I was cleaning out my computer files the other day and I stumbled upon something that I wrote in May of 2009. This was a very specific season in my life. It was the time when I fully accepted my reality: I was living in a very difficult marriage. But it was before the time when I had gotten help from my church, before a separation or divorce were even on my radar. So I determinedly came up with a list of commitments, a manifesto, I called it. They were words I put to paper of ideals and practicals that I was telling God and myself I would attempt to live out in my daily life. And please keep in mind, this was at a point in my life when sin and lies were running rampant and I was painfully aware that I was being deceived. I read this manifesto of mine, three-and-a-half years after writing it, and I felt what I felt back then. Trapped. Like I couldn’t catch my breath. This was a sweet sacrifice, my offering to my God. This was my attempt to decorate my prison cell with wallpaper and hope and conviction.
Here’s the beautiful part. I read this every morning during my time with Jesus, read it out loud, proclaimed it to myself, to God, against my enemy, for months. And then, I signed it…every time I read it. My signature on this piece of paper is thick, as I must’ve signed my name over and over itself a hundred times or more in those months of commitment and recommitment. I did not execute this list perfectly by any means, but I sure poured my heart into trying. I may have felt frail during that stretch of hard life, but clearly, as it turns out and as I look back, I was more dogged and fearless in my resolve than I ever gave myself credit for.
So sweet one, if you are in a difficult marriage and your current plan is to stay right where you are, please read through this list. Perhaps developing a manifesto of your own could be your next step today.
Manifesto for Moving Forward
As I relate to Jesus:
I will abide in Jesus by spending daily time with him in prayer and Scripture reading, and turning to him moment to moment.
I will keep a short account with Jesus regarding my sins toward my husband, my children and my friends.
I will be mindful of Jesus’ love for me as my source of strength and hope.
I will serve Jesus by serving my family first, then my friends, church, community and world.
I will commit my writing, speaking and service regarding AIDS to Jesus.
As I relate to my husband:
I will strive to be kind and respectful to him by speaking to him gently, not judging him, not criticizing him unnecessarily, letting him live his own life, and apologizing to him when l’ve wronged or hurt him.
I will serve him through acts that are meaningful to him.
I will work on meeting needs that he has specifically shared with me.
I will work on detaching with compassion and love from behaviors that are hurtful to me or that I disagree with.
I will step back and allow time, space and quiet to encourage him to take the initiative in our relationship, even if it’s awkward and exposes the poverty, and even if he never does.
I will work on gratefully accepting his attempts to be kind to me.
I will hold my tongue and not react to him if he doesn’t treat me well.
I will decide prayerfully if l am going to intervene in any way if I hear him say something unkind or harsh to the children.
I will pray for him.
As I relate to my children:
I will be kind to my children because they deserve my kindness and love.
I will take care of my children because it is my responsibility to do so, not neglecting them out of selfishness or depression.
I will work on not taking anger that is unrelated to my children out on them.
I will make amends to my children when I do hurt them.
I will pray for my children, the healing of our family, and their future emotional and relational choices and development.
As I re-learn to live out my life:
I will trust Jesus, but will not put upon myself the requirement to trust my husband. I will expect of him only to be human, and I will wait patiently and with an open mind for him to rebuild trust.
I cannot require my husband to meet my emotional and relational needs. I will first and foremost go to Jesus to have these needs met, and can go to my friends as well.
I will share my heart with Jesus and close friends. I will be selective in what I share with my husband. I am releasing myself from the self-imposed obligation that my husband must be my closest friend. That is the ideal and my desire, but not my reality in this season or my fault.
We have a big God who loves and cares for us both deeply and because I see no consequence options, natural or otherwise, that may force my husband to seriously consider how things are, I am handing him over to God, getting out of his way, in the hopes that he will deal with him appropriately.
I cannot require anyone’s recovery, honesty, authenticity or restitution, though I can desire and pray for all of this.
I am letting go of my need and desire to control and fix my husband. I am taking myself out of the roles of private detective, cop, and judge.
I will continue individual counseling; I will discontinue couples’ counseling per my husband’s suggestion; I will attend my recovery group weekly; and I will continue to work my program and the twelve steps.
I am committed to putting an end to this with my generation. Recovery, health, and freedom from addictions, as far as it is up to me, will be what is passed down to my children and their children. I will do this hard thing, if not for me, then for my generational line.
I am in charge only of my physical, emotional, relational health and holiness, and I commit to take care of myself in these areas. My husband is responsible for himself. His life is 100% his responsibility and 0% my job. I have a job – my life and recovery.
I am in a difficult marriage, but that is only a part of who lam.
“God, not my marriage, defines my life.” -I Corinthians 7:17-
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.