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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

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JL KING BRENDA STONE BROWDER edited by SHIRLEY NEAL

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JL King & Brenda Stone-Browder —————————————————————

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” ~ “The Lord’s Prayer” — Matthew 6:12-14

Brenda “Yes, I’ve forgiven him,” I said to Oprah during one of Oprah’s Final Season episodes. We taped the show in front of a live studio audience made up mostly of women who experienced failed relationships. My public declaration was also heard by millions of viewers watching on TV. “I have to forgive him to go on with my life,” I added. Back in 2004 when JL first appeared on Oprah’s show without me, I wanted the world to know my side of how I was betrayed by my husband who had sex with other men during our marriage—and was bold enough to do so even in our home. But today, it’s more important to me that I let couples in troubled relationships, DL or otherwise, know how to bring about healing after the pain of a separation. I want the world

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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

————————————————————— to know what healing looks like. I want the world to know the rest of JL’s and my story. I want the world to know that I no longer hurt. I want men and women in estranged relationships to know that there is life after divorce. I want to use our tragic story to show others that it is possible—very possible, to forgive, heal and love again.

JL When Brenda forgave me publicly on Oprah’s show, Oprah nodded with compassion in her eyes. Then the audience applauded. I already knew Brenda had forgiven me, but hearing her “yes” in this very public forum was so powerful. I then said to Brenda publicly, “Thank you for giving me a chance to stay in your life; to make sure that our children still love and respect me as a father.” I felt I owed her that much.

Brenda People often ask me how can I forgive Jimmy for the lie he perpetrated throughout our eight-year marriage. And sometimes I get queries like this: Dear Brenda, Why are you so hard on J.L.? Aren't you a Christian woman who is supposed to forgive and forget? Let go and Let God. ~ Anonymous I explain to everyone that I have let go, which is how I am able to forgive my Ex. And I can forgive him because I

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JL King & Brenda Stone-Browder ————————————————————— ask God daily to forgive me of my own trespasses. How can I ask that of God if I cannot forgive those who trespass against me? My forgiving Jimmy did not come from me, but through the mercy of God. There is nothing else that has brought me through this but the love of God. I look at Jimmy through the eyes of God. The romantic love that I once had for him as a wife has evolved into an agape love for him, through my relationship with Christ. Jimmy is the father of my children and I want the best for him. I wish him no harm. There were times though when I wanted to have the fortitude to hurt him in some way; either physically or mentally for what he had done to ultimately destroy our family, and for putting me at risk for any number of sexually transmitted diseases. I am thankful to God for sparing me from disease, and from bitterness. Now, I can share my story with others and empower them with knowledge and strength to make responsible decisions in their relationships. When I wrote my book, On the Up and Up: A Survival Guide for Women Living With Men on the Down Low, I searched my soul and realized that the anger and the pain were just pent-up emotions I had not been able to express for so many years. Writing the book was not about having my dirty laundry aired for the world to see, because it really wasn’t my dirty laundry. It was simply the first time I had a chance to release all that I was feeling. And that’s where the healing began—the true healing. For years, I felt like the only woman in the world experiencing this type of pain and struggling with forgiveness. But after receiving hundreds of letters, emails and testimonies from women during my speaking engagements, I learned that I was not alone.

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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

————————————————————— Today, I’m not only compelled to share my story with others, but to offer advice on how to forgive. I was alone in the process, and I wish I had a book at that time that I could go to, or someone who I could speak with, or some kind of support system to help me through my pain. So, to you women who find yourself questioning if you should forgive your Ex. I say, “Look within yourself before putting blame on everyone else for your situation. You need to make sure that your self-esteem is intact, and know that you deserve good things for yourself. You are worthy! Whether your man is on the DL or straight, you need to know that you are wonderfully made and you are perfect just the way you are. You don’t have to try to go the extra mile to please someone or to accept anything into your life just because you don’t regard yourself highly. And it’s okay to regard yourself highly. It’s not selfish, because when you are whole within yourself, then you can impart that to other people. You can therefore have good relationships and be an example for other people.” Here’s an example of one of the most frequent queries I get from women: Dear Brenda, Thanks for sharing your story. It took courage. How long did it take for you to forgive your Ex for cheating on you? ~ Anonymous

