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

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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

I’m So Done

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I hear talks about God restoring marriages, I shake my head.

I don’t want my marriage restored. I never had a good marriage and trying to reset it back to the beginning doesn’t make anything better.

I want more than that. I want something new. I’m done with this crap of being treated like I’m worthless and don’t matter and don’t deserve to be heard, understood and cared for.

Too often men especially, find themselves surprised when they are served divorce papers as if the marriage suddenly fell apart. Typically the woman emotionally left a long time ago. He just never noticed. Or cared.

So what do I do with these feelings?

I take them to God and I blog about them. Huh. Go figure.

See, while it matters to God how I feel, he does not ask me to make my decisions based on that. He asks me to obey him regardless of my emotions. To trust him for the future.

So why don’t I want to save my marriage? Well, it’s not exactly that I don’t want to. I’m realistic. Should my husband repent and want to work on a new relationship with me as his wife, we start back almost at ground zero but with a whole lot of distrust that has to be re-earned. It took my husband seven years- SEVEN!–Before he finally decided he’d marry me. I can’t guarantee it wouldn’t take me that long or longer to accept a new husband in the same (but much older) body. The process of making a marriage a new creation would be messy and painful. Only then there would be the hope of something better on the other side. But there’s no glimmer now so I hold tight to God instead.

I’m tired of pain. I’m tired of rejection and I’m tired of insults. My heart no longer picks up the mantle of shame my husband tries to dish out to me when I don’t react like he wants. It’s not a marriage anymore. He’s an annoying roommate.

Sigh.

No pity. Don’t comment with your “loving” demands that I leave. I know my options. I willingly choose to obey God and for now, he says stay. Working on the marriage involves poking a grizzly bear and I just don’t care enough to do it right now. But God can work in and through and around me to his great purposes and when taking the risk of that poke is needed, Jesus will be the one helping me hold that poker.

I’m so glad he loves me right where I am. No matter what.

How about you? If you are in a difficult marriage are you hopeful or are you like me, feeling done and tired and if you could walk away you would. What helps you to stay?

Blessings,
Lilly Grace

I Wouldn’t Choose You

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I saw a title of a book called I Choose You and thought, aww, isn’t that sweet. Of course it’s a romance.

And I’ve seen men and women post on Facebook how they would do it all over again with the spouse they married. Or how about those that even renew their vows.

At this point in my  marriage I wouldn’t renew. Part of me starts thinking that maybe I should even shock my husband when he wants to do something I don’t like by saying, “Well, that’s something to consider for when we separate.”  After all, he’s the one who twice threatened to divorce me via a letter. I never gave him the satisfaction of a response and he never served me papers. It was a manipulation tactic.

But the fact is, right now if he asked me if I was happy in our marriage. I would say no.

If he asked me to marry him again. I would say no.

I don’t regret the past. I made the best decisions I could for who I was at the time.

But now, given all I’ve experienced, I would not choose the man whose last name I bear and who has fathered my children.

Why then, am I still married to him?

Because while I may not choose him at this point, I have chosen God and He wants me here and staying for the moment.

And even when I have failed to be all a Christ-follower should be, God has never abandoned me. So I stay because I choose God.

Alone

I met a young mom the other day quite by accident. I had prayed and listened to her over the past few years as she struggled in her marriage. She told me how her husband had taken her out to dinner and told her he didn’t want to be married anymore. He came home and told the children that Daddy didn’t love Mommy anymore. The kids were devastated.

Then he filed for divorce.

She is struggling because hasn’t date in so long and doesn’t want to. She said she is lonely and afraid she will die alone.

She told me she would rather go back to the verbal abuse of her marriage than live this way.

He’s treating her nice now. He’s spending more time with the kids with the visitation. He grumbles but doles out his child support.

She said if only he could have been this way while they were married, then maybe. . . .

I have a couple of things to say about this.

  1. She didn’t choose the divorce. She knows she messed up in the marriage and is counseling for that. He didn’t want to do the work. He made the  choice.  My suspicion is he is not a Christ-follower. My hope is that others will give her grace and not let her divorce status, something she did not seek or want, be a negative mark to her identity.
  2. She gave up going to church. I encouraged her to come back. Worship. Be with other believers. She won’t feel quite so alone.
  3.  I gave her information on Divorce Care and another support group of women that gather socially. She hadn’t been sharing much with any one out of shame – so she was missing key resources that could benefit her.
  4. She was borrowing trouble from the future. “I’m afraid I will die alone?” That could have happened while married too. You just have to die when no one else is around. The fact is, we can’t predict the future and will she grow old and be single? Well, a lot of widowed women do it too and survive. Being single is not a death sentence.
  5. This woman’s grief is still raw. She has a long journey ahead of her.
  6. She may be alone but her kids finally get a dad who is paying attention to them and she is finally being treated with respect. It’s sad that she would trade that for the agony and abuse she had experienced, just so she wouldn’t be alone in bed at night.  She’s in a place many divorced women would envy.

I’m pro-marriage. I really am. The fact is, just because we choose to stay and work on our marriage doesn’t mean our spouse will. Sometimes the choice is taken out of our hands. Sometimes a door slams in our face and God gives us a clear way out of the marriage. As painful as it is to let go of what is familiar, my prayer for this young woman is that she can embrace the good things she will learn and gain from this time as a single mom. She’s not alone. Ever. And she doesn’t need to distance herself from her church family either.

Work hard for your marriage, but realize that it takes three. God is working with you towards reconciliation, but your spouse has a role to play in that too an if he drops the ball and walks away from the game, it’s over and no on wins.

