Morning friend,

Thanks for your prayers for my parents. They are doing a little better and able to manage somewhat better. It’s hard watching those you love struggle and be in pain. We are in the middle of our Moving Beyond Challenge week and it’s amazing. We’re seeing real breakthroughs from stuck to free. If you missed this year’s challenge, hope you join us next year. It’s a week-long focused time on moving beyond common challenges like negative thinking and people-pleasing. 

Question: I have separated from my husband, and after much careful and prayerful examination, determined that he is definitely abusive. My problem now is this: We were only married 9 months when I left, and during that time I was constantly told I couldn’t talk to him respectfully or even answer a question to his satisfaction. As if in a normal, healthy relationship, I feel like there needs to be some sort of closure but have been unable to put my thoughts and feelings into words. All of his communication to me is accusatory and erratic, so I have no reason to believe I will be heard. 

Do I just file for divorce or keep praying for God to give me the words when it’s time? 

I want to heal and move forward in my life. I know God can do anything, but the huge amount of things that would have to happen for me to affect eventual restoration at this point just doesn’t seem likely. For my situation, I am more inclined to believe Leviticus 5:4 applies. I made a foolish vow when I married someone too quickly (no foundation) without testing his character and I need to admit the reality that I’m guilty of that and divorce. 

Answer: I’m sure you are feeling unsettled. From what you said, talking in the past has only resulted in accusations and more crazy talk. Of course, you’re having problems putting what you want to say into words. Because what words will now be different than the words that caused his negative reactions before? Yet you long for some closure. Some conversation that would lead to a little understanding, insight, or even sorrow that leads to repentance. (2 Corinthians 7). But you worry if that happens, then what? Can he change? Will your marriage be different? Do you wait and hope and pray? Or admit you made a mistake and divorce? 

A good place to start is with your desire. You want to heal and move forward in your life. We can agree that this would be God’s will for you. However, what healing and moving forward looks like in your situation isn’t always so clear. Divorcing your abuser won’t necessarily bring healing for you. It might bring safety but it will also bring new challenges. 

So first define for yourself what would be different for you if you were healed? Can you start working on that while your marriage question is still in limbo? 

You didn’t provide enough details for me to be more specific so I’m going to present a general road map for healing and moving forward in your life. Most times, God doesn’t reveal the big picture of what we’re supposed to do when we feel uncertain and lost. Often it involves walking by faith and choosing the next right thing. For example, when Abigail’s husband Nabal made a stupid decision insulting David, she didn’t cower in fear or submission. She did the next right thing she knew to do. She gathered up food supplies and went out to meet an angry David who was bent on slaughtering Nabal’s entire household. When she saw him, she bowed, apologized, and reminded him of who he was. She had no idea what the outcome would be. She could have been killed, but she walked the path she knew to walk. The outcome was up to God, not Abigail. (See 1 Samuel 25 for the story).

Jochebed, Moses' mother, didn’t know what to do when her son Moses was born. Pharaoh had ordered all Hebrew baby boys to be killed. Jochebed knew that was not the right choice, but what was? She did the next right thing. She hid her baby for 3 months. But when she could no longer hide him, she did the next right thing. She wove a waterproof basket and laid baby Moses in it, hoping Pharaoh’s daughter would take pity. She put her daughter Miriam, Moses, sister, in charge of watching over the scene. Moses’ mother, nor his sister could control what Pharaoh’s daughter chose to do, but they did their own part to ensure Moses’s safety. The outcome was in God’s hands. (See Exodus 2:1-2=10, Exodus 6).

Ruth, a widow, and foreigner didn’t know what to do when she suddenly became a childless widow. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, was bitter at God and told her two daughters-in-law to return to their own families. Orpah went back to her family but Ruth decided to stay with her mother-in-law and return with her to Bethlehem. That was Ruth’s next right choice. She had no idea what the outcome would be, but she took the next right step she knew to take. Once in Bethlehem, her next right choice was to go out to glean food from a field that happened to belong to Boaz. Behind the scenes, God was orchestrating a bigger story that Ruth was oblivious to. (See Ruth, chapter 1 and the rest of the book).

Right now it sounds like you don’t know for sure that divorce is the right decision. But you do know that healing is. Safety is. Moving forward is, getting healthy is. Staying strong is. Stewarding yourself is. [Tweet “If you want to get healthy stop making your choices based on what you think your spouse’s reactions will be or won’t be.”] I don’t mean ignore his stated boundaries but what is the healthiest next right step for you?

There is no perfect answer that fits everyone’s situation. Your next right step might be a letter with carefully crafted words that he can read privately without you having to see or hear his negative or shaming reaction. It might be a separation for your own safety to communicate that the marriage as is, is not safe or healthy for you. 

[Tweet “What happens when we take small next steps forwards is that we usually get clarity on our next steps forward.”] For example, when I’m lost, staying stuck in indecision does not give me clarity, but turning right or turning left usually does. It lets me know I am going in the right direction OR that I am not going in the right direction and I have to turn around. Negative outcomes are not always bad decisions. But they do give us information so we can correct our next decision. 

Your husband’s response to your step of either moving out or writing a letter (or both) is not yours, but his responses will give you greater clarity on your next steps. For example, is he repentant? How will you know? Is he willing to listen? Go for help? If so, then you might take some time and wait and see before filing for divorce. On the other hand, is he vengeful, reactive, accusatory, retaliatory? If so, now you know that he is committed to his toxic point of view and way of being and that a healthy marriage is not possible. Meanwhile, continue to do your own work. Don’t strive to fix your marriage or convince him. Your work is to grow stronger in faith, more loving, kindhearted, and forgiving, along with excellent boundaries. You want to ask God for acute mental and spiritual clarity. Healthy means knowing how to walk in truth and love, not pretense and fear.

