Here is a poem I read yesterday that touched my heart. I hope it touches yours as well.
Praying the Heart
You can only pray what's in your heart.
So if your heart is being ripped from your chest
Pray the tearing
If your heart is full of bitterness
Pray it to the last dreg
If your heart is a river gone wild
Pray the torrent
Or a lava flow scorching the mountain
Pray the fire
Pray the scream in your heart
The fanning bellows
Pray the rage,
The murder and The mourning
Pray your heart into the great quiet hands that can hold it
Like the small bird it is.
—Elizabeth Cunningham, from her book of poems Small Bird
Today’s Question: I am being told that I am being controlling, being the head of the house which leads to witch craft, Jezebel, and antichrist etc. I’m told all I need to do is release the control back to my husband. Otherwise I will reap what I sow.
After money being spent on things that did not need to be spent on and pay checks being spent before I had deposited them in the bank I started to put my pay from work in to a separate account as we have two children who need to be looked after.
My husband is not working. Currently he is being required to stay at another address because of destructive behavior. He believes it is my responsibility to fix up the court breech and if I had just done what he had said at the time none of this would have happened.
He apologizes and I always forgive.
If I don't release the control the person who he is staying with says he will probably move away. We have a 10 & 12 year old and for him to even contemplate leaving I find difficult to understand or is this just further manipulation?
He is due to appear in a few court matters between now and March.
Have you any advice for my situation?
Answer: First of all it’s interesting that you are warned that you are out of line by taking control of your own finances and that if you continue this behavior you will sow what you reap – implying that God will judge you harshly. But your husband can sow repeated abuse, financial instability and insecurity and he’s supposed to not sow what he reaps? How crazy is that?
You are right to be a good steward of the children’s needs and if your husband has been fiscally irresponsible and not working, you must take charge of the money, especially because it is your paycheck you are taking charge of. If your husband was drunk or driving in an erratic way straight off a cliff, would you be wrong to try to get control of the car in order to prevent a catastrophic crash? Absolutely not!
Those who teach that a woman should sit silently and trust God while her husband behaves recklessly and dangerously with the family finances or other matters are not biblical. If she has no options, that’s one thing, but if she does, that’s another. Remember Abigail? When her husband behaved foolishly and denied David and his men food, Abigail didn’t sit passively, and hope that God would somehow protect her. She took action and did the right thing, not only for her household, but also for Nabal. (see 1 Samuel 25 for the story).
Secondly you can forgive him but that doesn’t mean you should trust him. He is not trust worthy. His apologies mean nothing. They are words to get you to soften up, do what he wants and get him out of trouble. Don’t do it. He is out of the house because a court has determined him destructive. That’s the legal consequence of his behaviors. Now he wants you to fix that for him. What about him learning the lessons from this painful consequence of having to live apart from his family.
Third, he’s indirectly communicating to you that if you don’t’ fix things with the court and/or let him control the finances again he’ll move away. That tells you how much he cares about you and his children. He only cares about himself. This may sound harsh but I think it might be a blessing for you and your children if he did move away. He is foolish, irresponsible, unteachable, and unwilling to learn from his mistakes. He thinks because he is a man he gets to call all the shots while behaving recklessly and putting his family’s needs second to his own. That is not what biblical headship is all about. Biblical headship is about sacrificial servanthood, not getting one’s own way. Do you really want that kind of influence around your children?
Last but not least, you need some godly support for the decisions you are making. It’s not easy to be a single parent and I hear your fear as you face your husband’s threats to move away. I hope you have found a good support system and if not, the ladies on this blog would love to encourage you.
It would also be wonderful if you could find a good church that understood the terrible predicament your husband’s behaviors have put you in. Of course you’d love to have your man handle things for you. Of course you’d love to be married to someone who cherished you and the kids and worked hard to support and provide for his family. Of course you wish he loved God and loved you more than he loved his own self. But that’s not what you have and if you want to be healthy, you must live in truth and reality.
It’s easy to slide into wishful thinking, fantasy land, it but it will be harmful for you to go there. Please make sure you are getting the support you need to stand firm and act courageously even when you feel afraid and wobbly.
