Top 10 Thoughts About the Ashley Madison Scandal

Top 10 Thoughts About the Ashley Madison Scandal

On Friday Johnny from Shine FM in Edmonton sent me a tweet: “You wanna call in to the morning show to talk about Ashley Madison?” I couldn’t call on Friday but I did yesterday, and hosts Johnny and Hollie and I chatted about this huge, honking mess.

Because it is a huge mess, isn’t it? Tens of millions of Ashley Madison users’ data is now online. You can even search email addresses yourself (though I won’t link to where). Thousands of U.S. government emails are listed. Josh Duggar got found out (I blogged about that last week). And he won’t be the last high profile user, either.

So I’ve been thinking about this whole mess for a few days, and I thought I’d throw out ten random thoughts, in no particular order.

2 Thoughts About the Online World

1. Stuff online isn’t secret

If you buy erotica on your Kindle, it can be discovered. If you use porn, your history is never really gone. If you sign up for something like this, don’t expect you won’t get found out. If you text or email nude pictures of yourself–don’t be surprised if they surface somewhere.

Maybe if we realized this we’d all be smarter–and we’d feel less temptation.

2. Giving into temptation is so much easier in the internet age.

Because isn’t that the main problem? In the internet age, it’s much harder to withstand temptation because options are available instantaneously and seemingly anonymously. A guy (or a woman) who may never, ever stray may just be having a bad weekend alone, and may be surfing the internet when they shouldn’t be. Twenty years ago this kind of sin didn’t exist. I’m sure the vast majority of the guys who signed up for Ashley Madison would never try to pick up a woman in a bar in person. They’d never buy porn in person, if they had to look someone in the eye and ask for the magazine. But today it’s so easy!

Covenant EyesAnd that’s why we need to take some of that temptation away. I know sin is ultimately a heart issue, but I also do believe in putting up roadblocks to temptation. It’s just plain smart. And so I completely support having Covenant Eyes on you computer, even just as an accountability tool (and not as a filtering tool). That way you know that if you wander onto a bad site, someone’s going to know about it. Boom! Temptation’s gone, because it’s no longer anonymous.

3 Thoughts About Guys & Ashley Madison

3. A mistake made in a moment should not define a relationship.

All of us mess up. And some of us are going to mess up sexually. But one mistake should not define a relationship.

There were 30,000,000 or so users signed up to Ashley Madison. That’s a lot. But most of them did not actually cheat. They flirted with the idea, but they didn’t follow through.

I do believe that there is a big difference between someone who is tempted and who occasionally falls and someone who is actively seeking out ways to fall. A guy who binges on porn for a weekend after being clean for four years is in a totally different category than a guy who uses it most nights and says, “It’s harmless and it’s my right.”

Similarly, a guy who signs up for Ashley Madison is quite different from a guy who has several one night stands and who is texting several women. One is likely a sex addict; one is simply struggling.

If your husband has fallen, figure out which category he belongs in. If he’s made a mistake and has fallen, then work through that hurt. Allow yourself to feel the weight of it before you try to forgive, or else the forgiveness may not be real. But then fight on the same side as your husband against the porn and the sexualized culture. Don’t fight your husband. Be his ally.

If your husband instead refuses to confess, refuses to admit it, or refuses to deal with it, then you have an issue and you need some help. But, please, don’t wreck a marriage over one mess up. Don’t let darkness win.

4. Avoid the temptation to think, “all men are pigs”

With this in the media, it’s so easy for women to think, “all men are pigs.”

But most guys didn’t go anywhere near it. Most guys won’t have affairs. Don’t let the news cloud your view of all men, and especially your own husband who may have struggles in the past. Don’t blame him for the sins of others.

I know many will say, “women cheat too!” And preliminary reports were that 15-20% of accounts were female. But news is out today that many of those female accounts were actually fake accounts set up by Ashley Madison to make it seem like there were more women on the site than there were in reality.

This doesn’t mean that women are saints; it only means we have different weaknesses. I think men are more likely to struggle with weaknesses in an online, visual world. Shaunti Feldhahn explained that well here.

5. Most of these guys did not have sex with anyone else.

Remember: many of these accounts were set up by guys on the spur of the moment as they explored the possibility of an affair. Most of these men, though, did not follow through (especially since there were so few women actually on the site!) So just because a guy was listed there does not mean that he cheated. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t do anything wrong; just that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

5 Thoughts About What The Ashley Madison Scandal Tells Us About Sex

6. Do we give the impression that “marriage is where sex goes to die?”

Look at the motto for Ashley Madison to begin with: “Life is short. Have an affair.” In other words, the affair makes life more fun. Does that mean that our culture tends to think that married sex is really boring?

Yeah, I think it does. Which is awfully odd because the people with the best sex life are routinely found to be people who are married! The hooking up culture really doesn’t result in great sex–especially for women.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of couples for whom sex has pretty much died. And if we don’t stress this part of our relationship, our marriage is going to get really boring. So if sex is boring–do something about it! Don’t settle! And if we give our kids the impression that we have no sex life because we’re married, how in the world are we going to convince them to wait until they’re married?

7. Do we have the idea that there’s “sacred sex” and then there’s “fun sex”?

I don’t mean to insinuate, though, that if your husband used Ashley Madison it’s your fault, just like I didn’t mean to blame Anna Duggar in Friday’s post. I actually wonder something about Josh (and about other men that use Ashley Madison): have we given the impression that there is such a thing as “sacred sex”, which is missionary position and entirely clinical and passion-less, and then there’s fun sex, which can’t possibly be done in marriage?

I think there’s a stream of Christianity that inadvertently does this. If we stress purity in the wrong way, we can give the impression that sex itself is the enemy–that sexual feelings or sexual exploration are to be fought against at all costs. And this can easily make us into prudes. I don’t mean just women are prudes–I mean men, too, may think in terms of “I could NEVER do this with my wife! She’s too pure!” So they turn elsewhere for an outlet.

8. Exploring is good!

We’ve got to reclaim the idea that adventure and passion ARE pure. That losing oneself in passion is actually far closer to godliness than staying perfectly in control.

Spicing up your marriage and having more fun is a good thing.

9. If you feel distance, talk about it.

Nobody wakes up one day and decides to have an affair. Distance builds over time. And even if there’s no open hostility, you tend to feel it. You know there are certain subjects that you can’t talk about with your husband.

That’s a bad sign. If you sense distance–even if you don’t think your husband is doing anything wrong–work to fix it. Work to reclaim that feeling of oneness, of being on the same team.

If you sense a problem, just do not ignore it.

10. Life is short. Have an affair–with your husband!

Life is short. Have an affair--with your husband! On Ashley Madison and having fun in marriage.

Let’s have all that excitement and exploration and adventure–with our husbands! Let’s pursue him. Let’s be a little bit “naughty”. Not because we’re scared he’ll stray, but because why on earth would you want to miss out on something so great that marriage has to offer?

Get frisky tonight! If there’s nothing else that the Ashley Madison scandal taught me, it’s that too many people are wasting their lives in pointless pursuits when the best is right in front of them. I don’t want to miss out on that, and I hope you won’t either.

What I Want People to Weigh Me On


What Do I Want to Be Weighed On? Thoughts on True Accomplishments

This is a new thing for me in my blogging world–I’ve actually been selected as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors. I’ve never been an ambassador for a brand before, but I’ve always loved Lean Cuisine–it was my go-to when I needed to buy frozen, quick dinners and didn’t want my family eating pizza. So I thought I could get behind it–especially since later this summer I’ll get to take an immersion tour of their kitchens in Ohio. How cool is that?

But what I really liked was the way Lean Cuisine is overhauling their brand. The brand is reintroducing itself as a brand focused on modern eating; with bold, ethnic flavors, new attributes, contemporary packaging – which I’ll be writing about later – as well as a new brand campaign that I’m thrilled to share with you today.

Lean Cuisine’s new brand campaign Feed Your PhenomenalTM reflects its new brand purpose: to feed the greatness in every woman.

To kick things off, Lean Cuisine is releasing a video featuring real women “weighing” themselves to help start a social conversation that reinforces the message that the most important thing we should weigh is our accomplishments.

And so Lean Cuisine asked me to share one of my accomplishments that I’m most proud of.

So often we women judge ourselves by our appearance. It’s all about what we look like on the OUTSIDE. But it’s really our inside that matters.

Now this is primarily a marriage blog–we talk about how to bolster our marriages, and I’ve said often that it’s hard to have a great marriage if we don’t feel confident and secure in ourselves first.

But I want to take it one step further today. I think that often we judge people not just on the appearance of their bodies, but on the appearance of their families. We judge on the outside in everything: is her home perfect; is her hair perfect; is her waist perfect; are her kids perfect. And, of course, is her marriage perfect?

And that makes most of us scared to be honest. We’re scared to tell others when we’re struggling in case we’re judged.

So when I’m asked about my accomplishments, I want to be honest today.