Don’t’ rush this process. There is much for you to learn. Even in foolish mistakes, we learn lessons that are important for our future growth and well-being. Give yourself the gift of time. God is never in a hurry.

Friend, how do you decide what the next right step is for you to take when facing difficult and uncertain outcomes?

11 Comments

  1. Amanda on June 23, 2021 at 7:48 am

    Thank you Leslie! This was very timely.

  2. Autumn on June 24, 2021 at 12:13 am

    Cut your losses. I wouldn’t waste another minute with him. He’s abusive, enough said. Get out quickly before you get pregnant.

    • sarcy on June 30, 2021 at 3:20 am

      Funny that you say at the end ‘before you get pregnant’. My story is very similar in the sense that I made a foolish choice marrying someone with no foundation. I ignored the red flags and very soon in the marriage he showed his abusive side. 2 years later I became pregnant and right after I delivered our baby girl, my life literally became hell. I could not even believe what was happening to me, the extent of mistreatment I endured right when I became a mom is unbelievable. I separated (legally-after an unofficial attempt) when our baby was only 4 months..
      I have also struggled with my next step and he refuses to talk to me. When I tried to have a civil closure once, he told me he was only interested in our daughter and advised me to move on..even though he has not filed for divorce yet. I became a mom and he discarded me. I cannot even put proper words to my pain..

      • Autumn on July 3, 2021 at 6:08 pm

        Darcy, have you tried Natalie Hoffman’s site Flying Free? Join Patrick Doyle’s online educational and support group. You are not alone. There is lots of help. Educate yourself here and on other sites. Who cares what he wants, do what you want. He has already proven his unworthiness as a husband and father. Learn your legal options and get safe. Block his texts and phone calls. Use email only so you can show authorities.

      • HENRIETTA on July 13, 2021 at 11:41 pm

        Hello Sarcy
        That sounds awful and I can imagine pain you are going through. When someone tells you they only want the child you bore for them and not you It’ can be a double edged knife attack .- called rejection and manipulation. It’s understandable that you are in pain. It good you recognise it for it is, because some people find the transitional step too hard to bare . Like Leslie said you can’t control his mindset or will. I think it’s best to focus on living and loving yourself But be patient with yourself if your heart still cries and feels desperate for your ex to repent and seek true reconciliation. Regarding contact with the child , I hope you get support and wise counsel, unless you have thought this through and have a plan . Wish you the best

  3. jane on June 26, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    It is hard to make these decisions. I too am still struggling with what’s the very next step. Thursday was my 26th anniversary and I was very grieved by the marriage I never had, the marriage that was supposed to be, and by how badly I am missing my children because two are older and moved out and the youngest wants little to do with me overall, she lives with her dad. And I really miss being held and hugged. But I don’t miss the arrogance, the pain, the anger, the fear, the walking on egg shells, etc.

    The problem is I see change, but not enough change to go back, so how long do you wait for enough change, it’s now been 2 1/2 years separated. I couldn’t care less about getting into another relationship and don’t have time for one anyway (I could sure use Leslie’s class on people pleasing, but I can’t even find time for that though I am making changes hopefully that will improve that) so there is no rush to divorce and he is terrified of divorce so there is no push on his end for it. Is it okay to stay in this sort of limbo and watch things play out to see if more change will come and to see how he handles hard times again, etc?

    • Autumn on June 28, 2021 at 9:30 pm

      Jane it is highly unlikely than any more change will ever happen. Have you seen Lundy Bancroft’s list on what real change looks like? If you are happy in limbo, live limbo. After 2 1/2 years, a ton of things could have happened. He did the minimum to get what he wants and he is happy. If he wasn’t happy he would be doing something different. The question is, are you happy? Are you getting what you want out of this fake marriage? Do you deserve to be treated better? What can YOU do to make YOUR life better that doesn’t include him changing? Make time for the educational programs and resources available to you because you are worth it!

      • JoAnn on June 30, 2021 at 6:06 pm

        Autumn, I like this that you said: “What can YOU do to make YOUR life better that doesn’t include him changing?” That is a very valid point. Any time we hold expectations of someone else making changes in order for us to be happy, it doesn’t work.

  4. sarcy on June 30, 2021 at 3:21 am

    Funny that you say at the end ‘before you get pregnant’. My story is very similar in the sense that I made a foolish choice marrying someone with no foundation. I ignored the red flags and very soon in the marriage he showed his abusive side. 2 years later I became pregnant and right after I delivered our baby girl, my life literally became hell. I could not even believe what was happening to me, the extent of mistreatment I endured right when I became a mom is unbelievable. I separated (legally-after an unofficial attempt) when our baby was only 4 months..
    I have also struggled with my next step and he refuses to talk to me. When I tried to have a civil closure once, he told me he was only interested in our daughter and advised me to move on..even though he has not filed for divorce yet. I became a mom and he discarded me. I cannot even put proper words to my pain..

    • Autumn on July 3, 2021 at 6:10 pm

      Your lawyer can talk to his lawyer. You never need to speak to him again. You are much safer that way. Start today. Start your educational process about your situation. Have you read Dr. Ramona Probosco’s book or Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?”. Watch some of Leslie’s teaching on you tube. It’s all good. Your choice, your life.

      • sarcy on July 14, 2021 at 12:15 pm

        I have read it and it has really helped me. I will continue to watch Leslie’s teachings and other. Thank you!

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