Free Advice Friday: Is it over?

(This is in response to a request.)

Note: I am not a professional, just some girl. Take all advice at your own risk.

So… How do you know when a marriage is over? How do you know if things have gone too far to rediscover devotion? How bad is too bad? At what point does your depression and hurt start to affect your family? Or, the big question: as a Christian, is there ever a reason to leave outside of abuse or infidelity?

I will do my best to answer that looming question: “Should it be over?” I can’t promise that I can give any advice that will be help you find solace, but I want to at least try.

  1. Do you really want it to be over? When you think about divorce, is there a rock in your belly? Do you get incredibly uncomfortable? Is there some little voice in your head screaming, “no, this isn’t right, stop thinking this way?” If there is, listen to it. You will go through the rest of your life wondering if you left a relationship that could be salvaged.
  2. Does your spouse want it to be over? Don’t wait until you’ve made up your mind to discuss the state of your marriage with your spouse. If they don’t want things to be over, they may be willing to make concessions and change. If they don’t want to work on the relationship… I’m sorry, but it’s over. A marriage takes two people who are devoted. They don’t have to be devoted in equal measure, but they do need to both be devoted.
  3. Would leaving cause your children undo distress? If you have children, it is your parental duty to ask yourself this question. Is your spouse a good parent? Are they strongly bonded with your children? Would leaving mean that your children would be deeply hurt, or that they might resent you? Are they old enough to be aware of your relationship with your spouse, and if so are they hurt by the tension in the home? You must weigh the benefits of leaving against the harm of staying.
  4. Are you in a healthy and stable position? Are you capable of leaving without putting yourself in jeopardy? Are there friends or family that can act as a security blanket should unexpected debt or complications arise? Again, if you have kids: will your children be clothed, fed, able to continue in school, etc? Unless you have reason to believe you are in immediate physical or emotional danger, you should never leave a comfortable situation for one that could cause you problems. Take the time to plan for the future.
  5. Are you emotionally and physically capable of being single? Will leaving mean that you might cause yourself harm? Whether it’s a struggle with depression or a disability that might keep you from holding a full time job, are you prepared to foot it alone? Are you dependent on your marriage for your security? Can you take care of yourself? If you are a parent, ask yourself if you truly are prepared to pay all the bills yourself, to be on 24 hour call, to be the only one who stays up with sick kids and picks them up from school? You may say, “I’m already like a single parent”, but unless your spouse doesn’t give you any cash, doesn’t pay for any of the kid’s things, and comes home and goes in the other room without ever interacting with the kids you are in a co-parenting situation.
  6. Do you do well with solitude? Has your spouse ever gone away without you? How did you do? Were you relieved, or did you hate the silence? Could you sleep in bed alone? Did you count the hours until your spouses return, or dread the moment your spouse was back in the house?
  7. What do your friends think? You may say, “this isn’t about them, it’s about me.” Well… yes, of course it’s about you, but sometimes those we love see things we don’t see ourselves. They may see damage that you are taking on that you haven’t noticed, or they may see the potential for resolution that you are ignoring.
  8. What does God think? Yes, God doesn’t always send us the memo, but there are ways to figure things out. Read your Bible. See if you feel a reinvigorated desire to work things out. Talk to your pastor. Seek counseling with a trusted mentor. Most of all, what do you feel when you pray? Do you despair? Do you find comfort? Is there a voice in your head screaming “leave” or a voice screaming “stay”?
  9. Coldly evaluate the facts: Make a list if you have to. Evaluate the cost of leaving. Evaluate your resources. Be honest with yourself about what it means, and see how you are feeling when it is laid out in front of you.
  10. How are you feeling now? Look at yourself in the mirror. Ask yourself, “am I ready to be divorced? Am I ready to be alone?” Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Then, look at your spouse. Ask yourself, “is this a person worth loving?” If the answer is yes, you aren’t ready to go. Not unless your spouse tells you they are ready to have you gone.

Now, from a Christian standpoint I can say that traditionally the only reason to divorce is because of abuse or the breaking of vows. While that is a wonderful idea, divorce rates very clearly state that it isn’t own that is terribly prized. The question cannot be what others believe or what others ask of you, but simply what you ask of yourself. Prior to marriage, what did you think? Is it something that truly matters to you? Can you forgive yourself, forgive others? If you had a friend in the same situation, what advice would you give them? Some people may say, “your emotions are untrustworthy, hold with your faith, not your heart.” I won’t say that, because I believe that God created us to be a certain way, and sometimes when we are left alone in the darkness crying out, the ONLY voice we hear is our hearts.

