Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

I’ve been pondering this part of the love chapter from Corinthians 13. It’s bothering me and maybe that’s good.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. 

In spite of how bad my marriage can be, my husband is not all bad. He can do nice things. He can be charming and witty. He is highly intelligent and can speak well on variety of subjects. He can be generous. But I used to naively think that when those nice times happened it meant a change. That things would be better. I’ve never had an apology.

So I tried to keep no record. And I was led to believe that all the reasons he was angry were my fault.

Ripper_Grunge[1]In spite of my masters degree in counseling psychology, I’d never taken a class on abusers and the psychology of emotional, verbal or physical abuse. I had never heard of gaslighting. According to Wikipedia it’s defined to “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”

So for all my education, the fact is, I was gaslighted as a kid too. So it took far longer for me to recognize this for what it was. Abuse.

My spouse is financially controlling. He refuses to give me money. He hides his money (even though I live in a marital property state).  He’s blamed his financial failures on me. Any struggles in his business are never his fault but someone else is always to blame.

There will be months of getting no money to buy simple things, like feminine products, dog food, shampoo or even a box of hair color since I’m not allowed to get my hair cut. So when he’s about to leave town and hands me a $50 bill I say thank you but am not deluded in thinking that he has suddenly become a loving and caring husband I’ve longed in my heart for.

Then there are the repeated broken promises. More like manipulations to get his way that he never fulfills. Or just another way to string me along to pull the rug out from under me and watch me crash. Again, usually around areas where he would have to spend money. “We’re broke” is his frequent excuses as he indulges in whatever his heart desires to buy.

I work hard to forgive. I leave the justice for my husband’s abuse in the hands of God. With no repentance there is no relationship between us beyond negotiating the care of our children. But when the good things come I know have to remind my romantic wishful heart of the core of who my husband is: a narcissistic abuser.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. I don’t have a physical list. I have friends who know the truth who can remind me when I get agitated about his mind games. They can remind me that he’s lied about money before. That he’s hiding money and using these concepts to abuse me. And they also remind me that God has always been faithful. God has always provided for my needs.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. There hasn’t been love in our marriage for a long time. Yes, my husband is an image-bearer of God. So I’ll work hard, with God’s help to treat him with respect even though I rarely receive that in return. But in order to stay grounded in a truth and fight the gaslighting, I have to remind myself of the harsh reality of the emotional/verbal/financial abuse. I don’t have bruises or broken bones to show.

Now because some will read this and tell me to leave – I’ll say this again. When God tells me to go, I will. In the meantime I will remind myself of the TRUTH. My husband is in name only. He does not love me as God commands. He may not even be capable of that. But God loves me and when HE says it’s time to separate, I will take that step in obedience to Him. In the meantime I will carve out a life for myself outside of that relationship. I will lean into God and seek to grow through the pain.

And I will keep a record.

 

Twisted (poem)

Like a wet rag in your hands

my heart is twisted

until every drop

leaks out my eyes.

But God

collects every one.

When You Lose Friends Because of Your Difficult Marriage

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Difficult marriages are often a journey of years, even decades, for the wife who chooses to stay. Initially she may not even realize it’s difficult. Marriage can be hard, can’t it? But when challenges become more defined and efforts at making the marriage better are rebuffed and blame is repeatedly placed on the wife–reality is hard to escape.

And it can be a devastating burden.

I’ve had to sever or at least limit my contact with some individuals who were not supportive of my struggle. Who recognized they really could not support me in my effort to stay. I have enough negativity and blame in my marriage. I don’t need it in my support system too.

Not that I don’t want truth tellers. I do. I need to know when I cross a line or sometime be gently reminded of certain truths that maybe I’ve forgotten in the dark cloud that can consume me.

