I’m heading off to Nashville this week for the American Association of Christian Counselors Conference. I will be speaking several times on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Please pray for me. Pray for stamina and strength. The week looks to be very busy. Pray that I effectively and powerfully communicate the things God has taught me to this audience so that when they counsel people in these situations, their approach would be different. Pray that I have the opportunity to speak to people individually who might need to hear a word of hope or encouragement.
Don’t forget to watch this week’s video which is Part 2 of “What Does It Take to Heal a Destructive Marriage?”
Today’s Question: My husband is lying to me about so many things. He twists my words, and I have no self-worth. I am in counseling, and we are new empty nesters. I left my job to care for an aging parent and focus on my husband. This is the worst time of my life. My spouse is either having an emotional affair or physical affair. He denies either, yet the computer (email receipts) says otherwise. He has cleaned the house of any and all receipts.
How do I live with someone I do not trust? I am so depressed. Please help direct me.
Answer: I’m glad you have taken the first step and started counseling. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates some of the highest rates of depression are among women who are unhappily married. There is very little you can do to change your husband’s lying, cheating or mind games right now, but there are some very definite things you can do to help your depression and self-worth.
Jesus says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Sometimes when the thing we’ve treasured most is gone or broken, we don’t just grieve our loss, we come unglued. That’s because we have put our treasure in something temporal–something that won’t last. Although your marriage is important and God wants you to have a loving and trusting relationship with your husband, he doesn’t want your marriage or your husband to be your treasure.
In my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, I wrote, “The biggest red flag (that your marriage has become an idol) is when you fall into deep despair or panic when your husband fails to love you well…Any wife would feel disappointed, hurt, and angry. But if you find yourself becoming increasingly despairing, fearful, controlling, or resentful, it’s time to pay attention. Those negative emotions are a good indicator that your desire for a good marriage has become too important…Whenever we are dependent on something or someone other than God, it will always hurt us.”
Therefore the most important work you have to do right now isn’t to salvage your marriage or get your husband to tell you the truth, but to put your marriage in its proper place in your heart and mind and choose God as your treasure, not your spouse or your marriage.
You say you have no self-worth. Why not? Because your husband doesn’t love you like you want him to? Because he doesn’t value you enough to tell you the truth? Why would you allow a mere mortal, a sinful human being, determine your value and worth?
If someone rejects us, lies to us, or doesn’t love us as we want, it surely hurts, but it does NOT define who we are or determine our value. If you gave me an expensive piece of jewelry, like pearls or a diamond tennis bracelet, and I threw it away or never wore it, does that mean it isn’t worth anything?
It’s not our parents or our peers or our partners that determine our worth, it’s God. He defines our value because he is the one who formed us. He is the only one we can count on to tell us the truth about who we are. He never lies. Read Psalm 139 and meditate on it today. Let God tell you how much you’re worth.
Therefore friend, I encourage you to take the opportunity you have while in counseling to work on you and not on how you can get your husband to tell you the truth. You might just find that as you get healthier and less dependent on him, he may do a little soul searching of his own and choose to be more honest with you about what’s going on with him.
If not, then you’ll be strong enough to know what next step you need to take to deal with your husband’s deceit.
Friends, share your stories of how God has helped you with your own sense of worth and negative emotions when your spouse has failed you and your marriage isn’t what you hoped it would be.
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wow, I love this post. powerful words. thank you Leslie.
I agree that when you know who you are in Christ and what he says about you it is a powerful source to preventing your soul from decay. the pain is still there from the ugliness, but there is such a strength, joy and comfort and peace of knowing and believing who I am in Christ. THIS WORLD IS NOT OUR HOME!
I too am weighing the next move in my marriage. so far even knowing who I am in Christ as you have described is not having any effect on my husband. he is still addicted and emotionally and verbally abusive. the deflection, bullying and intimidation are still present. I have done all that I can do with changes within myself. I am carefully weighing the situation and what the next move is. hang in there friend. it is a process..god will lead the way, even though you might not believe that while you are sitting in your hurt and pain and confusion… but he will… your sister in Christ. janet
Well written article! To the precious woman who asked the question…God bless your heart!