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Very good answer to the situation! This man is quite manipulative and he doesn’t really know the meaning of love. It’s all about HIM and not about being a responsible husband and father. How shameful! I have relied on Leslie’s advice on this blog and in her books to keep me on track with my agenda of boundaries and consequences. Stay on track with your plan and when you find yourself weakening even a little bit, come back online and re-read messages on this blog until you have your courage and resolve again! That’s one thing that helps me. Knowing others understand and confirm your plan of action certainly makes a difference.
Leslie, Your answer is spot on. Any man who would threaten to move away because you won’t do what he wants-well, don’t let the door hit him in the fanny on his way out. I encourage this lady to do everything that has been written here. Find support, a good church if you don’t already, ask God for strength, direction and confidence. She has done exactly what she needed to do in setting boundaries. I applaud your efforts and will pray for you
my husband is controlling as well. he says he is a believer and he talks like one but the fruit in his life says otherwise…he plays the blame game in the relationship. he has been verbally and emotionally abusive, he does not work, in terrible debt and tends to use me to his advantage. I had to get out…I have lots of support from my church family, but most people see the relationship as futile, unless God intervenes.
Great answer from Leslie as ever.
The above comments are also further encouragement. As women, we try so very hard to do what is right, live by biblical truths, and nurture our family. When we must make decisions that go against the grain of our natural tendencies and belief system we feel conflicted. We question ourselves and our instincts. We must care for ourselves and children when the husband/father is not.
If we question ourselves we can always “check our motives” as a way if determining truth.
A good support system is invaluable. Best wishes to all
A very good point Linda – decisions like these often seem to go against our beliefs and values, but I heard someone say the other day that even God valued His people’s safety and told them to leave when it was prudent to do so (Mary & Joseph come to mind and there are many more). I’m in a position where I need to make a decision of that nature myself, and it is very difficult since I want to do God’s will and not just listen to my human nature.
Excellent answer. My husband seemed great to everyone else but was a different person at home. I finally discovered his double life with numerous women which made it very easy to decide to separate. Yours is foolish, too and, like mine, unrepentant and tries to look good to friends at our church which, in turn, makes me look bad because I know the truth and want out. It’s crazy making and it will never change. My son is now 15 and a gentle soul because I got him away soon enough. It’s much easier to see him, limited and at a distance.
Stay strong; find a supportive church and group of friends where you can be heard and understood, not just tolerated. I found great support at the local domestic violence center. Let Jesus be your backbone.
Seriously?!? Reading that question from this woman/mother makes me furious at the “guy she is married to”. I can’t even bring myself to say husband, that would imply that he does something, anything in the marriage to contribute. So sorry, this must be very difficult. I am so glad you are taking steps to take care of yourself and your children. Bravo, that is wisdom. Good Advise Leslie!!!
I was encouraged to do everything written in the book Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl. This is what the husband expects a wife to be. Please review that book sometime Leslie, it has affected many a “stay at home mom” and homeschooling mother. It pretty much says that the wife holds all the keys to a successful marriage and home. Obedience in all circumstances. I’m still recovering from it’s wacky message.
I have read it – years ago and that was one of the reasons I had to start speaking out. The popularity of that book is huge and although it has some good things to say, it is very destructive to women in abusive marriages.
I was given that book as a wedding present, when I was 17 years old. I was raised in a church were those ideas were implied, but never discussed in detail so their words rang true to me. Only now, sever years later, can I see just how detrimental some of those things were in my marriage and my life. I thank God for allowing a way of escape for my son and myself, but I am also grateful for a few Christian leaders willing to speak up and speak the truth – the future of our Christian marriages depends on it. There are young people out there seeking to live for Christ and many are susceptible to such misconceptions unless they hear the truth from us.
This is very similar to my story with the exception that I have 2 girls. He left the state for 1.5 years. It has been tough but God has provided over and over again.