I could point to books I’ve written or this blog or how well my girls turned out. But actually what I’m really proud of is that I have hung in there and did the right thing.

When Keith and I speak at marriage conferences we always say,

“We’re Keith and Sheila, we’ve been married for 23 years and happily married for 19.”

Once the kids came, it was about making sure they didn’t take over my life and that I still had time with my husband.

When our son Christopher died, it was about realizing that so many couples broke up after a huge loss like that, and that I wasn’t prepared for that to happen to us.

It was about choosing not to get upset when he was on call so much and I was alone with the kids. It was about choosing to make the time we did have together fun, instead of blaming him for not being home more.

And this year, as we are going through so many changes and our girls Katie and Rebecca are moving on with their lives, it’s about making a conscious decision that we are going to reinvent ourselves, not as parents, but as lovers. And even though Keith loves bird watching way more than I do, it’s about deciding to go out to the conservation area with him. It’s about not spending all my time on the computer, even when I want to, and do something he wants to do instead.

It’s about daily asking myself, “what is the wise thing to do right now?”, not always “what is the fun thing to do right now?” It’s keeping the bigger perspective.

Choose to Grow Your Marriage

And to tell you the truth, it’s hard. Keith’s job and my job have taken us away from each other so much in the last three years. And I find that I like being alone. I’m a little scared of what it will be like when he cuts down his work hours and we go on the road together more. But I’m also excited. And I’m determined that we will reconnect and redefine ourselves.

Now, please note: I’m not saying that I’m proud that my marriage is a success. I’m not even saying that I’m proud that I didn’t give up at my marriage. I’m saying that I’m proud that I didn’t give up doing the right thing.

And I believe you can say that WHETHER OR NOT your marriage is a success today.

I’ve been blown away by Natalie, the blogger at Visionary Womanhood. Natalie has been blogging for years on parenting and Christian living and homeschooling. But lately her blog has taken a turn.

She has been so authentic and so honest and so downright WISE in what she has written over the last year and a half as she has shared about the disintegration of her marriage. She worked for years to keep the marriage together until she finally realized that God didn’t want a sham of a marriage; He wanted two people who love Him and who respect each other. God doesn’t want us to allow ourselves, or our kids, to be berated, belittled, and abused, all in the name of marriage.

And so she had to let her dream of marriage go.

She separated from her husband and threw herself into supporting her kids, learning more about what God wants from us, and learning more about her husband. She is still hoping and praying for reconciliation and for her husband to understand God. But even if he doesn’t, she is doing the right thing. She is listening to what God is teaching her and she isn’t giving up.

A great marriage isn’t an accomplishment, it’s a gift–because no one can make a great marriage by themselves. If you have a great marriage, that isn’t yours to brag about. That’s God’s grace.

But acting right and doing your part to create a great marriage–that’s something we can all do. That is an accomplishment. Even if you don’t always succeed in getting your heart’s desire.

The greatest accomplishment isn’t having a marriage that looks great on the outside. It’s not living a comfortable life. It’s deciding to do what is right and good, regardless. Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re sad. Even if you’re alone. It’s putting one foot in front of the other every day.

And isn’t that what commitment means in marriage? It’s not committing to stay married–anyone can do that. It’s committing to doing your best to make this marriage the best it can be, on a daily basis, knowing that the success of the marriage is ultimately out of your hands. You do your part, so that you can always look back, regardless of what happened, and say, “I loved my husband and I loved God.”

If we were all so much more authentic, and believed that we were worth something inherently because of who we were made, I think we would see so much more health in every sense of the word–health in our bodies, health in our relationships, health in our spirits. But we spend so much time trying to get others to think we’re perfect that we focus our energy in the wrong direction.

It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be a mess. But if, in the midst of that mess, you treat yourself well, you treat your husband with integrity and faithfulness, and you treat your kids with love, you have accomplished a lot.

Please check out Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThis video! And then answer this question in the comments to enter the SheKnows sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card:

What do you wish people would weigh you on?

I’m excited to see your responses!  

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Wifey Wednesday: When You Love Superman–But Clark Kent Drives You Nuts

When You Love Superman but Clark Kent Drives You NutsHas your husband lost his superhero status?

It’s Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage. I introduce a topic, and then you can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below! Today Tiffany Godfrey, author of The Top 12 Mistakes Married Women Make–and How to Avoid Them,  joins us talking about how our expectations in marriage can get in the way!

Would you agree that God has a heart for marriage?

I would say yes.

But if God loves marriage so much, then why are so many marriages failing?

I can understand the celebrity who doesn’t profess Christ as her Savior or the Muslim woman who denies the deity of Christ.

But what about those of us who have been blood washed and profess to have a true relationship with Christ?

If anyone should have a great marriage, it should be Christians, right?

And I think one of the ways we can discover how to experience an excellent marriage is to consider first how we view our husbands.

The question is, when you look at and think about your husband, do you see him as Superman or Clark Kent?

Because how you view your husband will determine how much love, honor, and respect you give him on a consistent basis.

I Finally Found My Superman!

I want you to think back on the first time you met your husband and then your days of courtship.

Wasn’t he one of the most gorgeous, romantic, and powerful men you knew? He could do no wrong and he was kind, considerate, and loving. Even when your friends and family kept telling you to look beyond his “strong muscles and flawless exterior,” you couldn’t.

You know why? Because you couldn’t clearly see. Your spiritual discernment was not as clear. For this reason, you were only able to see this man’s “Superman” side. And even when he did show a little bit of his Clark Kent side, you excused it believing that it would go away once you were married.

Caught Up!

When you’re in love it’s so easy to overlook people’s flaws.

I know I did.

My husband could do no wrong. He loved God, he had a leadership position in the church. And for our first year of dating, it was the perfect relationship. In fact, after a year, I knew this would be the man I would marry. I would have married him after our first year of dating, but he wanted to wait. “For what?” I would often ask.

“You love me and I love you. We love God. He’s got our backs…”

Yes, God did have our backs, but what I didn’t realize as a young lady in my early twenties was that marriage would require so much more than love and an occasional date night.

Exposed!

After about 3 ½ years of dating, my husband, Dexter and I finally tied the knot. It was great for a while, but I quickly realized that I was no longer a single woman able to make my own decisions about everything.

Have you ever been there?

In shock after being married because you realize things have changed forever?

In addition, you begin to see your husband beyond the Superman muscles and the cape. In fact, he’s taken off his muscle suit and his cape, and the only thing you have left is Clark Kent.

You begin to think, “This is not the man I married! I want my Superman back!”

What Does a Typical Clark Kent Look Like?

Clark Kent is not impressive.

He’s not a horrible guy, but maybe he’s a little messy and he snores in his sleep.

Clark Kent says some things that hurt your feelings, and sometimes he doesn’t even apologize for it because he’s so busy watching TV or texting that he doesn’t even realize you’re hurt!

Clark Kent is not a good money manager and to make things worse, he has a dark side where he dabbles in porn from time to time.

Once you begin to see the reality of your Clark Kent you begin to wonder, “How can I battle against these vices and his flaws?”

And you ask yourself and God if your marriage is worth fighting for anymore.

You begin to wonder if you ever really loved this man. Then your respect for your husband dwindles. And in the midst of your hurt, pain, frustration, and broken promises you cry out to God asking Him to change this man…

I’d Like to Exchange This Husband for Another One, Please!

In your disillusionment with your husband, of course you pray because that’s what Christian women should do for their husbands, right?

But you also start fantasizing about other men. Your co-worker, the deacon at church, or even your friend’s husband begin to look more appealing than your husband.

After all, he’s only Clark Kent and these men are Supermen.

So you think.

This is similar to what happened to me.

We had just had our first son. Money was tight, we were in jeopardy of losing our home, and this caused a snowstorm of arguments.

One morning, after an argument, I left for work. Not long after I arrived, my boss complimented me on my hair.

Fireworks shot off in my mind!

Because I felt so drained and empty from my marriage, that small compliment gave me a sense of validation. And from that point on, it caused me to have a crush on my boss.

I found myself connecting with this man through conversation at work. It was light, but it had the potential to go farther.

Eventually I had to share how I felt about this man with Dexter. It bothered me to have these types of feelings for any man other than my husband. But, I truly believe my confession to my husband prevented me from taking this relationship with my boss to another level. Although I never slept with my boss, my mind and heart wandered and this was just as wrong.

From this experience, I discovered the dangers of mental and emotional adultery.

To me, my boss had become my Superman and he seemed to be more sensational than the Clark Kent husband I had at home.

But it was a mirage, an illusion, and a deception from the enemy of my soul.

In fact, one of my friends once told me, “All men have issues. It just depends on what types of issues you want to deal with…”

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

We look at the men at church, at work, and even on TV hoping that these men will rescue us and give us a sense of worth.

But in reality, all men are struggling with something, just as we are. 

