Morning friends,

Words cannot describe the amazing CONQUER CONFERENCE we had this past weekend. Over 600 women joined together to learn how to become the women God created them to be, both inside and out. In every way it was a God-breathed weekend and all of us felt the presence of God in that place.

At the end, a woman came up to me and said she was Hindu. She said, “I was brought here by a friend and I’ve never experienced anything like this before.” I asked her to e-mail me with the rest of her story as I’m sure God is drawing her heart to his. Women heard incredible speakers and attended workshops that dealt with real life issues and I am just in awe of all God did.

Here are some pictures

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This week’s question: I've currently been married for 14 months in my first marriage. I quickly found that he was emotionally abusive in ways that I had seen only in part while dating and engaged. At 10 months I left to stay with family because I did not feel safe  emotionally, mentally, or physically.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to begin professional biblical counseling during that time with the encouragement, referral, and financial support of our church. I went home after 7 weeks, and abusive patterns began to give way to healthier ones, with many relapses. I was learning my lack of boundaries and how to set and enforce my boundaries when my husband pushed on them. I was getting stronger and less likely to be reactively abusive towards my husband.

Then, at the beginning of this month, we found out that my husband is HIV+. My parents and I had asked for my, then ‘fiancé’, to be tested for STD's prior to the wedding. He told us that he had been tested and was clear. I married him on the assumption that he was telling us the full truth.

A year later, I found out that he had 2 sexual partners between his last STD testing and when he told us he was clear. Both partners were before he met me, so there is no relational unfaithfulness. However, I believe there is deceit.

Rebuilding trust has been a focus of our counseling, but now… I don't see that ever happening. I am reading “Lord, I Just Want To Be Happy,” and have told myself to wait to make any life-altering decisions until next year.

My main motivation when I think of staying with my husband is the guilt I believe I would feel for leaving him. Based on our marriage, I don't believe there can be a future of trust. I want to leave, but am having feelings of guilt. Am I a weak Christian wife for wanting out so early? I feel cheated out of my expectations of a healthy (emotionally, spiritually, and medically) marriage.

Answer: You ask a very important question, especially for someone who finds out after marriage that they have been deceived in critical areas. Let me ask you a question. Had you known he was HIV+ before your marriage, would you have married him? And I’m curious; most states require a blood test to get a marriage license that screens for STD’s. Did he not get one?

If your answer to my question, if you had known then, would you have married him is no, then I would encourage you to seek an attorney’s advice about getting an annulment. I don’t know what the requirements for an annulment (versus a divorce) are in your state, but I do know that often when someone marries under false pretenses you are allowed to get an annulment. That is different than a divorce. An annulment is as if you were never married.

The tricky thing is that once you find out that serious deceit has taken place, if you resume marital relations the “law” considers it as if you have accepted the deceit and are willing to be married to this person. Timing is especially critical in these cases. Therefore, if you’ve known about the HIV+ status and have continued living with him, gone to counseling together to “work on your marriage” and especially had sexual relations since knowing he’s HIV+, then an annulment may not be possible. But again check with an attorney.

For other women reading this blog, once you find out you’ve been deceived in a critical area before marriage, go straight to an attorney to get advice on what are the legal requirements for an annulment, or Google the requirements to annul a marriage in your state. You don’t want to miss that window because you feel you should “try” to make it work, if you would not have married him had you known this before marriage.

For example, in Pennsylvania, marriages can be annulled for a variety of reasons including fraud. But here is the caveat: This is what PA law states:

Can Fraud Be Waived?

“Although fraud is grounds for an annulment, fraud can be waived if the spouses continue to live together after discovering the fraud. Specifically, in a situation where fraud would be sufficient for an annulment, if the innocent spouse discovers the fraud and does not immediately separate and live apart from the offending spouse, the fraud may have been waived and the innocent spouse has ratified the marriage, preventing an annulment on fraud grounds.”

Often a wife (or husband) is in shock after fraud has been discovered. Clear thinking is difficult and because of Christian teachings against divorce, a spouse is usually reluctant to immediately seek legal counsel. That feels too harsh and unloving. Instead, we believe (and teach) forgiveness and reconciliation are always the proper route, and we encourage people to “hang” in there in order to make the marriage work. This can be a critical legal mistake because “hanging in there,” means that you now accept this person, deceit included. Grounds for annulling the marriage have now ended, and divorce is your only remedy if you choose to end your marriage.

Please don’t misunderstand. Forgiveness is important, but you may decide that even if you forgive him, he is not the person you want to be legally married to for the rest of your life now that you know he has deceived you in such an important area prior to marriage.

