Reader Question: When is it Okay to Give Up on My Marriage?

Reader Question of the Week
Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I’m going to do a heartbreaking one: How do I know when to give up on my marriage? When have I done enough and tried hard enough? I get variations on this quite frequently, and I’ll share two with you today:

It took me a long time to figure out why I was so angry at him for so many years. It felt like he was holding back love and affection from me and that he didn’t care about or for me. Even when I tell him I would like to be hugged or touched he could barely do it. I feel rejected from my husband. Being a Christian woman I do not believe in leaving and I really do not want to. I feel like a prisoner in this relationship. I cannot leave for the commitment I made but I am dying inside with lack of affection. What am I to do? How much daily rejection can I keep taking. I touch him nicely on the shoulders or back and he acts like I am not even there. He has all sorts of “good” reasons to not be affectionate to me they all stem to something I said or did years ago.

Here’s another:

My husband has been pushing me away last November. This last June it got to the point where he wasn’t talking to me anymore and asked for more space and independence. I freaked out and took my kids to my in-laws, in another state for a long weekend to give him space. When I got back he told me that he’s been thinking about divorce or separation for a year now. At first I chased him, begging him to not leave me. Then, in the middle of summer, I started working on my relationship with God and got really close to Him. It seemed to help me emotionally, but every week there would be a set back in our relationship. Around our anniversary he got really nice and started acting like the old days again. However, after finding condoms and phone records of him talking every day to and from work to a woman he works with, our “progress” was set back 10 fold. After many talks, he’s realizing now that I’m going to look out for our young kids and myself. I’m falling out of love for him, like he says he’s not in love with me anymore. We don’t trust each other. How can this possibly work? I don’t want to disappoint God by leaving this loveless marriage. I’ve tried several things to work on my end-praying, reading my Bible, trying not to be selfish, figuring out his love language and working on that, the Love Dare, etc. Thoughts?

I can just hear the heartbreak in these women’s letters. The first woman, as far as I know, is in a loveless marriage but not necessarily in one that involves an affair. The second one looks like it does.

How can you know when to give up on your marriage? Thoughts for those in miserable relationships.

Is There A Sign That Tells You When to Give Up on Your Marriage?

I can’t tell you how to know when to give up on your marriage. I don’t know both sides of the situation, and most stories are really, really complicated. That’s why I absolutely believe that if you’re walking through something this lonely and this difficult you simply must get help–a third person to talk to. Maybe that’s a counsellor, or a pastor, or a mentor. Maybe it’s even a mentor couple who can sit down with the both of you. But you really need someone who knows you in real life, who knows your husband, who understands the situation, and who can help pray with you, hold you accountable, and also tell you when it’s just too dangerous to stay (because in abusive situations, or situations where affairs or porn use have become too rampant, it just may be).

Thus, likely the first thing you should do is find that someone to talk to. I know that can be difficult, especially if you or your husband are on a leadership position in the church. But you simply must. And remember: the embarrassment of finding someone to talk to is still less than pulling the family apart when no one understands why.

Sometimes Separation is a Good Life Lesson–and Can Save a Marriage

Let’s take a situation where a guy has been texting another woman, and refuses to give her up, but wants to stay at home. Or a situation where your husband refuses to get a job because he likes living at home, but also won’t care for the kids when he is at home. In these cases, what a guy may very well need is a kick upside the head. And the best way to give it to him, sometimes, is for reality to sink in. “What you are doing now will end the marriage.” If you continue on this path, we cannot go on.

So find that someone to talk to, and ask them to help you pray through and figure out if this is the right strategy. Separation does not always end in divorce–quite often it ends in reconciliation. When you start to both realize what it’s like to live apart, and he understands how hard it will be to live like that, he may get a new lease on life.

That’s also much of what James Dobson recommends in Love Must Be Tough, about how to help a wayward spouse understand the consequences of what they are doing. You can read more about that here.

If Your Marriage Collapses Because of Something Your Spouse Did, You Are Not a Failure

When you walked down the aisle I’m sure you never dreamed that your marriage would end. You thought you’d make it through to the end, grow old together, live happily ever after.

That was likely an important value to you. You grew up revering marriage and wanting to honour it. Many on this blog also have a Christian element to it; we know God hates divorce, and so how can we fail in this big a way? Will God be angry?

