Thanks for your prayers. My week in Mexico was amazing. If you want to hear a little bit about it as well as see some of the paintings I did while there, you can watch my most recent FB live here.
We still have a few more openings for our Thursday Empowered to Change class which is my
I know holiday times can be difficult for many of you. The family drama, the rejection, the criticism, the lack of warmth or reciprocity can drain you. Please take good care of yourself. Don’t push so hard to make it wonderful for everyone else that you are struggling with sickness or resentment yourself.
Today’s question: I’ve been married 25 years – to a confessing believer that went to seminary, was a pastor for 3 years and is back doing his PhD. We had marital problems
We have 4 kids and my husband pretty much works or studies all the time. He blamed me for everything, had anger issues etc. I just tried harder to submit.
This past year he was more angry and had severe rages everyday. I begged him to get help and he refused. I hated life, prayed God would take him away, dreamed of a better man and finally 4 weeks ago I told my pastor’s wife and they outsourced counseling.
I scheduled it and he said he wasn’t coming but ended up coming. The first session, counselor ended saying he was codependent and I was his idol. We left, I was sickened and he was furious and said I was ruining his life. The second session ended with him having narcissistic rage and I have PTSD.
Now we counsel separately. My husband met with our pastor and our pastor said if you don’t change you will lose your family. So that day he repents. Then he became soft spoken and sweet. I found him repulsive, kids think it’s weird and he was never around. He is a workaholic so he doesn’t know them, they don’t like him. My oldest who is 17 hates him.
Two weeks of his new self and he wonders why I’m angry and haven’t forgiven him. He was told to give me space and didn’t. Now this week – he became a new believer. When he told me I felt furious. I thought that’s convenient. So we just forget the last 25 years and live happily ever after? My counselor told me to study Jonah and the prodigal son.
I’m angry that God will make me take him back. I was done and thought I finally was free but now I’m stuck with him because biblically he didn’t cheat on me. Which I thought besides death that was my choice. I hated it.
Now week four and I’m hysterical, crying, angry, full of hatred towards him.
I have served him through everything. Years of school, raising our kids only to hear him tell me how worthless I was, wished he hadn’t married me, how disappointed he is and much worse things. But he says he doesn’t even remember half of it in his rage. And now says he never knew he wasn’t a believer.
My question is does true forgiveness mean I have to reconcile? I think the church will excommunicate me if I leave him. And I should be able to heal with boundaries set up at home. But when I see him I’m a mess and want to throw up when he’s so nice to the kids.
I’m begging for help and maybe I’m wrong and it’s truly me fearful to trust God because I will have to live the rest of my life with him.
Answer:Although I have answered similar questions before I think this question is an important one because it shows how complex and multilayered some of these issues are.
I’m not sure your husband is as ignorant or unaware as he portrays himself to be. Studying for a PhD and not remembering his angry episodes don’t seem to go together. Also, his resistance to getting help all those previous years shows that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he didn’t want to be accountable for it. It was only until you exposed him that things started shifting around. However whether or not he’s truly changed, only time will tell. Being nice isn’t necessarily a sign of repentance or change. It may just be a different strategy of control since now he has people he has to answer to.
Being truly repentant of his past angry rages and indifference towards your feelings and the children would show up in giving you time to heal, and encouraging you to do what you need to do for your own growth and well-being right now. He wouldn’t keep putting you down and telling you how disappointed he is in you. From what you write, it still sounds like it’s all about him and his feelings rather than how he can care for and attend to yours.
However, the bigger challenge you have right now is not him or your marriage, but your own self. You’re feeling not only victimized by him, but also by your counselor, your church, and even God. You feel trapped and angry, forced to forgive, forced to reconcile, and forced to love.
I think you nailed it when you said you are fearful to trust God because you see God every bit as much a bully as your spouse. You don’t have a picture of God as caring about your plight or what you and your kids have been through. In your mind God only cares about keeping your marriage together – at all costs – but that’s not true.
Right now your counselor has told you that you suffer from PTSD. I can only imagine how reactive and unstable you feel with all that has gone on. You need to give yourself time to heal without deciding on the future of your marriage right now.
God knows everything you and your children have suffered. He knows every cruel word your husband has spewed. He knows every tear you have shed. He knows every prayer you have uttered and every fear you have. He loves you and cares about what you’ve been through.