I too have a husband who will lie to me and about me to protect his image. The last time this happened I was riveting. I was literally shaking I was so upset. But then a wonderful thing happened!!!! I spent some time with the Lord and he chastised me! I heard the Lord speak ever so softly to my heart that after all the years of struggling, dragging my husband to marriage classes and counselors that I had made this marriage an idol. The Lord was right. This marriage had become more important to me than my Savior and King. I had to relinquish this marriage into the Lord’s hands. Than another wonderful thing happened! Once I was able to do that the pain of all his cruel words and hurtful actions lost it’s hold on me! I thought the pain was because I wasn’t forgiving him although I continually did. The pain was really coming from a lack of order in my own life. God comes first not the marriage.
I know that in the past people had probably given me this advice but I wasn’t ready to let it go. I’m thankful that the Lord got me to a place where I could place the marriage in His hands and allow the Lord to have His rightful place in my heart! When He comes first…the hurtful words and actions find no place to land. I find I have no need to react but can respond with integrity.
Life is so much better! The Lord is true and trustworthy!!
You are living where I am coming out of . My husband has done the samething. It’s hard but you can’t stay in this mind set. Two years before my husbands affair,that he will not talk about and in counciling calls me a lier.two years ,the Lord told me in my heart ” why do you put him before me”and told me to stop. It has been Hell. Until I stopped lessening to all the stuff coming out of my husbands mouth. Until you put your self where God can deal with you. He can’t do anything with your husband. Pray ,pray all the time ask God to shoe you how to handle your self.when we do this God will keep our husband’s off our back.until you are strongI’m praying for you.I understand what your living in sister. Seek the Lord he will show up.Believe Me !
My husband as well has lied straight to my face, is deceitful etc. I’ve gone through a lot of counseling and fortunately I do not believe I am allowing this to determine my “self worth”. The problem I face is how to deal with it as I do know there is no changing him, no confronting him (he denies everything). The one thing it has always done for me is push the anger button. He is also narcissistic so double trouble! My issue is focusing on God and what His will is – I do not feel God wants us to live in destructive marriages and clearly this man does not get it, nor will he. I’ve asked him to go to counseling numerous times over the last 5-6 years and he goes for a session or two and quits. I feel “stuck” as to my next move – well I know what it is – divorce – because no matter what I try, suggest etc (counseling is one main subject) he refuses or comes up with excuses. He is also agnostic so another strike. I just don’t know when or how to “pull the plug” if you will and move on with my life. Any advice here? Thanks
I am recently separated from a narcissistic husbanf and I too felt very trapped and stuck for a long time. What “unsticks” you will be your treasure handmade just for you.
I e learned some lessons from Many women I see here.
Some stay because God is calling them to stay. They are stuck but live there in faith and God provides.
Some stay out of fear for provision or moving on.
Some are wrestling with Scriptural permission to leave.
Some leave bc they or their kids were threatened.
Some left bc they stashed money or had a job and knew it was time.
Others left bc God said so.
I have a leaving story but what really matters is what God is asking you to do in faith, day by day. I believe that no day is a ” stuck” day necessarily… either its a day where I live with difficulty and follow the Lord or its a day where He shows me otherwise and I follow the Lord.
One last thing… as a dear friend told me, “One day you’ll just know”. She was 100% right.
Will pray for you today…
Thanks V for your words. Each day we need to make choices to live in fear or in faith. To trust God or take matters into our own hands. To hold onto bitterness and repay evil for evil or to let go, forgive, set boundaries, stay or get healthy and love Biblically. These choices are there whether we stay or whether we go or whether our spouse stays or goes.
How true, V. I had the “stuck” mentality for so long. Once I finally realized that I didn’t have to do what any man or woman thought the Bible said on the subject and focused on what God said was right for me to do and following His lead the glue I had trapped myself on lost its adhesive affect and gave me a new path without my abuser. He has strengthened me day by day. I owe everything to Him. He has provided all my needs. Only He knows what is in the future, but I am trusting in Him to lead me through whatever he has for me.
LOVE IT described that way!! Yes!!!
I’m sorry for your pain. I want to reach out to you to know someone else is experiencing the same pain from my husbands lies. He acknowledges his lying and has difficulty accepting that I will not budge from my set consequence.
