Question (from Facebook community): “{I’m in a very difficult marriage.} How do you learn to live your life in spite of your husband {and his addiction and/or abuse towards you}?”

For so many years I lived my life in complete denial. I was aware of my actual reality but I lived as if it weren’t true, even putting myself in danger at times so as not to rock the boat. That is not only naïve, but foolish. However, looking back, there is grace. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

But once you’re fully awake to your reality, you have some choices. You can let your sadness paralyze you into inactivity, letting life drain away a little more each day, or you can move forward, doing the best you can with what you’ve got. Trust me when I say, I know which road is easier. Letting yourself slip on the cloak of sadness and use it as one grand excuse to skip out on your life takes much less energy than pushing through.

I remember the moment so clearly when the switch happened for me. My children had some friends over and they were going to hang out for the evening. But I noticed a behavior that indicated a state of mind I was no longer comfortable glossing over. My usual response would’ve been to shoo the kids outside and clank around the kitchen, banging pots and pans and muttering under my breath all the things I wished would be heard and understood. In other words, my usual response would’ve been to let someone else’s choices tank my entire mood and evening. But instead, I surveyed the situation – a situation that I didn’t want to be in – and instead of choosing an evening of sulking for me and shielding for the kids, I took them all to the town fair. Me and four preteens at a carnival. (Seriously, if you know me at all, you know this was no small miracle.) And you know what? We had fun. My evening was not ruined. My kids’ evening was not ruined.

I remember someone saying to me years ago that she thought I was pouring too much time into ministry — leading the women’s ministry at my church along with my speaking and writing career on the side, and then eventually adding social justice advocacy and international travel to the mix — and that my marriage was perhaps suffering because of it. Now, yes, I was doing too much, especially because I was also the mother of toddlers and eventually school-age children through all of this time and activity and marriage deterioration. And yes, I came to a point of exhaustion and slowed the whole thing down to a screeching halt several years ago. However.

However, was I just supposed to close up shop because my marriage was a mess?  Was I? How would not writing anymore, for instance, help my marriage? A marriage that I was already single-handedly trying to repair through reading every marriage book out there and going to counseling with and without my spouse among a thousand other things.

A caveat here, of course, is that some of us do fill up our lives with other things instead of facing our devastating realities or trying to fix our hard marriages because it’s too sad or scary to look it full in the face. I get that temptation but that’s not what I’m advocating. You should know me well enough by now to know that if you’re in a hard marriage, my first advice to you is going to be to do everything you can to bring restoration. But this is not what we’re talking about here.

So I came to a place where I realized that my marriage was difficult. It wasn’t just difficult, it would more than likely be hanging by a very loose thread until Jesus came back. I was doing everything I knew to do to fix it. In fact, I was doing more than my share. And I could either shrink away from life because of my reality or I could attempt to build the Kingdom and raise my children well.

I couldn’t change my husband.  You can’t change yours.  AlAnon has a great slogan: live and let live. You let your husband live his own life, letting him experience his own victories and his own consequences. And you live your own life.

So I chose life.  And each time you pick up a marriage book during your hard marriage, you’re doing the same. Each time you sit down to spend some time with God during your hard marriage, you’re choosing life. Each time you serve at church during your hard marriage, you’re choosing life. Each time you go for a walk or take a yoga class during your hard marriage, you’re choosing life. Each time you pray for someone who’s hurting during your hard marriage, you’re choosing life. Each time you take your kids to the petting zoo or the apple orchard or the movies without your husband because he won’t or can’t go for whatever reason, you’re choosing life.

Life won’t wait for your marriage to heal. Do your part to mend your relationship, but keep living yours, dear one.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  -John 10:10-

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.

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