I never made it to Branson. God had other plans. I was stuck at O’Hare Airport in Chicago for over 24 hours and ended up just flying back home without ever speaking. Thanks for your prayers but God had other plans for me.
Be sure to catch the special articles and videos I’m putting up for Domestic Violence Awareness Month here.
Also, Moving Beyond People Pleasing is going to be starting next week. If you’re interested, click here.
This week’s question: I googled how to deal with controlling people/spouse and I found your articles. It is the first time in Christian circles I have ever heard anything about dealing with an abusive spouse. In the churches we were in everyone just put on a front.
I’ve been divorced from my abusive spouse for about 4 years. He was mentally, emotionally, and verbally abusive but upon reading your article I see how I perpetuated that by trying really hard to be the submissive wife. I had a slanted view. He was so angry and acted like he hated/despised me. He would not go to counseling. We were both teachers of the Word and leaders in the church.
I was afraid of him getting mad. I was afraid of him. When I would finally protest he would just get more angry.
I am married again and my friend tells me I am enabling my new husband. My new husband has learning disabilities and is almost 70 years old so I have compassion for him just like I did my last husband, who had a bad childhood, so I do most of the work, etc. Is this wrong? Am I just making it too easy for him?
I am also carrying a lot of guilt because of the sin and divorce. I fell with my second husband while married to my first because my second husband showed me the love that I never had from my first. I have repented of course, but feel like I took a wrong turn now and I am not where I am supposed to be and cannot be used of the Lord.
Would you have recommended divorce from the first spouse if he was unwilling to change?
Answer: Wow you asked quite a few questions and I’ll try to cover most of them. The one I can’t answer is your last one, would I have recommended divorce in your situation. I never recommend divorce to anyone. I don’t think it is my place to recommend such a life-changing decision as to whether or not someone should continue to persevere in a destructive marriage or not. My role is to listen carefully, to help clarify what’s really going on and then help the person get healthy and strong enough to make wise and biblical decisions on how to handle it. In my opinion, divorce is always the last resort when all other efforts to reconcile and bring true peace in the marriage have repeatedly failed.
So let me move on to your question about all the guilt you feel about having an affair with your second husband while still married to your first husband. Guilt is an appropriate emotion anyone should feel when he or she breaks God’s commands. It is hardwired into our consciousness. It helps us not to repeat sinful behavior because we feel bad.
You say that you repented of your sin, so I wonder if you’re still struggling with guilty feelings because you don’t believe you’re truly forgiven? Or, perhaps your guilt has morphed into regret. You regret that you rushed ahead of God’s best for you by getting involved with another man while still married to your husband and now the waters are muddied and you are unclear of God’s will and his purposes for you.
If it’s more unbelief, then understand you are in a spiritual battle. If Satan can’t get us to fall by tempting us with sin, then he will accuse us with our sin and remind us how unworthy we are of God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace. We might think things like, “God hates divorce so he must hate me because I got divorced.” Or “God hates adultery so how could he love me when I was so foolish?”
Jesus cautions us that Satan is a liar and deceiver and accuser (John 8). God’s grace is so good that it even covers the sins God hates most. That’s why it’s called amazing grace. Don’t let Satan rob you of your peace or joy of forgiveness by accusing you of your sin. Notice David’s confession and relief after he received God’s forgiveness for his sexual sin against Bathsheba (Psalm 51). We must choose to believe what God says, that “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
Remember, God doesn’t forgive us because we’re worthy of it, he forgives us because he wants to. The psalmist said, “O Lord, You are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Psalm 86:5 NLT). Can you believe God is that good? That willing to forgive and that loving?
On the other hand, if you’re struggling with regret because you fear that you’ve missed God’s best for you, confess that too. I think most of us can relate. We look back on things in our past that we wished we had done differently and wonder if we have been forever doomed to God’s plan B because we got off track.
I’ve just finished reading through Genesis (I’m reading through the Bible this year) and most of the characters, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Esau, sinned big time and made huge mistakes. Yet God still used them and his plan was not thwarted. In a nutshell God’s perfect will for us is not that complicated. Paul says that it is God’s will that we mature and live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7).
Could you have learned to do that in your first marriage? Yes. Can you still learn to do that now? Yes. You have not missed God’s best for you if you believe what he tells you. The Apostle Paul says God’s best for you is to conform you to the image of Christ’s and he will use all things for your good (even your sins and mistakes) to accomplish that purpose. (Romans 8:28-29). When we believe that, then we know that his work in our life is not finished. He is still shaping you even in this new marriage you’re in.
That brings me to your question of whether or not you are enabling your new husband. Again, I can’t know for sure because I don’t know what specific disabilities he has that make him incapable of doing his fair share around the house or to contribute to the marriage. But sometimes our compassion for someone does motivate us to do things for people that they should be doing for themselves. For example, if an adult child doesn’t have enough money to pay his or her bills, any parent would feel badly and be tempted to help, especially if his car is repossessed or she has to move out of her apartment.
However, if the reason they don’t have enough money is that they won’t work, or won’t work at a menial job, or he or she spends money foolishly, then for you to step and pay the bill because you feel bad would only enable their irresponsibility or laziness. On the other hand, if your child was struggling with serious health difficulties, or an unexpected job loss or an emergency that took more money then was available, of course you would help if you could.
If your husband is capable of helping you with the housework or contributing financially but he refuses because you “do it” just fine, then your compassion is misplaced. If he refuses to do things for himself and you pick up the slack, then you are enabling him to be childish, lazy, selfish, or stuck. You are keeping him from maturing into the man God calls him to be and in the long run, that is not loving him well.
Sometimes the boundaries between being compassionate and being co-dependent are not always as clear cut as my examples and that’s why we need help to gain clarity to see what’s really going on so we can gain the courage to make the necessary changes. Ask your friend what she sees that makes her think you are repeating some of your past enabling behaviors in this marriage. Then bring those things to God and talk with him about it. You said some of your misunderstanding of submission caused you to put up with abusive behavior for far too long in your first marriage. Perhaps some of your misunderstanding of love and compassion are also causing you to enable behavior that is hurtful to you, to him and to your marriage.
Friends, how have you learned to draw the line between compassion and enabling?