Good Morning Friends,
Thank you for responding to one another. It is such an encouragement to me to see this community developing so that women who stumble upon this site realize that they are not alone. Even if they are not brave enough to disclose to someone they know what’s going on at home, here they can find people who understand what their life is like.
Please pray for me. I have a lot of extra material I want to get ready before my new book is released. One of the things I’m going to do is do a short video each week featuring a new chapter of my book. It will be posted on my home page and will start next week.
Today’s Question: I have been married for 25 years, and most of it has been difficult and destructive. My husband is verbally abusive and very controlling with the finances, despite the fact that I earn a good income. I’m also in ministry, a leader in my church and want nothing more than to make this marriage work. I’m heartbroken that I’m so unsuccessful at doing the very thing God values the most, keeping my marriage alive. How can I make this better?
Answer: My answer may surprise you. You’re probably thinking (or have been told) that if you want your marriage to get better, you’ll have to put your husband first and make your marriage your number one priority. But that’s not what I’m going to tell you. In fact, one of the reasons your marriage has gotten this bad is that your marriage has been too important to you. If you read this blog, you’ll read stories of women who have sacrificed their safety, their sanity, their personhood and their children’s well-being in order to keep their marriage together at all costs and at any price.
From what you’ve told me, keeping your marriage together no matter what, is what controls you right now, not the love of Christ. You live by fear–fear of failure, fear of what people will think of you and fear of being alone–and as a result, you’re not living by faith. You’ve been so caught up in making sure you are doing everything your husband wants in order to keep the peace, that you’ve actually not loved him well at all. You’ve allowed his destructive and selfish behaviors to go unchallenged. He’s not only hurt you and your children, but he’s hurt himself. He’s not anything like the man God wants him to be.
For any wife, the biggest red flag that lets us know that we have made marriage too important is when we fall into deep despair or panic when our husband fails to love us well. For example, what happens to you and in you when your husband disappoints you over and over again, when he doesn’t treat you like you want him to, when he won’t stay present and work things out during a conflict, or when he lies or cheats on you or mistreats you?
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. It’s become an idol. Whenever we are dependent on something or someone other than God, it will always hurt us.
Women have been groomed to put marriage first as their highest purpose and deepest desire, but that’s not biblical. God wants to be our first love and he wants our primary purpose to be to know and glorify him. Jesus commands us to love God first with everything we have, not only because God deserves our love and is worthy of it, but because he knows how crucial it is to our long term well-being. God knows that whatever we love the most will rule our lives.
That’s why the Bible counsels us to let the love of Christ control us (2 Corinthians 5:14), not the love of lesser things. Desiring a good marriage is not wrong. The problem comes when we place marriage above all else, including God. The human heart craves more than human solutions, human love or even biblical principles. It needs to fall more deeply in love with God.
As we learn to center ourselves in God’s love and not our husband, we are no longer debilitated when our spouse fails us or disappoints us. Yes we hurt, but we are centered and controlled by something other than our marriage or our man. We have received from God the strength and courage to both forgive our spouse for his sinful failings as well as set appropriate boundaries and consequences when he continues to be unrepentant and destructive to the marriage and to us.
With God as our first love, we can love and be compassionate without being foolish and enabling because God shows us how to love in a way that is in the best interests of our husband. In loving our husband well, we trust God with the outcome of our marriage.
Let me ask you a question. If you do your part and love your husband well, perhaps by speaking the truth in love to him as well as implementing consequences for his destructive behaviors, and your marriage doesn’t make it, can you trust God to be enough for you? You must settle this question deep in your heart because, until you do, you will be too afraid to make the changes you need to make. As you start to do things differently, the destructive marital boat you’re on will start to rock and there are no guarantees that it will right itself.
But I do know one thing for sure. When your marriage has been in a downward spiral of dangerous sin and destruction and everything you’ve tried up to now has not resulted in any lasting positive change, it’s time to change your strategy.
There are times you must risk unraveling the life you have in order to create the life God wants for you