God hates divorce because of what it does to families and communities, but He does not hate the person who divorces. And He, unlike the rest of us, is also able to see to the heart. He understands the turmoil, and He knows what went in to the marriage deteriorating.

I once heard a speaker couple at a marriage retreat say that if both parties want to work to save a marriage, then that marriage has about a 95% chance of making it, no matter how big the problems are. On the other hand, if only one person wants to work to save the marriage, that marriage has a much lower chance of making it, no matter how small the problems are.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your spouse decides that the marriage isn’t worth it. Your spouse moves on. God sees that, God understands, and God is still with you and is still carrying you, and is determined to care for your children, too. God took care of me after my parents’ divorce, and He can take care of your kids, too.

Dayspring Peace Mug

Be Wary of Searching for Justification to Leave

One word of caution, though: when we are completely and utterly miserable in our marriage, quite often we look for reasons to leave. I think that’s why many of these women write to me. They want to be told: you’ve tried hard enough, and it’s okay to leave.

But in Christian circles, the only justification for leaving tends to be adultery, abuse, or addictions. Many women close to me have tried to “blow up” their husbands habits to fit with one of these things. I had one close friend tell me her husband was an alcoholic because he had a beer every night after work. (When they split up, he didn’t increase his drinking at all, and has always been a light drinker). I had another woman tell me that her husband was verbally and emotionally abusive towards the kids because he was much harsher than she was. Yet when they split up, she somehow agreed to him getting the kids about 2/3 of the time. And I had another woman tell me that her husband, who was in counseling for a porn addiction and was now getting clean, had committed adultery with porn and thus she was justified in leaving.

Some guys do commit adultery, some are abusive, and some are addicted. But be careful of labelling your husband in one of these camps because you want to be able to say, “I had no choice but to leave”, or “I have biblical grounds.” Again, this is why having someone walk through this with you in real life is so important.

Will I Be Miserable Forever if I Don’t Leave?

I don’t know. But here’s what I do know, and this is a really, really hard thing to say, and even harder to hear: Your happiness, and your misery, is not God’s primary concern. What He really cares about is your character. Now I don’t believe that God zaps us and punishes us until we learn something important (though He does discipline us), but just because you’re miserable does not mean that you have reason to leave a covenant. I can understand the pain in the first letter writer’s words, for instance, but that does not look like divorce is the answer in that case.

There are times when you have virtually no choice, and when leaving is definitely the healthiest thing to do for all involved. But these are the MINORITY of divorces, not the majority. And the vow really does matter. I have known many marriages that were utterly miserable for ten years that turned around afterwards.

Whether or not you will be miserable forever largely depends upon what you do from this time forward. Sometimes the way forward means recognizing that you may have been contributing to the problem and driving him away, as this post shows:

Why He Won’t Meet Your Needs

Sometimes, though, it really is because he’s checked out emotionally. In that case, these posts may help:

Changing the Dynamic in Your Marriage (and changing the things you can!)
I Messed Up“. How recognizing your own wrong (even if it’s minor) can help you change the bigger things in your marriage.
Living in a Loveless Marriage
Encouragement for Those in Tough Marriages

I know many of you are looking for a simple statement–you can leave IF he does this. You want to know when to give up on your marriage, because you’re desperate for some simple sign. But I don’t think that simple test exists. I have known marriages that have survived huge affairs and I have known marriages that have not survived an emotional texting affair. There is not a black and white answer, because every relationship is different.

These things I do know, though: God is with you, always. God wants to help you do the right thing. Having someone walk alongside you and help you see things clearly and pray for you is crucial.

So please, talk to someone in real life, and pray hard. Don’t despair. No matter what happens, it is never the end of God’s plan for your life, and He can work even in a miserable marriage, or a lonely, sad divorce.