He has repeatedly lied and begged for forgiveness to the point that I finally took a stand and fairly warned him of his last chance. The next morning he lied again! He has been disabled and fully dependent for 3 years. He lies about my caregiving for him and implies it is abuse. I am afraid for my life and will no longer care for him to protect myself. The cost to have 24 hour care is draining our investments fast. Of course, he sees the financial burden as my fault. That I am unforgiving and uses all the scriptures about forgetting, and old things pass away, and all things new, etc……
The scriptures are true, but do not apply to our situation at the moment.
Believe me, I want to run as far as I can away from the oppression in our home, but I do not have peace about it ~ mainly because he is ill and for someone else to manage him and the house would be a nightmare. I feel stuck, maybe by choice. I constantly battle the decision to stay or leave.
My husband has ALS and his life span is unknown and could be 1 month or 15 years.
It was very freeing for me to realize that I was giving our marriage problem and my husband too much attention. I know better, but I guess I kept the focus there so that he may see the problem.
Through these 3 years the Lord always leads me to the solution: Seek My Presence. In His Presence is where I find answers, comfort, peace, joy, and strength to continue. In a depressed state, my flesh tries to keep me from opening my bible or sing a praise. I MAKE myself take some kind of action and He is always faithful to be there. My situation is very difficult. I am unhappy, but ‘in the valley’ God can be found! I need more healing and work to do. I hope you find answers and support from this website and Leslie’s resources towards personal freedom.
My God has been more real to me over the past few years and even more the past few months. He has given me strength and comfort. He has given me everything I need to survive on my own (without a husband). He is changing me for the better. I don’t feel like I am hiding. Hiding and pretending what was true about my life. I was sinking into a deep hole. Now I feel treasured. The X doesn’t treasure me, but I know God does. The X misses me when he can’t figure out how to pay the bills, which he told me yesterday. God loves me if I can’t do anything for Him at all. God is the only husband I need.
PS Leslie, You are being quite the traveler. I will pray for you and the message that you are bringing in your meetings and those who would hear and respond to it. Brenda
This is the first lesson I had to learn also. I have always been a happy person, joyful in the Lord. But, the sorrows of my relationship with my husband began to sink me. It was through a lot of individual counseling that taught me to live under the banner of God’s love for me even if my husband’s banner for me wasn’t love. This has given me a lot of freedom. However, I don’t think my husband appreciates my freedom, in fact he wants to take away my freedom because it gives him more control. This is sad for me, but God continues to bless me and it is very obvious even to my husband. So hang in there and let the joy of the Lord be your strength in each minute.
I was just thinking about my value to God the other day when I found myself struggling with the sadness that comes from not having a healthy relationship with a significant family member. I was reminded that I am a child of God and He’s my Father who loves me beyond what I can imagine, proving that by what he has done on the cross for me and the countless blessings and trials (yes, trials too…because they have caused me to look to God and grow!) I have experienced.
I used to put my marriage relationship (I was dealing with an emotionally abusive marriage) above all else and I think that is a common drive for most women (it’s possibly what was meant when God told Eve the consequences of her sin…”your desire shall be for your husband”). I was ‘right’ that marriage was important and in a family, it is the ‘foundational’ point, but since then, I have come to realize that there is something beyond wife, mother and marriage (all those things are good and to strive to be better is godly). My relationship with God not just the knowledge of the gospel IS the most important and without understanding that, I was putting my marriage, my husband and my kids above God’s rightful place in my life. I still struggle with my agenda and what is ‘good’ and ‘right’ when prioritizing my life, but I am so grateful for the relief and the truth of putting God first, even if I don’t always do it. Counseling, separation, books (like Leslie’s), prayer and God’s Word have all helped me get emotional healing that has strengthened me with wisdom and God’s peace in seeing things how God designed them. I have had to deal with feelings of grief and loss over what my marriage and my family relationships could have/should have been, but it does get easier the more I focus on my relationship with God. Getting to know him, choosing to trust him, thanking him, sharing with him, praising him and surrendering to him have all helped changed my thinking no matter what my husband or family members do. So grateful for the knowledge and clarity that Leslie brings to those of us hurting in emotionally abusive relationships and so grateful for God allowing me to go through it all to see myself and Him more clearly, which puts me in a position to be there for others.