Love, Honor, and Respect Your Husband in His Greatness…And in His Humanity

How can you learn to both love and appreciate the Superman and the Clark Kent side of your husband? Here are some tips:

  • Recognize how God loves you and showers you with grace and blessings
  • Look at yourself and identify where you can grow in the marriage relationship
  • Pray that God will help both you and your husband to grow
  • Don’t try to change your husband
  • Appreciate the good characteristics of your husband and praise him for those things

As Christian women, we have a responsibility to do our part to make the marriage work. In other words, we can’t wait for our husbands to grab us, hug us, and say, “I love you!” before we start treating them with honor and respect.

Here’s why: In Ephesians 5:22 we’re called to submit to our husbands. That’s it. This means that we must show respect and honor on a consistent basis — whether he’s being Superman or Clark Kent.

If you want a solid marriage, it’s important to love, honor, and respect your husband when you see him on his good days. And you should also love him and treat him with respect on his bad days because nobody is perfect.

tiffanyThe Top 12 Mistakes Married Women Make...And How to Avoid Them!Tiffany Godfrey is a blogger, author, speaker, wife, and mom. She loves encouraging married women and offering practical tips on how they can do their part to grow in their marriage relationship. She also volunteers with her husband as a Family Life Weekend to Remember Co-Director.

For more tips on promoting a happy, healthy marriage, you can order Tiffany’s book on Amazon, The Top 12 Mistakes Married Women Make…And How to Avoid Them!

You can connect with Tiffany at: CommittedWife.com, a site that specifically speaks to Christian women and offers them marriage tips, interviews, and marriage quotes, based on God’s word. You can also follow her on: Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post you’d like to share? Enter the URL of the post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these awesome marriage posts!

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Wifey Wednesday: When Daddy Issues Impact Your Marriage

Do you project onto your daddy issues onto your husband?

When Daddy Issues Affect Your Marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then all of you who are bloggers can link up your own posts below. And with Father’s Day coming up this week, I thought I’d look at how those of us with father issues can try to keep those issues out of our marriage.

Whether your dad abandoned you, verbally abused you, molested you, hit you, or just disapproved of you, many of us have found Father’s Day a difficult day on the calendar. When I was younger I remember not being able to buy a Father’s Day card to mail to my dad, because the words in all of them weren’t true. What do you say to a father you have never lived with, whom you see for a week a year, and who doesn’t really know you? There just aren’t cards for that.

And I know many of you have felt the same thing.

Yet as I shared last week, marriage can be a vehicle that God uses for healing in our lives. When we marry good men, they show us how we’re supposed to be loved. They cherish us. And so much of those silent accusations we have inside our heads start to diminish.

I asked on Facebook yesterday how people prevent themselves from projecting onto their husbands their issues with their dads, and had some great (and heartbreaking) responses. I can’t do this subject full justice in a quick post, but I want to leave you with just a few thoughts that may help:

1. Many of us used our past to make good choices

Just because you have father issues does not mean that you’ll marry an idiot. In fact, over and over again women said something like, “I knew from my dad what I didn’t want and I made sure I found what I did want.” I did the same thing! Sometimes when you have a difficult childhood you run hard in the other direction: you marry a good person; you become an amazing parent; you prioritize relationships.

Some of us, unfortunately, don’t do that. It’s quite common to marry someone who gives us a similar “feel” as our father–if he was an alcoholic, we marry a workaholic because we’re used to feeling distant.

But just because you have father issues does not mean that you’re guaranteed to have a bad marriage–not at all! So never believe that.

What to do: Ask yourself, “Did I marry someone who makes me feel like my dad made me feel?” If not, celebrate! If you did, then find a mentor or a counselor to talk through this and figure out how to address key issues in your marriage.

2. Our coping patterns can cause problems

At the same time, it’s good to recognize how our past did affect how we treat others. One woman wrote this very insightful tidbit:

The biggest issue that has come up with us is the habit I learned in my childhood of not sharing what I thought if I believed it would cause friction. I finally told my husband that, & he said he wanted to know what I thought since I saw different possibilities then he did. The first few time were VERY hard, but I took a deep breath and spoke up anyway. I still start off speaking carefully, but if my careful words don’t communicate well to him, he has learned to ask questions to make sure he understands my point.

When we grow up with friction we learn to try to avoid friction at all costs. That’s a common coping mechanism, and it makes perfect sense when you’re in a dysfunctional home.

The problem is that that exact same coping mechanism can also cause a functional home to become a dysfunctional one. If you fail to speak up and tell your husband what you’re thinking, then you prevent emotional intimacy. And once emotional intimacy is lost, other forms of intimacy quickly follow.

What to do: Ask yourself, what’s my reaction to conflict? Do I try to avoid it? If so, tell your husband and sit down and figure out some “rules” for conflict that will help you feel safe enough to speak up.

3. Our fear of abandonment can cause problems

If your dad left, then at the back of your mind is likely the fear that your husband will, too. Rejection is real in your life; how do you know that anyone can stay forever?

But when we fear abandonment, we often withdraw into ourselves and again fail to share key things. Sometimes it’s not even failing to share when we’re upset. We may even fail to share when we’re happy! If he’s going to leave, then I can’t let him see all of me. That way if he leaves he’s not really rejecting ME; he never really knew me.

The other dynamic that can be quite common is to become defensive during conflicts. If he mentions anything that he’s unhappy about you’re sure he’s going to leave. So you overreact to everything, leaving him unable to really share his heart.

What to do: Confess this to your husband! Let him know your fears. And then talk about specific things your husband can do to let you know that he’s not leaving. Teach him your love language. Tell him that during a conflict he must always say, “I’m staying with you no matter what because I love you, but this bothers me and I’d like it to change.” Pray with him about it.

4. Our family of origin can cause problems

If you have father issues, chances are the rest of your family also has issues. Your siblings may be messed up. Your mother may be needy.

And we often carry guilt for a lot of these things (even if it’s not our fault). We’re still trying to fix our family of origin, and we get sucked in to drama that is ultimately caused by a dysfunctional father.

If we try to step back, we can be blamed by siblings or by our mother. Loyalty became a huge thing, because “we had to stick together” to get through this with dad.

That dynamic can make it so hard for you to move forward with your husband. If you’re in that dynamic, as hard as it may be, put limits on how much you will talk to or see your siblings and your mother. Sometimes it may even be a good idea to move far away for a few years to build your marriage, just the two of you. Once you’re on strong footing you can reestablish those relationships.

BoundariesWhat to do: Talk to your husband about how big a role your family plays in your marriage. How does he feel about it? What is his perspective about how you react to your family? Decide how to set clear boundaries for your family.

5. Sometimes we need someone else to talk to about our “daddy issues”.

We are not meant to live the Christian life alone, and God has appointed some to be encouragers and counselors to help us get through trauma and live a life of freedom. If you feel that your issues just aren’t going away, and you have a hard time trusting your husband or opening up to him, maybe spending five or six sessions with a counselor to talk through these issues and come up with an action plan would be a good idea.

I know it can be expensive; counselors often range around $100 an hour. Some churches will subsidize, but think about it this way: If you spend $600 on counseling, even if that’s a huge sacrifice, but in the end it helps you live an amazing marriage, think about the money you’ll save by raising healthy kids and having a strong marriage.

A counselor can help you pray through things and see how Jesus felt when you were abandoned or hurt; to see that your father probably had issues too; and to see that Jesus’ grace covers such a multitude of hurts. Find someone who can point you to Jesus.

Do any of those thoughts resonate with you? If you have father issues, let me know in the comments what has helped you in your marriage. And for all of you–have a good Father’s Day this weekend!

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post you’d like to share? Enter the URL of the post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these awesome marriage posts!


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Reader Question: What if My Marriage Was a Mistake?

What if my marriage was a mistake?

Reader Question: What if my marriage was a mistake?On Mondays I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and today’s is rather sad. A woman writes:

Can you offer resources toward unequally yoked marriages? Also info on how to deal with a severely emotionally disturbed spouse? I slept with my best friend ( but we were also in love), got pregnant, and got married. My husband isn’t against my faith, he accepts it and promotes it to the kids, but he doesn’t have it and won’t consider going to church, etc. He has some different morals, values, etc. also, it turns out he has major issues. Several people in his immediate family committed suicide and he’s dealing with depression, etc. I know that God can redeem this, but how do I know if our marriage was just a result of my mistakes or if it is something that God will use for good. I don’t want to be a martyr in my own life, but I do want to do what God wants.

I can feel her pain and her dilemma. She got married because she thought it was the right thing to do in the circumstances–but she’s not happy now and she’s wondering if her marriage was a mistake. She’s wondering if she’ll ever feel the loved she’s dreamed of, or if she’s just stuck in this relationship.

I know many other women asking themselves that question, especially if the marriage wasn’t originally planned. They got pregnant. They wanted to escape their home life. They were single moms and just wanted a roof over their heads. And now they wonder if they chose wrong, and if they missed out on what God really wanted for their lives.