Comments

  1. Marriage is an analogy of our relationship with God. Regardless of what we do, God never “divorces” us. We may distance ourselves from Him, even give up, but He never gives up on us. That is the model I try to emulate. For me, I might separate if things got extremely bad (like abuse), but always with the hope and intent of reconciliation. I find the book of Hosea to be my guide in this area. So, for me, divorce was never an option, even in the lowest parts of our marriage.
    Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…Is it OK not to swallow?My Profile

  2. I think what you were saying about the justification thing is very important! Yes some of those things give a biblical reason to leave however there are still many that work through their issues and are stronger than ever before. It is because they made a choice to change and work together. My heart breaks for men and women in this situation. I will say a prayer!
    Cassie recently posted…Words of Wisdom Weekend #5My Profile

  3. I love your emphasis on getting real help from a real life mentor/pastor/trusted friend. It’s the same thing I share with my readers. Real marriage still happens in real life; online ministries/access isn’t meant to be a replacement for real relationships and i think it’s important for writers and bloggers to keep pointing that out, to encourage people to connect and find real help in their lives.
    Great thoughts.
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…Can I Love My Husband Too Much? {Public Letter to Myself}My Profile

  4. I have been married for 29 years and I am hanging on in a difficult marriage. Every day is a struggle and I wait on the Lord and honor my covenant. Some days are okay, many are difficult. I plod on. I count my blessings. My husband is a lot of work.

    I just returned from a 10 day visit in which I spent time at my parents’ house and the home of my in-laws, both Christian couples who have been married for 60 years plus. Both of these couples pick on and criticize each other 24/7, have nothing in common with each other, and do nothing fun with each other. It looks miserable and they are miserable to be around. It is demoralizing to think that this is what honoring the covenant looks like. There are a lot of days where I think that the Lord would be merciful in bringing one believer home so everyone could live in peace.

    I just don’t know any married couples that look happy with each other, Christian or otherwise. Is this what it means to be married?

    • Scarlett,

      I am so sorry to hear of your situation. Sounds like how my wife feels when she talks to me even though in my mind I am making an effort to work on our marriage of 8 years. I will pray for you and your situation. Seek Jesus in all things and pray for your husband as well. God can use us in any situation, continue to be obedient to him. The Lord brought you together for a reason and his work is not done. I am glad you can count your blessings. Know that you are not alone and others are lifting you up in prayer. Peace be with you.

    • NO!! I could tell that after we had our children, my husband and I (although still in a good relationship) were headed in the wrong direction in our marriage. I am so thankful that I found Sheila’s blog as well as one other blog very early on in our marriage (we’ve been married for almost five years) to correct my ways before we traveled too far down that path. However, God’s biblical plan for marriage is not for either spouse to be unhappy. It often happens that way, if both spouses aren’t committed to making it a happy marriage or perhaps they just don’t know how to do that or aren’t aware that what they are doing in the marriage is so damaging. For me, I just really didn’t see the error in my ways. I clearly do not know anything about your marriage, and you may be doing everything right in your marriage, but I wanted to share my experience in case you were in the same camp as me. I didn’t realize that the way I was acting or reacting to my husband was so damaging and was contributing to how my husband acted. I think that it is our responsibility to do whatever we personally can do to figure out where we are going wrong, and line up as best we can with what the bible teaches us we should do/how we should behave in our marriage. Hopefully, your husband will be as committed as you are to turning your marriage around, but even if he isn’t, a lot of times just seeing what you can do (because you are the only person you can control) to change the marriage can be a game changer. I’m sure that after 29 years of marriage you have a lot more baggage (more ingrained habits) to deal with than I had to deal with, but I have found several books helpful. Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley are two that I’ve read on a long list that I would like to read. I found both very eye opening to the things that I was doing wrong. Don’t get me wrong, my husband had a lot to do with our marriage going down the wrong path as well, I am definitely not saying that your husband is blameless, but I found that by changing me (the one I could control), just by nature he changed his ways too. It is a daily conscious struggle to stay on the right path and often we both fail miserably. But now that I am conscious to the ways that my actions hurt our marriage, even if I do fail sometimes, we get ourselves back up on the right path. Hope this helps!

    • Scarlett: “There are a lot of days where I think that the Lord would be merciful in bringing one believer home so everyone could live in peace.” — I know EXACTLY what you mean. I remember the days of waking up and before my feet hit the floor begging God for the day to be over so I could just go back to bed. Those marriages that you’ve listed are poor examples “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
      Robyn Gibson recently posted…Sometimes Love is Just HardMy Profile

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your frustration, Scarlett. It is hard, in our society, to imagine the chain reaction of how our choices affect eternity. When reading about the lives of people who honoured God in the past, we can see how their lives fit into God’s plan in history, but sometimes we don’t understand how our lives can be part of God’s plan. God promises to honour covenants made in His name, but there is no Biblical (or modern experiential) precedent for guaranteed happiness. Kings, priests, prophets, and wives simply trusted that God was overseeing their lives and they kept their covenants. The Gospel has been passed from generation to generation because of faithfulness to God.
      It’s too bad that you cannot recall any examples of “good” marriages, but they do exist as a testimony to the world of God’s faithfulness. You won’t find a perfect marriage in the Bible, or in your church, or in your family. But if you ask God to bring you contentment in the marriage He has chosen for you, you will be satisfied with His choice. To His glory.