This is such a great topic to talk about, thank you so much for your insight Leslie. This is something I needed to be reminded of.
I have been separated from my husband for 3 1/2 months now, and one of the main reasons I left was because I saw not only his abusive ways escalating but I was starting to lose control over myself when he hurt me.Before moving out I realized that I was putting my husband as an idol in my life and that needed to change, unfortunately I wasn’t able to make that change in my life while still dealing with the day to day emotional and verbal abuse.
For me moving out has allowed me the time and space to really start to deal with this problem in my life. I haven’t arrived yet, but I am already experiencing the blessings of changing my own heart in this matter. When my husband does or says something hurtful I am able to more clearly recognize it as wrong but without over reacting and allowing his sin to become my sin. I cannot change him, but I can make sure that I keep a proper perspective and react to him in a God honoring way. If he never desires to change his heart our marriage will never work, but I’ve learned that I cannot allow the fear of that to control me because at the end of the day God is still in control and only God can change my husbands heart.
This woman doesn’t need counseling, she needs to leave her lying and fornicating husband. The Bible allows you to leave if your spouse is fornicating. Her husband is not asking for forgiveness, he’s denying it. Her husband is not determining her worth. She knows that the Lord wants something better for her because marriage represents Christ and the church. A husband is supposed to love his wife the way Jesus loves the church. Her husband is not doing that! Why shouldn’t she expect that from her husband? you say “Those negative emotions are a good indicator that your desire for a good marriage has become too important”. God created marriage. It is supposed to be good. Marriage should be very important to us. Two are one flesh! You are giving bad advice! You are blaming her reactions on her. Did you ever hear of righteous anger! You are telling her to not be upset, angry, or resentful. Did you ever hear of righteous anger! Would you give this advise to your own daughter?
I have been a Bible Believing Christian for over 30 years and have been married for 30. I have a degree in Social Work too. I would never give this advice to anyone.
Dee – thanks for your viewpoint. I did not say that God didn’t want our marriages to be good but what happens to us and in us when that doesn’t happen? When we fall apart and feel suicidal and depressed because our husband is not loving us like we want, our marriage has indeed gotten too important. If she was strong enough to leave her husband she would have. She is not in that place so therefore she does need counseling to learn how to handle her negative emotions – righteous anger included, in a healthy constructive way and not in a way that damages her own spirit, soul and body which was what she was experiencing. She said she felt worthless, etc.
This was terrible advice Christian or otherwise.
I so wish you had been available to me when I first met or even married my abusive husband. How many mistakes I could have avoided had I heard this type of thing long ago.
I have been married to my husband for 22 years…11 of those spent in marriage counseling. He has been physically, mentally, verbally, emotionally, sexually, spiritually, and financially abusive on some level our entire married life. We are now separated and have been for over a year.
One of the most difficult things that I grappled with during our marriage was his constant lying. He lied from the very beginning and it only increased over time. He lied about big things, little things, things that didn’t matter, things that mattered a lot, etc. He would lie to me, to our children, to his family, to our church leadership, really anyone. He would lie outright, but was also deceptive in hiding things, by omission, or by playing word games to avoid answering the question he knew you were really asking him. He did not consider any of those things lying. He would also lie and say that I said things or did things that I never did. He would claim to have forgotten about things that he said or did, or just deny them altogether.
I can say that living in that environment will drive a person crazy. You never know what is real. You certainly cannot trust your spouse or anything they say. I lived in constant fear of what he was hiding, what was going to happen next, or how much worse things were going to get.
I learned long ago, and not without trying, that there is nothing that I could do that would convince him to change this behavior. Even now, as he claims to be different, and demands reconciliation, and tells me that it is my sin of unforgiveness and bitterness that makes me unwilling to reconcile, he continues to lie routinely.
I read a while ago, that being married to a liar is a little bit like being married to Satan himself, the father of lies. I certainly can attest to that. You are right, I had to take the focus off of my husband and trying to get him to choose to do right, and put my focus on God and what I needed to do and be. I cannot change my husband. I can only change me. That has been my focus in the last year.
