Thanks for your prayers. This season is exceptionally full and I need them so that I practice what I preach and take good care of my own self. I’m sick again which is unusual for me. Nothing serious but I’m usually pretty healthy. I think I’m just a little worn down.
In case you haven’t signed up yet, I am doing a free webinar tonight (Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 ET) on Four Lies that Make You Feel Crazy and Helpless in Your Destructive Marriage and What you Can Do To Stop It. Click HERE to sign up. Please forward this link if you know someone would benefit. Even if they can’t attend live, they can watch the replay.
Today’s Question: My husband of 22 years finally opened up to me a couple of weeks ago and I'm still reeling from the shock.
It was a confusing and painful 20 years of marriage until I started to ask God to shed light on my past and heal me from my wounds. I confessed 2 Sam 22:29-30 constantly.
Two mistreatments in 2016 had me shutting down emotionally. I just couldn't feel anything for him anymore. And that's when he took notice. At first, he was enraged by my unemotional composure, then he tried every form of harassment, then he switched, adjusted his behavior a little but I just couldn't bring myself to engage emotionally.
I spend that energy looking out for myself and our children. Standing up for myself and taking care of my own needs for the first time in my life is new for me. I discovered so many things I didn't know about myself and I'm deeply ashamed to discover how much I've neglected myself.
Then a couple of weeks ago he wanted to talk things over but this time I could sense some sincerity so I took this lifetime opportunity to ask what it was he hated about me, what did I do to deserve the cruel punishments, abandonment, and rape. He said it wasn't me, it was him. He could not have empathy. He could SEE my suffering but couldn't understand WHY I felt bad. But one comment I'd made in the 2nd year of our marriage (it wasn't anything a normal person would take offense to) was just too hurtful to him. I came to the conclusion his ego must be extremely fragile. I had known this all along on the inside of me but wouldn't admit it.
I am at the point where I've made up my mind not to live like this anymore. He and his mother are impossible to please, and now that I'm beginning to stand up for myself, their hate is palpable and they are saying all kinds of nasty things about me to all their family and relatives. He is preparing their minds for when I leave. I never mentioned the D word. I have now, however, made up my mind to leave him but my only concern is for my children. I am about to do what I swore I would never do to them. I can't describe how my heart grieves for them. I intend to take the last child with me, he is the only minor.
Why don't I feel guilty? I know he doesn't want a divorce because he is a minister of the gospel. His public image is all that he truly cares about. He is otherwise not emotionally invested in the marriage. He is certainly not interested in me as a person but he expects the world of me.
We live outside the US and have no access to therapy, which I'm desperate for. I came across your video ‘The Emotionally Destructive Marriage‘ and I'm so thankful to God for the gift of you, Leslie!
The exchange rate here makes it near impossible to order your materials.
Answer: I am so glad that God has helped you to see that it is not selfish to value and steward your own self. Being a Christian wife does not mean you are a sexual slave or have to silently endure being mistreated, abused, ignored, or lied to no matter what culture or country you come from. You may not have all the legal protection or resources women have in this country but God sees and hates what’s going on.
I remember speaking of marital abuse when I was teaching a class to seminarians in the Philippines over 20 years ago. One student questioned my teaching since on his small island they “bought” their wives much like one would purchase a cow or a dog. Since a wife is bought, she was considered “owned” and “property” in that culture. However, God’s word is above culture. God’s word teaches that people are precious and that the powerful people in any culture, who are often men, must not misuse that power to take advantage of or hurt others including wives.
I’m reading through the Bible this year. Here is one example of God’s heart for wives who are not treated well. “If a man who has married a slave wife takes another wife for himself, he must not neglect the rights of the first wife to food, clothing, and sexual intimacy. If he fails in any of these three obligations, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment” Exodus 21:10.
Hmmm. Does it actually say she can leave him? Does that mean God contradicts himself when he says later in Malachi 2:16 that he hates divorce? No. If you read Malachi in its context it says that God hates a certain type of divorce. A divorce where a man throws away his wife like a used tissue. A treacherous divorce. And he rebukes the husband (not the wife) for his unfaithfulness and disloyalty to his wife.
Yes, God values the sanctity of marriage, but he also values the safety and sanity of the people in it. Click To Tweet
I say this because you may not be able to afford the exchange rate to purchase my books but God’s word is crystal clear about what makes relationships work and what breaks relationships apart. God is so concerned about relationships that he devotes lots of text in both the New and Old Testament about how to build good relationships, how to manage differences and conflicts and how to make restitution and rebuild trust when relationships have been harmed (Read Exodus 20-23 just for one example or Colossians 3-4).
Sadly people don’t always practice God’s teaching much in real life relationships, especially messy and destructive marriages. People who mess up and grievously sin expect amnesty and instant reconciliation without showing any evidence of real change. It also saddens me to hear that your husband claims to be a minister of the gospel but his relational style is very unbiblical.
This morning I spoke to a woman who was told by her church leaders,“ He said he was sorry, now you have to forgive and not bring it up again. You have to trust him.” This was after long-term pornography usage that was entirely hidden from her. It gets really confusing because these are your leaders who you trust to know what the Bible says. But God never says to instantly trust a person who has broken trust. Even Jesus didn’t trust everyone (See John 2:24).
With your access to the Internet, you can find a lot of free teaching on these things from blogs, to podcasts, to YouTube videos and online classes and forums that will help you grow into a stronger, healthier and more godly woman.
Be careful though. The downside of the Internet is that there is a lot of teaching out there, and not all of it is wise or Biblical. You have to be discerning to tell the difference. A good Biblical role model for you is Abigail. You probably already know the story. She was married to a surly man who was selfish and uncompromising, unwilling to listen to wisdom and almost got their entire household killed because of his foolishness. Yet, she is described as intelligent and beautiful. She didn’t allow her husband to determine the person she would be and when in a pinch, she overruled his foolish decision in order to save her entire household from David’s wrath.
How did Abigail grow and stay strong despite being married to such a person? She didn’t allow his foolishness to define her character. She didn’t allow his churlish words to undermine her confidence in God and confuse her on what was good, true and right. She didn’t put her husband or her marriage at the center of her life but instead put God there. And God gave her the wisdom she needed so that even the servants knew to go to her when her husband Nabal, made a mess of things (See 1 Samuel 25 for the story).
Your concern for your children is legitimate. It is so hard when you have over functioned and covered for your husband’s problems for years so that they never really saw how destructive and/or abusive he was towards you. If they currently have a good relationship with their father I would support that.
But now you also must be honest. You must tell them that for years your marriage hasn’t been good and that it was your goal to raise them in an environment where they would have access to both parents, even if it wasn’t good for you. It may be difficult to explain fully without giving specific details that your children don’t need to hear. Even if he is lying and spreading rumors about you, don’t react to that or stoop to that level.
Keep your head held high and be above the slinging mud. If you have specific facts that refute what he is saying and your children want to see them, show them. But don’t push. Remain supportive, available, and loving. Get support from your friends, your church community (if they are supportive) and an online community such as CONQUER.
Be understanding of your children’s surprise and even their disappointment that you’re not willing to continue to over-function to “keep the family together.” Most of them are adults and they will need to navigate through their own feelings around all of this in their own way and own time.
Finally, reach out to this blog community. There is a community of mighty warriors here who are tirelessly willing to help each other grow stronger in a God-centered way.
Friends, how did you get past the “guilt” and “fear” that you were doing something wrong by standing up for yourself, taking care of yourself, and possibly leaving your marriage?”