You say you want to leave. You don’t think this marriage can rebuild trust since it has never been there from the beginning. You struggle with guilt and the fear of being thought of as a weak Christian. Your struggle is normal for anyone in your position, but don’t let these feelings keep you bound to a person who you would not have married had you known. I don’t think you are a weak Christian for knowing that it’s impossible to have a long-term close relationship with someone who has deliberately and repeatedly misled you in such a critical area as his sexual health.

God hates deceit and people who trick others (Click to Tweet).

I don’t believe God calls you to keep covenant with a person who has defrauded you from the beginning of your relationship. You can’t build trust with a person who repeatedly lies. And the person you covenanted with is not the person you married.

That said, it sounds like he has made some progress in being willing to grow, submit himself to Biblical counsel, and be accountable to others, yet not without relapses. This is a tough decision to make, but only you can make it. Get the counsel of wise others and pray often, but realize that you are the one who has to live with the results of your choices. God will show you what to do. He promises, “I will instruct you and guide you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

Friends: When someone has deceived you in such a critical area – whether it be a spouse, or a good friend, how did it impact the relationship long term

 

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32 Comments

  1. kris on October 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Almost no states require blood tests anymore.
    https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/chart-state-marriage-license-blood-29019.html
    Scroll down and see the chart. One state only requires it of women!

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Good to know. Thanks.

  2. Sandy on October 19, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Infifideity is indeed the ultimate deceit. However how does one deal with other forms of deceit such as financial deceit? Some are just little lies but it comes to be that it wa a lie. In the area of financial deceit, what about finding out spouse of 34 years took wife’s name off as beneficiary. Some is deceit in just not sharing information about many things that as a wife, in the true sense of being one through the sacrament of marriage, should know. I really question is it me expecting or wanting too much.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:43 am

      I think things that affect us like finances, life insurance, drug use, porn use, infidelity, etc should be shared and disclosed. That doesnt’ mean we have to share every detail of our day or we are being sneaky or dishonest. But if it’s a big thing, or it impacts our spouse, we should.

  3. Charlie on October 19, 2016 at 11:12 am

    My(ex) husband kept his child from a relationship prior to marriage, a secret for 30 years. I attempted to forgive and move on but it destroyed the trust. Since then, I uncovered financial deceit and multiple affairs. We are now separated with not much hope for reconciling. I had never thought of the deceit with respect to his daughter, as reason for separation or annulment but what you say absolutely makes sense. Deceit is very difficult to get past and recover from.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:44 am

      You are right, without trust, a relationship cannot survive and deceit breaks trust.

  4. Jill on October 19, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Oh my friend,
    I will pray that God makes it abundantly clear what to do and that you will come to recognize false guilt.

    I, too, married for life but realized in the first week of marriage that there were major issues. I had us seek counseling right away and sometimes things seemed to be getting better but foundationally, things were still very wrong and it always circled back.

    I hung in there out of a false and church-imposed guilt for eight years. It took a great toll on my health physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

    I finally could take no more. I learned to look at things honestly and I have gotten out which in itself is a long process that takes its toll.

    I wish I had gotten out at that first warning in the days, weeks, and months right after marriage. The church doesn’t always have this right. Guilt is many times a false guilt. Our Savior died for us while we were yet sinners and we are still sinners and when we come to Him there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He sees and knows your heart, your situation, your spouse’s heart. Draw near to Him and seek His voice. It is possible that He will say something different than the voice of the church or the voice of your upbringing. Read Leslie’s books. You will find that even in Scripture, while God hates divorce, there are provisions for it in situations like ours. That was the case with me… I just wish I had listened sooner. Even in that, the Lord has shown great mercy and brings beauty from ashes. It just may be that the ashes might be less if you listen and act sooner rather than later. God bless you.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Thanks Jill for sharing your story.

  5. Wendy on October 19, 2016 at 11:47 am

    My first marriage I was also diagnosed with an STD. This was one week after we were married. My second marriage I was told he had cancer while we were dating. I took care of him while he was sick. After I married him I found out he was never sick. There is nothing worse than living a life with no trust. Take time alone with God my dear Sister go where you can hear His voice. Don’t make your husband your god. Your God will supply all your needs He loves you and will guide you! He wants us to learn to trust Him and His leading in a very personal way. I will be in prayer for you my friend.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Thanks Wendy for sharing your story. I think it helps women realize that they are not the only one who got duped.