Then there is the question of breaking a vow. When I was married, I swore to love and honor my husband. All I can say is that if the loving and honoring stops, the vow is already broken. There may be a chance to rediscover that love, but only if your spouse is willing to bear with you.

Only you can answer these questions. I can’t. You must do what you need to in order to look yourself in the eye and turn to God without shame.

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20 thoughts on “Free Advice Friday: Is it over?

  1. Montie: I don’t know that the Bible necessarily does. In fact, if I remember correctly God never intended for divorce to exist, he allowed it because the People of Israel complained. There are concessions for the case of infidelity in Deuteronomy (chapter 24). In Malachi (2) God is quoted as saying, “I hate divorce”.

    There are probably no concessions for abuse, because at the time spousal abuse would have been overlooked. Times have changed. In todays society, women are not considered their husband’s possessions and they are considered to have the right to protect themselves. I don’t think there is any thoughtful Christian who would say a woman should remain in physical danger or leave her children in physical danger simply because the Bible doesn’t speak of it.

    The Bible is clear- God hates divorce, but he allows it because men’s hearts are hard and they will not listen to his direction (Jesus discusses this in both Matthew and Luke). Thus, if man’s law allows it, God tolerates it, and the question then becomes one of OUR hearts.

  2. Ok, Well, here are my 2 cents. I would like to say up front that I am not of the Christian Faith persay. I believe in the teachings of God, and follow them. That would be a more accurate description of my faith.

    1. Have you sought counselling? If you havent, that should be step one. Even if it is to separate and get things settled so that things can run smoothly and you can at least be friends.

    2. Do you have children. If the answer is no, then its a whole lot easier to let a marriage go when you are not happy or satisfied. No harm no foul. No one will be hurt or damaged except for the two people involved as adults. However, if there are children involved, every single effort should be made to try and work your problems out. Therapy will help. You’d be surprised how small changes can rekindle your relationship and help get you back the person you married.

    3. Compromise and communicate. You need to remember that you each have needs. If you feel that you can’t talk, write down your issues and exchange them with your partner. Give them a couple of days to digest the information, and then get together to discuss them.

    4. Marriage is never perfect. Some days you simply dont like your spouse. You want to rip their head off no matter how wonderful they are. Sometimes you feel bored. Sometimes you wish you were with someone else. Sometimes you feel like you are missing out on life. Guess what…. EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY. Single people feel the same things in reverse. It is the way of life. You have your ups and downs.

    5. Remember the meaning of the word Cherish. When was the last time you cherished your spouse? When was the last time they cherished you? Try it… see how fast your relationship turns around for the better.

    6. Remember to pray, and remember to breathe. Those are the two best things you can do.

    7. If you feel yourself losing your temper, remove yourself from the situation until you can be calm, collect your thoughts and speak in a rational tone to your partner. Nothing ever gets accomplished by yelling.

    8. Never ever call your spouse names. You can never ever take them back.

    9. Write out a relationship contract about how you would like to see your relationship. The rules. Believe it or not it is really really helpful to get passed all of those little annoying habits..

    10. Be kind. A little kindness goes a long way.

  3. I would like to add this. Be sure to listen to that little inner voice that is in your head. I didn’t listen when I was young and thought I was in love the little voice was telling me *as I was walking down the aisle* that I was making a mistake and that I should take my Dad up on his offer to ‘just say: no.’ I didn’t listen and I threw away 8 years of my life married to a mentally abusive alcoholic.

    I knew the marriage was over and it still took me two years to work up the courage to leave. Even now, 16 years later, I still look over my shoulder; I won’t ever be surprised should I see the ex standing there waiting to take me, my husband, or my son out.

  4. Good advice, Shushy. Sometimes people simply fall out of love and there is nothing wrong with that. I agree that it’s part of the vow-breaking. We’re serial monogamists, by nature. We are programmed to reproduce more than once AND love as much and as many times as we want. I don’t see divorce as a gateway to being alone. People I’ve known who’ve been divorced felt very alone before the divorce. Once you take care of yourself, then you can be there for others and others can be there for you. Most can and will love again.

