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

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

Foolishness and Faith

Some people look on a woman who chooses to stay married to a man who is “difficult,. as a fool. Some will argue and advise.

Leave. You need to leave to be free to be all God has created you to be. 

Leave. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. 

Leave. I did and now have a wonderful marriage with a different man. You could have that too. 

Get a job so you are not so dependant on your spouse. 

As a side note, they might even say, “but, of course you should do what God tells you to do.”

Isn’t that just the kicker? Out of one side of the mouth being told that an intentional choice to stay married is wrong but at the same time told to follow the very God who has led us to that choice.

They often don’t see that they are inextricably linked. Staying has to be a choice of faith and obedience to God as much as leaving. If every step of our lives is to be in obedience to God then we don’t look for the “out” or excuse to leave. We stay in spite of excuses and cling, not to the opinion of men (or women) but instead to the leading of God through his Word and the Holy Spirit.

And should God open that door to leave, we will also pray that we have the courage to follow Him there as well.

Have courage and stand firm, clinging to the God who loves you dearly.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

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.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Staying or Going: The Example of Job’s Wife

The biggest struggle I sometimes face is that of well-intended people telling me to leave. As I pitched my book on lessons God has taught me by staying married, I have found that any woman who has made the choice to leave will fight me on staying.

I think they truly do, in their heart, believe they are speaking love to me. Maybe unconsciously they are justifying their own journey. Sometimes I think it is more the latter.

I would never disparage someone who has made a choice to leave or been forced out of her marriage when she has tried to take the high road. That’s not my place and I haven’t walked their path.

My human nature wants out of the pain and loneliness of my marriage.

God tells me to stay.

People who tell me to leave, as well meaning as they are, are not that much unlike Satan tempting Jesus to eat after 40 days of fasting.

But Jesus stayed true to His calling and didn’t fall into the temptation and lies Satan offered.

Maybe the woman who left has found a new love. A man who treats her well. I am glad for them. But one person’s experience on their journey is not a predictor of what God will or will not do for me . . . especially if I disobey Him by leaving when He has not given me permission to.

Sometimes I think I have more grace for those that have left than they do for me who stays.

Kinder words are: “My heart aches for what you are suffering because I know that pain. Just know that if God leads you to stay – or go, you will have my love, support and prayers.”

I get it though. It is hard to support someone in a difficult marriage becuase their issue is often chronic. Unchanging. But prayers and encouragement and reminders of God’s faithfulness to them when the pain is particularly intense, help.

Job’s wife could have walked out on him. Think of it. She lost everything: Her kids, home, wealth, status, and her husband was afflicted with illness and depression. She got angry, expressed her views to be chided by her husband (and reminded of truth) and then she is not heard of again except that after God restored Job, he had even more kids. It didn’t say he had to get a new wife. Life got tough for Mrs. Job and she did not abandon her marriage. Scripture doesn’t speak to her journey or pain, but she suffered as well.

Now, Lilly Grace, you may say. That’s different. Job wasn’t abusive. But abuse can include neglect. I’m not saying Job intentionally slighted and abandonded his wife, but you hear none of his devotion or care for her in their difficulties. Neglect can be as much abuse as anything else. Emotionally it appears that Job left the marriage. From what we can tell though, he didn’t.

I’m not writing to disparage Job or his journey but to highlight that a difficult marriage encompasses more than situations of abuse: emotional, verbal, financial, physical. Somtimes it involves physical or mental illness. Or financial distress. Addictions. Adultery.

Are there good reasons to leave? Certainly. And a woman needs to take that before God and with wise counsel follow what He leads her to do.

He hasn’t given me that option at this time.

Blessings to you as you lean on God in your marriage. He is faithful. Always. And He sees what you are going through.

Lilly Grace 

 

I Didn’t Know I was in an Abusive Marriage

For years I struggled with my marriage. Depression and health issues made it even harder to get through a day once I quit working to be home with my kids. To top it off, we moved and I was more isolated. Funny thing, me being trained as a counselor that I didn’t recognize the abuses that had been going on for years.

I wrote my book while blind to this and I still stand by the truths I wrote  in there. I need those truths.

I understood about verbal abuse early on and with counseling, found ways to fight it as well as recognize that it was something I also had a tendency to engage in. I worked hard to eradicate all sarcasm out of my speech.

I’m not an arguer. I hate fighting. My husband has bragged about how great our marriage is because we don’t fight.

I found out early on it wasn’t worth it. I could never win. Early on I would refer to my “know-it-all” spouse as “Dr —–” It was not meant as a compliment. I now recognize it is more likely a narcissitic personality disorder. You can’t really win a fight with someone like that because anything you say can and will be used against you in the future, or twisted to make you begin to wonder if you are sane.

I really didn’t “get it” that I was being abused though until I heard Beth Moore speak while promoting her book “So Long Insecurity.”  She talked about not giving away our dignity. Then she said this in her book: “Whether male or female, any person who enjoys and exploits another’s insecurity and sensitivity is an emotional predator.” (pg 247) Beth then goes on to cite the Apostle Paul as writing about emotional predators. Whoa! How did I ever miss THAT in Scripture?

But he does:

“For men wil be lovers of self, lovers or money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: 

holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”

(2 Timothy 3:2-5 NASB)

I’m not here to point fingers though. Only to say, I didn’t know. And not everyone in a difficult marriage struggles with abuse. And how do you avoid someone like this when you are married to them? Even if seperated or divorced, it’s hard to avoid someone you may have had children with. They will likely always be in your life.

But Beth Moore is right. We don’t have to hand them our dignity on a silver platter only to have it smashed to smithereens by neglect, financial strangleholds, emotional blackmail and verbal harangues. And then there is physical abuse too which is usually more easily identified but no less easy for a woman to cope with in a marriage. (Please, always be safe and get wise help and counsel if you decide to leave ANY kind of abusive marriage).

Coming to grips with truth about abuse though involves two main issues: 

  1. I have to own my sin. Am I pure and blameless? Have I never been abusive? Where have I failed? Sometimes confessing those sins to an abuser can make you more vulnerable to abuse. I have at times, when I’ve realized I’ve been wrong, confessed in a calm moment in the relationship (timing can be everything) and it has been something that takes my husband off guard completely. In those moments God has protected me from those moments being used to abuse me. In many ways that alone reaffirms His faithfulness to me.
  2. Knowing that your marriage is abusive is not a happy thing. The more you learn about abuse and how pervasive it is, the more you have to grieve in what you have lost, not so much in your marriage (because you probably never really had it) but what you had hoped for and deserved as a Christian wife. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Once you move past this though, and learn to walk in dignity (a good therapist who understands abuse as well as a great support system is essential), the easier it is to hold your head up and grow in your understanding God’s love and compassion for you.

I didn’t know I was abused. I do now, even though my husband denies that (yes, I have identified behaviors as such and it was not well recieved).

God never condemns us. Even when we fail, He is there with his loving arms ready and open to lavish his love. It may not change the reality of our circumstances if we are seeking to preserve our marriage until the Lord gives us permission to leave, but it grows us in ways we would never experience otherwise.

Do I wish I had never been abused? Absolutely. But I also recognize that God has and is continuing to use this as a refining fire in my life and as a platform to bless others. I’m humbled to part of His bigger plan.

He knows and sees your pain, Dear One.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

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