  5. Wonderful insight, Sheila. I can personally speak to being in so much emotional pain in my marriage that I simply couldn’t imagine how we could find happiness. The situation seemed hopeless, and more than anything, I just wanted the pain to stop. More than once, it looked like my husband and I wouldn’t make it.

    We did. Thank God.

    And years later, I am so glad I didn’t leave, that we stuck it out, that we dealt with our problems. We are most definitely a happily married couple now! For me, some of that involved sorting through was what really unbearable (had to change), what I didn’t like/hated but could live with (get over it), and where I was not living out godly principles toward my husband (change yourself first). Indeed, when we made our character issues the priority, happiness — at least for us — followed.

    Yes, I believe some marriages can’t or won’t make it, but many could survive if they had hope that things could get better. My own relationship, and many others, are examples that challenging marriages can improve with time, effort, and prayer.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Plastic Surgery: Should You or Shouldn’t You?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing J. I am in one of those seemingly hopeless places, but I continue to turn to God. I know He is good and I will remain faithful. I am grateful for such good resources out there like this one. God bless and again thank you for sharing your story of hope!

  6. My pastor tells a story about a man coming to him for counseling who wanted to get divorced because his wife was unfaithful, but the wife had repented and wanted to work on the marriage. At the end of the session, the man also asked for prayer for his brother. The brother had been on drugs and sucking money and time out of this man, and the man kept giving him money time and love whenever he saw him, even though the brother never changed. The pastor asked “why do you keep giving him your money and time even though he treats you horribly, but you can’t forgive your wife?” The man replied “well my brother is blood!”
    The point is that we treat our spouses as a disposable relationship, while “blood family” relationships are usually not disposable, no matter what they do we love them. Something to think about.
    Anne R recently posted…Catch up….again!My Profile

  7. The Bible gives no circumstance where it is acceptable for a wife to divorce her husband. You may separate indefinitely if the situation is dangerous if you stay, but if you are with another man it is always adultery. That’s hard to hear but it is God’s way.

  8. Even though I was the believing spouse in our marriage it was me who tried to leave three times. All three times God took me deeper into His picture of Christ and the Church and how marriage is to mirror that relationship. God never gave up on me and withdrew His love by taking away His Holy Spirit; Jesus never abandoned me. Interestingly, God didn’t say, “I hate divorce.” But instead, “Love your husband like I love you. Look at Christ’s love as your example.”
    Robyn Gibson recently posted…Sometimes Love is Just HardMy Profile

    • Um, actually he does say I hate divorce – Malachi 2v 16
      “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

      But I think the point the author makes – God hates divorce because of what it does to families and because it breaks the type (the marriage of Christ and the church). But he doesn’t necessarily hate people who divorce. In fact, in David’s case – who obv committed adultery and murder – he loved David – and chose him to be the forbear of his own son. Not that any of us match up to David’s spirituality.

      The point, I think, is that God would always want us to honour our covenant. But won’t cast us away if we can’t. And sometimes it really isn’t an option to reconcile.

      Divorce in the bible has always been in order to permit remarriage.

      I feel personally very conflicted. And so I’ve ended up in limbo. Which is not good for my spiritual character either!
      I don’t hate my husband – he is a lovely person. But deeply deeply damaged in a way that goes beyond normal Western damage. Living with someone like this is an extremely damaging and traumatising experience. I physically and emotionally cannot do it. And when you have no-one you are vulnerable to becoming emotionally involved elsewhere. I would love my life to have been one of the admittedly VERY FEW marriages that reflect God’s glory. Sadly it was a debacle. I am too scared to go back into it and try again. And too scared not too. :-(

      Also, I agree with the point about personal happiness – that’s not God’s main focus. Although I think his laws are there for our happiness and perhaps if I had followed them more accurately in the beginning I would not have been on the trajectory on which I found myself.

