When the Past Won't Let You Go


For those of you who’ve followed me for a while, you know the nitty gritty of my story and where I stand present day. If we have not yet connected, hello and thank you for reading! I’ll do my best to give you a brief synopsis so you can have some background as to where I get the insight to share what you’re about to read.

At the start of 2013, the unthinkable happened to my picture-perfect marriage and family. On paper (and from where I stood) we had it all. The love, the kiddo, the faith, the fun, annnnnd … turns out, the affair. Well, didn’t see that coming! With any hardship that comes your way in marriage, one must decide, will you fight or will you give up? For us, I decided to fight and he decided to give up. And after two and a half years of on my knees prayer and pleading for restoration, our divorce was final.

As harsh as any divorce is, there’s something about the finality that brings you to a new place of freedom. Even if this is not the outcome you wanted, it’s an outcome nonetheless and one that you can steer in the direction of your choice. I spent the majority of our divorce process grieving. I grieved every tiny loss that came my way. Our family, our future, our local bar, our dreams, our vacation spots … you name it, I grieved it. And, not always in a put together, mature fashion. More often than not, these things were grieved in the ugly cries or the angry text to my best friend, followed up by some intense prayers for healing. With all that to say, by the time I got that final D stamp, my healing process had been underway for two plus years. I was legitimately at a healthy mental and emotional place, ready to start life all over.

Four months after my divorce was legally final, I met my now husband. How did we meet? My ex-husband’s parents introduced us at a country western dive bar. Yep, you read that right. Take a moment to let that sink in. I add this to show you how funny life is. And, how you just never know who you’ll meet and when. Anyhow, we dated for about a year before getting engaged and got married six months later. If you’d like to read some of my thoughts on dating after divorce, please do! However, what I want to share today has a little more weight to it.

For me, I knew my divorce would never fully be left in the past. The most obvious reason being our amazing daughter who we ALL four co-parent and love with our entire beings. When you have a young child in the divorce mix, there’s no real clean break from the past. I chose to take the “she gave a beautiful purpose to our union” stance on the matter in order to keep my heart and mind in a good place. This is truly what I believe. I would go through it all again if I meant I got my sweet girl. And, to be clear, I see the pro’s and con’s of both sides. Divorce with no kids or divorce with kids. Each has its own painful pieces that I am not in any way trying to dumb that down.

My divorce wasn’t left in the past because of one, my daughter, two, I started an organization to help women heal from divorce and wrote a book about my story. I needed an outlet that gave women hope for life after divorce. I wanted my pain to have a purpose in the lives of others. This has been a life-giving experience for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Now, three. The parts of my divorce I wish would stay in the past, but find ways to seep into the present. These are less fun. These feel like, well, what’s the purpose here?

The triggers. For me, these triggers all come in the form of technology and personal insecurities. I found out about my ex-husband’s affair from a text message. When they had “broke it off”, I found they were still in contact via emails, and then there’s the insecurities that take over from the rejection you feel (because you’re human) after infidelity. None of the above are fun to deal with. However, they are all worth dealing with and then some for the sake of my new marriage.

Now, on to how we handle those not so fun moments. Somehow my husband’s phone had automatically synced to our home computer. So, any time I was at home working on our computer and he received a text message, it would pop up on my screen. Insert panic, anxiety, and flashbacks from the past. Numbers I didn’t recognize, contacts I didn’t know … The worst!. Who were they? A co-worker looking for the key to the filing cabinet. Our gardener asking about the front yard. The plumber who’s working on a house we are flipping. A contractor wanting to get paid … Do we see a pattern? Why yes, we do. Not one damn shady thing is happening. Did this still trigger something in me? Sadly, yes. But does it get easier the more transparent we are? Absolutely. The more I see, the less I worry. The less the trigger phases me. I still feel it, but it far from cripples me.

Here’s the thing, these moments WILL happen from time to time because of what you’ve gone through. However, the right man will just reassure the heck out of whatever the trigger brings to surface. And then it’s your job to trust in this new love as different from the last one. Give yourself that gift. There’s no reason to let your past ruin your future. Talk yourself out of those dark places and find the guy who will reassure you till he’s blue in the face.

One huge lesson I learned early on in being re-married was not to punish my husband for the choices of another man. My husband is NOT the man who went before him. For a million reasons, on a million days, they are not the same. And, not a day goes by that I am not thankful for this.  My husband puts our love first, puts our family first, and ALWAYS thinks I am the hottest girl in the room. Because I spent too long in a marriage with an ex who did not feel this way, I don’t take my current life for granted. And, that is a wonderful feeling. I love the daily feeling of gratitude for the man I get to share my life with.

Our pasts are a huge part of who we are. They form strength in our character, they reveal what we want to change present day, and they are deeply capable of being healed from.  Healing from our past is absolutely possible, the residual pain that can creep in must not be ignored. It needs to be dealt with, communicated about, and then let go. Don’t give the past more room than it deserves in the present, but do the hard work as it comes and trust that your future will be better for it.


Lauren McKinley