I don’t have BFF’s though. In the middle of the night there is maybe one woman I would feel comfortable calling should I be that desperate. I have a friend who had to remind me that when I’m down, she wants to be there for me. I cried realizing that I had a deeper friendship in her than I realized. The fact is . . . I have to spread my pain out amongst a wider net of friendships and to differing degrees so as not to overwhelm one person with the weight I carry daily.

I wish I could say “God is enough.” But sometimes we just need Jesus with skin on.

And yet accepting the help can be hard to do. I don’t always believe I deserve to be treated well. And I’m used to being the one who serves and cares for others. To receive it is humbling and uncomfortable. But I’m learning that when it happens, I need to be grateful for the way God provides.

I wish I could give solace for the injuries and wounds left by others who don’t understand your journey, your struggles or your grief. Your dedication to stay married is only for one person and one person alone: Jesus. It is out of obedience to Him that I stay. Should He tell me to leave (separate) . . . then I need to obey.

The thought terrifies me but I have to remember, looking back at my life, that there have been decisions and choices I have made before that now I look  back and wonder how I did it.  I don’t remember any fear. I do remember some of the pain of those choices but mostly I look back in admiration that my obedience gave me the courage to follow through and do things my scardey-cat self would never consider.

Only God can do that when He leads us. It won’t be without struggle either way. But He sees and knows. 

And I am grateful.

Lilly Grace

Mental Illness and the Difficult Marriage and yes, Robin

I haven’t posted for some time and resisted even writing this.

This week Robin Williams died. He struggled with a mental illness. Some say it was depression and other’s say bi-polar. Either way, he struggled and gave into the darkness and the light he shared with the world has been snuffed.

Robin was married three times. Three. From what I understand, all three women loved him. He had children who adored him. All of these individuals knew his struggles with addictions and depression. They all cared.

Yet I heard someone blame his wife for Robin’s suicide because she was not in the bedroom with him that night.

Wait. Excuse me? Did you have a front row seat to the pain of that marriage? Did you walk with his wife through the heights and depths of what Robin struggled with in his mind and soul?

No. You didn’t.

Especially if Robin was bi-polar, the fact that his wife was still there, married to him, says volumes about her love and devotion. They could have shared a room and he could have shot himself in the garage. When someone makes the decision to kill themselves (and yes, it is a decision even if they feel they have no other choice), it is not the fault of the people left.

When I began to realize that the pain of my marriage wasn’t all my fault, that my husband was really ill with who knows what, I was scared. As I made changes in my behavior and stopped feeding into his insanity, he grew worse in some ways. I spoke to my pastor, almost asking permission to seek to be healthy. He affirmed I needed to be healthy for my own sake, my kids and my ministry.

“So if my husband kills himself, it’s not my fault. Right?”

He nodded. If my husband reacted to my pursuit of psychological health, by killing himself, that was his deal. Not mine. I had no culpability in it whatsoever. He is an adult and responsible before God for his choices in the way he treats his wife, and in how he lives his life.

My husband is still alive. I still struggle. Should he die I wouldn’t be like Robin’s wife, claiming to have lost my best friend.

I have great admiration for spouses who stick with a husband or wife who struggles with bi-polar disorder. It can make a marriage difficult and rational thought can be hard to find during certain aspects of this illness. I’m not saying my husband is bipolar. He’s not been diagnosed. He’s mentally unhealthy though and many would agree with me on that. It’s not just a disgruntled wife’s complaint.

It’s a verbally and emotionally abused wife’s truth. And the fact is, mental illness can manifest itself in abuse of others. Not always and it doesn’t have to be tolerated.

So please pray for his wife and children as they move forward with his gaping hole in their lives. I’m sure that while they wished for Robin’s freedom from the pain he struggled with, this would never have been on their list of choices as to how that would come about.

And if you are struggling with a spouse with mental illness–you are not alone. Get help and support from a therapist or a support group. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone or let yourself become a victim of the illness either.

And if you’re hurting . . . maybe this song by Rich Mullins, one of my favorites, will be a blessing to you.