So let’s try to tackle this one today: what do you do if you feel like your marriage was a mistake?

What if my marriage was a mistake? #marriage

Let’s Stop Thinking About “The One”

Part of the reason that we feel like we made a mistake is that we think God had a Plan A for us, and we chose Plan B. If we hadn’t have married this person, then we would have found the one that God really wanted us to marry–our perfect soulmate, so to speak–and we would be far happier. Instead, we messed up. We didn’t follow God’s plan for our lives. And so doesn’t it follow that if we’re going to get back on track for Plan A, we’re going to have to ditch this Plan B? If we married the wrong person, then we can never really be on track with God in this life.

I understand that thinking. But I also think it’s totally off base. Here’s why:

God doesn’t have just one person for you to marry. God lets you choose.

This idea that there is a perfect soul mate for us out there to complete us is actually not biblical. Gary Thomas did a great job explaining this in a recent blog post, “Why God Didn’t (and Won’t) Tell You To Marry Your Spouse.”

Gary writes,

There is, quite frankly, nothing in Scripture that ever tells us it is our sworn duty to marry one particular person. Whether we marry, and who we marry, are spoken of in Scripture as part of God’s “permissive will,” something He allows us to choose.

Gary goes on to show that Scripture gives several reasons for marrying and help on choosing someone of the right character, but it doesn’t say that there is only one person for each of us. We’re given the chance to choose for ourselves.

Let’s Own our Choices

Why does this matter? Because if you realize that there wasn’t a specific Plan A, then it’s not about getting back in line with what God wants for you. It’s more about realizing that God lets us choose, and now it’s time to figure out how to glorify God in the midst of those choices.

Gary writes,

Far healthier, spiritually, than to sit in resentment against God, is to say to yourself, “I chose this man/woman. It might or might not help to explore why. But since I made the choice of my own free will, I bear certain responsibilities for the commitment I have made.” Then God becomes your ally, not your enemy, in helping you face the future. Instead of, “God, why did you lead me into this mess,” you’ll pray, “God, help lead me out of the mess I’ve made.”

So many of us believe that God led us to our spouse, and then when that spouse becomes abusive or becomes mean or has an affair we blame God. “But you told me to marry him!” Or else we think, like this letter writer, that we missed the boat and so we have to jump off the one we’re on and row really hard to get back to where God wants us to be.

But what God wants is to have us submit to Him where we are right now. That’s God’s will for us–to serve Him in the everyday, even if our everyday has taken some bad turns. It’s not to get back to a perfect life He had planned for us. It’s to let Jesus shine through where we are.

It’s Freeing to Realize “I Chose Him”

When you realize that you yourself made the choice to marry him–God didn’t make you, your parents didn’t make you, your husband didn’t make you–you made that choice, then you can also see how you have a responsibility to make that marriage the best it can be. If you feel that somehow you were coerced into marriage than you can never really throw your all into it. But if you realize, “I made those vows myself”, then you can see that you have a responsibility to them.

Why the Vow Matters #marriage

Where Do You Go From Here?

What does God want you to do in a difficult marriage? What is the best way to serve God right now?

I’ve written a lot on this topic, and so I’m going to link to different posts that can give you some practical ideas about what to do now. But the main thing I wanted to leave you with today is that it’s not about finding that Plan A. It’s about recognizing those choices you freely made, and then figuring out, “how do I serve God today, right where I am?”

Could you have made different choices? Of course. But you didn’t. And you don’t know how those choices would have turned out anyway. But you did choose this, so let’s work with it and see how we can find contentment and peace right now.

When You’re in a Loveless Marriage

Living in a Loveless Marriage
When You’ve Checked Out of Your Marriage
Why the Vow Matters
When is it Okay to Give Up on My Marriage?
Encouragement for Those in Really Tough Marriages
10 Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

How to Get Back on Track in Your Marriage

Changing the Dynamic in my Marriage
The Two Ingredients of All Successful Marriages
Be a Spouse, Not an Enabler
Tackling Huge Marriage Problems

I’ve also got a ton of posts on how to spend time together more, how to ask for help, and so much more. You can find those on my Marriage FAQ page.

I hope some of those are helpful.

But for today, I just wanted to dispel this idea that we may have married the wrong person, missed out on God’s specific, perfect will, and now we need to get back to it.

God’s will is for you to glorify Him today, where you are. It’s for you to love in a healthy way that points people to Jesus (it’s not for you to enable sin, though!).

So now let me know: what do you think of this idea that there is one perfect person for us to marry? Let’s talk in the comments!

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8 Prayers For Protection Over Your Marriage

Today author Jennifer White shares with us how to pray prayers for protection over our marriages!

8 Prayers for Protection Over Your MarriageI said “I DO” in 1991 with a deep love, a sense of adventure, and joy that I had been chosen. Three years later, I said “I don’t” and “I won’t.” I was so shocked that life could be so hard and hurt so badly only three years into marriage.

Three years after the divorce, I vowed to be Mrs. David White for the rest of my life. We have been married sixteen years. But five years in, I was drowning in the same deep waters that had led me to end my first marriage. Pride and fear were suffocating me. I couldn’t see how this could ever be okay for either of us.

Exposed

“Help me Jesus” was the cry of my heart.

With that simple prayer I drew near to God and in turn, He ran to me with more help than I knew I needed. He gave me Beth Moore Bible studies, Joyce Meyer on a daily basis, and a great counselor. These women taught me how the Bible could affect the intimate details of my life.

I had read about God’s power and Satan’s fury, but I had not expected either of them to jump off of the pages of the Bible and into my life. I made it through three decades of sermons and ministry before “the battle is the Lord’s” became “God will fight your battles if you let Him, Jennifer.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b)

What a revelation! I had been completely unaware of the spiritual battle targeting my mind and my marriage. While it looked like I had a husband vs. wife problem, the real battle was exposed. God united me to Himself and to my husband. His archenemy was offering to divide us.

My life was in Christ, but I was vulnerable. I had not taken God’s Word seriously. My disregard for His way and His truth opened the door to Satan’s plan for my life.

Flaming Darts

…hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
Ephesians 6:16 NLT

Involuntary thoughts of hurting myself and other people haunted me for several years. I didn’t act on them but they made me feel crazy. I assumed it was stress related. Eventually, I decided that God could use a divorced preacher’s wife much more than an insane one. Yes, I divorced a pastor. So.very.sad.

Similar thoughts erupted in my second marriage. Thankfully God rescued me with the news that those thoughts were actually the flaming arrows mentioned in Ephesians 6. My counselor recognized the attack.

The enemy used the feeling of being crazy as a strategic strike in my life. But he didn’t stop there. He also whispered discouragement and fear using the sound of my own voice. He nurtured in me a deep fear of confrontation. He also used the sound of a disapproving parent’s voice to encourage me to disapprove of my husband.

Shielded by Faith

The last ten years of my marriage have been the most exciting and rewarding years of my life. Studying the Word of life armed me with knowledge of who God is and what He can do. God had been developing my faith in Him and that has changed everything!

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
I John 5:4 ESV

When a thought appears in my head, I have to be ready to evaluate it. I question whose character lines up with that thought. Is it God’s or Satan’s? Does God’s Word say that I should think this way? If not, then I need to reject it because it is intended to destroy me.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10 ESV

Knowing God’s truth has literally freed me from the grip of the enemy of my soul and marriage. It continues to be my best defense.

Every Wife Needs a Sword

“To think God’s thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God’s thoughts….” A.W. Tozer

Years before this breakthrough, counselors who were Christians listened well. They helped me see the problem. But I remained unchanged. I was powerless to fix me and my marriage. They were too.

But Jesus sent His word and healed me (Psalm 107:20). I started walking in victory when I was counseled according to God’s Word.

I had no idea how powerful God’s Word could be. Today I see it as the supernatural antibiotic for the wounded heart and infected mind. That is exactly what it has been and continues to be for me.

Wounded women are frequently bitter, jealous, fearful, resentful, prideful, and/or contentious. These are symptoms of a mind infected by those flaming darts. Pride, fear and resentment monopolized my heart.

I learned to deploy God’s word as a sword against the very strong holds sin had on my mind. I was introduced to praying God’s Word and Germaine Copeland’s Prayers that Avail Much. Here is one of the Scriptural prayers she offers:

In the name of Jesus, I loose my mind from wrong thought patterns. I tear down strongholds that have protected bad perceptions about myself. I submit to You, Father, and resist fear, discouragement, self-pity, and depression. I will not give place to the devil by harboring resentment and holding onto anger. I surround myself with songs and shouts of deliverance from depression, and I will continue to be an overcomer by the word of my testimony and the blood of the Lamb.

I read this prayer and others aloud day and night. I read them in parking lots while I waited for someone. I read them on the treadmill. As I proclaimed God’s truth and promises, I felt stronger mentally and emotionally. I found myself making decisions based on the truth instead of the lies I once believed.

