The Difficult Marriage: Walking the Tightrope of Holding on While Letting Go

A natural tendency when things go wrong in the marriage, is to pursue our spouse and try to “make it better.” Unfortunately when it comes to sin and an unrepentant spouse this results in validation for his choices instead of consequences.

In instances like this, pulling back, disengaging emotionally from the marriage, is sometimes the wisest course. This is not easy to do. We are not to be resentful or hate our spouse even when he sins or keeps on sinning. As sinners ourselves we are to have mercy and compassion knowing that God’s judgement falls on us all.

So how does a woman, who is hurting and lonely and longing for a close relationship with the person she vowed to love and cherish for the rest of their lives, pull back from the relationship when it becomes bad, difficult, toxic. Maybe even abusive.

How does one do this without also cutting off love?

First of all. Love is not an emotion. Yes, there are feelings that can accompany love. Emotions that move us to tears and laughter and grip us deep inside with fear when a loved one is threatened. But love is more than this. Love is action.

Jesus demonstrated his love for us. He felt it, he spoke of it, and then he acted on it by his death and resurrection.

But Jesus also had boundaries. His love was constant even when he refused to enter and perform miracles in a town because of their unbelief.

Their actions had a natural consequence. Their choices denied them the blessings of a relationship with God.

Sometimes, love means disengaging and ceasing to affirm and enable the sinner to keep on his path.

In some ways this is what spouses of addicted people face. Co-dependancy. We get comfortable with a certain dysfunction and adapt to it. Sometimes it is merely because we are afraid of losing that spouse and the relationship. But in the end it hurts us becuase we sacrifice ourselves so they can continue to sin. That’s not healthy for anyone.

So we set boundaries. For instance, in my home, my spouse is wrapped up in himself. He has shown, time and time again, that he cares nothing for my feelings, thoughts or daily life struggles. My health? Not an issue. If it’s not going to make him look good, then he doesn’t want to waste his time listening to me.

Unfortunately, I’m a talker. I process my thoughts and feelings out loud. It’s taken years to recognize that by doing so I was often opening myself up to more verbal abuse from him.

So with prayer, and a great support system including my pastor and a therapist, I have learned to act differently. I smile more. I cry less and I’m learning to like who I am which is not what my husband admires or likes. But I’m me and that’s all I ever can be and I’ve chosen to protect the treasures of my hopes, dreams and feelings. I’ve given myself a rule of thumb: If he doesn’t ask – I don’t share.

He rarely ever asks. I however do ask about his life and I do affirm and thank him when he does something nice, like bring in the groceries or fill up my gas tank.

My life has become far more peaceful. In reality, my husband is the loser here but he doesn’t recognize it or even care. He doesn’t engage with the kids either and they’ve learned some of the same lessons. Just leave Dad alone. He’s lost the respect of his kids by his controlling words and actions and more constant neglect.

This is not a marriage, is it? I still share a home and have his last name and on very rare occassions he accompanies us someplace. It’s become quite rare. My kids and I have learned to live life without him being a part of it. Not because I have disengaged, but because I stopped pursuing him and he has opted to walk away.

We are still married. God is a God of miracles and instead of focusing on my husband’s sin, I need to keep refocusing on God and the work He as to do in my heart to make me more and more like Him. If I am to live and serve the way He has called me to, this is the only way to live. Even if my husband were to turn from his own sin and want to re-engage with the family, I have learned I do not need him to be a complete and whole person.

Sometimes I wonder if God has allowed this in my life so I’m forced to depend on Him. Would having a doting, loving husband pull me away from seeking God? I don’t know.

What I do know is that if my husband wants a relationship with me, he’s going to have to go through God to make it happen. He doesn’t have access to my heart anymore and won’t without repentance and reconciliation. Even then, trust will have to be earned and takes time to rebuild.

I do walk the tightrope of hope vs despair at times. Learning to be content in my circumstances is hard when you know that it is now God’s desire for a Christian marriage. But see, that’s the error. As a friend of mine wrote, there is a big difference between a Christian marriage and a Christ-centered marriage. (Kevin Adams, The Extravagant Fool). I thought I had married a Christian. Now I’m not so sure. I long for a Christ-centered marriage and will hold out for nothing less.

It feels wrong at times to make a choice to seek health and at times I’m made to feel guilty for that. That’s when my support system reminds me that it is healthier also for him to face his choices on his own instead of me cushioning life or trying to mitigate or nag the behaviors away. It doesn’t work.

A tightrope, yes, but God is the one holding the rope and he’s my net when I fall. I am beyond grateful I do not walk this rope alone.


Lilly Grace


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bamboozled1
    Apr 10, 2014 @ 17:10:43

    Reblogged this on It won't always be bad… and commented:
    thank you!


  2. elizabeth2560
    Apr 10, 2014 @ 17:29:45

    Thank you for writing what must have been a difficult post on a difficult subject. I am inspired by your courage.


  3. MER
    May 01, 2014 @ 13:53:52

    This is all very familiar to me. We are walking the same walk warrior sister!!


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