Developing Strength in a Destructive Marriage

Happy Monday Friends,

I decided I needed the weekend off. NO writing. No working. You know what I did instead? I threw out about months of old catalogues that have accumulated. I shopped for Christmas. I ate out. I pulled all my spring and summer flowers out of their vases and thought about what to replace them with that looked more wintery. Can you believe my silk forthesia branches were still in a red glass vase on my dining room table? I’m embarrassed to tell you.

I also went back to the gym (haven’t seen the place in 8 months). My treadmill helped, but I still ended up with a bit of a book butt sitting and writing all day and all weekend. People think writing is glamorous but honestly writing is just plain hard work. You can’t think about decorating or shopping or playing when you’re writing. At least I can’t.

Today I’m going to share with you a little except from my new book (chapter 8) that has to do with building up your core strength. Here’s the tentative title my publisher has selected. Let me know what you think.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope

• Why the Problem Isn’t Yours—But the Solution Is

• When to Fight for Your Marriage and When to Let Go

• How to Make Necessary Changes and Move Toward Healing

Many of you reading this blog are in destructive marriages. You are tired. You’re confused. You’re afraid. You have no idea what to do to change your marriage but you notice that you’re changing. You are not the person you used to be, and perhaps not the person you want to be. You don’t like what’s happening to you. I want to give you four steps that you can practice that will help you gain CORE strength.

My friend Barb’s beach house is a little slice of heaven on earth. Her home away from home is built right on the boardwalk and I can sit on her balcony and watch the dolphins play. I love the salty air, the ocean breezes and all the foods I don’t normally eat, like extra cheesy Manco and Manco pizza and lemon Polish water ice. Barb and I get up early in the morning before it gets too hot and take our five mile power walk up one end of the boardwalk and down the other. The last morning of our mini vacation was exceptionally hot and ten minutes into our walk I was already drenched in salty sticky sweat, my hair matted close to my head. When we completed our five mile trek, Barb turned toward me, her hair still fluffy with her skin only slightly glistening and said, “Leslie, I’ve noticed you’ve been slouching.”

Slouching? Really? In this heat, what do you expect? I thought to myself. Barb’s words stung hard but I knew she was right. I had exercised most of my adult life but over the past few years admittedly I had gotten lazy and I guess it showed more than I noticed, not only in my waist line but in my posture. When I returned home I called a gym and made an appointment with someone who could help me.

The following week I reluctantly met with Chris, a young, burly fitness trainer who pushed me through a battery of tests and finished our evaluation by whipping out a camera. Already I felt old, frumpy, and fat but it got worse. You know the saying a picture doesn’t lie. The truth was right in front of me. My shoulders slumped, my belly pouched out, my back swayed and my neck and chin somehow jutted out from my shoulders in a most unflattering way—and I worked hard to stand up straight when he took the picture. Chris turned to me eyebrows raised and said, “You need to build your core.”

“What’s that?” I asked, dreading his response.

“Your core muscles wrap around your abdomen and back and they support your spine and keep you balanced and stable,” Chris said. “Bottom line, a strong core keeps you from slouching and looking old.” Then he asked, “Are you ready to get to work?”

“Ummm, let me think about this for a few days,” I stammered, anxious to bolt out of there as soon as possible.

After a good cry, I realized I was faced with a tough choice. I was either going to work hard to strengthen my core muscles or I could continue to do nothing and become fatter and more slouched. I didn’t like those two alternatives. I wanted Chris to tell me that there was a third choice, I could take, a massage I could get, something that didn’t hurt and was easier than working out with weights three times a week. But that wasn’t one of my options if I wanted to improve my core, my weight, as well as my overall body alignment.

If you’re in a destructive marriage, you know that you have some difficult choices in front of you. Believe me. I know change is hard and sometimes we’re only motivated to change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than our fear or pain of making the change. You can choose to grow stronger through this destructive marriage or not, but if you choose to do nothing understand what it will cost you.

Your emotional, mental, and spiritual core will get weaker and weaker, curving inward until your entire personhood is out of alignment. Sacrificing yourself by allowing someone to sin against you to keep peace in your marriage is never a wise choice, not for you, not for your husband, not for your marriage. God calls us to be biblical peacemakers, not peacekeepers, or peace fakers.

Whether you’re in a destructive marriage or not, these four core strengths are essential to build and maintain good mental, emotional, spiritual and relational health. I will use the acronym CORE to help you remember what they are. With God at our center and with his help we will choose to be:

C I will be committed to truth, both internally in my own heart and mind and externally. I refuse to pretend.

O I will be open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, teaching me, maturing me, and guiding me into his way of living my life.

R I will be responsible for my own responses to destructive behavior and commit to being respectful without dishonoring myself.

E I will be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me.

Marital adversity not only reveals character, it shapes it. You have a choice about how that shaping is taking place right now. When you know and believe that you are a loved, valuable, worthwhile human being and live from that core place, toxic people lose their power to manipulate you. They can’t control and intimidate you as they once did when you felt worthless, dependent and needy.

If you don’t strengthen your core you will always live from your circumstances and your emotions. On the other hand, when you live from your core, your abusive/destructive husband might permanently damage your marriage, but he cannot destroy you.

Don’t forget, your CORE reflects who you are or who you want to be not just what you do.


  1. Wendy on December 6, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    That was an amazing incouragment to me today!
    Thank You

  2. Judy Hewitt on December 31, 2012 at 3:15 am

    Thanks for this post Leslie…this is so true. I have just finished leading a small group study with Kay Warren`s guide: Choose Joy. This study was a reminder that we can choose to live each day joyfully because of God`s Love and Holy Spirit. This will be my motto for the New Year.

  3. Rae on January 2, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Wow, I sure wish I had this information four years ago when I thought I was going to die if I spent one more day with my husband who was so disrespectful and irreverant toward me and our marriage that I literally thought he was demon possessed. I ended up divorcing him in a messy mud slinging battle, but recently made a quality decision to pray for my ex husband daily and to never utter a harsh word to him again. He is so stunned, he doesn’t know what to do. His heart is still hard toward me and he blames me for the divorce, but I have peace and confidence that I am more than a conqueror in this situation. This information, however, can help with those (WTHeck) moments I still have when speaking to my ex-husband – whom I share three daughters with. It also helps me have more compassion for myself and my husband for the past five years of hell we lived in. Thank you and God Bless you for this ministry.

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