  6. Aleea on October 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    “Friends: When someone has deceived you in such a critical area – whether it be a spouse, or a good friend, how did it impact the relationship long term.” . . . .It destroyed it but I have to acknowledge my part because generally only those who do not wish to see can be deceived long term. Reality denied always comes back to haunt us. Of course, depth psychology, et.al. clearly shows us that lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than even lying to others. . . . You can fool yourself, you know. You’d think it’s impossible, but it turns out it’s like the easiest thing of all. Responsibility to ourselves means refusing to let others do our thinking, talking, and naming for us. It means learning to respect and use our own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with the hard work of independent critical-thinking. Pray to God for wisdom but do not indoctrinate yourself, think for yourself, evaluate relationship evidence and learn how to disagree if/when you do.

    Leslie, thank you for sharing about the success of your conference, so much answered prayer! Also, I think your answer to today’s question is absolutely spot on: re:“. . . This is a tough decision to make, but only you can make it. Get the counsel of wise others and pray often, but realize that you are the one who has to live with the results of your choices. God will show you what to do.” —Excellent, what else can be said.

  7. Dixie on October 19, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I found out after I left my ex husband that he had completely deceived me the whole time. He had been married the whole time to another woman. However, he deceived me in soooo many other areas I felt justified leaving him when I did. After I left him God showed me truth after truth about him and all his lies. I honestly thought he was the most amazing man ever when I walked down the aisle, but the honeymoon began the real truth and misery.

    • Aleea on October 20, 2016 at 5:08 am

      “He had been married the whole time to another woman.” —I’ve learned that sometimes a smile represents the greatest form of deceit. I’d rather be slapped in my face. Obviously, he was afraid to tell you the truth because you would just leave. On the other side, I guess many are too afraid they will never get married if they ask too many questions, demand too much evidence or investigate things too closely, for too long —but isn’t that how people really, deeply bond? Evidence is the only way of overcoming the huge biases we all have.

      Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. That’s reality (—unless I’m not thinking correctly). The only guard I know against liars and hypocrites (—And amazingly they may not even know the truth themselves because the world runs on lies —think about politicians!) is increased skepticism in all things. The church has never taught people enough skepticism or source critical thinking. The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it (re:church history). In God we trust, all others must show critical, peer-reviewed evidence for “truth” claims. —Maybe, don’t ever teach your kids what to think but how to think? Once they know how to really, critically think and objectively evaluate evidence for themselves, they will get down to the truth of what to think. —I mean, I think that, but I have never had children so I could be wrong but that is what I think: primary source, critical-thinking. . . . .Not what to think but how to think —critically evaluating claims.

      . . . .Obviously, biology messes everything up because all it cares about is reproduction, not human happiness. Men, women hear the “call of the wild” and they just go: men using every lie/ women ignoring every red flag, because nature could care less if people are happy. Both are just tools to natural selection. . . . .When I realized how gullible I was, and I am sure I don’t even know the full extent of it, I realized I needed to pray even more (—especially constantly asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom, learning to deeply listen); research WAY more (primary sources, not secondary claims or what someone I “trust” told me); asking seriously hard questions (—and you can’t ask them if you don’t do the research yourself), being fair-minded critical thinkers. . . . .The truth will set you free, but first it will break your heart. Obviously, it is far better to have your heart shattered before you get married. We keep insisting on filling our hearts with the stuff-of-nothing…. It’s like that saying “Mr. Right!?! I’ll take ‘Mr. Right Now!!’ —As simple as that sounds, and as cliché as “Mr. Right Now” is —as long as we’re choosing the temporary solution then we aren’t building up all those CORE muscles/skills Leslie is always talking about. Nor are we building up the perseverance we need to find and keep the true solutions (reality living). Reality is one nasty place. No wonder precious people retreat into fantasy. Thinking something does not make it true. Wanting something does not make it real . . .Spiritual muscles, source critical thinking muscles, emotional muscles, et.al. we need them all. (—What I am saying is so totally obvious, but rarely done.) . . . Nothing in this world is more difficult than real love or more valuable.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Dixie, thanks for sharing your story. It helps others realize that they are not alone.

  8. Wendy on October 19, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Dixie it is just so awful to think such a level of deception could happen to anyone. I know how hard it is to wake up to the truth of what we allowed in our lives. Looking at the reasons I was able to be deceived was hard. I did see some of the signs but like you say they can put on a really great show. It is a show that most people can’t even fathom unless they have been through it. I’m healing and learning to trust God with all my heart and let Him show me the truth about myself. Mostly that He loves me very much and I have much worth in His eyes!

  9. Dust Bunny on October 19, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Oh my goodness. I, too, was deceived and it started to unravel on the 3rd day of the honeymoon. If I had known, I wouldn’t have married.