Blessings to you,

Lilly Grace

 

Where do I go with all this Neediness in a Difficult Marriage?

Let’s face it, we all have needs. Maslow has his hierarchy of needs expressed like this:

maslow

Now, I now Maslow’s self-actualization is not necessarily Christian, but let’s just consider for a few moment the general revelation expressed in this triangle. The theory postulates that for an individual to reach their full potential, they must have their needs met and these needs are stacked according to importance–physically and emotionally–to the human.

ID-100137119

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What happens often in a difficult marriage, is that the person closest to us, who promised to help fulfill these deep and very real needs in our lives, has been unable, failed or refused to do so.

Now hopefully we can be safe. But even mental illness, addictions and health problems can interfere with our feelings of emotional safety when the one who promised…cannot or won’t provide that. We can seek tha in the church but sometimes it seems the burden we have is too much for one person – or even a few.

I recently lost a friend. Another has been unavailable. A dear one suffered a loss and has her own issues to cope with. So at this point, “love/belonging” feels foreign to me. The enemy even tells me that I wouldn’t be missed if I didn’t exist. I know in my head that this is not true, but the part of me that wants to have a pity party doesn’t want to listen.

The fact is, I’m crawling and climbing to be all God has created me to be, with a gaping wound in my heart. A band-aid smile doesn’t cut it.

But where does one go with the pain?

I’ll admit I sometimes anesthetized with food – sugar in particular. Nasty thing that. And work. I bury myself in work so I don’t have to think. But in doing so I avoid the processing that can be helpful all in order to escape the pain.

I’ve been so tired lately. Depression will do that.

There are very few people in my life whose esteem I trusted. Who I believed when they spoke into my life about my worth. One of them died a few years back and the loss still, at times, feels fresh. As if his words wouldn’t still have value. Another is unavailable right now and I respect that.

I dont’ want to be appeased so that someone else feels better. I want to know that I’m okay. That I’m going to be okay. Because right now, I’m not.

And I’m not quite sure where to go with all that. This too shall pass in time. It’s the ebb and flow of the painful reality in which I live.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

 

 

Is It Wrong to Long for “Happy?”

Marriage is not about our happiness. It is about our holiness.

I often say this, because I believe it. But the reality is this.

I would really like some “happy”. 

Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think that’s a curse handed down for generations. I was told as a kid to “follow my heart.” But Scripture says the heart is deceitful above all. So that advice isn’t really helpful. And the fact is, maybe I did follow it down a path that I thought would lead me to happiness–by marrying a man who in hindsight was not a good choice for me.

But at the time I didn’t think I had any other choices.

No one will want you. This was a message I was given as a kid. But you know what? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because even though I got married, the reality is, my husband doesn’t want me. I’m not blonde enough. I’m not thin enough. I obviously do not worship him the way he desires.

I did try three burnt offerings a day but it went unappreciated.

I’m joking, I am a good cook and he eats too much of whatever it is I make.

The fact is, I have to grieve what I don’t get. I don’t get to be treasured. I don’t get to be protected. I am barely provided for. As a person I am non-existent unless it is important, or he finds something to fault me for.

But I would still like happy.

I want happy for others too . . . and this has caused some problems. See I tried to help a friend going through a tough time in her marriage. That’s not the problem. The problem was I took the weight of her pain and added it to my own. And I wanted to try to fix it.

Fixing my difficult marriage or someone else’s is not my job.

It’s God’s responsibility.

And I have to learn to let go of happy for not only me–but for others.  I wish I could say this is easy but it’s not. See, I would love to see adulterous men held accountable. I would like to see abusive men confronted.

Not my job. And the reality is sometimes those confrontations cause even more pain for an already hurting wife (or ex-wife). I need to let God take responsibility because He can handle the consequences as well. It’s not my job to save the world.

Whew, what a relief!