  5. I’d have to look it up to be certain, but IIRC, the “I hate divorce” is part of an Old Testament passage where God is telling priests what he thinks about them abandoning their wives (through divorce) in order to marry younger, hotter wives…

  6. Yep.

    Here’s some of it:

    “13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

    15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. [e] So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

    16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself [f] with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.
    So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.”

  7. Amber: that is great advice. Thank you.
    I-luv-Eeyore: That’s good advice, as well. I think at some point the sixth sense kicks in. I’ve heard so many women say, “I guess I’ve known for years, I just wouldn’t listen…” We need to learn to LISTEN, we’ve got that knack for a reason!
    DKN: I don’t think anyone is meant to live a loveless life out of obligation alone. I wish Christians would just acknowledge that while there is NOTHING more important than honor (other than love of God or love of others- which are honor in different clothes, really), honor is not found in doctrine alone.
    Cat: (((HUGS))) take care of yourself, sweetie
    e2c: It’s interesting that the entire passage is about the adulterous ways of the priests, from politics to false goddesses and finally to divorce and violent natures… and what verse do people pick? “I hate divorce.” Score 2934 for “missing the big picture”. *sighs* (And here am I, guilty myself…)

  8. Hey – no worries here! It’s just that that one sentence gets lifted out of context *all the time* (as you know), and that’s just NOT right.

    I also find it *very* interesting that God is telling these men that breaking faith with their wives is akin to shedding blood – and that he’s all about the women, in this case (and many, many others). I think we’ve suffered unduly from misogynistic ideas perpetrated by some of the early church fathers, who seem to have been looking the other way and whistling as far as passages like this chapter from Malachi are concerned…

  9. Both Cimmy and I have contemplated the very points you listed, shush, and so I think your reasoning is very sound.

    We passed the nine year mark last December, and I will say that these points are worthy of consideration in and of themselves. I’m sure my experience is not uncommon– marriage is a lot of hard work, and demands several re-evaluations and renewals of commitment.

  10. I’ll agree that the Bible very clearly identifies adultry as a reason for divorce. You stated that abuse was a biblical reason for divorce. I would challenge you to show me that passage.

    Montie

  11. Montie: In my post I made two statements about the Christian view on divorce:
    1- “as a Christian, is there ever a reason to leave outside of abuse or infidelity?”
    and 2- “from a Christian standpoint I can say that traditionally the only reason to divorce is because of abuse or the breaking of vows.”
    Neither of those said, “the Bible says”, I was speaking of Christian tradition, and in all of the churches I’ve been a member, the belief was that either infidelity or abuse could be considered reasons to divorce legitimately. I cannot speak for ALL traditions or ALL Christians, just what I have experienced.
    I reiterate: I did not ever say “the Bible says”.

  12. Hi, This is my problem. I have been married 1yr and a half, and dated the man 2yrs before. I am a Christian, and did he t want to have pre marital sex. While we were dating, this man could not handle being celibate, and would always want to have sex with me. At times I would give in to temptation, only to feel absolutely horrible. My relationship with God, which I cherish, began to deteriorate. I struggled the whole time with him. He said he was Christian, but I realized him and his family say they are Christians, but have a total disregard towards sin.
    Anyway, I felt pressured to marry, because I so much wanted to have the relationship back with God, and not sin anymore. I wanted to do the right thing, or what I thought was the right thing at the time. I kept telling him we needed to be married if we were going to continue having sex, and finally we married. It was a terrible day. He had a face on, was not affectionate, I cried. We just went to the judge and it was horrible, he was really cold with me.
    Another thing is his family never accepted me, they tried with all their power to prevent the marriage, and to break our relationship. The main reason being that I had a severe neck injury, and had surgery so I was sick alot, and in pain alot, and they thought I wasnt good enough. This hurt me BADLY. His family has been very hurtful to me, evil to me, and I have re payed them with good. I did many good things for them and helped them through alot…they are illegal immigrants. His sister has even robbed money from me, and they made me feel like I was worthless because I was sick, but they didnt see I was a US citizen, smart, professional, loving, loyal, moral…..generous. Anyway, he never defended me from their evil, or stood up for me. I realized these people …my in laws, were liars, users, immoral, didnt care who they slept with to get help. This felt like poison to me, just being around this.
    Anyway, we married….. we had a lot of arguments, sparked by my in laws. The last argument, he left me after 3 months of marriage. He came back and tried to win me back 5 months later… and I got back with him. Divorce to me is serious, I fear God, I want to do right. This would be my 2nd divorce…I was not saved and I was young after the first one, and I already carried so much guilt aobut it. I dont want to be a Christian, with 2 divorces, and the possibilty of being alone or childless. Oh..also..I felt pressure from my biological clock… I am now 39.
    Now, my husband is the type that I see feels that if the marriage has too many problems…he wants out. Everytime we have aguments… he wants out. He is not devoted to the marriage or me. In fact many times, he tells me he wants it to be over. I wanted to try to work things out…he says its no use. He puts his family first, and they manipulate him for money. They wont let him go. They are very destructive. They never left us alone, and he never stood up. He never put our relationship first. Even when we are together he is a not affectionate, and does not dedicate time with me, just the television.
    I struggle with this decision, I left everything for him, my family, my home, my state, everything… I just wnat to please God, thats what kills me.
    Im sorry this is so long… please anyone who has any opinions, please email me, or write back. Thanks…Antoinette