    My husband and I were long distance (met on a Christian dating site) and before becoming engaged, we discussed what we wanted out of life (kids, close to family, home, pets, the whole shebang). We also discussed health histories to which he said he once struggled with depression but it was many years ago and that was it.

    On the honeymoon, he told me he lost his desire for children and that he never thought about what he really wanted. As the weeks progressed, his mental health diagnoses came out (anxiety, depression, OCPD, bi-polar –and I suspect, borderline but that is not a professional diagnosis). He purposefully hid them from me (told me as such)… even though he was remorseful.

    After initial counseling and confiding in our pastor, he said he believed I had a reason for annulment. I had no idea what to do so I stayed and stayed… and am still here, struggling and exhausted, over three years later.

    90% of our struggles are about the same few topics that came to light on the honeymoon/first 6 weeks of our marriage.

    As the months progressed, he said his life goals had changed. Tumultuous marriage, to say the least. Initially refused medication/counseling but did it off and on… but things only improved when I threatened to leave. Then after a few weeks or two months, it slides right back down again.

    I filed for divorce last year but allowed myself to be coaxed back in with the same ol’ promises of change. Hit a breaking point this summer and once again, allowed myself to give him a 60 day window for him to show me his heart change. That is ending the weekend of the 29th this month. I do not want to continue my part in this cycle.

    I read all of Leslie’s book and there’s a snippet in, “Lord, I just want to happy” about how a single act of deceit can be enough to kill the relationship (how one bullet can kill a person).

    We’ve been continually dealing with the fall-out of his omissions (which I believe is deceit).

    Too much to type in such a short comment section. Don’t want to leave a wall of text!

    I’m praying for clarity and have been working on my CORE for over a year. There has been some overall improvement but when it comes to putting me first/thinking of me or of the marriage or being inconvenienced for the marriage, he refuses.

    He may feel bad but the fact remains that we are still dealing with VASTLY different life goals and it leaves me not being by family and not having any children.

    Have been working on so many things in MY life and MY actions …praise the Lord that God is faithful to us! I’ve changed my dance steps but am afraid to continue the cycle.

    The timing of this question is just…incredible. This is all over the place but I am just so stunned how I’ve been praying for clarity and bam, I see this. I’m just astonished.

    Thank you, Leslie, for allowing the Lord to work through you. I’ve had lots of healing in the last three years; particularly the last year.

    • Dust Bunny on October 19, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      Gosh. There’s still just so much to say. Too much detail and nuance that a comment can’t convey. But I get it. I see so absolutely much of my situation in this question.

      Throughout counseling these past few years, God has really spoken to me and delivered me from being too afraid to state what I want for fear of his reaction and emotional instability. I’ve read so many books; attended seminars and webinars; taken church classes, etc and I’m so thankful for how far I’ve come but I know I’ve got a long ways to go. God is faithful to complete His good work in me!

      I’m nervous that at our sit-down meeting in 10 days that I will state what I want and he won’t care or take me into consideration. Part of me feels like he’s forcing me to make the hard decision to leave (and when I get up the initial gumption, he begs me to stay … not because he’s afraid of losing me, per se, but because I believe he’s afraid to be lonely).

      I’m sick of negotiation our marriage like a business deal and I tend to let myself get the short-end of the stick and I get so frustrated with myself because I cave on my boundaries when I’m badgered. I know it’s not all about me… but I have learned that my life matters, too and what I want and what I’m interested in isn’t any less important than his side.

      Really, though — thank you, Leslie! Through the things I have learned from you and God, I’ve been able to put them into practice outside of my marriage and have pointed other family members and other people towards your site/books.

      • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:50 am

        Thanks. 🙂

      • Nancy on October 21, 2016 at 9:22 am

        Thank The Lord you don’t have children with him. Really. Thank God!

        • Dust Bunny on October 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm

          Yes, children would not be wise in this situation for a number of reasons.

          During all of this, the Lord showed me how I had placed children a higher priority than marriage and ultimately, higher than God himself. I allowed children to become an idol and a driving force as to why I wanted to be married in the first place. I still actively sought a relationship with God and wanted to build a strong marriage but I REALLY wanted children and placed the dream higher up than it should have been.

          I am thankful the Lord has worked a lot of that out of me and I have repented for not keeping God as my center. I then made my marriage (or, rather, FIXING my marriage) as #1 priority and the resulting stress (and physical manifestations in my body) and continued and repeated heartbreak was what finally led me to Leslie’s website a while back.

          I can see the blessing now of not having children. I may never have children/adopt while married to my husband and while that would be sad for me as it’s been a lifelong desire, I know it would not be the absolute END of me, ya know?