      But I also believe that marriages between believers should be MORE loving not LESS loving and almost across the board I think they appear to be LESS loving. Apart from the outstanding ones that are few and far between.

      And with so much going on in the world it looks like Christ is about to return which is very exciting, but I’m afraid that in all the drama and upheaval of separating from my husband I have suffered quite a blow to my faith. I feel a bit numb really :-( I have tried to live for God all my life. Sometimes now I feel I am going through the motions. Just living and being a single mom is a hard enough task in itself. Although being a mom is blessed too. I am grateful for all. Just sometimes wish I had someone human behind me. Life is lonely sometimes. And confusing.

      If you’ve read this far, thank you for reading my ramblings. Love to you. God bless xxx

  9. I am divorced and this is not something I ever wanted and fought hard to prevent. But something I learned in my horrible journey is that it takes all 4 of the following to help a marriage survive when in crisis: 1) a willing man, 2) a willing woman 3) a qualified 3rd party aka counsellor and 4) GOD! In my situation I had 3/4 and it took me a very long time to accept that I didn’t have #1 and that it was out of my control to affect that one. I walked my journey with my pastor and also a qualified counsellor (both were my counseling support and I was lucky to have 2 amazing people like that to walk with me and my ex (when he would participate) over a number of years. By the end I got the blessings and even support to go because my ex actually continued his adulterous relationship and did not want to even try to make the marriage work -no matter what I did to be a loving wife. He walked away and I had to find a way to accept that nothing I could ever do would “fix” things or bring him back to me. I think Sheila is dead on when she says you need that qualified person to walk with you. Then when you have done more than 99.9% of other people in your shoes would have done to try and save a marriage you’ll be able to know it’s “OK” to leave and then start the road to recovery. While God has blessed me richly since my divorce over 13 years ago, there are still scars (especially from the impact this has had on my kids) so I’ve never encouraged my friends to leave marriages without giving it all they have. (i.e. work on it to the bitter end) I’ve loved seeing some couples work it out and come through when they were already separated and on the road to divorce. It is possible for some to survive and recover!

  10. Sheila, I commend you on your response. Whenever I start reading Christian blog posts on this very issue, my blood instinctually boils from so many times of reading un Christian justifications and excuses for leaving. Many are well meaning, but I propose that those attitudes are one of the many major reasons Chrsitians have a high divorce rate.
    I just wanted to add a couple thoughts to take a little further what you’ve said: Firstly, there is a distinction between divorcing, abandoning, giving up, etc. on your marriage VS temporary (or in extreme cases permanent) separation, setting apporapriate boundaries, and accepting your circumstances. Sometimes, separation is the last ditch effort to curb a spouse of a deadly and destructive behavior such as porn, adultery, physical abuse, etc., but I am making the distinction of ‘separation’ from ‘divorce’. The two are not synonomous. Ibelieve that divorce should ONLY be used when for legal reasons, like when it is the only means to protecting and providing for your children. To use it as a tool threaten or to remarry is scandalous to our faith and directly against the Gospel.

    I have asked you for prayers and shared with you before a little of my story, but I want to use it as an example here. I am only 27, just had my 3rd anniversary, recieved final notice of divorce last week, and have been separated for 1.5 years. Many people look at my situation and say, ‘You’re so young. You deserve to be happy and find someone else” This is such a huge pet peeve for me. I don’t recal saying in my vows, “for better or until you leave me”. I said and meant till death. If I back up on my vows now, then why should I hold my husband to his vows? I also often reflect on spouses loving each other ‘like Christ loved the Church’. Does Christ’s love for me only last as long as I love Him? Does His love for my spouse ever end? As part of the church, Jesus died for us BEFORE we were saved, BEFORE we came to love Him, BEFORE we are perfected (and despite our imperfections). TO limit our mercy and love (the act of love, not the emotional feeling) for our spouse is to forget what Christ has asked us to do by His example. None of us were, are, or will be saved by our actions. We are saved by the unmerited love and mercy of God, through the excrutiating and undeserved death of His Son, Jesus, which happened because of our betrayal. Jesus willingly took on all the ways that we hurt Him, even when we abandon Him for years and years of our lives. He never gives up. I challenge and pray that spouses when in these difficult and heart breaking situations reflect on the love that Jesus has for them. Never give up on your marriage and your spouse, even when there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I’m there, I understand, but through this I am coming to understand more than ever just how incredible God’s love for me is. You never know if you will be the very personal example of God’s love for your spouse. Maybe it will take a lifetime, but if you save their soul, is it not worth your life? “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13

    Again, I think that you answered very well and I appreciate how serious you deem the Christian view of marriage.

