“Lately, my husband cries a lot,” my friend Debbie shared. “He’s distraught about how his kids have to deal with so much turmoil and stress living in two homes. My heart just breaks for him. He just wants his kids to be happy and have a normal life. But we can only control what goes on in our house, not the other home.”

I understand.

I lost count of the number of times I watched my husband, Steve, cry over the situations his kids experienced as children of a divorce he didn’t want. Many times he would wail, “They don’t want to spend time with me anymore,” or “My sons don’t believe that I love them.”

It made me angry—very angry—at his kids. I was furious that his kids would hurt and reject him so purposefully. I wanted to rage at them about what I perceived as their cruel and bratty behavior.

Over the years, Steve’s continuous tears triggered a resentment in me toward his children that exacerbated the stewing and brewing. In time, those negative thoughts turned into negative words and attitudes toward his kids.

One day I realized something. Could my outrage be misplaced? Was there a deeper reason as to why I was so irate? Why did it bother me so much when Steve wept for his children?

After a great deal of soul searching, prayer, and wise words from people I respected, I began to understand the hidden reasons why Steve’s tears caused me such grief. This is what I grew to comprehend:

How I figured out why my husband’s tears caused me such grief.

I craved a daddy who missed me. My parents divorced when I was eight and my whole world crumbled. I lived full time with my mom, and only saw my dad every other weekend. I missed him terribly. But visitation with my dad soon included his new girlfriend and her kids. He never came to any school events and I began to wonder if he missed me. As an adult I now believe my father loved me, and was very sad to have me living in another home. But at the time, I wondered. And it caused a severe blow to my spirit and self-worth.

I longed for a parent who cried over me. My mom focused on discipline, my dad on being the “good guy.” But in my wounded mind, I never got the impression either one of them would weep if I were gone. I was a very lonely, depressed teenager who frequently thought about suicide. My parents’ divorce embedded a self-loathing that plagued me for many years. And I never once believed I was worth crying over.

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I now know both of my parents loved me and they parented the best way they knew how. But it took years for me to come to that realization, and to forgive them for some of the poor choices they made.

I resented my husband’s kids for not appreciating all he did for them. As a kid my parents fought about everything—including money. And I was placed smack dab in the middle.

My husband worked very hard to make sure he didn’t do that to his kids. He always paid his child support and extra bills, such as the orthodontist, on time or early. I foolishly expected Steve’s kids to appreciate his integrity and character, which was ridiculous, now that I think back on it. But as a kid, I wanted the security and peace his kids were receiving, so I assumed they should be grateful. And when they weren’t, it made me angry.

My childhood pain and abandonment resurfaced. The bottom line is, every time I watched Steve shed a tear, I wanted to stand up and scream at his kids, “Do you have ANY idea how blessed you are? Do you know how many kids would love to have a good, responsible father who cares? Do you know how many dads don’t show up for a dance recital or prom? Do you know that you have EVERYTHING I wanted?”

As it turned out my anger was more about my inner pain than it was about Steve or his kids. Yes, I hurt because my husband hurt. I sincerely wanted to comfort and encourage him. But I couldn’t help my husband until I took care of the raging little girl residing inside my own heart and mind.

Jesus washed away my sin. He didn’t wash away my brain. I had to discover that my twisted thinking and pain had to be handed over to him. Jesus is always willing to heal my throbbing heart. My job is to acknowledge and admit the wounds, and how they are still affecting my life and my marriage. Then I must lay them at the foot of the cross, trusting that Jesus’ healing power will teach me to overcome a haunting past.

This is the abundant life Christ paid for on the cross. This is true freedom.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker. She is the author of 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom—Expert Advice from One Stepmom to Another; When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce; The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal; and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Her website is TheSmartStepmom.com

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