What Marriage?

Dear 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

Is Divorce an Option?

Dear Christian Counselor,

I am a believer, and my spouse says that there is no God which hurts me to the core.  I know that God doesn’t like divorce but, I also thought that God wanted couples to become one. What is the reason for staying married when there is nothing shared, we don’t know how to communicate, and I feel like my spouse only wants me here for sex?  I have already crossed over the line between being submissive and being a doormat.  So does God still want me to stay so incredibly miserable that my self-worth gets destroyed in the process?

Believer Who Feels Like a Doormat

Dear Believer,

No, God doesn’t want any good part of you to be destroyed – He created you in the first place and wants to see you sparkle.  But that doesn’t mean He gives you permission to divorce, either.  (And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 1 Cor. 7:13)  In this case, divorce would be about temporary happiness, not about trusting God, becoming your best self or loving others well.  What He will give you, if you ask, is the courage to stay, the love to complete you, and the wisdom to speak and act more like His Son.

His purpose for you is not to be a miserable doormat, but neither is it to get everything you want.  Human marriage is supposed to be a picture of God’s marriage to His people.  That means it is going to be hard.  In fact, God has a worse marriage than any of us, having been married for centuries to a bride who is dirty, mean and repeatedly unfaithful.  And yet, His response is to keep trying to find ways to love us, ways to make us more holy and more beautiful.  You see, His well-being doesn’t depend on our response.  He is fine, even when we are not fine.  That’s what He wants for you, too.  He wants each of us, as individuals, to be completely grounded in His love, so that we can be fine, even when our spouse is not fine and so that we can keep trying to love the unlovely like He does.  That will result in something much better than happiness, something God does want for you: joy.

Cover of "Sacred Marriage"I would recommend Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas on building a different kind of marriage.  See our Resources page.