  11. “Your happiness, and your misery, is not God’s primary concern. What He really cares about is your character. Now I don’t believe that God zaps us and punishes us until we learn something important (though He does discipline us), but just because you’re miserable does not mean that you have reason to leave a covenant.” Spot on and what I need to be reminded of. What amazes me is how many Christians encourage me to separate or divorce because I “deserve to be happy.” Really? How about I need to obey God and what HE is telling me to do in and with my marriage? I shared your post on twitter and facebook and in a private group on facebook as well for women in difficult marriages who are TRYING to stay married. There are so many of us out there.

  12. “A vow really does matter”… Words of wisdom, Sheila. A divorce is a sad, tragic failure to bring the love of Christ to a broken world.

  13. I was a terrible husband in a lot of ways. I spent a lot of time being angry and resentful as my wife withdrew more and more over the years. When our son was born I felt abandoned and unloved. I had an affair with a prett girl who showered me with attention I hadn’t had in years, it was wrong and I ended it, lied about it to my wife, then told her after she found out. She forgave me and tried to work it out. I started drinking myself to death from the guilt. She divorced me and stated her “biblical grounds” were my adultry, alcoholism and mental abuse stemming from those issues.
    Like the women who wrote to you, this works boyh ways. This is not a female problem. Adultry is a symptom of a marriage that does not communicate love and respect, sometimes even interest. Abuse, mental and/or physical, is another symptom, and may not be intentional. Alcoholism is a disease, much like cancer or hepatitis in that no one asks for that problem.
    Deciding to leave because your spouse makes a mistake or gets sick is not “biblical grounds”, nor is getting pushed or slapped, though both are unacceptable. Ending a marriage is breaking a covenant made with another person and with God. There is no way to sugarcoat it.

    • Thank you for your insight and honesty Chris. You’ve made valid points.
      Robyn Gibson recently posted…Sometimes Love is Just HardMy Profile

    • ButterflyWings says:

      I’m sorry but alcoholism is NOT a disease. To compare it to something like cancer is insulting to every single person who has ever suffered cancer or loved someone who has had cancer. Maybe your wife was wrong to divorce you, maybe she wasn’t wrong. Either way, you need to take responsibility for your alcoholism and stop insulting those who really are or have been sick by acting like alcoholism is a sickness. Alcoholism is a choice like every other addiction, and just like every other addiction it is a sin. Yes, everyone have sins that tempt them more than other sins, but to try to call it a sickness is an insult, not only to those who have real illnesses, but it’s an insult to God try and claim a sin is just a “sickness”.

      You talk about not sugar coating things, so I have chosen not to sugar coat this. Your alcoholism is a sin, not a sickness. Repent of it and don’t insult those with real illnesses by acting like your sin is just a disease.

  14. “God hates divorce because of what it does to families and communities, but He does not hate the person who divorces. And He, unlike the rest of us, is also able to see to the heart. He understands the turmoil, and He knows what went in to the marriage deteriorating.”
    This is beautifully said and what I wish someone had said to me a long, long time ago. When I walked down the aisle to wed my ex-husband over 24 years ago I never ever dreamed that day I would be divorced. I also never dreamed he would treat me and our marriage like trash, by abusing both…and our two sons who came along later.
    In Malachi, God says He hated the violence of men towards their wives and therefore, hated the divorce which occurred because of their hardened hearts. But sadly, so many Christians pull out a teeny part of that scripture to make people feel guilty for divorcing or that God will hate them if they choose that path.

    Divorce is ugly and it destroys people in such a hurtful way, especially children. But when my ex walked out on me and our two sons almost six years ago, God was in control and took me from a very painful situation and He never once stopped loving me or my two boys. But it took me a long, long time to finally believe He still loved me because I chose to file for divorce after seeing no change in my ex.

