I am in Canada, Ancaster to be exact, and it’s freezing here. I’ve become a Phoenix girl and cold weather is something I just don’t like anymore. But it is beautiful. I’m here for a meeting and staying in a lovely inn and so it’s not all bad. I just wish it was about 25 degrees warmer.
We have a lot of people signed up for my Webinar on May 22 called How long should you keep hoping for your destructive spouse to change and how will you know his change is real?
You don't want to miss it and please invite a friend. Remember, before the webinar even starts I will be sending you 3 videos to watch that answer 3 common questions I receive from people. #1 – If he doesn’t hit me is it still abuse? #2 – What are 3 common Christian teachings that keep abused women silent scared and stuck? And #3 – When should you say no to marriage counseling? I hope to see you there. Click here to register.
|This Week’s Question: I was a youth pastor’s wife and after 20 years felt like I finally came up for air when someone put your book Emotionally Destructive Marriage in my hand. I feel as if the truth God brought to my life through it saved me from insanity. I couldn’t believe that someone finally understood the games and manipulation and verbal cruelty that was going on, yet was masked with such outward charisma and shrouded with such false selflessness that I lived in a hidden world that the male church leaders would only direct me on how to be respectful and forgive 70×7.
After I went to the pastor's wife who saw through to what was happening, my husband lost his job which I was ready for and was part of what was a bold step for me in standing up for what was going on and praying that these natural consequences may be a wake-up call (The ammonia under the nose).
It was difficult and I felt so disloyal to my husband, but my integrity and sanity needed to find a place. However, in the meeting with my husband and two other male pastors, they informed me that this job loss was obviously 50 percent my fault as marriage problems are both sides.
I was devastated. My husband loved finally being told it was half my fault after several counselors had held him accountable for behavior that was destroying us. We are at a stage now where after three counselors that have come down on him for his behavior and tried to help, he found a Christian male counselor that has said he is none of the things that he has been told (narcissistic, etc) and feeds him what he wants to hear.
He pays to go see him every other week for two years which has completely broken the tiny bit left of our marriage. He is hard and unkind and has a new vocabulary to defend his actions. So, I have found support through godly friendship of other couples and women. And it wasn’t until I read the February question about “emotional separation” that I could understand what I was doing, but that my husband was saying things that left me feeling guilty and confused about my actions.
As well-meaning people in the church try to get involved that have no idea what is going on, I have just been unsure how to do this right. As my kids watch our marriage, do I talk to them about what is going on? They know things are strained, but they would be devastated to hear of any type of “separation” and yet…my biggest pain is the knowledge that they probably see me as civil and nice but unresponsive and unaffectionate and unconnected. I don’t know how to navigate living in the same house, sleeping in the same room, but being completely emotionally detached in the right way.
I have come to a place of peace. I have had years (decades) to have far gone past the place of needing or expecting any type of love from him. I am truly peacefully separated from him in that way, but for the kid’s sake, I really want to keep this together.
How do I do this without coming across dismissive and patronizing which is what he says? Is it wrong that I don’t ask him about things going on in his life and I don’t share anything about mine? I just don’t want to be connected with him at all. Talking to him almost always invites some sort of passive-aggressive, unexplainable to most, negative words.
I really could use an entire book on how to live my life if I am choosing that I think it truly is best for the kids if I can “stay well.” But I want to “stay well” separated from him emotionally(By the way, he isn’t striving to be connected with me at all either, so I am not resisting anything).
He just will use the “you are my wife!” line to make me question what God would expect of or want from me in this situation. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family and would not have ever thought there were marriages like this possible even in the secular world much less the Christian world.
So all my knowledge and my experience and relationship with the Lord has provided stability, but I yearn to help other women in this kind of pain to find understanding, compassion, clarity, and the tools needed to not just survive as I have been doing but to THRIVE.
But first I must figure out ME.
Thank you, Leslie! I wish I had the funds to learn directly underneath you for my sake, my girl’s sake, and the sake of other women. Your message is a lifesaver to me.
Answer: First, your church leaders were wrong. Your husband lost his job because of his sinful behaviors and his own unrepentant heart.
Abuse, addiction, and chronic adultery issues are NOT marriage problems, they are personal sin problems. Marriage counseling doesn’t work because the marriage is NOT the problem. Click To Tweet
Yes, abuse, addictions and chronic adultery cause marriage problems, but marriage problems do not cause abuse, addictions, and adultery. Do you hear the difference?