Brenda I explain to anyone in a relationship looking to forgive

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JL King & Brenda Stone-Browder ————————————————————— that forgiveness does not require you to forget. And forgiveness for me did not come overnight. My forgiveness came in phases. You have to make a conscious decision to forgive. For me, my strength to forgive came through God. The time it took for me may be longer or shorter for someone else. What’s important is that it came, and my Ex and I are better for it. Women who are dealing with infidelity in their marriage should not get caught up in creating a time frame for forgiveness. Understand what is gained from forgiving your Ex. Are you freer? Does it create closure for your family? Is God happy with your actions? My answer was “yes,” to all of the above. §§§§§

Dear Brenda, My man wasn't on the DL or anything like that but he was cheating on me. He destroyed our marriage and our family. I can't imagine how you were able to forgive your Ex? What advice can you give me to forgive mine? ~ TZ Dear TZ, The first two words of your inquiry was "my man." Even though we all use this controlling phrase, we must remember that they are their own person and the mistakes that they make in maintaining the relationship and their unfaithfulness is just not something we control, and we cannot take responsibility for the choices that they make.

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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

————————————————————— They, like us, took the same vows of commitment to the marriage union. With that said, it took me a long time to relinquish control over my marriage and realize that the choices that my husband made had nothing to do with me. I had to forgive myself for not having "better control" over my relationship. Sounds ridiculous, right? I wanted to beat myself up for not seeing what was coming or recognizing the infidelity. I should have had better "control." I was angry with myself for allowing him to "get over" on me. Again, the process did not happen overnight; it took time and some soul searching. The only one we can control is our self, and we also have to forgive ourselves, in order to forgive others. After I recognized that I had not been perfect in all of my relationships it was easier to forgive. When we honestly look at ourselves and see our spoken and unspoken, as well as our seen and unseen faults; we find it easier to forgive. §§§§§

Dear Brenda, I can’t believe you forgave your Ex forgave you on public TV. Wow! And JL… what did you say or do to get her to that place and time? What can I do to get my lady to forgive me?

~ Robert

JL I’ve told many men that the only thing they have to do

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JL King & Brenda Stone-Browder ————————————————————— to get forgiveness is to keep it real; mean it; and then put action behind their words to show it. It’s that simple. It doesn’t require a case study or research paper and you really don’t need to read it in a book except the Holy Bible that is based on forgiveness and love. I tell them, “It’s personal, and you’re the only one who can get that peace of mind at night. Only you know what is inside of you that requires forgiveness. You are also the only one who truly knows that you are sorry. It’s not living when you have things that take over your subconscious mind. You have to seek peace of mind.” I have that peace now—at last!

Brenda I not only forgave Jimmy, I also forgave the man who was sleeping with him during our marriage. I did so during an actual church service when I was feeling on top of my “holier than thou” game. I was actually sitting in the pulpit with the ministers as a lay leader of the church where I was a member. The visiting minister had preached his sermon on defining moments. “Either you have been through a defining moment; you are going through a defining moment; or you are about to go through a defining moment,” he said. “God is good!” I thought. “God is good and I am good. No issues here. I am saved, sanctified, filled with the Holy Ghost and fire baptized.” Little did I know that Jimmy’s lover, who I’ll refer to as Melvin, as I did in my book, On the Up and Up: A Survival

Guide for Women Living With Men on the Down Low, was

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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

————————————————————— at the church service. Mind you, every time I encountered Melvin in public I would turn my head in disgust and displeasure, daring him to look my way; let alone speak to me. When the service was over, most everyone cleared out of the sanctuary. I stayed behind with just a few others. After walking out of the pulpit, I spotted Melvin approaching me. Of course, I started to stare him down and walk the other way. Then, I stopped. At that moment, God quickened me in my spirit and told me to forgive him. Melvin continued his walk towards me. “I need to ask you to forgive me,” he said. “I forgive you,” I replied, without missing a beat. We hugged and we cried together, before God. Both of us had been hurt and were hurting. That forgiveness led to healing in my mental and physical body. At that moment, I was able to let go of the hurt and pain and bitterness that I harbored in my heart. Forgiveness is key. Bitterness is the ultimate disease, because it can perpetuate other diseases. Our bodies are not designed to hold stress and will manifest in some other physical manner if it’s not released. Spirit, mind, and body must all be in sync. Through the release of the bitterness and hatred I had for this man and for Jimmy, God healed my body that had been attacked by multiple sclerosis (MS). Some do not want to believe or accept my testimony of my healing of MS. I know what God did for me is real. I had been diagnosed with MS at the age of thirty-five; I experienced numerous tests, and treatments over the years and the symptoms would come and go; increase and decrease; but never left me completely. The encounter at church with Melvin was fifteen

