I’ve given plenty of thought…obsessive amounts of thought…to my partner’s role in the demise of my marriage but as I am learning and relearning, there is always more than one side to each story. In fact, I believe there are three sides…yours, mine and God’s (otherwise known as “the truth”).
Then within each of those three sides, there’s also my perception of each, your perception of each, and again, the truth.
So, here goes my perception of my part.
I got married too young.
I got married when I knew I shouldn’t because a) I felt the Spirit nudging, and b) others had counseled me not to.
Once married, I yelled. A lot.
I was cruel and self-serving and critical with my words. Probably daily.
I looked out for number one and tried to protect her (aka, me).
I didn’t serve enough.
I didn’t build him up enough.
I didn’t respect him. (Let me take a moment with this one. I used to argue that once I felt he deserved respect, I’d begin to respect him. I now believe that there are two kinds, or levels, of respect. There is earned respect and there is role-expected respect. For instance, I might not respect President Such-&-Such, but if he walked into the room, you’d better believe I’d stand and probably clap just because of his role. So, if for nothing else, I withheld role-expected respect.)
I prayed for him and I prayed for us, but I didn’t do so enough.
Now things take a slightly different turn. The above list, I knew I was messing up all the time. The list that follows are things that I didn’t know how to do any differently until it was too late. These things used to not feel like things I was doing wrong.
Boundaries. I had no boundaries. I was needy, beyond needy (“a black hole of need” to quote my pastor), and so I would take any and all attention. I even stirred things up into arguments because yucky attention was better than no attention.
Accountability. Things were going on that were outright sinful and wrong. I didn’t call him on it. I used to think that wasn’t my job but the job of another man. I now realize that is part of a partner’s job…that’s what a help-mate should do. Gently of course.
Help. I asked for help. A ton. But then when I didn’t get it, I stopped. I crawled back into my shell and tried to keep wading through. And I say this even though we went to nine counselors and met with other couples and I read a bunch of marriage books. I never spoke the full truth until four months before we ended up separating. And when I did, when I literally laid our marriage out on the table at a local diner for another couple from church, I said what I should have said ten years before, “I’m not saying I’m sinless. But I’m saying this is wrong, and I can’t do this anymore, and I am begging you to help me.”
There’s more, I’m sure. Because remember, this is just my perception of my part in it all. There is still my soon-to-be ex-spouse’s, and more importantly, there’s how God sees me in all of this.
So there you have it, in case I ever gave the impression that I thought I was the victim in a hit-and-run marriage, I wasn’t. I was a full participant in our dysfunction.
But I’m beyond grateful to say that there’s hope now, that healing is coming, that I sense joy so much more than I have in years and years. I messed up, absolutely. But then there’s Jesus to clean me up and stand me up on my feet again. And he is. If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.
Thanx Elisabeth, for sharing. You have absolutely no idea how God has used you, your blog, and your books to minister to me over the years. I am sorry that you are going through what you are going through, but your authenticity has reached me in ways that the Women’s Ministry in my own church has not been able to. It is my prayer that you remain open , transparent, and available to Jesus, so that other women are touched, and healed by seeing themselves in your testimonies, which lets them know that they are not alone.
wow thank you for sharing this your such a women of God the words you said I look forward to getting to know you
Thank you. You have no idea how much I can relate to the things you’ve said, and how much it helps to hear your story. I know other women in this boat, too. We need so badly to know that we aren’t alone. When you’re going through it you can feel so alone.
Along the way (through counseling, prayer, and thinking, thinking, thinking) I realized a lot of the same things you said here–my own foolishness in marrying who/when I did, my lack of boundaries, my neediness, etc. Healing has come, but I was like Eustace when Aslan started to tear away the layers of scaly skin. It was SO painful, but so worth it.
Elisabeth, I especially appreciate what you said about not holding the partner accountable. Letting things go. Part of being a true marriage is holding one another accountable and not just physically, but to act as was vowed! I was very guilty of that too; I let it happen until someone finally showed me how it was dysfunctional to my children to live the way I was letting us live. I needed to be true and honest and hold his behavior up to the light of God’s truth. Sigh!! Hard but right!!
Elisabeth, I respect you so much and I thank God for all the blessings I have recieved through your blog. After 21/2 years of physically and psycologically abusive marriage, My husband asked me to leave our house and filed for a divorce. I have toddler and pregnant with our second baby due in June. Everything is uncertain right now but I find hope from encouragement of people like you.
Even though I am hurting from all the mistreatment, lies and deciet, I am grateful that I still have my life, a beautiful son and another one on the way and a very strong sense of purpose.There is a reason for my life and everything that I have been through. I also realize that I have my part in all the problems but that too is okay for I am learning from it and growing, this also keeps me humble and away from trying to avenge myself.
Sorry to hear what happened with your marriage. But, at least you’re learning a lot from it and moving on with your life. And I think it’s good that you learned that talking and telling the truth can help. Even if you talk to all the people in the world, I think all you need is to tell the truth to someone who can listen to you openheartedly.
I admire your honesty and courage, Elisabeth. Writing about it is painful, but your brave spirit certainly washed all the bitterness away. I think your own words built an emotional shield that strengthened yourself even more. I’m glad that you can admit your mistakes honestly and see light in your problem. I wish you well!