By Ashley McIlwain

This is a special message to our non-married readers …

Heartbreak is devastating, which is probably why people avoid it like the plague. We would pretty much rather endure anything aside from a heartbreak, which explains why so many of us stay in unhealthy, unsatisfying, demoralizing relationships that we know aren’t what we want, need, or deserve.

I understand … completely.

In college I was in a relationship for nearly four years. I had “fallen in love” and was committed to making it work no matter what. And boy did I go through no matter what. It was an unhealthy relationship that left me daily frustrated, confused, hurt, and all around distraught. Everyone around me begged and pleaded for me to see the light, but I refused. I was going to stick it out if it was the death of me.

To be honest, it really was nearly to the death of me. Physically the stress of the relationship took its toll leading to many health complications, doctor’s visits, and testing. Emotionally I was drained, worn out, and a mess. I didn’t even recognize the person I had become. My joy was gone, and I felt like a shell of a person going through the motions of life.

Despite all of this, I was so stubborn. I didn’t want to let go of my relationship. I argued that I was too invested, things were getting better, and they weren’t all that bad. Yet, I knew it was all a lie. A lie that I wanted so badly to be the truth. I hid the truth from others and, oftentimes, myself. I decided to silently suffer through the pain of my far-from-a-fairytale relationship because that’s all I had known, and it was easier to stay in a relationship I knew than to step out of it into a world unknown.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we believe that lie that at some point things will magically get better? Why do we convince ourselves that mediocre, unhealthy, or even horrific relationships are better than none at all?

In my previous relationship I remember the constant, daily heartbreak I faced. Trying to convince someone you love to love you, to value you, to treat you with care, is a nightmare. Enduring the destructive behaviors, the harmful patterns, and the lies in the name of “love.” Begging that person to treat you like a human let alone someone they claim to love. Being humiliated, isolated, and demeaned just so they can go about their business without regard to how it affects you. At one point I was convinced I was crazy because the simplest of wants and needs were denied and considered preposterous and lofty. It made me withdrawal from my friends and family while other times I lashed out in desperation.

I could go on and on, but the point is, many of us stay in these damaging relationships that we know aren’t God’s best simply because the familiar seems better than the unfamiliar. We silence those God-given alarms screaming for our attention and cover-up the red flags that desperately plea and warn us because we just don’t want to face heartbreak. We worry that we won’t find better or maybe anyone at all. Will we be doomed to loneliness and singlehood the rest of our lives? Where do you start in starting over? How do you begin to heal?

The thing is, there is only one thing you need to worry about, and that is simply walking away. That’s the first step and the only one that matters right now. Don’t concern yourself with the destination; just make sure to begin the journey.

If it’s heartbreak that you’re worried about then, consider that if you don’t experience this one-time heartbreak from your break-up, you will be faced with daily heartbreak for the rest of your life. Don’t wait until you’re married and stuck. Don’t allow it to get to the point of marriage where so many then find themselves dealing with the complete devastation of divorce. Now is the time to make the call.

My husband said something to me the other night that was so powerful. He said, “If 1 out of every 2 marriages ends in divorce, then that means 1 out of every 2 engaged couples shouldn’t have gotten married to begin with.” Why do we silence the Holy Spirit’s warnings? Why do we head for the cliff full-speed ahead? We’re more afraid of hitting the breaks than falling off the cliff!

Why I am telling you this is because, by the grace of God, I slammed on the breaks in my previous relationship. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do because what I didn’t mention was that we were engaged. In fact, it was just months before our wedding day that I had the realization that this was not the life I wanted … for either of us. At that point, I prayed a prayer of submission to God asking for His will to be done and the strength to walk away. I knew I needed to, but I also knew I needed God’s help to make it happen. To finally muster up the strength, courage, and willpower to walk away from what I had known for nearly four years into the unknown took divine intervention.

Here is where the message of hope comes in.

You want to know what’s on the other side of heartbreak? Hope and healing. A new day. A new chapter.

It’s not that you won’t go through pain and hurt. Of course you’ll have moments of fear and doubt. There will be times you miss that person and wonder about your future without them. It’s not that the days ahead are easy, but they are worthwhile. They are days far better than staying in an unsatisfying, mediocre, poorly suited, or even abusive relationship.

After my break-up, I realized the importance of selecting a spouse not just allowing my emotions and attraction to cloud my judgment. Love is a choice not a feeling, and that’s important to realize. I began to contemplate the qualities I wanted and needed in a husband and partner. I gave thought to what I wanted my relationship to look like, and where I wanted out of life. As I thought about those things and went about my business, God blessed my obedience.


Into my life came the love of my life. My knight in shining armor. The man I wanted and needed but didn’t think existed. I had such peace in my spirit and knew that this was the man God intended for me to go through this life with.

We have been married now for nearly four and a half years, and every day I find another reason why I love my husband. He adores me. He loves me. He protects and leads me. He gives me courage and inspires me to be all that God’s called me to be. He lives his life in a way that honors God and protects our marriage. I trust his judgment and cherish his integrity. I look at him every day and think, “I have the best husband in the world.” Honestly, I have asked God how I ever deserved such an amazing man, and I know it’s because I trusted Him. I allowed Him to write my love story instead of me taking the reins and bulldozing His delicate and intricate plan.

Don’t get me wrong; Steve and I have our issues and arguments. We’re far from perfect, but we’re a beautiful mess. We work hard at our relationship, and as a result, we reap the rewards. The thing isn’t to find a perfect person or a perfect relationship but one that has all the makings to be amazing. One that is worth the work. One that makes this life bearable and beautiful on the darkest of days. One that you look at and see God’s goodness and love for you.

What’s on the other side of heartbreak? God’s best. Take it from someone who has gone through it. When you know that the relationship you’re in is not the right one (and if you dig deep and get honest with yourself, you know), it is far better to call it off before the “I dos” then after. When I look at my husband and our marriage, I would take a million heartbreaks just to be with him for one single day.

Ashley and Steve Wedding

Don’t allow fear of the unknown to keep you in a desolate known. Just like tearing off a Band-Aid hurts for a moment, so will your break-up. But better a moment of pain than a lifetime of it. A moment of pain can lead to a lifetime of love. On the other side of heartbreak is a horizon with a beautiful sunrise marking a new day.

Copyright © 2013, Foundation Restoration.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No reproduction allowed without written permission from Foundation Restoration and/or the author.