Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand and fix the repetitive relationship difficulties in your life? Do you wish things were easier with your ex? Most days, we face perplexing problems, challenging people, or unexpected conflict. These issues are a part of life, but sometimes they become overwhelming and even unmanageable. When that is the case, it’s good to know where to turn to get support, helpful advice, and a different perspective. Author and Therapist Karla Downing can help.
Karla Downing offers relationship help as a speaker, author, Bible study teacher, and licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her books include 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, and The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain both personally and relationally. Her messages provide practical and biblical truths that bring balance and clarity to life and relationship issues. She is the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com.
Recently, Karla helped me with a difficult relationship in my own life. Since her advice was so practical, realistic, and helpful, I realized other single parents needed to know about Karla, her books, and her free online resources, such as weekly e-newsletters on ways to fix negative relationship patterns. I had the opportunity to interview Karla about her beneficial resources that can support stressed out single parents and am excited to pass them along.
Q. How did you get started in your career as an author, speaker, and therapist?
A. I was the oldest child of four in a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic agnostic father and Christian mother. I met my husband in church and got married at age twenty thinking that since my father was finally sober that the dysfunction was behind me. I was wrong. Both my husband and I brought the dysfunction of our childhood homes into our marriage. I spent the first twenty years of my marriage struggling with how a Christian wife should respond to the difficulties. I was confused with what the Bible said about submission, love, respect, boundaries, divorce, forgiveness, perseverance, gentleness, and confrontation. I found help in a secular 12 step program but found conflict between what I found helpful in the program and what was taught by the church. I was convinced that the God who created families and marriage had to support healthy relationships. What I found was that the church often misrepresents what the Bible teaches.
I began serving in my church recovery program working with women in difficult marriages. Shortly thereafter, I attended a seminar on turning a passion into a speaking and writing ministry. It was there that I had the idea of writing my first book 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. I then decided to get my master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I wrote two other books: When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships and The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image. I began teaching these books as classes at my church and found people coming from other churches hungry for biblical and practical information on relationships.
I have a friend who has a website ministry, The Scripture Lady. She offered to guide me in putting all my material online three years ago. This was the birth of ChangeMyRelationship.com which includes my articles, audio and video studies, an e-newsletter and other resources for Christians needing help with relationships.
Q. What resources from your ChangeMyRelationship.com website and
ministry would benefit single moms?
A. The website is designed to offer biblical and practical advice for Christians in relationships. I have information on dealing with difficult people (ex-spouses often fit here), dating, divorce, self-image, communication, dysfunction, self-care, boundaries, and more. My e-newsletter offers a relationship truth along with a prayer, challenge, and Scripture meditation that are appropriate for everyone. My audio studies “Transforming Difficult Relationships” and “Discovering your Real Image” are very popular with single moms.
Q. What encouragement and advice can you offer single moms who are
trying to rebuild their lives?
A. Parenting is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging tasks we can face, and single parenting is even more difficult. Sharing children with your ex is not easy. It is not a mother’s heart to be separated from her children. Many women stay in a bad marriage to prevent having to share custody. Having your children be with your ex when he is doing things that you feel are unhealthy for your children is heart-wrenching and frustrating. And difficult husbands make difficult ex-husbands. Add to this financial pressures, balancing work and home, fears about your future, loneliness, dating, and the logistics of single parenting, and it can be an overwhelming experience.
Yet, like all difficult circumstances one can face, it can be done. Single parenting is a challenge, but it is sometimes a better alternative than staying in a toxic marriage. A difficult ex-spouse doesn’t have to control your life and rock your world. You can learn how to deal with him by detaching, taking care of yourself, setting boundaries and speaking the truth. Acceptance of the things you cannot change and the courage to change the things you can is empowering. It helps you to come to terms with the mistakes of the past, the realities of the present, and the possibilities of the future. The devastation of divorce can be healed over time and a wounded self-image restored.
Here are three pieces of advice I would like to share:
- Offer yourself grace. You can’t do everything perfectly. Accept your imperfections. You don’t have time to waste beating yourself up. Use that time and mental energy for something else!
- No matter how hard it is, take care of yourself. Find ways to rejuvenate yourself emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, and relationally. Even if it is only in small amounts and simple ways, it will go a long way.
- Don’t let your children’s father control your life. Empower yourself with the tools you need to detach from him whether it is his continued attempts to control, manipulate, and create drama or by the left-over pain from the breakup.
And know that the Lord will care for you with the same loving devotion that you have toward your children because you are His daughter. You are not alone.
For more information about Karla’s resources, or to sign up for her free e-newsletter, check out her website at http://www.changemyrelationship.com/