My heart aches for those who are hurting in difficult marriages. My heart yearns for someone to speak God’s truth to my own husband about his behaviors or, as my pastor sometimes refers to it, put on a velvet glove and smack him upside the face. As part of a desire to be rescued from our pain, I suspect that wish is only natural.

But God is sovereign. He sees your pain. He sees mine. He knows the beginning from the end and none of this journey is wasted as we persevere in our difficult marriages. He is good. Faithful. Provider. Even when my logical mind can’t figure out the way he’ll work things out, maybe that’s even more reason for me to hide in that. So I will trust in Him.

And maybe in that place of trust and peace, I’ll find my own version of happy.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

When Freedom from a Difficult Marriage Comes Unexpectedly

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have often said that if God wanted me out of my difficult marriage, He was perfectly capable of doing it.

  1. My husband could change.
  2. My husband could choose to divorce me (and I would most likely not fight it, he stands before God on that).
  3. My husband could die. (And no, I am not seeking that end!)

CHANGE

God does change marriages. I have a friend who seperated and was ready to divorce due to her husband’s addictions and verbal abuse. God worked through those months where she started to carve out a new life for herself and He turned her husband around. They are back together now and working on their marriage. It can and does happen!

DIVORCE

A few months ago a friend and I sat down for coffee. She was visibly upset. Her speech was rapid. “I did everything you suggested to stay and now he’s divorcing me.”

The marriage was filled with distance and verbal abuse from her spouse. But she had hung in there and now he had filed. She had just come from meeting with her attorney and was armed with what she needed for her future and for the future of her children. In spite of that she grieved the death of her marriage.

I reminded her that she had asked God to release her from her pain and heartache and He had! No one wants divorce but she was free of the daily struggle (or would be one the divorce was final). She paused with her mouth agape and eyes wide. Yes! God had freed her and she did not file for the divorce and she could stand clean before God for her efforts to save the marraige. I was so proud of her for her perseverance and dedication in spite of the emotional pain. She’s a stronger woman because of it.

DEATH

A friend who got me on my path of writing about this, almost seperated from her husband years ago. He chose to do counseling and while the changes didn’t last, she forged a life for herself in the midst of the missing emotional and physical affection and was there through his addictions, various health crisis and cancer diagnosis. She lived her faith and loved her husband in spite of his sins. Her heart was broken for his spiritually lost soul.

And then he died.

There is no way I rejoice in his death. There is no way I would go to my friend and cheer “You are free! You are free!” She has arrangements to make and a new life to settle into. She will have much to grieve. I’m not sure if he ever accepted Christ either.

I do know that she lived her life with integrity and she loved her husband as an image-bearer of Christ even though he may never have returned that love. I think he loved her in his own way.

She is now a widow. She can stand before the throne of God clean and hear “Well done,” because she served sacrificially in her marriage and now God has freed her. He also freed her husband from a life of pain and struggle. Maybe in the end God freed her husband to be a child of the King of Kings. Sometimes we don’t ever really know.

FREEDOM

So often we are told to leave. We deserve better. But each of these three women chose not to divorce. The leaned into the reality of their struggle and while the outcomes are different the result is the same. God freed them from the pain of their difficult marriages.

I’m not telling you to pray for death of your spouse. Or change. Or that he will divorce you. Pray for the courage to stay and do what you need to do to be all God has called you to be and to love your spouse. Seperation is not divorce and is, at times, a useful tool but not an easy path. None of these paths are easy, but choosing to walk away (i.e. divorce) is a path that can close the door to God’s work.

Having said that though, divorce is not always the end either. In what feels like another lifetime ago, I witnessed a divorced couple come to Christ individually. They ended up at our church and soon reconnected as new creations in Christ. Yes, they had divorced. I was there for their remarriage. What a beautiful thing to witness! We have such a big God!

So hang in there and stay faithful to the God who sustains and cherishes you more than you will ever know! Freedom is never easy. It comes with a price tag, but when it comes by God’s permissive hand, it can be endured and there is light on the other side of the pain.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

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