          Many other things to figure out outside of children but I truly feel like the children thing is not a driving force for me anymore, praise the Lord!! Makes me sad but it’s not the end-all-be-all, if that makes sense, and is just one of many, many “sadnesses” in my marriage.

          Anyway, yes — I agree with your comment. THANK GOD! 🙂

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:50 am

      Dust Bunny – so grateful God is healing you and building your CORE. This suffering is not a waste, it will make you stronger.

    • Lea on October 20, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Had a bad experience with long distance and will probably not do it again. Too easy for people to lie.

      As for the original question, I would seriously suspect the husband of infidelity. Family member had a similar issue but infidelity was with men.

  10. Ann L on October 19, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Deceit poisoned my marriage. It was slow, non-stop drip and I didn’t know how to confront it. I didn’t know what to do, how to stop it, was afraid to confront it, was hiding from what it would mean to confront it.

    Instead, I was angry and spoke in unpleasant terms about other peoples’ shortcomings. This was my passive-aggressive way of saying I didn’t like people who do this, or that, or whatever. Looking back, I can see that if my husband was afraid to be honest, I made it even harder for him by constantly being judgmental.

    I guess you could say that I helped him become a better and better liar. In the end he lied so deeply and so consistently that I was done.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:52 am

      You bring up a good point in that part of your journey through this was to learn how to confront and move out of denial and into the truth. Instead you let your feelings seep out in more unhealthy ways. So glad you recognize your part so that even if he never gets healthier, you can.

  11. Ann L on October 19, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Sandy,

    My husband was extremely dishonest with finances. Ran up debt on my credit cards, hid debt, refused to answer questions such as “where did you spend that $10,000?”

    Infidelity is an expression of deceit. It gets called out as its own special sin, but in the category of deceit, don’t sell yourself short.

    Trust is built on trust. A constant life of deceit destroys trust, and that destruction is every bit as real as the trust destroyed by the deceit of infidelity.

    Your feelings are valid.

  12. Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Thanks Aleea.

  13. Wendy on October 20, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I was blessed to come to my parents house to heal and look at the part I played in the deception to myself. I have carried shame with me for a very long time. I gave over the control of my life to relationships and to the church. While I have been here God has shown me why I was living with my shame and how this caused me to not demand much better for myself. We all know in our hearts that it has been wrong but getting the CORE strength can be hard when we are not caring for ourselves as we should. We should all have the power of Christ to stand in our CORE strength with His help and say NO more! In saying no to the behavior ourselves is the greatest feeling! Taking back the control over our emotions we have given them and giving it to Christ is powerful healing!

    • Leslie Vernick on October 21, 2016 at 8:45 am

      I”m glad you are learning that good stewardship of your own body, mind and spirit are essential teachings of Christ. That doesn’t mean we don’t sacrifice and suffer sometimes for the good of another, or even because of the sin of another, but it does mean we learn when to speak up and say no more, and when it’s more appropriate to forbear with one another’s weaknesses and are not afraid to do one or the other when necessary.

  14. Millie on October 27, 2016 at 4:08 am

    This so horrible. I’m so sorry. But please get medical attn for your own status and please LEAVE him. And during the divorce and for the first few months of being Single again please continue counseling intensely so that you may be healed, whole and set free. Allow the counselor to guide you so that you don’t make the same mistakes and can not repeat patterns for your next relationship.

  15. Asker on November 30, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    I was shocked and so, so encouraged to see that my question had been featured in this blog post. Thank you so much, Leslie!! I cried while reading every word of the post and the comments.

    As an update, I have been tested for HIV several times, and the results show that I do not have HIV! I’m healthy.

    My husband continued to be emotionally abusive after the diagnosis, so I left and never went back. I filed for divorce last month and have the support of my family, friends, and church. I am going to a professional biblical counselor (who was the one who referred me to Leslie’s books earlier in my marriage) to help me heal through my trauma. I wanted to share my happy ending with you all.

    • Asker on November 30, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      And to answer the question you asked in the post, Leslie- I would not have married him if I knew he was HIV+. My medical testing took a month to be conclusive, and I did live with my husband during that time. We did not sleep together after the diagnosis. However, since we were going to counseling together after the diagnosis, I don’t think I could have gotten an annulment like you said.

      • Dust Bunny on December 1, 2016 at 4:47 pm

        Oh, I am so glad to see your update.

        I know it’s difficult but I am glad that you have a good support network! So thankful you do not have HIV!!!

        Thank you for coming back. I will continue to pray for you. You are brave and I applaud you for standing up for yourself and seeing a counselor.

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