ust 5 months into our marriage, I had to take a stand. I ended up leaving my husband the day before our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. When I look back on that day that I left, I am beyond thankful for so many things. God orchestrated all of the events and timing in the best way possible. My parents were in town and were there to help me, there was a pastor at our church who had just enough time to talk before he had to get on a flight to his family Thanksgiving. I had a week off from work. All the right pieces were in place to support me in a really hard time.
It terrifies me to think of how different our life would be now if I hadn’t left when I did. Would I have had the courage to leave if my parents hadn’t been there? How long would it have taken for me to be honest with myself? I remember sitting at a coffee shop with my mom and her asking me some really tough questions to see what types of fights we were having and the other things I was experiencing. It was those questions that brought me to understand that I was in an unsafe situation. How long would it have taken me if my mom hadn’t pushed? God knew exactly what I needed in that moment and He was faithful beyond measure.
If God hadn’t given me the strength to leave, Adam and I would probably be in a much worse spot. The unhealthiness would have continued and caused much more deeply-rooted pain. My leaving forced us to work through our issues and work towards the marriage that God intended us to have. While it might seem counterintuitive, my leaving was actually me fighting FOR my marriage. I didn’t leave out of contempt or with a mindset of divorce or payback. I desperately hoped for reconciliation.
The First 48 Hours
Those first 48 hours after I left Adam were pivotal for our marriage. They defined who we were going to be moving forward. When I told him I was leaving, I wasn’t sure we were going to stay married. I was terrified to see how he was going to respond, not knowing if he would be angry with me. I felt as if I took a leap off of a cliff not knowing if there were going to be pillows or sharp nails at the bottom. This step was asking Adam to come with me on a journey to healing, but realizing that he had to make a choice too. He could choose not to. I was opening myself up to rejection. I was desperately hoping that he valued me and our marriage enough to change, but I was taking a risk.
The idea of setting some firm boundaries can be scary for anyone in tough situations. Taking a stance to move toward a healthier relationship can be terrifying. However, being in a marriage, which is supposed to be a team effort, can be a horrible burden when we feel isolated and trapped.
By God’s grace, Adam and I were both willingly broken before the Lord. We both decided that we were going to do whatever was necessary to make our marriage work. We would not be another divorce statistic. We were going to work through the difficulty and allow God to heal what was broken. Today, it’s almost 4 years later and our marriage is radically different.
Was it easy? Absolutely not. There were days that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue. There were days that I was so angry that I didn’t know how to let go. There were days that I felt so incredibly alone and abandoned. There were days that I struggled to trust God’s promises. Through all of that, God has been good and faithful. He has brought us to a place of surrender and given us an abundance of hope. God has fully restored our marriage and I am so grateful for the man that I married. He has proven to be a man of God who cares for me deeply and will fight for me and our marriage. We have both grown so much over the past few years. Adam has humbled himself and sacrificed his pride for us. He has allowed God to shape him into a wonderful husband that seeks God’s will above all else. After everything we have been through, I consider it an absolute privilege to be his wife.
Taking a Stand
God calls us to take a stand for our marriage. Proverbs 31:10-31 lays out a guide for a noble, God-honoring wife. Verse 12 says that “she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life”. Bringing good doesn’t mean that we are passive to our spouse’s sin that hurts us. Good means that we pursue what is holy. We fight for what God tells us is best. We fight for healing and love. We set boundaries that encourage healthiness and growth. Good means that we take a stand and fight for a healthier marriage.
But what about not bringing harm?
It’s important to know that while taking a stand may hurt your spouse, it will not harm them. This is an important distinction. Hurt is a sometimes necessary step to healing. Setting a broken bone, getting stitches, or having surgery all hurt, in that they cause pain, but they ultimately cause healing. Hurt is a temporary bump on the road to healthiness. It motivates us to seek healing. Harm is rooted in selfishness and ultimately causes more damage than it heals. When our bodies are working to heal from an injury, they may hurt, but that pain is an indication of healing. The same is true when strong boundaries are necessary.
Adam was hurt very deeply when I left, and I was hurt that I had to leave. But those hurts are what fueled our healing journey and they brought a lot of good. The hurt was the pain that made our marriage seek healing.
While taking a stand will likely HURT your spouse, staying in a situation that is emotionally or physically abusive will HARM you. Unhealthy situations cause trauma that takes a long time to heal. This type of pain is deep-rooted. The longer you spend in a situation like this, the more it eats away at the core of who you are, and the longer it takes to heal the wound.
Do you feel safe in your marriage?
If a spouse is physically violent, then the situation is definitely unsafe. But sometimes it can be hard to know you are in an unsafe or abusive situation if there aren’t any physical signs. Psychology Today shares the following:
“If you’re wondering if your relationship is abusive, it probably is. Emotional abuse, distinct from physical violence (including shoving, cornering, breaking and throwing things, etc.), is speech and/or behavior that’s [belittling], controlling, punishing, or manipulative. Withholding love, communication, support, or money are indirect methods of control and maintaining power. Passive-aggressive behavior is covert hostility. The passive-aggressor is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
To dig a little deeper, ask yourself these questions: Do you feel like you’re always wrong? Does your spouse tell you what to do? Do you feel berated, threatened, or manipulated? Does your spouse make you do things you don’t want to do? Do you feel uncomfortable around your spouse? Does your spouse control every penny you spend? Does your spouse make you feel guilty? Are you afraid of being home? Is time at home with your spouse a time of rest or aggressive tension? Does your spouse try to control who you meet with and talk to? In fights, is your spouse attacking your character?
If some of this feels a bit too familiar, you may be in an unsafe or abusive situation.
If you’re in an unsafe situation
- Seek to understand the situation
- Talk to someone
- Open up to a trusted friend
- Set up a safe place to go
- Take a stand
Read Ephesians 4:2-3, Ephesians 5:25-33, & 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. Do these verses reflect the heart of your marriage? If not, pray that God would give you strength and provide the steps that He wants you to take. Taking a stand may look different depending on your situation and where God leads you.
Make an appointment with a biblically-based Christian counselor. Ask your church or pastor for recommendations (sometimes churches will pay for the first few counseling sessions). You might have to see a few before you find a good fit. Finding a counselor is like finding the right pair of shoes; it might take a couple of tries. You want to find one that you feel comfortable with.
When we struggle in our marriages, it’s not good to go through the pain alone. We need a support system that will encourage us. Ask a friend to pray for you, your husband, and your marriage fervently.
Seek God’s comfort and peace. Even throughout the most difficult days or events, God loves you and cares about you deeply. He will be constant through the pain.
You may not need to use it, but it’s good to have a place anyways. Ask your trusted friend, family, pastor, or counselor to help you find a safe place to stay. Your physical and emotional safety need to be secure before any healing can begin.
God does not call you to be in an abusive relationship. In a marriage, we are to seek reconciliation whenever possible, but that does NOT mean staying in an abusive situation and continuing to be abused. Taking a step away from an unsafe situation to seek healing is a good thing.
The most important thing is to make sure you (and your children if you have them) are safe. Once you’re safe, connect with a Christian counselor to figure out what steps to take next.
Ultimately, for reconciliation to happen, both hearts must be submitted to God’s will. The hard part is knowing that you can only ever submit your own heart to His will.
Know that God Loves You
Even in the hardest of times, God loves you and he’s with you through every moment. He cares about your physical and emotional health. He wants you to have a marriage that inspires and encourages you, not one that breaks down the very essence of who you are. You are valuable and deeply loved.
If you are in this type of situation, know that I am praying for you and with you. You are not in this alone. My heart breaks with you and I want you to know how valuable and loved you are.