What Can I Do To Save My Marriage?

Morning friends,  

Thanks for all your kind responses last week. Most of us have some trouble creating a new normal to our daily routines and rhythms. This is expected during the crisis, but our body and mind feel it. You may feel disoriented, disorganized, and distracted. It’s hard to focus. It’s challenging to get things done. Uncertainty reigns and we’re caught in indecision, even about what to do next or simply what to make for dinner.  

I find it’s helpful if I turn off the television and social media for most of the day. Also establishing some basic routines of eating and exercising, making my bed, cleaning up my messes and sleeping normal rhythms help with this regulation. Social distancing is necessary but getting outside for a hike or long walk with my dog is also important. I would love to hear from you about what you are doing to stay positive and present.

This week’s question: I left my husband because of his many years of adultery. He said he stopped the adultery even before I left but I don’t believe him. He also said he’s been going to counseling and he opened up to me a few months ago that he was sexually abused by a neighbor for 1 1/2 years when he was 8. I don’t know if I believe him. I want to save my marriage and I’m in counseling. I’m wondering if he’s telling me the truth that he was abused. What’s the next step I need to do to save my marriage? 

Answer: You asked what’s your next step in order to save your marriage. Yet in your short question, you mentioned three times that you don’t believe him. So first you have to ask yourself a question. Do you want to have a relationship with someone you don’t believe or can’t trust? Because from what you wrote, that’s what your marriage has been like.  

Sometimes I sense that there is a hidden expectation for a wife to excuse or erase the consequences of her husband’s sin once she learns of his past abuse. It’s horrible when children are sexually abused (or abused in any way). And that abuse impacts a child’s life, but it doesn’t necessarily turn him or her into an abuser, cheater or liar. Those are personal choices and character issues. You can have compassion for what happened to him as a child and even forgive what he’s done to you as his wife. However, that does not mean you can make a marriage work. A healthy marriage depends on trust and safety. You will need time to see what he does to heal, to grow, to change, and to rebuild your shattered trust. 

From what you wrote, both of you are in individual counseling. I hope you are doing your own work to get healthier and to grow into the woman you are proud of and want to be. However, you can’t save your marriage alone. So my advice to you would be to continue to do your own work and observe whether he is doing his. Over time, if you see that he is healing, growing, and becoming more trustworthy, then perhaps your marriage can have a chance to heal too. If not, then you can stay legally married, even live together, but you will not have a good marriage. That is not something you can control or make happen alone.

I will be doing a free workshop on April 14th on How Long Should You Keep Trying and When Do You Know The Change is Real. I invite you to sign up to participate. Click here to register. I think it will help you see the proper signs of his and your healing and whether or not your marriage can be rebuilt or needs to be released. 

Friends, what has helped you either rebuild broken trust or release a broken marriage? 


  1. Tim on March 25, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    I was married for 2 years to an emotionally abusive wife before I separated from (and eventually divorced) her.

    There were several things that I had to realize before I was capable of taking the steps to end the marriage that her abuse had killed.

    First was the realization that the only times she was capable of showing me any glimmer empathy was in our counseling sessions, and that she hadn’t made any effort to practice the tools our counselor had given us – even during the ‘honeymoon periods’ of her abuse cycle, she would give lip service to the counselor’s thoughts, but would otherwise ignore them in her attempts to continue manipulating me to do what she wanted. Her *lack* of effort showed that she was either unwilling or unable to be my partner and my equal and that I couldn’t trust her enough to stay married to her.

    Second was the realization that I was a beloved child of God. I was falling apart emotionally, spiritually, and physically as long as I lived my life in orbit around her, walking on eggshells and fearing her explosive rage. Even after I separated from her, the wounds from her abuse lingered and continued to cause panic attacks whenever I tried to make a decision for myself. As her husband, I knew I was called to love her as Christ loved the church – which I mistakenly took to mean that I had to endure all of her abuse without leaving. I had to do the introspection to find the satanic lies about my role in marriage that I had internalized (including from one so-called ‘friend’). I had to protect myself, and I had to do it in a way that didn’t lash out at her in anger. In my case, that was divorce.

    Third was the realization that if I divorced her and later found out that she was truly making the changes that she needed to make in order to save our marriage, then she would eventually be able to forgive me – and, if *I* was also able to heal enough, it would be possible for us to remarry. Divorce isn’t an unforgivable sin.

    Fourth was related to the third. I realized that if I divorced her, God would forgive me for everything I had done wrong in that marriage. God’s love is greater than divorce. And it bears repeating, but divorce isn’t an unforgivable sin.

    The fifth and final major hurdle I had to work through was whether I was divorcing her for the correct reasons. I had mentally and emotionally latched onto hopes of a relationship with another woman I knew, and that caused me a great deal of shame as I tried to honor God with how I worked through this process. I eventually did determine how to go through with the divorce without allowing it to be about the other woman.

    There were also a number of books and articles I read, such as Leslie’s “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”, Cloud and Townsend’s “Boundaries”, and others that were equally important that I can’t remember the names of (and have since given away to others who needed them more).

    The process of divorce was painful. I got the short end of the stick financially. I had to find a new place to live. My trust was betrayed by friends, and I lost many relationships. I had to find a new church. I was falsely accused of everything that would hurt me.
    But I don’t regret the divorce. I can now feel safe at home – which is especially crucial during this period of quarantine and/or social distancing. My heart cries out for everyone who is living in an unsafe household during this time in particular.