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JL King & Brenda Stone-Browder ————————————————————— years after my MS diagnosis, which I received as part of a routine evaluation and MRI that my doctor ordered. Following my moment with Melvin at the church and subsequent doctor visit, the neurologist looked at the results of my tests and said to me, “I diagnosed you with multiple sclerosis, right?” “That’s right,” I said. “But now I see nothing on the results of your test that indicate that you have multiple sclerosis,” he said, puzzled. “That’s God!” I shouted, with confidence. “If that is what you believe, then I respect that,” he said. And I said, “Praise, God!” I praise God for not only bringing me out of a dark marriage but for healing me of the hatred that manifest itself into MS before I was led to forgive; and for empowering me to tell my testimony with boldness to encourage and empower others.

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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

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“Life is like riding a bicycle—to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” ~ Albert Einstein

JL The key to moving on to a new you with a new positive outlook on life is to take control of your life. If your partner was the decision maker and controlled your life, it is time to take back control! Don’t have a long sad party where you are always looking a mess, listening to sad love songs, or watching sad and depressing moves about love. Ladies, stop reading articles in popular women’s magazines about the lack of good men, or talking to your girlfriends who are horny and bitter about men. Men, stop swearing off sistahs because “they are all alike,” or listening to your boys dog them out. Moving forward after being hurt is difficult for you and your Ex. It also hurts the extended families; friends that you

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JL King & Brenda Stone-Browder ————————————————————— both shared; the church you both attended; the social life you both shared; and the children. The home you shared together should be cleaned out of your memories and the life you had together. You can’t move on if everything in your space reminds you of your Ex. Sometimes living in a place that you shared with someone you once loved can be like living in HELL every time you are in that space. My friend Barbara put her home up for sale after her divorce from her husband. She came home one day early from work and found him in bed with the security officer of their complex. She told me that after seeing her husband in their bed with someone else, she took all the linens and pillows off the bed and put them in the trash. She also took the bedroom furniture and gave it away. After she cleaned out the bedroom, she repainted it, but she still couldn’t remove his presence from the house. Everything in the home made her think of him. The flashbacks of him having sex in their “love nest” made her depressed, angry and sick. So, she had to go. She had to get as far away from the house as possible. Here is the advice I gave to her and to anyone else who finds themself in a similar situation:  Get rid of pictures of the two of you together.  Remove all of his things that he forgot to take.  Stop listening to music that the two of you enjoyed.  Get rid of his dog (if you have no attachment).  Avoid taking his parents’ calls—at least until after you’ve healed.

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THE EX FACTOR: FINDING FREEDOM TO HEAL, FORGIVE & LOVE AGAIN

—————————————————————  Change your church.  Tell your friends not to talk about him to you.  Distance yourself from his close friends—at least until after you’ve healed.  Have a garage sale and sell old memories.  Change your “couple” habits. Whatever you did with him, change it—that goes for your favorite restaurant to your favorite home movies.  Move to another side of town or another city.  Socialize with a new social group of people.  Take a long vacation to a new place.  Adopt a family that needs help.  Go shopping and buy something that you know he would never approve of you buying.  Start a new hobby.  Write a book.  Buy a new car (something sexy—a two-seater).  For those lonely nights, don’t rule out loving yourself.  Scream and laugh out loud whenever you feel you need to do it.

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The Ex-Factor: Finding Freedom to Heal, Forgive & Love Again excerpt  

The Ex-Factor: Finding Freedom to Heal, Forgive & Love Again excerpt