I Feel Guilty I Feel So Good That He’s Gone

Morning friend,

Well, we’re into a brand new year. I always love turning the page in life. A new day, a new month, a new year. Each day, season, month, and year, is a fresh start. If we’re paying attention, we get to write how the main character of our story (us) shows up. What she does, says, thinks, believes. It’s true we can’t control the other characters in our story, nor can we always control the setting. Bad things happen. But we can pay attention to what we have to learn or change, where we need to grow or heal, and what we need to stop doing so that our story changes. 

We still have a few spots left in our Empowered to Change Group coaching program that starts next week and runs through June. If you’d like help, support, and accountability to make this new year a new chapter in your life story click here.

Today’s Question: Well, it happened. My husband's response to my boundaries was unexpected. He smacked my jaw, and I was shocked. He has never done that before. We both decided to have some time apart to sort things out. My main concern was missing his help with my 94-year-old mom who has Dementia and is unable to care for herself. But the LORD has given me strength and I have been able to do ok with Mom. 

My question is, I feel so much peace while he is gone. I am under no pressure to treat him a certain way, I'm not walking on eggshells and I'm not going to bed at night feeling like I'm not a good wife because I really don't even want to talk about or have sex. I would be ok if we were friends in different places. The mere thought of him coming back gives me anxiety. What do I do? I am constantly praying for God's will to be done because I know my heart is deceitful and selfish. But it feels so great to be free! I feel like it's either my freedom or my marriage.

Answer: I’m glad you’re discovering that it’s easier to take care of your mother alone than living with the uncertainty and stress of his moods and behavior. Yet, you’re struggling with the thought, “Is it okay to feel good that he’s gone?” Your internal anxiety about your new freedom is very common among Christian women. It’s hard for you to wrap your head around the reality that God wants you to feel safe and free from fear, especially fear from someone you are married to. 

You are praying God’s will be done. Good. God knows the desires of your heart. God’s will would always be for reconciliation if possible. But for many women in this kind of situation true reconciliation is not possible. Even Jesus didn’t reconcile with everyone who harmed him. 

Yes, your husband can say he’s sorry. Yes, he wants to come home. But that is not repentance, nor does that mean your marriage will be any better. Do you think God wants more of the same sinful patterns to continue at your expense, just to keep the marriage together?

You also mentioned always walking on eggshells, feeling pressure to treat him a certain way, and worrying that you’re not a good wife because you don’t want to be sexually intimate. These are internal warning bells that are telling you something is wrong. Pay attention. What happens if you don’t walk on eggshells around him and just be yourself? What does it mean to just be yourself? Is that okay? Or do you have to pretend and lie to keep the peace? Is your “no” respected by him? From this last incident where he smacked your jaw for having a boundary, my guess is it’s not respected. In his mind, and maybe in yours, you must be what he wants you to be. You must do what he wants you to do, and if you don’t, there is a price to pay. But is that what God wants for you? For any person in a marriage? No. That’s the opposite of what God wants or who God is.

Marriage was created by God for our good. For a man and woman to experience a safe, loving, and trusting relationship. To flourish together and help children from this union grow in loving safety so they mature and flourish. Because we are all sinners, things go wrong. We mess up. All marriages and families contain elements of sin and suffering. God’s will in these instances is for us to see our sin, name it, understand the impact of our sin on others, repent, and stop. God wants the relationship to be repaired and safety and trust restored. However, when the sinner ignores the impact of his or her sin on the other, and continues repeating that sin against the other, there is no restoration, no reconciliation. Safety and trust continue to be fractured (Matthew 18:15-18).

God’s will is for you to live in relational peace (1 Corinthians 7:15; Romans 12:18). Not just have peace but to live in peace. He calls us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peacefakers. (Matthew 5:9) Living now, without the drama in your marriage, without being under the expectations of your spouse feels like peace and freedom to be yourself. To lovingly be you, care for your mother without fearing his demands or reactions. 

Last, you say you know your heart can be deceitful and selfish. That’s true for us all. Ask God to search your heart because he knows you best, to see if any part you of you plays a part in these destructive interactions or dynamics in your home so you can grow through this (Psalm 139, 23,24). Without knowing you, I can’t say. But working with thousands of women who share your story, my hunch is that the biggest part you’ve played is overaccommodating your husband’s demands until you can’t or won’t, believing doing so is the definition of a good wife. But what if a good wife is someone who fiercely loves her husband enough to stop enabling his sin by being passive (and labeling it Biblical submission or respect)? What if a good wife is a warrior for her husband’s well-being and loves him enough to tell him the truth about how his behaviors impact her and/or their children? 

Here’s a big warning sign that clarifies what’s going on in relationship struggles. When you tell someone how his behavior impacts you and he doesn’t care and believes he’s entitled to do as he pleases with no consequences, the relationship is broken. The person is not healthy because he is not in a relationship with a person to love, he is in a relationship with an object to use, and when the object (you) refuses to cooperate, he feels entitled to punish you. 

