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If you fall out of love with your husband and decide to divorce him, will you lose your salvation?

A woman asks, "I'm living a lie in my marriage. I'm not in love with him, but I've finally found my chance at happiness with someone else. Will I lose my salvation if I get divorced?" I answer. And I ask what we really mean by "living a lie", because maybe we've got it backwards!

Every Monday I like to post a reader question, and today’s is a heavy one from a woman who thinks she has finally found true love–just not with her husband. And she wonders if divorcing her husband and getting together with the man she loves will make her lose her salvation. She writes:

I am in my early 30s, married for 6 years with a 4-year-old. My husband and I are both Christians.

When I met my husband I was engaged to someone else. I ended the engagement and a few months later I started dating my now-husband.

We have struggled our entire marriage with intimacy, both sexual and emotional. The level of immaturity when it comes to sex is almost unable to be described. After six years of marriage my husband still cannot walk into a room where I am changing and not be uncomfortable. I have always felt as if we have zero connection, and my husband recognizes this as well. He has even admitted to me recently that he has always been guarded with what he will and will not show of himself to me, as he doesn’t want to scare me away. He will rarely disagree, rarely argue, and generally goes a long with whatever I say to avoid confrontation. To me that partly explains the lack of connection, I don’t truly know him.

I wake up each day feeling as if I am living a lie. We have been on the verge of separation/divorce a couple of times. We have attended counseling, once with a pastor. We were nicer to one another after those sessions, but the connection never came. I have been very honest about how I feel and have worked diligently to fix it. On top of this, I have always been very clearly still in love with my ex from the very beginning, about which I have also been honest.

I recently ran into my ex, we talked for several hours. We both instantly felt the connection that we have. For the first time in years I caught a glimpse of hope that happiness might be in the cards for me. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in a moment of weakness, we both gave in to our desires and had sex.

I have come clean to my husband. He wants to work it out and says that he will change and do whatever he needs to do to make this work. I have told him that I don’t think I do. Is it really right to stay together for appearances sake just because we are Christian? Is that the example we want to set forth for our child? I have read all of the scripture passages on divorce, and I know that my husband could safely be released in the eyes of God because of my affair with no fear of losing his salvation. But is that the case for me? Could I ever remarry? I cannot live in a loveless marriage any longer. But is it worth taking the chance that I may lose my salvation?

Okay, I’ve got to warn all my readers: I’m not going to be very “nice” in my response. Perhaps I should have more empathy; I don’t know. But beware of what’s ahead. It’s true. It’s real. And it’s not pretty.

Here goes:

(and note, what I am saying does not apply to women in abusive marriages; I’m writing to a woman who wants to blow up her marriage just for her own happiness. That’s an entirely different scenario.)

My dad probably thought he’d never find happiness either if he stayed with my mom and me. He struggled over what was the right thing to do. In fact, likely because he struggled, he felt better about himself. He could argue that at least he understood the gravity of what he was doing.

But he still left. And it caused tremendous baggage for me. Tremendous. It’s only been as I’ve been married for years that I’ve started to heal from it.

What he did was incredibly selfish. He decided that his happiness mattered more than my security.

And he decided that my mother’s happiness didn’t matter at all to him, because she was no longer making him happy. How could he live a lie?

Whoa. Reality check here.

When we ask the question, “how can I live a lie?”, we’re simply trying to justify ourselves.

“If I stay I’m lying; If I leave, I’m walking in truth.”

I’m sorry, but that is such crap (wow, I don’t think I’ve ever said that on this blog before!). Do you know what a lie is? It’s promising to do something and then not following through.

If you leave, you are living a lie. You are telling everybody in the world, including your child, “my word means nothing.” You are saying, “my feelings matter far more than my responsibilities to other people.”

We have flipped everything on its head, thinking that the only TRUE and GOOD thing to do is to follow one’s heart. That is NEVER the way that goodness is defined in Scripture. Goodness is doing the right thing, not pursuing happiness.

To stay in a distant marriage (we're not talking abuse here) is NOT living a lie. To leave your spouse for someone else, however, is totally living a lie. Don't deceive yourself!

It's not 'living a lie' to stay in a difficult marriage. It IS living a lie to break your vows. Click To Tweet

Stop justifying leaving by saying, “my child needs a better example”

Yes, your child does need a better example–an example of a mom who will say, “I made a commitment and I care about my family, and so I’m going to throw myself into trying to fix myself, rather than trying to fix my husband.”

A parent who chooses to be selfless and chooses to love a spouse–that is a great example.