I need to conduct myself with honesty and integrity. I no longer focus on trying to get him to do anything. I understand that God is way more offended by his sin than I am, and He will handle it. I just have to worry about doing what is right myself, and seeking after God for myself. I know that I will stand accountable before God for my actions, attitudes, and behaviors. I want my Father to be proud of me. I want to become the woman that God wants me to be.
I am 42 years old and been saved for 33 years. How sad that I am just now beginning to grasp my value to God. My motto this last year has been, “I’m just going to keep walking toward my Father”. He has been faithful to lead me every step of the way.
I really love the Lord and have stuck close to him all these 27 years of marriage. I feel He is the only way I got through it. Yet the truth still remains that a relationship where there is no trust is a stressful way to live. There is a lot of uncertainty in a life with a person with deceptive ways. I think it would be a strain no matter how good your relationship to God is.
If you are ready for divorce, I recommend the book, ‘Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ by Bill Eddy and Randi Kreger.
It gives legal and psychological advice to navigate what will almost assuredly be a high conflict divorce for you. I have not taken the step yet, but the book advises actions to take to position yourself financially and safely before filing divorce. It’s a very good book to share with your attorney as well. I hope it helps.
Thanks so much. I will look into this book. I’m very close to divorce. This has gone on for years and nothing is better other than the more I pray and give it over the the Lord I feel more at peace internally. It’s just an awful situation to live in day in, day out. Thank you so much.
Patricia Evans writes a lot of books on verbal abuse. In this interview she explains the nature and the reason they lie and create so much havoc. Here is the link to the radio interview.
I realize that through the years I have turned a blind eye to my husband’s lies far too often. The hell I have had to pay for questioning him or exposing his lies is great. I believe God is requiring more from me now.
I determine that I will not keep silent next time it happens. When I expose the lie and the backlash begins I plan to stand erect, say “what did you just say?” in an effort to get him to repeat himself and then I will say with authority “that’s nonsense”.
The objectives here are many:
– help him to become self aware (a trait abusers don’t have)
– having him repeat his dishonest statement puts the behavior squarely on his shoulders where it belongs.
– project myself nonverbally as sane and secure in myself therefore trustworthy
– make it less desirable for him to continue the behavior in the future
– make me feel less of a victim and more in control
If he gets really mad then I will remove myself from the argument and kindly state that I will return when he can control his anger at me and that being honest is an important virtue to me.
Thanks for sharing this resource. I like Patricia Evans and her work too. I think she adds a lot of value to the discussion.
Thank you for the link for Patricia Evans. I wasn’t familiar with her work and found her talk helpful.
I have known the X for over 2 decades. A couple of days ago he had the “memory recovery” of an incident that happened as he was a child and now–he is “healed”. He knows why he is violent, angry, verbally abusive amongst other things and I am not buying it at all. He now claims that he was acting like a drunk at age 6 and saying “hey look, I’m Daddy” and Daddy walked in. He says Daddy was playing with all of the other kids and left X out. I have always been told by him and the other siblings that Daddy was an alcoholic, but not ever one bad thing about him. He got drunk and sang Danny Boy. They were very poor, but always happy. He died when X was 7 from pneumonia.
Now suddenly all has changed. I don’t believe him about this sudden revelation or his motives in saying it. He needed something to cover for his behavior and in reality does it really matter why he does it or just that he does? I suppose if he suffered on going abuse as a child he would need healing from those experiences to be able to change. This, if it ever actually happened, doesn’t really sound all that significant or a reason to live a life of abusive behavior. His former spouse also says he was an angry, abusive person.
He says he was seeing a counselor, the 2nd in 3 months, and that she found she has cancer and has to close her practice. He has never told me her name and still won’t. I don’t understand why it would matter if I know who she is especially if he won’t be seeing her any more. I can’t “interfere” with his counseling if he is not being counseled. He claims that I can’t know who his counselor is because I would put my 2 cents worth in. I wouldn’t, nor would any reputable counselor allow it. I no longer believe there was a counselor at all. I have said if there was any hope of reconciliation I would know who that person is and would have access to them to know what they had worked on and what kind of progress was being made. At that point a decision could be made whether or not I would be willing to consider joint counsel. My theory is: give her cancer and kill her off perhaps I would back down. Not happening. Get a new counselor and start all over again.