Sometimes we want our relationships to work so much, we need a break — from our destructive lives, to see a true picture of what we are tolerating. It was very difficult for me to get to the place, where I could leave. But everyday now is filled with an absence of chaos, stress, control, power over and rage, and it is so wonderful!! I wish my husband would have chosen differently, but it was important for my own safety and sanity- to move on, and take care of me and my family. I am healing, as my children are, and learning how great a safe environment feels. I find myself ‘smiling’ on a regular basis now. I wish the same for you!! God has a plan for your escape, ask Him for it. !!! He is waiting, to unfold it to you. Just ask Him!!
Absolutely spot in advice, I remember being in this situation it was do confusing. I would hit the deck with stress and my beautiful sisters would come and pray and love but the truth is they didn’t know how to support me and the distruction would continue. You stand strong girl! That jezebel stuff is taken way out out of context by so many Christians. Lots of love and prayers from me. Trust your instincts God put them there for a reason.xxx
Thank you for all of your insight and support. I am focusing on staying healthy for my kids who are blessing from above. God will help me with strength and courage, I really appreciate your prayers and comments. Once again thank you I don’t feel so alone anymore.
Leslie’s response to this woman is spot on, assuming that the woman’s account is accurate. I have no reason to doubt her story, nor do I have cause to doubt that her husband is self-centered, manipulative louse.
But this assessment is limited because it is one-dimensional. We know nothing of the man’s point of view. We cannot determine if our dear sister (and I say that because I, by no means, want to malign her character) is prone to recounting events with total objectivity, or given to fanciful tales of distortion and outright fantasy. We just don’t know.
Okay, full disclosure here: I am one of those poor excuses of a husband who has to deal with the fallout of my sin. Change a few details, and this letter could have been written by my wife. In fact, I have seen similar letters that my wife has written to others, including to Leslie.
And although many facts were twisted, while others were completely made up, much of the ugliness was true. Of greater harm is what was missing from that account: that a marriage is made up of two sinful people, who both need to deal with destructive issues, and it ignores (in my case) the marvelous redemptive work that Christ can do in those same sinners’ lives.
In our situation, it has been nearly 14 years since my sinful destructive behavior wreaked havoc on our lives. I have been far from perfect since then, but there has been no repeat, despite my wife’s public accusations otherwise. She has allowed anger, bitterness and fear to rule her life to the point where it has alienated the children from her, as well as others. She seeks out validation for her rage from others, who only hear her distortions. When they eventually figure out that the reality is not what they’ve been told, she moves on to others who tell her what she wants to hear.
I didn’t mean to preach, nor invalidate this woman’s heartache over a difficult marriage. I simply wanted to point out that in a situation such as this, one can only draw limited conclusions. The bigger picture is simply not available.
Thanks Steve for your input here. There are always two sinners in every relationship. The problem isn’t just the sin, it’s the blindness to the sin and the unwillingness of one or both of the parties to own it, confess it, and get help to change those destructive patterns. Both of my books, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, as well as How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong address how we respond to sin can also be sinful and we need to take responsibility and own our own bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. Building CORE strength is one particular chapter in my new book that addresses how a woman may turn abusive herself within an abusive and/or destructive marriage.
I’m not sure I understand the part about there always being two sinners in a relationship. My husband and I were both Christians, but he chose another way. He also used the Word against me to show me how I was to be submissive; obey him; and meet his desires. I tried to stand up to the abuse, but what I heard from the pulpit sounded so much like what he said at home. It all just got twisted in my mind until I was brainwashed. I stayed for 4 years believing that was my Christian duty. I’m attempting now to go back and untwist all those lies – to live again. Maybe by sinful you me subject to sin or imperfect. That I will admit. I was imperfect, but I was following God to the best of my ability.
What I meant by two sinners in a relationship is that there is no perfect person. If someone wants to point the blame at you for something, there will always be something they can find fault with and that is often what happens in couples counseling. If YOU wouldn’t have done that I wouldn’t have acted that way. Hope that clears it up.
I do understand. Thank you.
