Karin Luise’s Facebook post was simple and straightforward.
“From my heart, I want to congratulate Chipper for making it into the Hall of Fame. He was an incredibly talented, passionate ball player. We had quite a ride together from the years in the minor leagues through injuries, the strike, the highs and lows, the best World Series ever … and all the rest.”
With those few sentences, Luise, the first ex-wife of former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, had completed the journey that had begun many years before when she first felt lost in their eight-year union.
After years of feeling disillusioned, betrayed and isolated, she felt nothing but gratitude.
“I would not be who I am today had I not traveled through those years,” she said recently in an exclusive AJC interview.
In the beginning, the Buckhead mother of three said her life was so much fun, filled with great people and privilege that comes with being married to a professional athlete.
“We were treated like royalty,” she said. “People loved what they thought we were. I knew it gave them hope.”
Now looking back, her marriage to Chipper, in many ways, was a mirror image of the life she lived growing up in Tucker. Chaotic. Toxic. Destructive.
When the couple first met in 1991, she was enrolled at Wesleyan College, and Chipper was with the Macon Braves.
“I had never heard of the minor leagues and had no idea who he was,” she said. “All I knew was the minute I sat down next to him, we had an immediate spark.”
Within six months, they were engaged, and married the next year. Although they had little of the money the majors would bring, those first few years were everything she dreamed. Team members were like family. She felt normal.
But by 1997, Luise said she felt like she was living in a Lifetime movie.
After making it to the major leagues, Chipper went through ACL surgery, a strike, the playoffs and the World Series in three seasons. While their marriage was deteriorating, Luise put on a happy face.
Chipper’s infidelity was legend. Finding out that other women were carrying his child while she struggled to get pregnant, Luise said, was devastating.
“I went to a place of deep grief, totally lost who I was and silenced my own pain,” she said. “I just wanted to hold my marriage together, and I had to let go of my own intuition to do that.”
The couple signed up for therapy and started laughing together again. Chipper assured her he’d changed. Luise felt hopeful and happy again. Then in the summer of 1998, she got a call in the middle of the night from a man in California. Chipper was having an affair with the man’s wife.
“I finally had to wake up and face reality,” Luise said.
All her life she had been told that Christian women do not get divorced or turn on their husbands. Now she felt like God was finally giving her the go-ahead to leave.
Luise finally told Chipper to move out. The next day, he moved in with his girlfriend, she said.
“Huge shifts were born in the middle of devastation,” Luise said. “I found the inner strength to pull myself up again. Over time, I started believing a new story about myself. I stopped letting my past define me.”
After divorcing in 2000, Luise began seeing a therapist. She got off the sofa and went in search of a greater purpose. She started volunteering. She went back to school and in 2003 earned a master’s degree and then her Ph.D. in psychology from Georgia State University.
In 2016, she co-wrote “The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives” with Denna Babul.
When I met them two years ago, they had just launched the nonprofit of the same name that would work to raise awareness about the impact of absent fathers in the lives of girls and women and provide a place for them to seek healing.
Luise said that it took years for her “to come to the realization that God never, ever wants us to be in relationships that are destructive to our own well-being, and to view divorce not from a place of shame but as a time of liberation, healing and transformation.”
Two years ago, Luise was focused on her broken relationship with the father figures in her life — her blood dad, who had given her up for adoption, and her stepfather, who had abandoned her.
Today, her focus is on helping others going through divorce make the journey from helplessness to hope. She suggests taking it one day at a time, setting small goals; trusting your intuition; and giving yourself permission to take care of just yourself and listening to your own heart.
“Spend time with just yourself outside of the noise and advice of others,” she said. “Get away from the cycle of revisiting the pain and gain a bigger perspective of the situation. Turn to meditation and prayer and lean on those you trust for support and practice self-care. You will find your way back to yourself. I promise.”
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