The lies never stop. Not living with him any longer makes them much clearer. The fog has lifted.
Just want each woman here to know that I am praying for each of you — and ask that you do the same for me. Everything above is the same and the story of my life as well — if it can be lied about it has been. My husband has the image of being a “good guy/Christian leader” in our church and we were in the ministry ourselves for 20+ years. He has stolen tons of money from my business and used it to support a severe pornography addiction — and emotional affairs. I strongly suspect at least one actual affair. Early on in our marriage (according to the Dr.) he brought home an STD to me — his virginal wife (yes really). I have picked up a message/very suspicious phone call a few years ago from a woman as well. He has been tested by nuero/pysch Dr. as passive aggressive/covert narcissistic/pathological liar with DID tendencies as well — and now has the legitimate excuse of frontal lobe degeneration leading to frontal lobe dementia. Have recently learned of horrible abuse in his family that he does not remember and thought that maybe I could forgive (yet again) and start over once I had that answer as to “why”. I tried again to forgive, get him help and try to make it work while being “obedient” to God. These words that I read in this column have played over and over in my head the past year — Does God love me more than He hates divorce? The last 6 months — after catching him in even more lies and more stolen money while he was in counseling — I have finally had the strength to separate and live 100% on my own for the first time in my life. I always had the financial resources to do so……but never the peace to walk away and force him to support himself. He did not work for 10 years……no health issues to prevent it that long at all he just thought I was making plenty of money so he could quit since he could no longer do the job he wanted to do (fired for lying after 15 years). I have been married almost 40 years and stayed because I SO wanted to believe it would get better and that my prayers would be answered. Now I feel that so much of my life, energy, ministry calling and joy was wasted on this man. I still want to believe God had a reason that I will understand someday…………but I sincerely regret having made my marriage the “idol” mentioned above. My only happiness in this marriage has come from God, my children, grandchildren and ministry. I love my family with all my heart and they were often my excuse to stay — but they are also being pushed away by him and his actions. I thought I would never divorce him even if I could not live with him any longer. But he continues to do everything he can to destroy me financially — especially now that it is the only damage he can really do — so he may ultimately leave me no choice. My prayer is that none of you will find yourselves in the same position 20 years from now — whether that means total healing/restoration or breaking free from an emotionally damaging relationship before it is too late. God DOES love you much more than he hates divorce!
So let me get this straight. We are supposed to go on with life and allow our husbands to lie, break agreements, continue to financially betray us, spin and fabricate stories about us and do nothing about it? That we are to ignore all that and focus on God. And that is how we get back our self confidence and worth? And just go on with life as if this isn’t all happening? I’m sorry but these situations cannot co exist. Find me a woman that claims she has any self respect if she allows her husband to continue treating her this way. Clearly you yourself have fortunately never been in this situation.
So If I divorce him I am shamed for not allowing this. I’m to simply turn a blind eye and focus on God and myself. And that’s going to bring me happiness in my marriage?
Without trust the marriage is finished. Without trust there is nothing. No intimacy, no real relationship. Again, find me the woman that has done how you advise and tell me she is happily married.
And I’m sorry but saying I put too much importance on my marriage and that I am dependent on him is insane. My marriage IS extremely important and I am far from dependent on him. God absolutely comes first and foremost but my marriage comes just after him.
You are advising us to do something that simply cannot happen. We made a commitment, and we exchanged vows. Yet these husbands continue to break them and we are supposed to surrender and waste the rest of our lives with these men with no change? There will never be any honest joy in our marriage. And that would put us in a very unhealthy, oppressive environment that will affect us spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. I personally don’t believe that is what God calls us to do.
I agree with this 100%. I had the same thoughts and feelings while reading this. My husband is having an affair. I love God with all my heart and I don’t put my marriage before my relationship with God. But how do I just ignore the cheating and lying and work on myself all the while acting like nothing is wrong in our marriage? Leaves me feeling defeated. How can that be what God wants for me or my kids?