Steve, since you admittedly relate so well to this woman’s husband and propose that you have made changes . Perhaps you could describe what you have learned is a real husband in the eyes of god. What does real sacrificial headship look like in this real world and what it doesn’t look like. I believe that would be beneficial for this sister to hear so that she can learn what is healthy and what is subjugation. To this sister , you are courageous and you have discernment, even though you are having difficulty putting this crazy making into words. I admire you. You are courageous, you have discernment. Keep seeking god, he will answer you. Be careful finding new churches. I have been to many churches myself that have the same unhealthy view as you have described in this email. Be careful and use your discernment. You can do it. Keep reading all of leslies books and I would recommend a book by Craig s Keener called Paul, women and wives. The author has done extensive research of the treatment of women by society during biblical times and falsehoods of how women are treated in this society. Another great book is by Lundy Bancroft called why does he do that? He identifies the tactics of controllers and manipulators. Again, I admire you my sister for your strength and courage. please keep reading Leslie’s blog for help. she helped me so much and I was grateful to come here and get support.
Steve, this resonates with me. I suffered mental, emotional and physical abuse from my husband and his whole family for over 21 years. The latest incident finally broke him down and he now understands how terrible he was all these years. He’s still not perfect. However, the years of destructive behavior has taken a toll on my mind and body. I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD because of the abuse. My children mock me and taunt me when I have panic attacks (sometimes they are filled with rage, other times hysteria) My husband doesn’t understand why I can’t “just let it go.” Your wife’s behavior isn’t unusual for someone who has suffered ongoing trauma. I’m certain her side of this part of your story will portray something a bit different. She needs your patience and understanding in addition to counseling. You both need to work on this together.
Dear sister, I just want to encourage you and let you know that we are praying for you. Reaching the point that you are even asking these questions means you are already moving toward healing, wellness and health for you and your children. If you haven’t read Leslie’s books about emotionally destructive relationships and marriages, it may be very helpful. I found that most of my friends and those at church really had no idea about these issues. Leslie’s books, reading the Bible in a new and deeper way, a good Christian counselor and simply crying out to God was so helpful to me . . . I actually grew so much spiritually through similar situations. You can get through this and have peace and happiness again. I wish we could all just wrap our arms around you in person. With love.
Just trying to buy a copy of Destructive marriages. I know it is going to take time to heal, God certainly has a plan. I had reached rock bottom and life was terribly painful. It was almost like life had become a set of tasks that I could not get “right” anyway. I could really identify with being a fantasy wife. My situation is extremely complicated and I think the journey is going to take some time sort out. I thank God for brighter days and know my Mum would be proud of me as she looks down from Heaven. In the long run things will be easier I am sure and I just need to take one day at a time. Thanks for your prayers
I read this with tears and painful memories because this “was” my story. I did eventullay leave after 20 years and 4 kids. I too worked part time. It was close to a Joseph story. I worked for a Christian organization and he told them I had an affair after I left him. They let me go because of fear of rumors and “new boss” didn’t really like me. “So” her letter said-her reasons-Paul and Barnabus” could not work together. I lost not only the marriage that I wanted so bad, but the job, house, car, dogs, country home, and all the things I liked having for the kids-pool, land, trampaline..etc DON’T LOSE HEART!!!! keep reading
In support of all Leslie’s wisdom and the other responders to this conversation I will add some wisdom heard from Godly sources “sometimes God delivers us away from dangerous people, don’t chase after them.”
Be encouraged in His strength.
To the daughter of the King, who was told, in error, that she is behaving like Jezebel and controlling her life/husband/family in a sinful way, I would like to share just a few thoughts with you. First, thank God for Leslie and the direct and tough truth she has shared with you. It is difficult to hear and face that the father of your children really doesn’t want to be with you and is only using you as an atm machine and your children as bargaining tools. I was married to a man who never responded in anger, always seemed lovely, but took his anger out in unsafe and unhealthy ways. When all was discovered my husband had contracted various STD’s and had stopped funding our daughter’s college fund (his anger was vented thru risky sexual encounters and in retaliation towards me he punished our child) The church counciled me to stay, advised me that I also was being controlling and to trust God, He was going to change my husband. When my husband left me with a mortgage, private school tuition for two children,a car note and to top that off he was the provider of the health insurance for the entire family! I had no choice but to face the situation, move ahead and make difficult choices, if not for my sake (and many days I just want to curl up in a corner and never leave) for the sake of my children (I was not going to let their father raise them!)My pastor at the time told me I was being vindictive when I asked for child support. Thank God for men and women that He placed in my life to support me and tell me the hard truth. I wish that I had known about Leslie at the time!!
