I am on the next leg of my trip, in Toronto. I’ve been busy and I need your prayers that I can get better sleep and not get sick. I will be here all week and I have not slept well in Nashville so I am operating at half a tank. Hopefully, here I can catch up a bit. I don’t have to speak but I have other things and commitments I have to do. I fly home Friday and then head to Akron, Ohio to speak for two full days the following week.
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This week’s question: I have been married for almost 19 years. Things have been in decline since year 2, but I have hung in there because I truly felt God brought us together and it would be wrong to separate or divorce. It would be like a slap in His face for His gift. I managed to see the good side of things and keep positive…. blah, blah.
I have reached my limit. He has literally disregarded me and lived in another part of the house for the last year. I have tried to talk about our relationship, but when I finally can get him to sit down with me and I begin, his explosion starts to build. I simply cannot take any more of these – they are so stressful and upsetting and confusing to me. I have had MS problems for the last 7 years and increased stress causes my body to shut down, putting me in bed or at least immobile for days.
I recently found your website and have realized just how abusive he has been and that God indeed does not want me to live like this. I moved in with my daughter on July 9 of this year. He may text me every 4 – 6 days but usually only has questions on how to care for the cats or other impersonal things. He has once said he was sorry. God was talking to him and he could see how I was giving him love but he was not giving to me. Another time he texted he was sorry he was so f—d up. Another time he said he hoped I was ok. But that has been it.
My question is…. should I be contacting him in any way? What should I be doing? I have been working through your book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I am working on a list of things that I will not have in my life anymore.
Also, I am reading your blogs and watching videos…. and signed up for the webinar on Monday. I realize I have enabled him to continue to some degree and need to work on myself too.
Answer: You’ve got three main objectives during this time. The first one is to get your body back to being as healthy and strong as possible. You can’t even think properly if you are not sleeping, and your body is continually stressed and sick. The stress of living in this situation has taken its toll and exacerbated your symptoms of MS. Living with toxic relationship stress compromises our immune system and therefore we can start to get sicker and weaker.
God is giving you a reprieve for your body to regroup. For you to rest, refresh, listen to your body and learn to nurture and nourish yourself, which includes removing yourself from that toxic environment. Your immune system is not able to fight off disease when it’s busy trying to get rid of all the stress hormones activated by living in an abusive and contentious relationship. It’s interesting that the writer of Proverbs warns us, “It’s better to live on the corner of a roof than with an angry and contentious woman (or man).” Proverbs 21:9
“Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.”Proverbs 17:1
Why? Because God did not wire us to thrive in unsafe toxic relationships. He knows it will ruin our health. Proverbs 12:4 warns, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” Remember Proverbs is written to a young man by his father, so he’s talking about women or wives here, but the same truth applies to husbands who shame their wives. It’s like rottenness to your bones.
Therefore, when possible, we are to distance ourselves from such individuals and steward the health and body God has given us.
Your second main task is to do your own work to get as mentally, emotionally, spiritually clear, healthy and strong as you can. For starters, what is God’s character like to you? You said now you don’t think he wants you to be abused, but did you think God was okay with it before?
Sometimes we have been taught lies that sound Biblically true, but keep us trapped in fear and shame. I was talking with someone recently who was afraid to make a mistake. I asked her why?
She said, “Because then God will be mad at me or punish me or be disappointed in me.”
I asked her, “Is that how you feel when your child is trying really hard to learn something new, like gymnastics, or piano and she makes a mistake? Are you disappointed? Do you have the expectation that she will never make a mistake?”
“No, of course not,” she said. “I’m proud of her for trying.” I asked her to think of a single Biblical character that never made mistakes. She couldn’t name anyone. And, God used them, mistakes and all.
God told a story about a servant who lived afraid of making a mistake. (Matthew 25:14-30). This man lived in fear of making a mistake. He was short-sighted and wasted his opportunity to grow and make something of his talents. Jesus rebuked him for living that way. Don’t let that be you.
Therefore, do your work. Understand what kept you in this relationship while you were being so mistreated. It may have been erroneous beliefs about who God is or what he expects. Or it might even be some of your good qualities that have become weaknesses in some instances.
For example, you are generous and kind but have no boundaries on when you need to say no or are enabling destructive or sinful behavior to continue. Or, you are a loyal person and therefore you feel guilty leaving someone, even when that person is causing you harm. Or it could be that you were afraid to get a job or go back to college or even speak up for yourself under the false teaching that a good wife gives her husband the decision making power for her life. Whatever it is, explore your own history of relationships, and see how God is using this separation to mature you into more of the woman he’s called you to become.
The last area that needs to be looked at is your marriage. You can only do that in the context of the first two. If your body remains weak and you haven’t done your work or your spouse hasn’t done his work, there is no rebuilding new history between you. If you get back together without both of you doing your work you will repeat your old history together. That’s the last thing you want to do. God cares about the sanctity of your marriage but not more than yours and your husband’s health or sanity.
To answer your question, should you reach out to him? It depends on why you want to? Do you miss him and long for connection? Are you trying to see if he still cares? Are you angry and just want to let him know how much he’s hurt you? All of the above might be legitimate in the proper context but from what you wrote, right now you don’t have any evidence that he is doing his own work. He hasn’t inquired about what he needs to do to rebuild trust or get you to come home. He hasn’t come to the end of himself.
He may feel shame as he made these statements about being messed up. But knowing you’re messed up and doing the work to stop being messed up are very different things. On the other hand, healthy shame and guilt motivate us to not repeat those shameful behaviors. Toxic shame goes into lying, pretending and hiding.
Think about why you want to contact him and whether contacting him right now will be helpful to you or more hurtful. If he uses his charm or spiritual sounding language will you be sucked back into the destructive dance? Can you stay in CORE? Can you honestly speak the truth about your experience being married to him and not get into JADE (justifying, arguing, defending or explaining) why you decided to separate?
I know this time feels like limbo-land. You don’t know what’s going to happen and it feels uncertain and unstable. Yet the reality of life is that none of us know for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year, you’re just more acutely aware of it right now.
But ultimately, we all decide whether or not we will walk by faith and trust God for today and whatever happens tomorrow, or not. But those who choose to trust God, get the grace and strength to handle the uncertainty of tomorrow. Click To Tweet
Friends, what happened when you contacted your spouse who did not show much resolve to change or what happened what you didn’t? Share your experience.
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