I firmly believe that the Sword of the Spirit slices through the slimy tentacles of sin. Praying according to God’s Word is the antibiotic my soul desperately needs. It also how I resist the devil so he will flee from me (James 4:8).

Are you praying God’s Word over your marriage?

Marriage Armor

There were too many years of heartache in my life before I realized that I needed God and His Word to defend me against the father of lies. What if I had begun praying God’s Word before my first marriage? Our marriage could have been a beautiful reflection of Jesus, our Bridegroom, loving and serving His Bride.

What if every bride armed her marriage with God’s Word?

Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God's Armor After the Wedding DressAs a veteran of one failed marriage and one rescued by the Savior, I am sharing my experience in Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress. It’s packed with Bible teaching and prayer prompts for many of the issues every couple faces.

Prayers for New Brides is designed to help wives show up, surrender and salute the almighty God who is able to defend their marriage. It is a faith building resource to help brides avoid getting destroyed by the flaming arrows. It is for every wife who longs to see God do more in her marriage.

Swing Your Sword

We can’t let the evil one lull us into a false sense of security. We need to arm our marriages with the same discipline a solider employs in preparing for battle.

Here are seven simple prayer prompts to help you arm your marriage today with God’s transforming Word.

1. Generous and merciful God, give me a hunger and thirst for righteousness so that I can live satisfied by You. I don’t want to demand more from my husband than he is supposed to provide. Matthew 5:6

2. Teach me to hear your voice so I can follow You all the days of my life and marriage. John 10:27

3. Wonderful Counselor, make me wise to the enemy’s divisive and destructive schemes. Isaiah 9:6, James 1:5, 2 Corinthians 10:5

4. Fill me with Your wisdom so I can excel as ______’s wife. Ephesians 1:17

5. Grant me a humble heart. Help me relinquish a false sense of control. I want to live a praying life. Matthew 7:7 and Proverbs 16:18

6. Mighty God, strengthen me to stand under Your authority every day in every way. Please forgive me for the ways I have dismissed Your perfect leadership. Ephesians 6:10, 11, 13, 14

7. Jesus, pour Your faith into me so that I can deflect the flaming arrows the enemy sends my way. Use me as a warrior of Your word in our marriage. Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 6:17

8. Father, help me see my husband through Your eyes. I want to honor and cherish Him. I want to focus his value and avoid the temptation to disregard his unique contributions to our marriage.

Did you know to pray these things for yourself when you were a new bride?

Are you aware of the spiritual battle behind the scenes of your marriage?

Today I am offering Chapter 15 of Prayers for New Brides – Seeing Your Spouse through God’s Eyes as a free download. It is one of the most important lesson I’ve learned as David’s wife. Click here to get your copy.

Jennifer White, prayers for protectionJennifer O. White is the author of Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress and Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride. Jennifer is a natural encourager who offers hope from the truths from God’s Word at her blog, Prayerfully Speaking. With every blog post, Jennifer is exalts the one true God who can empower us to do more than we can ask or imagine.

Are We Expecting the Impossible in Marriage?

Are We Expecting the Impossible -- Expectations in Marriage

Are your expectations in marriage impossible to achieve?

Recently I was going through some older posts that most of you will not have seen, and I came across this one about having sky-high marriage expectations. I thought it was worth re-running today.

You may have heard it said before that “the enemy of the best is the good”. The French philosopher Voltaire made it famous (though he said it in French!), and it caught on because it’s so true. Often we get so caught up doing good things that we miss the best. We miss our priorities.

But that being said, I think the reverse can also be true.

Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

When the best is more a fairy-tale ideal than a reality, then it can become the enemy of making any kind of real progress. The best can actually be a hindrance to your marriage.

Allow me to use an analogy that doesn’t have to do with marriage first to show you what I mean. A while back I caused a ruckus in the comments section of this blog because I insinuated that there were things that women could do to reduce the chance of sexual assault, and we should teach these to our daughters. I never said that we could eliminate rape (because we can’t)–but I said that we could reduce it.

People kept taking issue with me, so I kept writing follow-up posts, and the comments grew worse and worse. One commenter really summed up the other side perfectly. She said (and I paraphrase):

Women should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. You should be talking to the men, not to the women!

She was a little ruder than that, but I’ll leave out the colorful language.

What a strange comment, though. OF COURSE women should be able to wear what they want and do what they want without getting raped. We should live in a world where there is no abuse, no rape, no children in poverty, no wars, and no violence. But we don’t live in that world. And since we don’t, what steps can we take to protect ourselves?

They were focusing so much on what SHOULD be that they refused to acknowledge that there were any steps you could take to make our present life, the one we are living in right now, even the least bit better.

It was all or nothing.

Have you ever felt that way about your marriage? I once knew a woman who eventually left her husband, who explained it to me this way:

God created marriage to be a joining of two human beings–an institution where we’re able to communicate, and love, and respect, and share ideas and share vision and purpose. He created marriage to build us up, not to tear us down. He created marriage to be part of our fulfillment, not part of our destruction. My husband didn’t know how to communicate. He never listened to me. He never talked to me; he only ever talked past me. He used sex just to satisfy himself. In other words, it wasn’t actually a marriage. And so I ended it.

I have no doubt that her marriage was extremely difficult, but do you see the problem with her position? She was saying that because her marriage was not one in which two individuals were completely joined, it was thus not a marriage. God intended marriage to be fulfilling; it was not, therefore the argument about whether one had biblical grounds to divorce was moot because this wasn’t even marriage!

Her argument is flawed, because while God said marriage should be like this, He never invalidated marriages that were not like that. Indeed, in Corinthians Paul even tells women married to men who aren’t Christians to stay if they can–and these marriages are obviously not a complete joining of minds and ideals.

This woman was looking for the best in her marriage; she didn’t find it, so therefore she invalidated everything else.

Many of us enter marriage with similar thoughts. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we can completely bear our souls. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we are unconditionally cherished. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we find our best friend. Then, when the should doesn’t happen, we give up. We have expectations in marriage about how things SHOULD be, and we can’t settle for second best. We don’t look at little changes that we could make to grow the marriage, or to grow our communication, because we figure that he is just hopeless. He’s so out of touch with what a husband should be, that growth is well nigh impossible.

None of us is perfect, though, and I think we need a different strategy. If your husband isn’t a good communicator, or sulks constantly, or watches too much TV (or plays too many video games), or never spends any time with the kids, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage, and it doesn’t mean that things can’t get better. After all, by staying away from drunken parties, girls can drastically reduce their risk of date rape. Similarly, by learning new communication techniques, you can drastically reduce your risk of growing apart and ending the relationship. You can do things to move in the right direction, even if those things won’t give you 100% change. They can still make your life significantly better.

Now, in some cases no matter what you do you can’t rescue a marriage. You can’t stop an abusive man from hitting you just by learning to be nicer or not pushing his buttons. You can’t stop a porn addict from using porn, and these things do need to be confronted. But in most marriages it’s not these huge issues that bring us down. It’s disappointments in the day-to-day.

What I would suggest, then, is that we stop focusing on our ideal expectations for marriage, and we start looking at what we can do to make things better.

In other words, quit focusing so much on the destination, and focus instead on the direction. Move forward, even if it’s slowly, and you will eventually get there. Focus so much on the finish line, and how far it is away from your current position, and you can quickly lose heart.

This applies to aspects of marriage, too. I was at a place in our marriage once where everything was going really well–except sex. It’s not that it was horrible; it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be, according to the media and all the sermons I heard about how God created sex to be wonderful. For a few years, I gave up. It’s not that we didn’t make love; it’s just that my attitude was one of: “this just isn’t for me. It’s all for him, and I’ll just get through it.” I believed that if sex wasn’t the ideal, then I had been cheated, and there was no point in even trying.

It was only when I had an attitude shift where I started to ask whether I could believe that it could get better–even if it was slowly. When I made the mental shift, then the way I acted also changed.

Whether it’s in your marriage as a whole or in individual parts of your marriage, don’t give up because you haven’t reached the ideal.

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for January: Setting the Right Foundation. Click through to see the books and choose one!Ask God to help you make baby steps, because those steps can add up! Ask Him to give you a new heart to grow, even if it’s slowly, because moving in the right direction gives you a new attitude or outlook on your marriage which is so much more energizing.

Whatever you do, don’t let the best become an enemy of that real, helpful change.

Tomorrow I’m going to be reviewing Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, our January entry in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. It has a wonderful perspective on how to handle a marriage that isn’t the best, and I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you!

Why I’m Anti-Divorce and Pro-Remarriage

Thoughts on the biblical grounds for divorce, what it says about remarriage, and to value both marriage AND divorced people in the church.

