What Marriage?

20120714-105714.jpgDear Christian Counselor,

What do I do with my marriage? I am tired and hurt and devastated. We have been married three years and have fought this entire time because he is controlling and emotionally and verbally abusive to me. I have since learned he cheated on me before we were married and also recently. I feel lost and not knowing what I am to do at this point. On top of all of this, he is not remorseful for his behavior and choices and says I deserved it.

Lost and Alone in Marriage


Dear Alone in Marriage,

My first reaction is to say to you, “What marriage?” Jesus names adultery as His exception to the prohibition on divorce (see Matt. 19:9, for example) because it breaks the relationship so thoroughly – physically, emotionally and spiritually. So you do have the option of divorce. You did not say whether you or your husband are Christians or have a Christian community, but if you do, it is time to engage those resources. You need a pastor, a counselor and a group of friends supporting you, praying for you and helping you through this time. If you don’t have these things, go get them!

Just because divorce is an option doesn’t mean you have to take it. But if your husband remains unrepentant in the face of confrontation by you, your pastor, Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then I would suggest you enforce a separation, even if you remain in the same house. Use the time to do your own counseling, especially in terms of your identity and decision-making, investigate your legal and financial options, and pray, pray, pray. For something this important, you want to know you followed God rather than culture or even your own ideas. In the end, you will either have to build something totally new with your husband or pursue life on your own, because what you have is not what I would call a marriage.


Related Material:

Questions About Forgiveness
An Unrepentant Spouse

It’s Not Just about the Money

imageDear Christian Counselor,

I’ve been married 26 years. I’ve always handled the finances with very little input from my husband. I’ve quit my job to take care of my Gma full time, his idea, and am not receiving a paycheck. Our daughter is ready for college, but he refuses to sit down and talk about anything to do with money. He’s out of town during the week and comes home on the weekends. He’s been helping his brother with our money but finally quit that. He loves to play the slots and scratch offs. I keep telling him we do not have money to spend like that. He went and got two loans for cash 6 months ago and I found out by accident. The non-communication is killing our marriage. I feel like I don’t have a choice cuz he’s the only one with money coming in. I feel like he does and says what he wants cuz he knows there’s not a thing I can do. Help!

 


Dear No Choice,

How exhausting! You have so much happening all at once. It is heartbreaking to read. The first thing I wondered when reading your question was, “Does she have any type of support system?” This is certainly a time to rely on your friends, relatives, and church group for prayer, emotional support, and help navigating these issues. This is not a road to walk alone.

I also highly recommend counseling, even if your husband will not attend with you. Your questions highlight sadness, worry, frustration, loneliness, and feeling helpless. It would be beneficial for a counselor to screen you for anxiety and/or depression. I also wonder if your husband is struggling with an addiction given what you’ve said about disconnection, taking out cash loans, and lottery tickets.

Money is one of the largest topics of dispute among married couples. Because the deeper nature of this dispute is less about money and more about anxiety and control, it is easy to see why couples disagree. Money is never just about money. It is both sad and hopeful to point out that financial issues are merely the tip of the iceberg. My guess is that there is much more happening beneath the surface for you both. A counselor can help you explore the history of your marriage, your personal histories, and how you two took on the roles that you are currently playing in your relationship.

Lastly, there are some red flags in your letter that concern me. If you were my client, I would advise you to consider talking with a financial manager. It might also be a good idea to consider meeting with a social worker who can help you make decisions about your daughter’s education and your grandmother’s health. Alleviating some of these stressors might give you more space to heal as you address the aforementioned marital problems.

This is probably not an easy response to receive. Let me encourage you in the promise of hope. The Gospel teaches that no pain is ever wasted and nothing is beyond God’s redemption. May you know the shepherding presence of Jesus as you walk this valley and may you know a marriage better than what you could dream of.

— Jessica

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

imageDear Christian Counselor,

 

I have decided to break up with my boyfriend. We have been dating online for 4 months and have gotten emotionally close. He loves me and wants to marry me, but I do not want to pursue a romantic relationship any further. I want to be as gentle and loving as possible in this process because I know what it’s like to be on the other side. I need help in what to say, what not to say, and how much I should say. Can you help me? Thank you!

 

Agapephilia


Dear Agapephilia,

Your desire to be kind and honest in this situation is admirable. I also commend you for being aware of what you want. No doubt, it is difficult to end a relationship with someone. Your best bet is to go with your inclination to communicate with kindness and honesty. Focus on what you want to let him know. You never have to share more than you feel safe sharing, even if it means repeating what you’ve already said.

 

It might help you to practice with an empty chair or a friend in order to become more confident in communicating your message. Some people like to write down key points or even to script the entire conversation. You could then read that message over the phone to him.

 

With all of this said, he will most likely still feel hurt regardless of how gently you deliver your message. You cannot rescue him from that feeling. You also do not have to apologize for your decision. It might take him some time and the help of friends to grieve and process the end of your relationship.

 

Lastly, decide ahead of time what you want your relationship to be like after you break up. Some will disagree with this, but I recommend making a clean break. That means no communicating or staying friends until both parties have the opportunity to heal and move on. Be mindful of family or friends you can talk to afterward about the breakup. God’s love will be there for you, as well as your ex; neither of you need to walk through this alone.

 

–Jessica