    Many will say to just work on yourself, change yourself and you can make a marriage survive. Possibly, depending on the situation in that marriage. But a marriage takes two people and as much as you change yourself, work on your issues, etc, it does not guarantee the other person will choose the same. When an abuser is involved, most times they do not have a true change of heart.

    I have been remarrried two years today to a wonderful loving man. I now know what a healthy marriage looks like and am still amazed each day of how God worked in and through me over the past years, and that yes, He still loves me despite the choices I made.
    Amy recently posted…A good, happy life…My Profile

    • Amy, so happy that you’ve come through the other side! And you’re right–we are called to do what we can, but ultimately we cannot change another person. If they are abusive, then that is their choice. You didn’t cause it.

      • Thank you, Sheila.
        I never realized how destructive my first marriage truly was. My parents could see it, so many people around me could see it, but I was so busy just trying to make it work and survive through it, I couldn’t see it clearly myself and I was too afraid to leave for many reasons. Unfortunately, too many well-meaning Christians at that time were giving me what I now see as horrible advice regarding my situation. I was told to submit more, respect him in all things, and just concentrate on working on me and then he would change. And I was also told that even if he never changed, God would bless me for suffering through such hardships for it was my lot in life and one day I would receive a huge crown of glory for it. So very sad when I think back now to that type of advice. I’m so grateful there are many resources now available to women who are in abusive marriages.

        God does not just want us to suffer for sufferings sake. To suffer for God, means to suffer for what is right. In other words, when we stand up to the wrong in our marriages (abuse, infidelity, abandonment) things will often get worse…we will suffer for saying no to what is being done to us. Abuse usually gets worse, because an abuser does not want to be called out on what he/she is doing. That is true suffering, not just standing by and taking it, which is not glorifying to God.

        And while I do believe God wants His people to be happy, being happy in our lives is dependent on us, not someone else. We cannot expect our spouses to make us happy and then want to walk out of a marriage because they don’t. That is far different than living with an abusive person, rather than just living with a fallen, sinful person…which we all are.

        When I say my current marriage is healthy, I do not mean that my husband meets all of my needs or is some perfect man. A healthy marriage is one where communication happens, there is trust and unconditional love…and that is what I have now, but never had in my first marriage. I completely trust my husband, can talk to him about anything and know that he will continue to love me regardless of my faults or moods. ;)

        When do you leave a marriage? Such a tough question and depends a lot on the circumstances, and perhaps what you are willing to deal with.
        If you have an issue in your marriage seeking outside help is crucial and being able to evaluate what the real issue is.
        Have you just grown apart and don’t feel connected anymore, do you allow everything little thing your spouse does or doesn’t do irritate you to the point you cannot see the good in them, or do you feel unsafe and scared?

        I pray for all here today who are dealing with marital problems, I pray for God to give them a clear direction of what they need to do.
        Amy recently posted…A good, happy life…My Profile

        • Amy–So true:

          God does not just want us to suffer for sufferings sake. To suffer for God, means to suffer for what is right. In other words, when we stand up to the wrong in our marriages (abuse, infidelity, abandonment) things will often get worse…we will suffer for saying no to what is being done to us. Abuse usually gets worse, because an abuser does not want to be called out on what he/she is doing. That is true suffering, not just standing by and taking it, which is not glorifying to God.

          I wrote about that very thing in a post about a thread in Christian marriage circles that somehow thinks that women can provoke men to abuse, and that suffering is somehow holy. You can see it here.

          I am sorry that you were given bad advice, but I am not surprised. Part of what I feel called to do is to dispel some of the dangerous thinking we have in marriage and get back to a truly God-centered marriage, where there is true communication and where the goal is oneness once again. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

          • Thank you for the link to the post you wrote on suffering. I almost cried when I read it as it brought back so many memories of false teaching I heard for far too many years in my first marriage. I was not a Christian when I was first married, but became a believer about 10 years later. I prayed fervently that God would give me direction and take me from that horrible place I was in, but as a new Christian I was confused why so many Christians were just telling me to stay and suffer. I would hear how loving our God is and then in the next breathe be told that this abusive marriage was my lot in life. It didn’t make sense that a loving God would not care about me and wanted me to stay and suffer.

            Thank you for speaking out about marriages and what a true God-centered marriage should look like.