On Tuesday I made quite a stir on Facebook when I wrote about divorce and remarriage. In regards to this post on when you should give up trying to get your ex back, I wrote:

I’m having to delete a lot of comments on the blog today from people saying that divorce is never a biblical option. I find that sad. I know God hates divorce–but He hates people being wounded and abused and betrayed, too. And Jesus gave us some reasons for divorce. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am very pro-marriage and anti-divorce, but more importantly I’m pro-truth and pro-healing. If a marriage is based on abuse, manipulation, and lies, then that is not God-honouring, either. Most of these situations are not black and white; they are grey, and I believe God’s grace is there for us. If I let those comments through, I fear that they will do emotional damage to the very hurt and wounded people whose marriages have fallen apart who wind up at my site. We need to be pointed towards following God in the situation we find ourselves in now, not being yelled at for very tortured decisions we made earlier.

The outpouring was immense, and so I thought I should do a follow-up and explain what I really think about divorce and remarriage. Please keep in mind that I am not a theologian. I have just thought about this a lot and prayed through it, and this is what I believe.

Divorce Is a Last Resort–and there are only a few reasons for it

I am absolutely anti-divorce. I’ve written that the vow matters. I’ve questioned whether women are leaving marriages too fast. I’ve said that sometimes we live in a loveless marriage–and we need to find a way to get through that.

However, with that said, I am also fully aware that sometimes divorce is necessary, and sometimes divorce happens when you didn’t want it to. My father left my mother. My mother certainly never wanted to divorce, and it pulled the rug out right under her. But divorce wasn’t her choice.

Then there are those who live in a physically dangerous marriage, or an emotionally destructive marriage. For them, too, divorce was likely not what they wanted–but they had no option.

What are biblical grounds for divorce?

The Bible lists two: adultery and abandonment.

Adultery

Matthew 19:9 says:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

Abandonment

Then 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 says this:

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.(emphasis mine)

Clearly Paul here is saying that if a spouse leaves you, you are no longer bound.

Notice anything that isn’t mentioned here? You’ve got it:

What about Abuse?

And this is where I get really uncomfortable and why I started deleting those comments. The divorce “purists”, as I will call them, read the Matthew passage (and seem to ignore the Corinthians passage) and say that the only acceptable reason for divorce is adultery. Because Jesus gave us no other reason, then there can be no other reason.

To them I would ask this:

Why do you believe abortion is wrong?

It’s because we’ve inferred an awful lot from a few verses. Abortion itself isn’t mentioned in the Bible because it wasn’t relevant for the culture. So the Bible doesn’t speak directly about it, yet pretty much all Christians fight against it for one simple reason: Because of what we know about God from the rest of Scripture. He knew us while we were yet unformed in our mother’s womb, and He planned our days (Psalm 139:13-16). He planned good works for us before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 2:10). God is love. The rest of Scripture speaks to the sanctity of life. The Bible doesn’t mention lots of things we struggle with today–pornography, career choices, education choices–because these weren’t talked about or relevant then. But we can still infer from the Bible what godly decisions are.

So what, then, can we infer from the rest of Scripture about living in an abusive marriage? Does God expect us to stay?

Absolutely not. Read the Old Testament prophets and you come away with the overwhelming impression of a God who goes to battle for the downtrodden and who notices injustice. We serve a God who hates abuse in all its forms.

Why I'm Anti-Divorce But Pro-Remarriage: Divorce is always a last resort--but God does allow it, and wants us to fluorish afterwards, if we have been walking through a horrible marriage.

God Cares About Children

And here’s an important point: living in an abusive marriage, even if the woman is willing to put up with it, harms the children. Over and over again in Scripture God talks about rescuing children from those who would mistreat them (see Luke 17:2).

If staying in a marriage to an abusive person, or staying in a marriage to an alcoholic or drug addict, would hurt a child, then God does not want that.

I do believe that the word abuse is thrown around a little too quickly today, and I’ve written what is abuse and what is not. Not all yelling is abusive; it depends on the pattern, the effect, and the bigger picture. But emotional, sexual, and physical abuse are real and they are not God’s plan for His children.

One important point, though: We often believe that “kids are only happy if the parents are happy, so if the parents’ marriage is unhappy, it’s better to divorce.” Not true. Researcher Judith Wallerstein found that kids who grew up in an unhappy marriage (even a loveless marriage) fared better than kids who grew up with divorced parents. The effect of parents’ unhappiness on the kids is not a legitimate reason to divorce–except in one case. Studies also showed that children who grew up in violent or abusive marriages did better if the parents did divorce. So if you’re just unhappy in your marriage, it’s better for the kids if you stick with it and make it work. If you’re being abused or you’re in a high-conflict marriage, it’s not.

God Cares About Sin

Another theme of Scripture is that God cares about the heart, not appearances. Divorce purists seem to stress the form over the heart–as long as the two people are technically married, God is happy. But no, God doesn’t want appearances. God wants changed hearts and changed lives! Here’s what I wrote in another post, Are You a Spouse or an Enabler?:

If your spouse is acting in such a way that they are denying a vital part of themselves and a vital part of the Christian life–like responsibility or intimacy or community–then doing nothing about it enables that spouse to avoid any impetus for spiritual growth.

Churches should be places where the wounded come to find healing, not where the wounded come to give them cover so they can avoid healing.

And yet all too often that is what we’ve done–we hate divorce so much that we ignore the other side: God does not want an army of wounded, damaged people. He wants wholeness. And so we must deal with people who are refusing to confront huge issues.

In that post I show what the Bible says we should do if a spouse is sinning. One of the Facebook commenters on Tuesday wrote this:

One truth that I believe that is overlooked or dismissed by people who are quick to judge those of us who have suffered through divorce (it was a heartrending and crushing experience) is that pleasing God and being like Him is not about keeping up appearances. God looks at the heart, and in light of that reality a true divorce has happened long before any secular legal actions have been taken – or can happen even when no actions are taken. A dead marriage is equal to a divorce in all the ways that are visible and valuable to God, and it’s sad to me to see married couples who obviously despise one another or (perhaps worse) are completely indifferent – especially if children are involved and being hurt by their parents’ situation. I am a child of Christian divorce as well and our young lives were fraught with secret abuse, sadness and confusion until my father (a well-educated preacher who led a double life) left my mom and abandoned us. Life was hard and sad growing up after that too, and I felt very mixed emotions of relief, abandonment and guilt once our father was gone. However, I was nothing but glad for my mom because she had done all she could to be a good wife, and had been so mistreated and disrespected by him in every area you could imagine – she didnt deserve that.

Scripture does not contradict Scripture. We aren’t told in one place to confront sin and live blameless lives and look to the heart and then told in another place to just keep the form in place and ignore sin. The heart matters. And if someone is sinning so much, either through abuse or adultery or an addiction or a refusal to work, then this must be dealt with.

Love Must Be ToughNone of this means that divorce is necessary in these cases; usually, I believe, a separation is a better tool. If a spouse is addicted to porn, or refusing to work, or an alcoholic, or gambling away the paycheque, then a separation says, “you need to shape up and this will no longer be tolerated.” That’s what James Dobson recommends in Love Must Be Tough. And, ironically, it’s this separation that often kickstarts real change which leads to reconciliation. That’s what Leslie Vernick also shows in her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, for those living in emotionally, spiritually, or physically abusive marriages.

Why Does God Hate Divorce?

Divorce “purists” point to the verse that God hates divorce as proof that we should not divorce except in the rarest circumstances. But here’s the thing–I think we would all agree. In fact, most divorced people would be the first to say that God hates divorce, because they hate divorce, too. They know how awful it is. They’re anti-divorce too!

The more important question, then, is WHY does God hate divorce?

I do not believe that He hates divorce because people who divorce are somehow worse sinners. I believe He hates divorce because He loves us so much, and He knows the severe trauma of divorce. He knows the havoc it wreaks on our hearts. He knows what it does to the children. And He knows what a culture of divorce does to undermine the culture of marriage and family and commitment. Divorce has major ripple effects.

So God hates divorce because of its effects–not because divorce is any worse sin. We know that if one is guilty of breaking one part of the law, one is guilty of breaking the whole law. We are all sinners. I believe that when it says, “God hates divorce”, it’s really saying that if your husband left you or beat you or made your marriage unbearable, and you are weeping buckets of tears, that God is weeping those tears with you.

The Beauty of Grace and Living in the Present

I’ve explained why I believe that adultery, abuse, abandonment, and other major sins that endanger the whole family (like addictions or refusal to work) are grounds for separation and/or divorce.

But what if you don’t have those?

Another commenter wrote:

I’m divorced. No excuses, no Biblically sound reason. I was young, stupid, and a big ol’ sinner. He didn’t beat me or abuse me in any way. However, it’s done. It’s in the past and I feel absolutely certain that it is forgiven like any number of other sins in my past. I was wrong but that awesomely mighty God forgave it AND was generous enough to send me a husband who loves me and doesn’t judge my past.

She did not have biblical grounds for divorce, and she knows that. But now she is a believer, and that means that she is a new creation. And you can’t turn back the clock, and God does not intend you to. Why is that we say some sins can be forgiven but not others? Paul was a murderer, yet God still used him. David was an adulterer, yet God still used him (and his son through Bathsheba). Indeed, that adulterous relationship is in Jesus’ line.