God is not in the arm-twisting business. He will never force you to do anything, even things he knows are best for you. He tells us in Scripture what is good for us, but it is always our choice whether we will trust him with our well-being or not. Click To Tweet
I don’t know what God wants you to do with your marriage relationship right now but I do know this: God doesn’t want you to continue to live in fear and hatred, gritting your teeth with resentment simply enduring. He wants you to live in faith, love, and hope.
But choosing to let go of your hatred and live in love does not necessarily mean you will ever be able to trust your husband or fully reconcile your marriage. That depends on many other factors, some yet unknown. However your personal healing and growth depends right now on you and whether or not you can trust your Creator with your path forward.
Living for years in a marriage like you describe has taken its toll on you. You’re feeling it. You’ve lived it. Please be patient with yourself. However, bitterness and hatred will never be the way for you to gain strength and stability.
When Jesus tells us to love our enemy (Matthew 5:43-48), he’s not asking you to have a close reconciled friendship with your enemy (including a husband or relative that has acted like an enemy (See Micah 7:6; Matthew 10:36). Otherwise, he or she would no longer be labeled your enemy.
Enemies are not strangers. They are individuals or groups who have inflicted pain upon you or those you love. They have been cruel, merciless, heartless and without conscience or remorse. And, as human beings we are tempted to hate those kinds of people.
Why does Jesus tell us to practice the opposite virtue of love towards our enemy? We naturally feel hatred, but Jesus calls us to love. The reason has nothing to do with your enemy. He may always remain your enemy. The reason has to do with your own well-being.
When we are filled with hatred and resentment over what someone has done to us, we are tempted to the “dark” side as the Star Wars Movie series calls it. We are tempted to retaliate or execute vengeance in order to “feel” better. But it never works. Hurting someone who hurts us never relieves our pain. It just causes more pain and damage and for those of us who DO have a conscious, as well as years of regret and remorse.
You may choose to not live with your husband or affiliate with your church if they pressure you to prematurely reconcile, but you always have to live with yourself.
Be wise and careful how you process all of your negative feelings. Own them, listen to what they are telling you about what’s going on, but don’t allow them to take control of YOU, your life, your values, your heart. Otherwise, you will become like the very thing you hate, your enemy.
Your counselor advised you to read the story of Jonah and the prodigal son. There are good lessons in each of these stories. For Jonah, there is an ignorance of his own hard heart. He wasn’t very aware of his own resentment that he felt “forced” by God to give the Ninevites an opportunity to repent. He went through the “motions” but his heart was not in it. God cared about the Ninevites, but he also cared about Jonah and just going through the motions of obeying God wasn’t doing Jonah any good when his heart was still hard and full of resentment. God wanted Jonah to see that.
The story of the prodigal son shows us what repentance looks like. When the son came to his senses and returned home, he made no demands on his father. He had no expectations of being treated like a “son.” In fact, he asked to be treated like one of the hired hands.
True repentance recognizes that there has been damage done to the relationship and that consequences are not just erased because someone comes to their senses. The story also shows us his father’s heart. He was not consumed with resentment. The consequences were still in place. Do you remember what his father said to the other brother? He said, “Everything I have is yours.” The prodigal son wasted his entire inheritance. There was no more money for him to have. Yes, the Father was glad to have him come to his senses and celebrated his return, but the consequences of his sin weren’t erased.
And we also see that the older brother went through all the “motions” of being a good son but he was just as prodigal as his younger brother, but in a different way. He complied with what father wanted, but his heart was full of resentment and bitterness. He felt entitled to more.
The lesson here for you is just doing what you think God says for you to do, with no heart of trust or love for God in those actions, isn’t what God is after from you.
So your question was does forgiving your spouse require reconciliation. Not always. I believe the strongest example that demonstrates this is Jesus. He forgave Judas but they were not reconciled. He forgave those who did not know what they were doing, but I doubt whether those who were forgiven had any reconciled relationship with Jesus. Two thieves were both crucified with Jesus. Jesus loved and died for them both. One was reconciled, the other was not. Not because he wasn’t forgiven but because he did not receive it.
I believe you can forgive your spouse and still not trust yourself to him. Forgiveness does not erase consequences and the consequences of your husband’s long-term abusive patterns
Friends, when you have been filled with resentment and hatred or stuck in victim mindset, what are some steps you have taken to break free?