This is a long response, but the nutshell is this: As a woman who was in a similar situation, I say to you, it is not Godly in any way for a husband to manipulate a wife into doing what he wants. Putting you and your family at risk is the ultimate act of selfishness. Thank God you have a paycheck and may He give you wisdom to use it well and may He stretch it. Find (prayerfully) a church that will support you, tell you truth and help you thru this.
I noticed at the beginning of the question the woman states that “she is being told” that she is a Jezebel and antichrist. Later she says that “the person he is staying with” says that her husband will leave if she doesn’t accommodate him. Sounds a lot like the person who is attacking her decisions has been an enabler in her husband’s life, probably for a very long time. I’m guessing it’s his mother.
One really sad part of all of this is the ingestion of bad advice and character assassination this woman is enduring. I so understand how self esteem can be eroded and the ability to think becomes clouded by years of any kind of abuse.
I hope this dear woman can find someone who will verbally affirm her and support her decisions. It sounds like the only voices she is hearing, besides here, are those that are condemning her.When that is all you hear, you begin to believe it.
please just make sure it is all done by speaking the truth in love, for the sake of the Kingdom and the sake of your own heart and the heart of your children. Always take the higher road of truth and love and you and your boys will win in the end and they will understand the love of the Father in heaven and they will see that His ways are powerful and effective and always bring about the greatest good in any situation. I bless you, my sister, with courage and strength to go against what feels like the grain. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Mary-eileen, I am adding this to my book of quotes that I use when I need strength, Thank you for that.
I appreciate Steve’s comment as a balance to what is being shared here. As Leslie replied, there are always two sinners in every situation. Before the Lord, try to understand if there is something you should be doing differently. In a situation like this, you need godly counsel and support, and it sounds like that is not what is being given to her. On the one hand, she needs to “take the high road” and not stoop to his level in dealing with him. On the other, I caution her to guard her heart from the resentment and bitterness that the enemy likes to instill when a person is faced with this kind of abuse. This is not a godly marriage, and it doesn’t look as if he is willing to own his responsibilities as a husband and a father. Without repentance, the Lord cannot change him. What he has done is obviously against the law, so she should excuse him from that? I think not. If even the law says that what he has done is wrong, then unless he truly repents, there isn’t much hope that he will change. If he is willing to walk away, then clearly he does not have a clear sense of responsibility toward his family. I would say, let him go then.
Yes, dear sister. You will reap what you sow. You are sowing Godly discernment and you will reap peace and security. Remember. God has not given you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline.
I hear what you are saying, Sarah. I agree. While we are all sinners – we all have concupiscence, that is different from choosing to lead a sinful life.
Sarah, We are all born sinners, whether it be intentional or unintentional. It is only by the Grace of God and the blood of Jesus at the cross that we are saved. We will all mess up at one time or another. Fortunately, we are not all abusive. So there are always 2 sinners in the relationship. I am not convinced that an abuser has found Grace through the shed blood of Jesus. Otherwise, perhaps they would be showing that Grace instead of demanding their version of submission.
Thank you all for your wise words of wisdom. Your prayers are greatly appreciated in this situation that is very overwhelming. God knows my heart and most of all I pray that my children will come through this journey positively.
My husband is very similar to the lady who’s husband threatens to move away. My husband did actually move away. I took my son and our daughter and moved back home to where I’m from and where I have tons of family and friends support. He got out of the military and moved to a whole different state. He hardly ever asks about our daughter and in his actions and some words, he’s disowned my son whom he promised to love and take care of on our wedding day. I’m struggling with how to start to build my CORE up. I’m being bombarded by texts or calls from him every day. Please pray for strength. Thank you
Tym, Consider yourself being prayed for and your children as well.
God protects those who are near to Him. Stay in his word and pray always for his protection over your life and the lives of your children. God will always provide a way out to protect his children for those who believe. I spent 8 yrs in a verbal and mentally abusive marriage and God showed me the way out. I pray Gods protection over you and your children and always remember you are never alone there are belivers out there who will stand beside you and your decision.