Think about how your husband processed his smacking your jaw when you had a boundary. Without words, he said, “That’s not allowed. I will punish (smack) you for not doing what I want.” After it happened, he did leave, so maybe he’s reflective and thinking, “I shouldn’t have punched her.” But the physical smack isn’t the biggest problem. What drives his behaviors (smacking in this instance) is his deep-rooted belief that you SHOULD always do what he wants. When you don’t, you should pay. Maybe he will never smack you again, but if his internal beliefs don’t change, you will still live without the freedom to be yourself, to have boundaries, to say no, and to speak the truth. You feel so good now because you’re out of that cage. God does not want you go to back to that cage. He loves you. He also loves your husband but that doesn’t mean he gets a pass to harm God’s daughter. 

Is it possible to rebuild a healthy marriage? Time will tell, but it can ONLY happen if you stay honest with yourself and him (I like being safe and free). And if he’s willing to get healthy. To do the hard work of examining his beliefs and changing his behaviors when he’s disappointed that you don’t want to do what he wants. Just because he’s the husband does not mean he always gets what he wants. 

Friend: When have you struggled with anxiety and false guilt when you’ve separated and what did you do to process it?

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17 Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott on January 3, 2024 at 10:49 am

    I completely understand the difficulty you are experiencing. I had a similar situation. I noticed how peaceful I felt when he was away for work, and dreaded him coming home. This lasted a decade. It wasn’t till he asked me to tell the kids he had never abused me that I decided I couldn’t pretend ours was any kind of Christian marriage. I started researching what abuse was and realized I was being abused (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually), and it was not ever going to get better. He had hit me before, so I was able to get a restraining order. The day he was served it, I went home (had the police meet me there to make sure he was not hiding in the house). I made dinner for my kids and we all sat down to watch a TV show together, something we hadn’t done in over a year. That night, I went and slept in my bed without fearing what might happen in the night. It was glorious. Sometimes, our emotions CAN and SHOULD be listened to. They are telling us what we need to know.

    The other thing I would say is that God cares more about you than he cares about your marriage.

    • Denice Martinez on January 4, 2024 at 9:08 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Caroline. You were wise to protect yourself and your children with the boundary of the RO. I too have a current RO in place for my husband. It’s been six months. He just moved into an apartment and is for the first time in his life, living on his own. I unfortunately see narcissistic behaviors in him so there are so many other layers of pain and trauma to deal with. My husband was a victim as a child, and he has maintained that mindset his entire life. I have to live in truth and abide in God. While there are still lots of challenges, I do not walk on eggshells anymore. We do not fear what we will have to deal with when my husband comes home drunk at whatever time he decides to come home. It feels strange but good to be free. I’m grateful that you are free as well.

      • Caroline Abbott on January 4, 2024 at 4:57 pm

        Thank you Denice. I am glad you are free as well!

      • Mary Drontle on March 5, 2024 at 10:43 am

        The part that really hit me here is
        “What drives his behavior is his deep rooted belief you SHOULD always do what he wants.
        When u don’t you should pay.

        Now temporarily changing a behavior is one thing most of us see occasionally but this is much more scary.
        Cause it says shut up and put up as a threat.
        If you don’t. You will pay.
        That could take years to uproot that giant
        unless he has a total heart change which Leslie says
        He would be saying
        I don’t like the man I am at all anymore.
        With you or without u I am getting help to change myself.
        Physical abuse usually escalates.
        Like she says here. They don’t like boundaries.
        Maybe this freedom is from God

  2. Sally on January 4, 2024 at 9:02 am

    I can 100% relate to the feeling of peace when my husband was away from me. It was only when he hit me did I realize I was in an abusive marriage. But the signs were there long before that day. I like the “pay attention” from this blog- every single thought and feeling- captivate and pay attention.

    This may be a pivotal point for you- I know it was for me. And actually thanked God for it- because it opened my eyes. I picked up Leslie’s book: “ Emotionally Destructive Marriage,” and put the pieces together. You are also likely going through some deep reflections and will come out stronger. Your husband will see a different woman going forward. I told myself that I’m no longer calling him “honey” because he lost that title. Time to build spiritually and mentally. I would now put on the armor of God, empowered with scripture, love my enemy, but pray for discernment as I guarded my heart.

    Several years later, I made the decision to divorce because things did not get better. It is soooo peaceful to be away from him. I’m not worried about his reactions, I don’t have to look at his made face, he is no longer controlling my thoughts, and there is no more silent treatment!! I can speak freely without his snare. It’s like breathing new air. I’ve re-kindled my quiet time with God every night without him yelling at me that the house is dirty… and so much more.

    Courage will prevail when we honor the daughter God made us to be.

    • Sara H on March 5, 2024 at 1:30 pm

      Love that last sentence!

  3. Kim on January 4, 2024 at 10:43 am

    I experienced fear and false guilt when I first fled my marital home and took refuge at my mother’s house. As the weeks passed, that fear was replaced with a sense of freedom, safety and resolution. I knew I could never return to my former life of daily destruction. Despite the pleadings and misunderstanding of my adult offspring, I trusted that the Lord would continue to show me a path forward, not backward; and He has continued to lead me through the rough currents to quiet waters for the past two years! Thank you Lord. He will do the same for you, if you allow and trust Him.