What your child needs is not your happiness but your steadfastness

Studies have repeatedly shown that children do better growing up with unhappy parents in stable situations than with happy parents in unstable situations. The only time a child actually does better when parents divorce is if that divorce was abusive. Otherwise, children do better if the parents stick together–even if those parents are unhappy.

Divorce is one of the worst things you can do to a child. You break up their world and force them to live between two worlds, while you yourself can go on with the life that you chose.  If you choose to divorce, you choose your happiness over your child’s happiness. Your child deserves to be with her dad–a man who is obviously loyal and steadfast and patient, whatever else he may be.

But here’s the good news: when you decide to commit to your marriage, you’re far more likely to find personal happiness! In Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher’s book The Case for Marriage, they show that divorce does not lead to happiness. They looked at couples who rated their marriages a 7 or 8 (the absolute worst) on a scale of 1-8. Five years later, those who stayed together were far more likely to express personal happiness than those who divorced. In fact, 78% of them now rated their marriage as a 1 or a 2!

So don’t think you’ll never find happiness. But you’re far LESS likely to find happiness in the long run if you leave.

Feelings do not make long-term happiness. Look at your feelings for this guy: You got engaged. You broke up. Now you want to get engaged again. That’s not exactly a good track record on your own personal judgment. You’d be far better trying to find happiness where you are right now–both for you and your child.

Your happiness matters far less to your children than their security. Click To Tweet

What a child needs is two parents committed to working on their marriage. Parents' happiness matters less to kids than their own security. So love your children by loving your spouse! #divorce

Stop Being So Honest

Your marriage has been on the verge of splitting several times, according to your story. And most of it, according to you, is because your husband is so distant and won’t open up to you.

But you also told him that you’re still in love with your ex–and it seems you told him that a while ago.

Maybe, just maybe, your husband has had a hard time being vulnerable with you because he can’t trust you!

Why would you ever tell your husband you’re in love with your ex? All you did was to transfer your own pain onto your husband.

Yes, honesty is good, but nowhere in the Bible does it ever say that we need to share everything that’s on our hearts. In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:7 says that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

You promised to love your husband. It is not loving to say to your husband, “I love someone else.” It is loving to tell a girlfriend and ask her to pray for you and hold you accountable; it is loving to decide to “take every thought captive” and when thoughts of your ex come in, refuse to entertain them; it is loving to show love to your husband even if you’re not always feeling it. But telling him you love someone else? Not loving. Full honesty is not always the best policy in marriage.

Honesty is not always the best policy in marriage. Don't tell your spouse you don't love them! Click To Tweet

But will you lose your salvation?

I’m glad you asked that, because it shows that you know that what you’re thinking of doing is totally wrong, and that gives me hope that you will change your mind. I’ll just give you a few Bible verses to chew on which speak to the severity of deciding to do something you know God doesn’t want you to do:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left. (Hebrews 10:26) NIV

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2) NIV

I do believe that there is grace afterwards, as I wrote on why I think remarriage is okay in some situations. But to mess up and then repent is completely different than to deliberately turn your back on God, hoping that He’ll still rescue you later. God isn’t a cuddly Santa Claus; He is a righteous, holy God who has made a way for us to be reconciled through His Son being flogged, nailed to a tree, enduring horrible pain, dying, and rising again. If you decide “I know all that, but I want to follow my own happiness anyway,” then you don’t really appreciate what Jesus did for you.

Ultimately you get to choose which kind of person you will be

Will you be the kind who says to your child, “I know what I’m about to do will cause you major long term harm, but I don’t love you enough to sacrifice for you, because I need to be happy,” or the kind of person who will say to your child, “I love you. I am going to do the right thing, believing that that has its own reward. I’m going to do my best to get myself happy and to live out my commitments.”

If you had to choose one of those people to be your best friend, your mom, or your boss, which one would you choose?

We all know, don’t we? We’d choose the selfless one. So why do we think that it’s okay for us to be selfish?

Let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are somehow morally superior if we leave a marriage so that we can stop “living a lie”. Let’s instead choose to be a better person. Let’s choose to do what’s right. Let’s act love, even if we don’t always feel it, and take those thoughts captive rather than entertaining them, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll find happiness was right in front of us the whole time.

These posts may also help:

How to stop an emotional affair
Living in a loveless marriage


Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentHaving trouble with how to stop THINKING about the other guy and start thinking positively about your husband?

Don’t see how you could EVER feel love for your husband again?

You don’t have to be stuck in unhappiness at all! In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I show how you just making small changes in how you think and act towards your husband can change the whole dynamic, and get you on the road towards a happy marriage once again. It isn’t hopeless! Please try.

Learn more about the book here.


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