  13. Really insightful & interesting blog. Those are all good questions that you should ask yourself if you’re in that situation. Kudos!

  14. My Dear Antoinette,

    Have you ever heard the tern un-equally yolked? I believe that is the term that is used when there is only on true Christian in a relationship.

    No one can tell you what to do. Only you know what is right to do in your own heart. But here are the steps.

    Write down a list on a piece of paper.

    Write on one side on this list that this marriage helps you to be the christian woman you want to be. On the other side of the list, write how this marriage prevents you from being the Christian woman that you want to be.

    Secondly, Pray and breathe. Go to a quiet place with your list. Talk to God. Allow him to give you the answer. You already know the answer. Everyone who read your post can see the answer.

    Thirdly, Do as Jesus did. Wipe the dust from your feet and move on.

    God’s love for you allows you to be brand new in each minute. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. Only what you choose to do in this moment with the choices you have for now. Do you want to lead a Christian life? Then do it. That doesn’t mean you allow yourself to be abused. God loves you and wants you to be loved and cherished. You are his precious child.

    If you are meant to be a mother. You will be, no matter what your plans are. God has a plan for your life. You have to have faith. It might not be a conventional plan. Maybe you will marry someone who already has children. There are many ways for children to enter your life.

    Please don’t be discouraged. I had a priest tell me something that I thought was so beautiful when I got married for the second time to my soul mate. I told him that I wasn’t planning to wear white. He said..listen white is not a symbol of virginity. It is a symbol of an open heart. And as far as I am concerned this is your first marriage for you have never been in the true state of marriage before… because if you have, you’d still be there! On my wedding day to my husband, I did truly feel like it was my first time. I wore white. I felt like it was the most beautiful day of my life.

  15. Dear Antoinette,

    I am not a religious person. So take my advice for what it is worth and I hope you can take it seriously even though we come from different schools of thought.

    I really like what amberfireinus said, I think it would cover everything from a religious perspective. Mine is not a religious perspective, however.

    If I did have faith in a God, the only thing that would make me feel whole would be to know that my God wants me to be HAPPY. Are you happy? You don’t sound very happy and this upsets me because you are clearly a woman who has compassion, forgiveness and kindness. You recognize what is wrong in this situation and it isn’t YOU. So I say have faith in yourself, not just in God. I know it’s hard to ignore all the messages you get about the evils of divorce, I really do understand that. People are probably making you feel bad about your instinct to take good care of yourself and be happy. Please don’t put that on your God, even if those who preach the word believe it is the word. There are so many Christians out there that don’t give a flip about divorce, seriously. So maybe they are on to something. It doesn’t make them any less Christian than the next guy. The bottom line is, it sounds like you KNOW what this marriage is doing to your self esteem and sense of well being. No God in the world would or should wish that sort of personal pain on anyone. It’s dangerous to your health, if anything.

    I really wish you the best. I see you in the light; free of guilt, shame and pain for wanting to be happy. (((HUGS)))

  16. Antionette: I hope my message and the very compassionate comments left here help you find some peace of mind. Many blessings for you and your future. God loves you.
    thesahmblog: thank you!
    DKN and Amber: thank you for leaving those comments. God does not want to see his children in pain.

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