Someday, that could be you or me. I would hope for love and compassion should that happen just as I would hope for it now by staying. Our paths are unique as we seek to obey God. There is no one way to walk this path in a difficult marriage except for this: Obey Christ and seek to honor and glorify Him in every aspect.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Victim of Well-Intentioned Divorcees

I’m pro-marriage.

I won’t condemn someone who chooses another path. I haven’t walked in their shoes.

What I do have a hard time with though are those who have, willingly or unwillingly,  taken the route of divorce and then turn around and tell me that’s what I should do.

I don’t rule out separation at some point but God hasn’t lined things up for me to do what could lead to that.

So the thinking is that if you are abused – leave. Jesus walked away from abuse so we can to. True. Jesus walked away from PHYSICAL abuse. And I agree. If you are being hit – get out NOW. It doesn’t mean divorce, but you need to be safe.

Jesus didn’t always walk away from verbal abuse. Sometimes he told a story to confound them. Sometimes he pointed out their sin and hypocrisy. Of course when you look at the end of his life he didn’t walk away from the physical or verbal abuse at all. He endured it.

I’ve also been told that IF I love my husband, I need to confront his sin. Tell him what’s wrong and confront it and draw a line in the sand and take the consequences. Well…. I’ve confronted my husband before and only was abused more for it (verbally). Others have also confronted him and pretty much have been blown off.  I pick my battles now, based on what’s best for me – not his eternal soul – since he’s made it clear I have no business even thinking about that.

God’s word does say to walk away from a person who is repeatedly unrepentant.  God also hates divorce and he has not made a way for me to separate. So I stay. As I do so, I hear well-meaning Christian people telling me I should leave.

I resent this. Isn’t this my life to live before God? Aren’t I supposed to be following HIM and His Holy Spirit (along with wise counsel? Not everyone tells me to leave!) So why does that mean your choice is also best for me?

Why does this bother me so much? Because they have freedom and I don’t? Well, I’ve seen the cost of that freedom and it doesn’t come cheap.  It bothers me because while I understand how well-intentioned those people are, they are in fact, re-victimizing me all over again. Now I’m not only a victim of my husband’s verbal/emotional abuse, but I’m getting it from people in the church. Just a different group than those who would be condemning me for leaving if I chose that path instead. I can’t win.

So that leaves me in a bit of a no-man’s land (hahaha! Except he’s still here!). I don’t always love my husband. I struggle to pray for him. I don’t always care that much about my marriage. In many ways I’m done. I’ve walked away emotionally and spiritually even though I physically share the same address.

Does that shock you?

I struggle with grace in my circumstances and it can cause me to spin my wheels in my own self-care when I feel that sense of “I’m not doing enough to save my marriage.” I’ve tried. Trust me. I have. For the sake of my own mental and spiritual health I can’t do it any more.

I will treat my husband with respect. I will submit where I can. I will model and try to teach my children to respect their dad even when his actions are anything but deserving of such. And I will try to move on to a full life in the midst of my difficult marriage.

So please, don’t put me down for staying. This is not an easy path to trod, but I do know what the choices are and the consequences and for now, under the authority of the Holy Spirit at work in my heart, this is the path I chose.

Blown Up Bridges

I’m going to say from the outset – I’m PRO marriage. I’m for sticking through it even when it is tough and feels hopeless.

I find it interesting though that those who have more tenuous reasons for divorce, especially over instances of ongoing verbal (which includes, emotional and financial) abuses tend to be pro-leaving. Now,  not all are like that, but I found it interesting when I was trying to get editors and agents to consider publishing my book, Lessons from the Trenches: Staying in a Difficult Marriage that women who had left argued for me to leave too.

I’m not judging them for divorcing. It may not have even been their choice. The end result though is that they are free from the ongoing assault and want others to share that freedom.

I get it. I really do. I know that verbal abuse can have health impacts far more damaging and long lasting than physical abuse and that it can escalate to physical abuse and that women who chose to leave find themselves in the most dangerous period of time ever.

But God hasn’t given me permission to leave and I first and foremost have to obey Him. It is painfully difficult. It wounds deeply.

I thought about how in wartime, enemies would blow up bridges to keep their opponents from moving forward. A marriage with a verbally abusive spouse is like trying to cross a blown up bridge. Planks are missing, the railing is gone and  the supports are broken. Sometimes you have to jump to get across the empty spaces and my legs are short.

In real life, no one would even attempt to cross a bridge like that. But in a marriage, when a spouse has blown up the bridge with his words and actions, it takes great faith to take those steps and not abandon the bridge. If this were a physical bridge – you would be considered a fool to cross. Even with the marriage bridge blown to smithereens, many would consider those who stay equally foolish. Grenades explode all around. Bullets fly. If we seek to walk as Christ did, we don’t abuse in return.

Sounds painful. Impossible. Insane. One therapist I saw told me I had to leave. This was toxic. And he was right – it is toxic. But we don’t criticize a family stuck in a house filled with black mold making their kids sick, because they stay. We can understand how hard it would be when you have a mortgage and you can’t sell the home and how are you going to live when your money is invested in a home that is worthless?

But isn’t it like that in a marriage? No one is going to bail you out and make it easy. I know from walking alongside friends who have made the choice to leave, just how gut-wrenchingly painful it can be. Sure they have some freedom from the abuse but they also carry other heavy burdens as well. The grass isn’t always greener.

God is faithful. He has been my support when the under-girding of my marriage has been decimated. He helps me over the gaps and helps fill in the holes with his presence. It still hurts. Many times I wish I could jump off that bridge into the world of single motherhood but to do so without His holding my hand would be suicide.

So I stay. And it hurts. And I despair the bridge ever being able to be rebuilt because my spouse refuses the tools available to him by the Master Bridge Builder, the only One whom I can trust.

Blessings. Stand firm.

Lilly Grace

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