    • Cheryl Collins on January 4, 2024 at 2:44 pm

      Kim, you just wrote my story! How long have you been gone? Are you divorced? I left my home and have lived with my parents for 4 months now. The peace is unbelievable! I do have times of guilt about turning away from him.
      How did you deal with your adult children?
      Cheryl

      • Maria on January 5, 2024 at 7:52 pm

        Hi, I’m not sure what was meant by “turning away from him”. Assuming it was in reference to your husband, I can’t help but flip the situation about who actually did the turning away. I don’t think one would need to separate if the other spouse had not don’e the “turning”. In the first place/ We should not be the ones feeling guilty for seeking self preservation from a relationship or person that was detrimental and destructive. If we were faced with danger in any other situation no doubt we would turn away and run ( instinctively) are we supposed to react differently in our marriages?

      • Kim on March 6, 2024 at 9:41 pm

        Just seeing this two months later Cheryl. I would encourage you to visit Dr.David Clarke’s website and to watch his YouTube programs. They should give you guidance and help you develop a plan forward. God bless you on your journey forward toward guilt free peace and resolution!

  4. Dana on January 4, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    I have left my husband more than once but always ended up returning, so the sense of failure (when his negative behaviors returned) is awful. Additionally after years of built-up emotions, my body said “enough!” I was bedridden for weeks. Thankfully I was able to get OUT of that sick bed and began slowly healing. So it’s taken the last 3 years to recuperate and recover. I have a little further to go,, but at least I’m heading in the right direction! At times, I feel sad and disappointed in myself for not staying gone, but at the same time I am now optimistic about what the future holds. I know that I could only have done what I did at that time. And honestly it was better to be with my husband than my mother during the covid “lockdown”. God’s grace was there, hallelujah. And one of the best things? We found a church that didn’t comply, and that means God’s word is taught unapologetically! This has made such a difference for myself and my daughter. She turns 20 in April. Anyway, there is much more I’m thinking, but I want to be brief. So, if you’re enjoying peace, I say ENJOY! Pray for your husband of course and care for your mother and*by all means* care for yourself! Stay in the Word and ABIDE IN CHRIST.

  5. Missy on January 4, 2024 at 2:44 pm

    The return of peace to our home that happened instantly when my husband left was a gift. It was a clear demonstration of God showing me there was a different way to live. I’m so very grateful.

  6. LaLa on January 4, 2024 at 5:57 pm

    I had my husband leave 9 months ago because he beat our son and left significant damage to his body. It was the final straw for me. He has an apartment. He wants to come back but I no longer have that blind trust that I always gave him after every abusive incident over the past 13 years. Something broke in me. I had what many would say is an emotional affair unfortunately. No sex, no sex talk, no future relationship talk, we worked out together and would occasionally watch a movie over the phone and talk about how our day went. Bottom line is, it was still cheating b/c I wasn’t giving that attention to my husband. I didn’t want to to be honest. He is soo mean unless he stands to gain something from being nice. He found out of course and still wants to work on things but I still do not trust him. Although I do have feelings of love for him and I feel like we are still one in a few ways. I feel extreme guilt as a result. I have no courage to leave him and I feel sorry for him. But I can’t imagine living in that hell hole with him again. Reading this post helps me. It was like a drink of water… Thanks for sharing.

    • Kim on March 6, 2024 at 9:32 pm

      Please do not go back. It is unsafe for you and your son. Replace the false guilt with peace, assurance and satisfaction that you are demonstrating strength and care for yourself and your son.

  7. Maria on January 5, 2024 at 7:57 pm

    Oh dear sisters, I do not feel one ounce of guilt for being able to live my best life. No more oppression, no more depression, no more financial abuse, lies, betrayal. God wants us to thrive and be blessed so we can be a light and salve for others. What’s there to feel guilty about that?

  8. Maria on January 5, 2024 at 7:59 pm

    Oh dear sisters, I do not feel one ounce of guilt for being able to live my best life. No more oppression, no more depression, no more financial abuse, lies, betrayal. We need to learn to enjoy the blessings of peace and stability without guilt.

  9. Kim on January 19, 2024 at 6:11 pm

    Caroline, that peace and sense of freedom is God’s gift to you. This June will be six years since I left and divorced my ex after 32 years. I too, felt like I shouldn’t feel this since of relief for leaving, but over and over God reassured me it was ok to feel it. Oh, I argued with God for years that it wasn’t right for me to leave. That I needed to honor my marriage at all costs. I didn’t have a plan when I left (everyone who knows me, knows I’m a planner) and wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I packed up my personal belongings into my vehicle and left everything else behind. I was able to stay with a friend for about 6 weeks while I looked for a place to live. God’s hand was in it all. He provided all I needed. The first few years was rough financially, but God provided me a second job and the strength and endurance to work it until I no longer needed to. Though they were some difficult times, they were also the best. I was free to be me, to find out who me was and I was able to truly focus on pleasing and getting to know God more personally than ever before. Just remember, we find our freedom in Christ. So embraced it and work on becoming the person God meant for you to be!!

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