  15. I don’t know where to start, when I went for counseling on my own. My Pastor asked if I didn’t see the warning signs before I got married.
    All I said was, I was young, in love and very affectionate, so I didn’t see that all he needed was a home. Because he came from a home where his father previously was an alcoholic who did not work for the first few years of his marriage, he gave his wife 4 kids, which she had to raise. His mother in law organized work for him and eventually provided for his family, but still continued being a terrible person. Beating his wife and kids, now I am stuck with someone who won’t go out of his way to make time for me. When he comes in from work , and I am in the back of house he won’t come to look for me, he will just carry on as if I am not in the house. I know this because we are married for 13yrs . He will go to bed without saying goodnight or good morning. The only time he wants to make love is when the lights are off. Even when we have been angry with each other for days he won’t say that he is sorry. In the 13yrs of our marriage he was unemployed for at least 5yrs. We are now under debt review and about R150,000.00 in debt. I don’t know what to do, I have been in two affairs already, I am going out of my mind. The only thing my Pastor says, is “ have faith and be strong for your child.” If anyone asks my husband do you want this marriage to work his answer is ALWAYS YES! But what must I do until he learns how to handle me as his wife.

    • Dear Carmen,

      You are in a tough spot! It’s really hard to live like a Christian when you live life as a victim instead of living as someone redeemed – and offering others the grace you have been extended by a loving God.. Debt, adultery, and selfishness make for prickly bedfellows – no wonder you are complaining!. Time to dig deep and be an obedient follower of Christ who gave us an example of extravagant love, undeserved grace, resistance to temptation, and sacrificial death for our eternal inheritance.

  16. I am tempted to give up all of the time. And by the world’s standards, I have every reason to. Constant lies, cheating, rejection. For over a decade. However, every single time I think “That’s the last straw!” God gives me JUST A LITTLE more strength. He reminds me of how often I’ve run from Him, cheated on Him, rejected Him. I remember how others prayed for me and loved me in my darkest hours, how God never left me nor forsook me. What if they had given up on me? I love my husband, though I find it so very hard to like him. I have cried over his sleeping body, weeping prayers to God for healing, for love I did not feel, for strength, for healing for this brokenness in him. I have cried out to God so often. Nothing has hurt so much in my life. And in that, to such an infinitely small degree, I can empathize with how God must feel for His wayward children. Nothing has hurt me so much, and yet nothing has sent me to the foot of the cross as much as this so-called relationship! Why does God give me JUST A LITTLE more strength? Just enough to get me over this hurdle and into the next one? It keeps me coming back to Him, leaning into Him, constantly surrendering to Him. Praise the Lord for it! It is a far far better thing to live in communion with God amidst a broken earthly life than to claim independence from sorrow and attempt to take control from God in this area and in doing so rob ourselves of that connection with the Healer of hearts and souls. For many years I insisted I deserved more, a better life, full of ravishing love- until I FINALLY learned, and continue to learn through each aching beat of my fragile heart- that the Lord is THAT love, and doesn’t it overflow!!!
    Currently my husband and I have been separated for over a year. And when I turn my focus away from the Lord for a second, anger, bitterness, resentment, worry, anxiety, and stress are right there waiting for me. It is a constant battle, but God is ever faithful.
    And to those posting with great intentions but having never gone through such rejectiont, please tread lightly. I once was convinced exactly how I would react and respond in this very situation- you just cannot possibly understand the depths to which your world will be turned upside down and just how difficult it could possibly be nor just how tempting the enemy’s deceitful salve is until you have experienced it.
    My prayers to those hurting, Lord God draw them into Your strong embrace and hold them close to You.

    • I would like to amend this to say that God does not remind me of my past sins, rather, I remember them. God has washed away those sins, but I do remember how prone to wander I am, and I believe it is good to not forget nor think myself above such things. It is in doing so that I can look upon this advent season with awe at the lengths to which God went to reconcile this sinner to Himself. Talk about a true love story!

  17. Thank you, L, for your honest and beautiful candour. God holds our hands minute by minute to draw us closer to Himself. Praying for you just now as you lean into the supernatural grace that only the Holy Spirit can minister.

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  1. […] and create a safe space for holy intimacy in your marriage. Yes, you can leave, biblically, and some situations indeed call for that step. But our culture now leans the other way — walking out as soon as infidelity has occurred. […]

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