God hates divorce–but there is grace.

Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and RedemptionSo if you divorced in the past, and then became a believer, are you supposed to reconcile with your husband? I believe that, if possible, you should try. That’s what Juana Mikels did in Choosing Him All Over Again, and God showed them tremendous grace.

But that does not always work. Sometimes you can’t reconcile because he doesn’t want to, or he’s moved on. So then what?

What About Remarriage?

Divorce purists will also say that remarriage is never an option. God may have given us grounds for divorce, but not remarriage.

However, I don’t believe this is true for two reasons. In the Matthew verse quoted above, Jesus said:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

That means that if you divorce and marry another and it was because of sexual immorality, you are not committing adultery. So if you had grounds for divorce, you also have grounds for remarriage.

Yes, it says “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18), but you can’t look at that verse without also looking at this one. Jesus obviously was carving out an exception.

And in Corinthians, Paul wrote that the husband or wife was no longer bound if they were abandoned. They aren’t bound anymore–therefore they can remarry.

The Cultural Reason for Remarriage

Why isn’t the Bible more obvious that remarriage after divorce is okay? Because it was just assumed. In those days a woman was either under her father’s care or under her husband’s care. There was no way for an adult single woman to make a living. That’s why caring for widows was such a huge deal in the New Testament church. For Jesus to allow divorce, then, meant that He was also allowing remarriage. He would not allow divorce just to consign women to desperation and abject poverty. People simply had to remarry.

I know many of you who are here on this site are remarried–and want to make these remarriages work. I welcome you here; and I hope that I can help you with just that! I never want you to feel that because you are not on your first marriage that you are somehow inferior. God wants you to honour Him in the here and now.

And so that’s where I’m at: I’m anti-divorce, because I think it should be the last resort, and only in certain circumstances. But if divorce has been inevitable for you, then I wish you great happiness and intimacy with someone else, if God brings someone into your life.

The comment with the most likes was one from my friend Kathy, whom I know in real life. I’d like to leave you with it:

As a divorced person myself (with what I understand to be a biblical divorce–abandoned by an unbelieving spouse who was committing adultery), and someone who desperately wanted her marriage back, I feel the weight & sting of those who think in judgmental terms as if their own sin issues are minor compared to a divorce. I always jokingly say that divorce is the unpardonable sin in the church, but sadly, it seems far too often that it is looked at in that way. I have done my share of study on the topic of divorce and remarriage as a biblical counsellor, but also as someone who hoped to be married again one day, but only if it did not offend God. As far as I can understand in my simplistic way, God has allowed for remarriage in my circumstance. I was blessed with the offer of marriage just over two years ago from a wonderful Christian man who took divorce and remarriage as seriously as I, and also did his research (and by the way, he was widowed after 36 years of marriage so no divorce on his record). We consulted many “wise counsellors” and studied God’s Word before taking on our vows of marriage because again, we did not want to be out of step with God. We are convinced God is the author of our love story, but should we find that in our fallible state we were mistaken, is not the blood of Christ valid even on this? I believe we should take marriage, divorce, and remarriage very, very seriously, but I also believe we must approach it all with truth IN LOVE. Divorce seems to just be one of those divisive issues, and invokes much emotion, but hopefully it will not invoke undue unkindness from those of us who have been shown unfathomable love.

Blessings on all of you.

 

Reader Question: When Do I Give Up Trying to Get My Ex Back?

When do I give up on my ex-husband? Thoughts on when to stop trying to reconcile and move onWhen should you give up on trying to get your ex back?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. I know most of my readers are married (this is a Christian marriage blog, after all), but a lot of people in crisis marriages also land on this blog. So there are plenty of separated/divorced people who also send in questions. And here’s a heartbreaking one that I’d like to tackle today:

I’ve been divorced for 8 years, and during all that time I have tried to reconcile with my husband. It’s just not working, but I’m scared to move on. When do I give up on my ex? When have I done enough? And what if I really want it to work?

I want to start by telling you a story.

When I was just getting started writing and speaking, in my early 30s, I was asked to come and speak to a MOPS group. I gave a talk about how to keep your priorities in order and how to feel as if you’re making a difference even in the diaper/temper tantrum years. The talk went well, and at the end everyone was mingling around eating some snacks.

An older woman who hadn’t been in the talk approached me. She explained that she was a grandma, and as a way of serving her daughter she acted as one of the baby-sitters for MOPS, so her daughter could enjoy the socialization and the teaching. So she asked me for a synopsis of what I had said, and I gave it to her.

She smiled as I explained, and nodded vigorously. “Oh, that’s so wonderful that you’re teaching these young women to rely on God in everything. I’ve had to learn that in the last few years. My husband left out of the blue 5 years ago to be with another woman. He spread lies about me and turned many in my family against me. It was so difficult. I lost my house and so much of my self-esteem.”

My heart went out to this poor woman. That’s so awful to have a spouse betray you like that!

But then she said this,

“But God has promised me that my marriage will be restored. I read verses about how God restores what is broken. I put them on post-in notes all over my apartment, so that when I doubt I can read them and know that God will bring him back. I pray all the time about it. And I have peace that one day my marriage will be saved.”

And at this point I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say, though, and so I left. But while driving home it suddenly hit me what I should have said. I don’t know who that woman is, and so I could never communicate this to her. But now, when I speak, I always share to the audience what I wish I could have shared to the woman:

“I am glad that you have faith that God can bring your husband back. But do you have faith even if he doesn’t?”

Do you have faith even if God doesn't answer your prayers as you would like?

Because isn’t that the point? God needs to be the centre of our faith and not a reconciliation. That’s why this truth is so important:

Your life needs to become about God, not about winning your ex back

That doesn’t mean that God WON’T bring your ex back. But ultimately, after you have been through such a trauma, you are really hurt. You’re beaten down. And you’re often desperate to get the marriage back together, thinking that this will fix your broken heart. But it won’t, because that kind of pain can only be fixed by God. And once He does this great healing work, so that you know that whatever happens, God will carry you, then you are whole again. You are strong again.

And if your marriage has any chance of working again, you need to be whole and you need to be strong.

Ironically, your marriage’s best hope is for you to let go of your marriage and cling to God. To do that doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on the idea of reconciliation. It’s just saying that your faith if based on God, not on your marriage, and that you know that you will be okay.

Let go of the dream of your ex-husband and get real

When a marriage breaks up there is usually a reason. In my story, the husband had left his wife. I don’t know what is happening with my reader, but I know many on this blog have had to separate with husbands who wouldn’t give up a pornography addiction, or who refused to work and squandered money, or who had affairs. But even though they couldn’t live like that anymore, these women often have difficulty letting go of the dream of their husband.

They could still see the potential–they could still see what the marriage could be like if their husbands would just get their act together. And because of that dream, these women had a difficult time moving on.

Letting go of the dream does not mean that you let go of the idea of reconciliation. But you need to stop living in the “what ifs” and start living with what is real.

Be honest about where you are at and where your husband is at, and reconciliation is not a healthy or wise idea right now, then put it out of your mind and focus on the now.

I am not saying that this is easy. This is likely the most heart-wrenching thing you will ever have to do your whole life. You can’t do it alone; you need a good church community and good friends around you–and often a good counselor. But it is the wise thing to do.

What is the right thing for me to do in the here and now?

If reconciliation isn’t possible, because your husband hasn’t gotten real about the steps that he needs to take, then you need to start living in the here and now and take steps to make your own life better as it is in the present.

Get some schooling or get a job if you have to support yourself and your children. Find a great church to be involved in and start serving. Start an exercise regimen to help you feel better about yourself. Move closer to other support systems that you will need, if necessary. Get your finances in order. In other words, do things that will help you so that if things stay exactly the way they are right now, you (and your children) will be in a better position. If you refuse to do these things because to do so seems like you’re saying “the relationship is really over”, then in the long run you’ll likely hurt yourself.

Love Must Be ToughLook, sometimes if a relationship is in really bad shape, the best way to turn it around is to give someone a big jolt and help them to realize the consequences of their actions. If he knows you are waiting in the wings to take him back at a moment’s notice, what incentive does he have to get his life together? But if he realizes, “she’s serious. We’re not getting back together until things change,” then he might do something.

That’s what the book Love Must Be Tough teaches you, and I highly recommend it for people in this situation. It shows how the worst thing that you can do is to show your ex that you’re always available to him, that you’ll always take him back, that you’re always there. Groveling does not work. Having sex with him when he comes over to visit you, when he’s not showing any kind of remorse, will not work. You need to show him, “this is who I am without you, and even though I don’t want to be alone and even though I’d rather be with you, I will choose to be without you and I will get on with my life until you show me that you want a real marriage.”

But when do I date again?

