I am exhausted but loved taking our three granddaughters for five days to San Diego for vacation. We went to Legoland and the beach and took long walks with the dog. (If you want to see a crazy video of me on a ride with my granddaughter, click here). We talked and colored and collected seashells. Sometimes we need time to look at life through the lens of a child. Gives a whole new perspective.
But it was also good to get home, back to normal routine and air conditioning. Although San Diego was much cooler than Arizona, it was much more humid and most homes there do not have air conditioning. I’m spoiled, but I do sleep better with A/C.
Question: I love your teaching and appreciate your CORE truth! I have been listening and practicing for almost two years. I think my body and mind are wearing out.
God has given me a break when my husband decided to go to Alaska for three months … but so far all I can do is sleep and try to find something to eat and go to work. I don’t know how to build my core or what I need to do to take care of myself so that when he gets back I am stronger and know how to be healthy with in my marriage.
I know I can’t put boundaries on him but I’m having a hard time learning my own boundaries or what makes sense in my mind as to what life is supposed to look like for me. I am seeing a counselor and she said I might not be able to continue much longer but I love my husband and I know that God is at work in his life.
I don’t believe God is asking me to leave but I need help to know how to be stronger and healthy. My question is how do I make the most of these three months so that I develop a healthy sense of core strength?
Answer: CORE strength (for those who are not aware) is a term I developed in my book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage,” for developing a healthier sense of who you are, how you handle your own self, as well as how you interact with other people, including those who are destructive. Here is what it stands for.
C – COURAGEOUSLY COMMITTED to the truth, both inside yourself and outside in your external circumstances. No more pretending.
O – OPEN to the Holy Spirit and wise others to help you grow and mature in areas that you need to mature in.
R – RESPONSIBLE for yourself and RESPECTFUL towards others without dishonoring your own self.
E – EMPATHIC and compassionate towards others, including your destructive spouse without enabling destructive behaviors towards yourself to continue.
You haven’t given me many details on what’s going on in your marriage that is wearing you out. You say you have been practicing CORE for two years but you’re getting worn out. Are you telling yourself that if you had enough CORE strength, you wouldn’t get worn out? That’s not true.
Walking in CORE strength means you are honest with yourself (C) and (R) responsible to recognize your limitations. Walking in CORE strength doesn’t mean you are able to function as a superhero in your marriage. It means that you will honor (respect) your own limitations, which might mean that being RESPONSIBLE for yourself right now means you have to take care of you and live separately so that you don’t continue to deteriorate.
I wonder if you might be going through some depression, which is very common for women in destructive marriages. The National Institute of Mental Health has reported the highest rates of depression are among unhappily married women.
Living in the truth (C) in CORE also means that you come to accept that some marriages are just too toxic to stay well no matter how strong you are. Again, you have not given me any details, but the statement by your counselor who does know what you are going through gives me a reason to suspect that this might be the case.
God’s word is clear that people affect and influence us, both for good and for bad. – Click To Tweet
Proverbs reminds us of the consequences of living with a contentious, argumentative, and difficult person. It’s not pretty. It’s as rottenness to your bones. Perhaps that’s what you are experiencing in your body.
You indicated that your husband is in Alaska for three months, which gives you a break from whatever is going on at home. It will be interesting to see if you start to feel a little stronger without him around. But healing from depression or being in a toxic relationship doesn’t just involve getting a break. It involves you taking some decisive action steps in order for you to make changes to the way you think, the way you relate, and the way you treat yourself.
You obviously feel conflicted. On the one hand, you love your husband and see God doing something in his life, which is a good thing. But you also say that you are feeling so worn out that all you can do sleep, eat and go to work.
You also mentioned that you have a hard time establishing your own boundaries. That might be a good place to work on you with your counselor. If you look again at walking in CORE, being committed to the truth means that you must be honest with yourself about what’s going on in your own body, mind, and heart as well as in your situation. The truth would say you aren’t doing well in your desire to stay well. You are worn out.
O – Open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, means that your counselor is telling you that perhaps the situation is too toxic for you to be able to stay well. Are you open to hearing that?
R – means that you will take responsibility for yourself. Right now that means that you will learn to set boundaries for yourself as good boundaries are an essential component of any healthy self.
Start by discovering what boundaries you want by defining what is okay with you and what is not okay with you, what will you do and what will you not do, what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate. These boundaries are all a part of establishing a healthy self, an internal “I,” that knows what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. Communicating those limitations or boundaries with other people in a respectful way is also part of healthy relationships. They know what is acceptable and unacceptable to you.
Here is where it becomes problematic. A destructive person repeatedly ignores and disrespects your boundaries. The boundaries may even be mocked. Now what?
You can’t control him and what he does, but what you can control is his access to you if he does not respect your boundary. For example, if you say, “It’s not okay for you to hit me or block my way out, ever.” And, he continues to do it, then your boundary is being disrespected and the consequence might be that you have to move out, or call the police, or get a restraining order in order to make your boundary much stronger, and put legal consequences in place if he violates it again.
That is not enabling him to continue to be destructive without consequences. You can be compassionate that he ended up where he ended up, but those were his choices. That’s practicing the (E) step of CORE.
Another part of practicing CORE is being a good steward of your mind, body, and personhood. Sometimes as women we are too passive, waiting for someone to rescue us or take care of us. Don’t do that. Instead, build a strong CORE so that you become perfectly capable of taking care of your own self. That doesn’t mean you don’t have relationships, but you don’t have them from a place of “I NEED you for me to be okay.” But rather a healthier place of “I’m strong and capable alone, but I enjoy you or love you and want to build a healthy relationship together.”
So take this break to do some soul searching, some personal work and growth so that when he returns, you have a greater wisdom to know what the next steps are for you and your marriage.
Friend: Feeling depleted and empty is scary. What steps did you take to take care of yourself instead of waiting for something or someone else to change?