    To the questioner, this is what worked for me. The specifics, obviously, will differ. But you need to determine if your husband is both willing and able to make the changes you need. If he is, great! But you will still need to have a way to protect yourself while he is in process – and I don’t know if that looks like a legal separation, an informal separation, or something else.

    And if he isn’t able to put in the effort to change, whether because of his childhood abuse or not, you need to protect yourself. You need to love him by preventing him from hurting you further.

    • Annie on March 25, 2020 at 8:49 pm

      ” Divorce isn’t an unforgivable sin.”
      Perfectly said Tim.
      Its not even one of the 10 commandments!

    • Free on March 26, 2020 at 8:45 pm

      Tim, thank you for your contribution. I appreciate the reminder that women can be abusive too. I agree, if someone shows signs of healthy change, then of course stay the course and enjoy the new healthy dynamics. Yet, if no change occurs, it is time to protect yourself and leave the relationship. When someone wants to change, they change quickly. There is no waiting and hoping involved.

    • Aly on March 31, 2020 at 10:20 am

      I’m sorry for what you have gone through. I really like what you posted because it’s so very true for many of us in any form of destructive relationships; marriage, family, friends-across the board.
      What became clear to me in some of my process was that bullies (those individuals who have some serious heart issues) don’t like boundaries!

    • ruth8318 on March 31, 2020 at 7:18 pm

      Thank you for your vulnerability. I like broke down how you came to peace with your divorce. You were very conscientious. It irritates so bad when I hear Christian leaders saying divorce is the ‘easy choice’. They need to listen to the STORIES of the survivors on the domestic violence forums; there is NOTHING EASY about their life. ☹️

      • ruth8318 on March 31, 2020 at 7:20 pm

        Good grief 😳 so many typos! I leave out words!! Please forgive 🤣

  2. Annie on March 25, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    The thought that helps me move along in my steps to “release my marriage” as Leslie asked is ” its not my job to fix him”. It doesnt matter WHY he is the way he is, if he feels that it entitles him to mistreet you.

    I had some lousy things in my childhood and I’m a nice person. My sister in law had the same difficult childhood family dynamics as my husband and she is a nice person.

    • Aly on March 31, 2020 at 10:13 am

      You are right! It doesn’t matter why he is the way he is. I agree. But what does matter is WHy are you tolerating the mistreatment?
      There is usually a deeper reason.

      • Annie on April 1, 2020 at 3:45 pm

        Well I set a lot of boundaries passively and gradually including moving to my own room. And at first he underlying angry but now he is polite cooperative, reaching out to me a bit. However we barely speak about anything because usually it ends up disagreeable so I avoid conversation as much as I can. We will have to make some decisions soon because we now have no income so maybe that will provoke a real conversation. Depends how long this shutdown lasts.
        I think God has told me to wait and I don’t understand why. He even gave me a date which is not too far away now.

  3. Autumn on March 26, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    I read a quip the other day from a celebrity. They said in marriage you want a partner, not a project.

    That made sense to me. If you are living with a “project,” someone you have to help or fix, that’s not marriage. That’s you being a live in therapist. So really you are running an inpatient psyche ward. Is that even remotely logical?

    Sadly, it’s not a marriage. You can’t save something that isn’t there. That is a fantasy world with crazy, magical thinking on your part. Choose reality and live in the truth. It makes life so much better.

  4. Free on March 28, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    I was reading over some emails from. My abusive husband. I thought to his comment was worth repeating. It was in response to the suggestion that women put boundaries on abusive partners to facilitate change.

    My abuser responded that is doesn’t matter what a woman does, an abusive man isn’t going to change because of anything he does. He said, “An abusive or manipulative person will always get what they want, they just don’t always like what they had to do to get it “

    • Free on March 28, 2020 at 5:14 pm

      Oh, a few typos to edit.

      I thought one of his comments was worth repeating.

      It doesn’t matter what a woman does, he isn’t going to change because of anything she does.

  5. Nancy on March 29, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    The girls’ last day of school was March 12 and they will not go back until at least May. We created a light schedule that includes walks, art, music, academics, chores and down time. We start the day with a Bible verse and then pray,for our health care workers and those who are sick.

    So far, this has been a beautiful opportunity to put God at the centre of each day. I am indeed full of gratitude, but once in a while overwhelmed with heartbreak for what Italy and Spain are going through.

  6. Annie on March 30, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Lelsie a good portion of setting boundaries you have described involve our ability to leave the house, stay with friends/relatives for a few days , move out. Any suggestions for how to set boundaries while we have to stay home? Especially with the covert/emotional abuse version as I think physical abuse should still always provoke immediately leaving.

    • Aly on March 31, 2020 at 10:07 am

      Just want to share that I have been praying for many who have this situation going on. It’s been heavy on my heart given this pandemic.
      I’m so very sorry. To me, even emotional/covert abuse is just as harmful and can warrant separation (even if there is a way to separate under the same roof).
      I don’t know your situation and the depths of it- so this is not direct advice. But when my husband was in his abusive ways emotionally, often I would State the truth of what I thought was taking place, tell him what I thought of his destructive behavior and how foolish it really was. Then I would enjoy my day and especially my children;)

  7. ruth8318 on March 31, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    To the writer, I have to wonder WHY would you want to reconcile with your ex husband? He was a serial cheater! You still don’t trust him. You already went through the hard the work of divorce. What wonderful qualities does this guy have that could outweigh the fact that he could still very well be a liar and a cheater? It sounds like you original writer are being sucked into the codependent vortex. RESIST! Continue rebuilding your life without him.

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