Ultimately, though, what I think women are really asking is, “when is it okay for me to date again? When can I actually move on?”

I can’t answer that one for you, except in generalities. Every situation is different. In some cases there are definite biblical grounds for divorce, and in some there really aren’t. (That being said, even if there aren’t grounds, if he has abandoned you by not reconciling, then that becomes a biblical ground, in and of itself.) In some cases he has made a lot of progress, or he is fixing things, and you do need to wait and give him a chance.

I had a friend who left a marriage, telling everyone it was because of his porn use and his cheating. The problem was that these things had been in the past, and he was working at making them better. Soon after she left him she started dating someone else, and she is now remarried. She claimed she had biblical grounds, but the fact was that he was getting right with God at the point where she started dating. That is not right.

One rule of thumb: I think it’s dangerous to get into a new relationship too soon. I’d give it at least a year and a half, if not two years, after a split with no sign of reconciliation. You need to give him time to change his mind, but you also need to give yourself time to heal, because otherwise you’ll be going into a new relationship with a lot of baggage.

That’s not set in stone, but I do think it’s wise to give some time, and likely the more the better.

Does God ever bring about reconciliation?

Absolutely! In fact, if you want a great story of reconciliation, my friend Juana Mikels has just written a book called Choosing Him All Over Again, where she shares her story.

Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and RedemptionThirty-five years ago Juana left her husband. He didn’t give her what she needed, he didn’t know how to show her love, and they were drifting apart so fast she didn’t think there was anything left. They had only been married for two years, but it had all gone downhill.

A few months after their break-up, Juana started attending a Bible study. She became a Christian, and realized that the break-up was not her husband’s fault. It was hers as well. She hadn’t given selflessly in the marriage. She hadn’t loved him properly. And now she wanted him back!

There was just one problem. He was seeing someone else and had no interest in reconciling. Juana had hurt him too much.

So now what was she to do? She continued to draw closer to God and decided to just show her husband unconditional love. And after months and months of that, her husband’s heart began to soften. It took a long time to rebuild the marriage that Juana had already torn down, but God did it as He slowly started to change Juana’s attitude.

It’s a great story of hope–check it out here!

So, yes, God can rescue marriages. In fact, God loves picking up broken pieces and molding them back together again. He’s in the healing business. But sometimes the thing that He wants to heal is YOU, not your marriage. So chase after God now, and focus on God, not just on your marriage. And then, no matter what happens, you will find you still are strong.

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A Romance Writer Tells Us What Marriages Of the Past Have to Teach us Today

Danica Favorite, a historical romance writer, shares what we can learn about marriages from the past.A big part of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum is letting women in on something that’s so obvious we all should know–and yet we often forget. Life is very different today than it was one hundred years ago. Parenting has changed. Marriage has changed. And so if you’re wondering what’s wrong with you that you can’t keep up with the job of mothering the way your mom or grandmother could, maybe it’s because we’re doing a whole different job today!

We sometimes forget that about marriage, too. We assume that marriage has always been about the same things it is today: falling in love, keeping the romance going, feeling positively towards each other. And because of that, we can get this idealized notion of marriage that can actually hurt us.

Back in August I went to a conference with my agent, Chip MacGregor, and met a ton of other writers he represents. I got talking to Danica Favorite, who writes historical romance, and I said to her: I think that we as a society have forgotten what marriage used to be. She volunteered to write a post about that for me, and she joins us today.

As a historical romance writer, I get to look back on marriage and relationship history. While I focus on getting to the happily ever after in my books, it’s important to note that historically, being happy wasn’t the priority. In fact, much of what we take for granted in modern marriage wasn’t an important consideration back then. Even though much of what I write in historical romance is fiction, I’ve learned a lot from historical marriage to help my own marriage.

One of the most important differences between historical marriage and marriages of today is the idea of choice.

Being able to marry the person you choose is a fairly modern idea. Many women were simply told who they would marry. If your parents said to marry Joe Smith, you married Joe Smith, regardless of whether or not you liked the man. Sure, most parents would take into consideration what their children wanted, but not always. Historically, women had very few rights, especially in terms of marriage and finances. Because a woman was dependent on her family or husband for protection and financial support, she had to marry to survive.

When I was in college, my mother had picked out the perfect husband for me. I’d gone to school with him, and had never really gotten to know him. But my mother seemed to think he was The One for me. For a while, she even called him “her son-in-law.” As in, “I was at the store today and I ran into my son-in-law. Next time you’re home, you should get together.” Or, “I just saw my son-in-law and I was thinking that you guys would have the cutest babies.”

How many of you are saying, “EW!” right about now?

But if we’d been living a hundred and fifty years ago, I probably would be married to the guy who, for better or for worse, is best known for getting pantsed in gym class in middle school. He may be a perfectly nice person. But we never hung out in the same circles, and judging by his Facebook page, I can’t imagine we’d have all that much to talk about.

Sometimes having a choice makes us look at the other options and wonder if we made the right choice.

I love it when Sheila talks about the idea of whether or not you married the wrong person. Maybe you feel like you married the wrong person. But consider the fact that you chose him. There was something about that person that made you think, “Yes! This is the one.” Focus on that good point. Generations of women before us didn’t even have that to focus on, and yet they were able to find enough good in that person to build a life together.

I’ll admit, I never looked at the man my mother chose for me as a serious option. But when we make the mistake of looking at what we could have done, who we could have married, we fall into the trap of thinking that something else would have been better. The problem is, we’ve already made our choice. You got to marry the man you chose. Be grateful, and remember to appreciate the reasons you married the man you did.

Even on our worst day of marriage, I would definitely want to have my husband over the guy my mother was certain would be the perfect man for me.

I still choose you!

The idea of choice highlights a second lesson we can learn from women in history- that of necessity.

The Bible talks a lot about the need for man and woman to have each other. But we don’t need to go as far back as the Bible to underscore this lesson. Before we had the luxury of modern kitchen appliances and grocery stores, making a simple meal for the family took hours. Running a household took teamwork. It was too much of a job for a person to do alone.

Believe it or not, that’s still true today. Last week, as I struggled in the family room to help our daughter with her report, my husband was in the kitchen helping our other daughter with her geometry. I am terrible at geometry. My husband is terrible at spelling, which is what I was helping our little one with.

When I look at how completely opposite my husband and I are, I could complain about how awful it is that we have so little in common. (And sometimes I do. ☺ )But then I look at how having differences benefits our kids. My weaknesses are often his strengths. My strengths are often his weaknesses.

The couples in the past knew this truth, and while some of the roles they created seem antiquated now, they had a point. We can’t do it alone. Our society tells us that we can have it all- we can be everything, everyone, and still have a wonderful life. The focus is so much on independence, and not wanting to be dependent on anyone else, that we forget the benefits of interdependence.

Marriage is a recognition that we both bring something valuable to the table.

Just as men of the past needed their wives, our husbands need us too. The great thing about modern marriage is that we can work together with our spouses to define those roles. In my house, that means my husband deals with all bodily fluids and I deal with all the logistics and organizational issues. My friend’s husband does all the cooking, and she does all the home repair. When we chaperoned a school field trip, he packed her a lunch in a little brown bag, complete with a love note. Maybe that wouldn’t have been so cool a hundred years ago, but today, it’s a great reminder of the special gifts we bring to our spouses.

The final lesson from historical marriage is this- there was no way out.

Now, I want to be clear here, because I do think that one of the great advances in our society is that women can get out of abusive marriages. So I want to take that off the table in terms of this discussion. I believe that if you are in an abusive situation, you need to find a way to get safe.

In the past, if a couple was unhappy, they had no choice but to stay together. To separate meant to have your reputations ruined, and in many cases, you were left with no way to survive. There weren’t many respectable jobs available to divorced women. Because there was no way out, they found a way to make their marriage work. A fight with your husband meant you had to figure out how to deal with your differences. Love was less about the emotion of how you felt about the person and more about how you chose to act.

We can learn from the idea of not having an out. Because getting a divorce is so easy in this day, it’s tempting to go back to the idea of choice, of making a better choice. Rather, we can take a look at our marriages and find ways of making it work. Again, I point back to Sheila’s posts about how we need to love one another as an action, instead of getting wrapped up in the heady rush of attraction. The difference between then and now is that now we have so many more resources to give us advice on how to make it through. There are amazing counselors, books, and even blogs like Sheila’s to give you a knot to hang on to when you’re at the end of the rope.

What’s wonderful about being married in today’s day and age is that we have a great deal of wisdom we can draw from. Back when women didn’t have any rights, they did what they could to make the best out of what wasn’t always the situation they wanted for themselves.

For those of you who are history buffs, are there any pieces of historical marriage advice you’d offer? How can we use the wisdom of the women of the past to make our marriages better?

mainRocky Mountain Dreams (Love Inspired Historical)A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun. You can find her at Danica Favorite or follow along with her on Facebook or Twitter. Her first book, Rocky Mountain Dreams, is available now.