I’m curious what your husband means or expects from you when he says, “You’re my wife.” It might be interesting to ask him what he means when he says that? Does it mean you are his to own and control like “This is my car so I can wreck it if I want, or keep it dirty if I want?” Does it mean “wife” has certain responsibilities to fulfill and therefore you’re a bad “wife” if you’re not doing them?
I suspect it’s the latter and that’s hooking your guilt button. What do you feel guilty and confused about when he says those words? What are his ideas and expectations of a “good wife” and what is your idea of a “good wife” and what is God’s idea of a “good wife.”
For example, were you a “good wife” to expose his lack of integrity and abuse in the marriage to the church? Obviously, he didn’t think so. But did you? Did God? Is it being a good wife refusing to lie and pretend that the two of you have a repaired relationship when there is no relationship at all or, from what you say, is he even interested in doing the repair work?
I think if you can wade through those questions a bit and settle them in your mind, he might have less power over your emotions or conscience when he says those words. Is emotionally detaching from the marriage yet staying together for the children causing you some internal conflict that contributes to your guilt?
From your perspective your marriage relationship is dead. You said you have zero expectations, but it also sounds like you desire zero connection, not even superficial polite chitchat that roommates might have. You mentioned that you wonder if your children might view you as disinterested, unaffectionate or detached from their dad. Yes, they might, and if so then they will create a story in their head about why you are this way.
For example, they might think, “Mom is unforgiving. Dad tries so hard to make her happy and nothing makes her happy.” Or they might think, “Mom is so mean to dad. She treats him bad. I feel so sorry for him.” Or they might think, “Mom has problems. She must not be a very good Christian because she treats dad so indifferently.” Or they might think, “Mom is just not a very affectionate person, that’s why she acts that way.” Or they might think, “My parents have a bad marriage, I don’t want one like that.” Or they might think, “This is normal marriage after you’re married for this many years. My mom and dad don’t really like each other.”
You have no idea what they are telling themselves about what they observe.
Herein lies your dilemma. Your children WILL create a story (reason) about why you are the way you are or treat their father the way you do. Therefore, when you have a choice tell them the truth, why leave them to their own made up story?
Even if you tell them the truth, they still may not believe you, but at least now you have it out there for them to know why you behave the way you behave or why things are not warmer and friendlier between you and their father.
As I’ve said in previous blogs, telling the truth does not mean dishing all the ugly details about what their father has done. But you may have to say more than just “we’re struggling.” And what is he saying to the kids about why things are the way they are between you? Do you know?
I appreciate your desire to keep your family together for the benefit of your children. For some women that is an extremely important goal. And will you continue to stay once your children launch out of the nest and into their own lives?
And if not, will this come as a total surprise to them if they still believe their parents are still a couple and not just parents? In my work with this whole issue, it’s sometimes the older kids that have a much harder time accepting that you can’t “do it anymore” than the younger kids.
But my question for you is what exactly are you modeling to your children, especially as they are getting older? And, is this the model of Christian marriage you want them to see? Or even is this the model of a bad marriage you want them to see – and how a partner handles it?
However, you ended your question with “I have to figure out me.” And that’s a good place to start. What’s important to you? How do you stay well and communicate to your kids why you and their father are not in a good place, more than your struggling, your marriage is dying (or already dead), but you both want to be good parents. Are you planning to try to stay well after the kids leave your home? Then what? What are his expectations of “life together” and what are yours?
You said that you needed to protect your integrity and sanity more than your husband’s false image and that’s why you told the truth to the church. I’m wondering if those same values also need to be in place as you figure out you. To keep up a false image of an intact marriage and family is costly when it’s not the truth. It sounds like you are attempting to do it with as much integrity and sanity as you can muster by emotionally detaching from your expectations of a reciprocal or mutual relationship, but your fear is your kids will “see it” as bad mom or a bad wife.
And they might. Therefore why not just be honest with them, especially as they are getting older and say, “Dad and I are more than struggling. We are done struggling and we sort of just exist. I don’t know how to fix this. We’ve been to a multitude of counselors and nothing has changed and I just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”
Now your kids have a context for your actions or non-actions. They still might not like it, but by your words, they at least know why you act the way you do with their father.
Friends, what words of wisdom might you have for our dear sister who loves her children, loves God, wants to stay well but finding it challenging?
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