good resource to get you started, check out our list of 25 Scriptures You Need When You’re Going Through a Difficult Time.
The Wait is Not Wasted
Mark: If you are feeling stuck in this season of waiting, we want you to know that there is hope! God can still work on your soul and is not done working in your spouse’s life. He can help you find peace and possibility even when you can’t see what He is doing.
Jill: In the middle of my year-long waiting period, I desperately wanted to know if my marriage was going to survive or not. While our marriage did make it, because of what God did during the waiting season, I can truly say that I would be okay today even if it didn’t. God used that season to strengthen my identity in who I am in Him, and God used that season to help me understand Mark better and acknowledge the part I played in the dysfunction in our marriage as well.
Mark: While you are waiting, you have a unique opportunity to grow. God is able to deepen your relationship with Him, help you discover relating patterns that are healthier and better, and make your soul well.
Jill: As you navigate this holiday season alone, let me close by saying how sorry I am for the pain you’re experiencing. I wish it could be taken away with the snap of a finger. It can’t, though. Just like I walked it out, you will have to as well. We invite you to check out The Wait is Not Wasted course to help you find calm in the chaos while you are inviting your spouse to re-engage in your marriage.
Mark: We pray God’s love draws near to your heart in a meaningful way this year. You are not alone.
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