I read your letter and just wanted to respond quickly about one thing. You said in your letter “He apologizes and I always forgive.” That is a good thing but forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean trust and allowance of continual abuse when the pattern has been forged. Take it from me. I have been married to a very messed up man for 35 years. There have been some breakthroughs but eventually he reverts back into familiar destructive thinking patterns. I have managed to keep it together not by being passive but by completely transforming myself. Going from passive to courageous. Feeling sorry for myself and the situation to becoming proactive in caring for myself and my children. Hoping people will rescue me to realizing I must do it with the help of others. Learning not to let him make me crazy and cry to getting out and getting control of my emotions before returning. Figuring out that reason has no place in the mind of a twisted person to just dropping useless conversations. This is very hard work and never ending. All this to say that you are actually in a good place in that he is out of your house. Try to distance yourself and children emotionally as much as possible for your own mental health. These people will suck you dry and walk away without the least bit of remorse. I would HIGHLY recommend to anybody out there who is married to this type of unrepentant destructive individual to please please please figure out a plan to escape and execute it. Don’t waste your life.
I just wanted to chime in and echo many of the sentiments here. I married a person who was unsaved and I always felt that it was my duty to stay in the marriage because God hates divorce.
Leslie is so right that many churches unwittingly and mistakenly offer the wrong advise for emotionally abusive relationships and does not have experience in confronting these issues.
After 3 kids and 17 years, my husband wanted a separation. After counseling, Christ centered mediation (Peacemaking) and court ordered mediation, it all still comes down to the same thing: if I don’t give him what he wants, I am the one being unreasonable and uncooperative. The church was complicite in allowing me to continue enabling behavior by negotiating with someone who was never interested in negotiating, just wearing me down until I give in.
It has taken me years to realize that the negative tapes playing in my head were not true. I remember distinctly that God revealed a plan for me in my life that was not “acceptable”. I was to go through a time of separation. But He would be with me. God will never leave you or abandon you. I really do believe that. Cry out to Him, when you are at your wit’s end and He will be there for you and will lead you.
After realizing that even my separation was going to have to be something that I would have to orchestrate, I finally filed for divorce. I never thought it would come to that and yet, given all the red flags, it is the only constructive thing I can do to protect my kids and myself.
Don’t listen to those voices that say you are controlling, vindictive, uncooperative when you take the time to pray, meditate on Scripture and listen for God to tell you what to do. God’s guidance will fit. It may not be easy and may even be emotionally devastating at times, but it will bring you a sense of real peace.
I am Standing Firm in His Grace!
Just wanted to share this poem I found…… you and me
the world knows a different you you tell them i’m crazy and they believe it too why shouldn’t they – you’re so gentle and kind they don’t know what goes on in your mind.
if i told them that there is a different you a person they would loathe if only they knew they’d probably think that i was to blame and i’d only be putting myself to shame
cos emotional abuse leaves no scars they can see you are not breaking bones – you are breaking me you trample the core of my being – deep inside taken away my dignity, my respect and my pride.
i can’t wait for your leaving in the morning and dread your return at night being around you makes me edgy just waiting for the next fight
what will i be ?- a slut or a bitch? useless and ugly and an evil witch? or will it be i’m just a cheap whore someone nobody loves anymore?
or will you ask me what i did with my day and then not listen to what i say waiting to accuse me of lies and deceit saying i slept with every man on our street
will you throw out the meal i prepared for you find fault with every single thing that i do will you punch me with words so hard that i cower all in an effort to gain control and power.
or will you resort to threats of violence and death i wish i could tell you to just hold your breath………..
cos you cannot kill someone who no longer exists who died a slow death caused by words and not fists.
its always the same ending after a fight you expect me to make love all through the night when all i want is to be left alone and in peace in a happy place where the hurting can cease
in this dysfunctional relationship that you call love you torture me daily without a push or a shove but the hurt cuts deeper than gashes and bruises could and my heart bleeds more than my body ever would.
for time will never heal the scars that i bear i just bury them deeper year after year and change to who you want me to be it makes it far easier than me being me
Laura du Toit – 2009
This poem was marriage as I knew it. Thank you for sharing.