My daughter married an abusive liar. Can she get an annulment?

This week I’m in cold and not too sunny Florida trying to get a little R & R with my husband and sister and husband. This week’s question again poses a very interesting dilemma.

Question: My daughter was married almost a year ago. Her husband induced her into a fraudulent marriage. He made promises which were non-negotiable to her. He promised the same to my husband and me before we agreed to give our blessing. He later admitted that he didn’t actually mean what he promised, and not surprisingly he has been abusive, deceitful, and consistently lying since the honeymoon. They did go to counseling and after 4 sessions the Christian counselor (who is highly regarded) told my son in law that he felt he needed individual counseling and that my daughter was doing all she could do, and that he is clearly abusive and needed to work on his misconceptions about marriage and relationships. At that point he refused to ever go back to the marriage counselor.

They have only lived together for 3 months (in hotel rooms and in our home). He left her after she refused to find an apartment with him because she was afraid to be alone with him. She’s been trying to work on their marriage but he has now taken a job for the next 7 months out of state (not through necessity-but desire) without even telling her.

My question is this: She would not have married him had he been truthful in the beginning and she has been assured by a lawyer that due to this level of fraudulent inducement she has legal grounds for an annulment as the marriage is voidable (not religious but civil). She is only 24 years old and her friends are telling her that God doesn’t allow divorce under any circumstances, and that annulment is the same as divorce. My daughter has followed Matthew 18 with her husband and the church but her church friends say, “you are married – that is forever.” They agree he’s a terrible person, but they are insisting that she not take legal action, not to live with him, and simply wait for a miracle. Her pastor takes the same position.

My daughter is losing sleep over this. She is afraid that God will judge her for the decision to leave him. Her counselor tells her to do what God is telling her to do but her counselor has told her very clearly that he doesn’t think there is hope for the marriage, since her husband doesn’t think he is or has a problem.

Our greatest desire is to do God’s will and to not permit our daughter to pursue a course of action which isn’t what God wants. She has been earnestly seeking him and she feels that this is the path that God has cleared for her out of a very bad situation. Selfishly and from a worldly perspective, I just want her away from this man, but I want to be sure I am not justifying my own desire for her.

Answer: This is a terrible situation for you and your daughter and your question has many components. But I want to address your final paragraph first. You say that you do not want to permit your daughter to pursue a course of action which God doesn’t want.

This is your first dilemma. What she does about this horrific situation is not your decision to make. You are her parents and I hope you have a good influence on her, but she is a grown woman and striving to become a healthy adult. Being an adult involves learning to make wise choices as well as praying through her mistakes and problems.

It sounds as if that is what your daughter is trying to do. However, as I read your letter there is a controlling element to her life. Your daughter married an abusive man who lied and is controlling. She attends a church that seeks to control her decision. They are not just giving their opinion, they are speaking as if they know exactly what God wants for her. To me that is very scary.

Your daughter could attend a different church that is biblically sound and conservative and that pastor and congregation may advise her differently. It is not for me to tell you or her what God wants for sure in this situation, other than give you the biblical guidelines to deal with this situation in a wise way.

I think the bigger issue I see here is you and your daughter’s picture of God. The Bible says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7). There are times when we make a decision because after studying the scriptures and prayer, we believe that is what God is telling us to do. The apostle Paul encourages us when he reminds us that God causes all things to work together for our good….(Romans 8:28,29).

Do you believe that God can use her mistake – that she married this man, to bring him glory and conform her to the image of Christ? In the same way, can he use her mistake if she chooses annulment (if that’s the way you end up looking at her decision) to do the same? I don’t think God sits ready to judge us for our mistakes when we make them in faith. The Bible clearly says that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God told the psalmist, “I will instruct you and guide you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8).

I believe if your daughter is truly seeking God’s will, God will show her what to do. But she will have to walk that choice out by faith, not by sight and other's mght not agree with her choice. But she is the one who will have to trust God through that decision, whether she leaves and makes a new life for herself, or whether she stays and waits for a miracle, God will use that time to conform her to his image.

Biblical guidelines for this decision she needs to make are important. You mention 2 Timothy 3 and Matthew 18, but I'd have you take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:15 as well as Deuteronomy 22. I think this particular section of scripture has specific application to your situation because it talks about marriage under fraudulent circumstances. If a man believes that his bride was not who she claimed to be (a virgin), the parents were to bring proof to settle the dispute and affirm the validly of the marriage. However, if it was true, that the woman lied, she was to be stoned. Marriage over.

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