I’ve been reading comments in my difficult-marriage Facebook page and some of them make me sick to my stomach, some of them scare me, some of them send me into flashbacks, and some of them leave me yelling in my head leave him! What these dear women who are trying to do the right things are living through on a consistent basis absolutely breaks my heart. I have promised myself and God and them that I will never tell a woman that she should leave her husband. I haven’t done that yet (even when I’ve wanted to at times, I must admit) and I don’t intend to break that promise now.
However, there comes a time when it’s time to try something different.
There’s a popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.
Have you begged your husband a hundred times to stop drinking? Let me guess, he’s still drinking. Do you know why? Because alcoholics drink.
Have you tried to explain to your husband a hundred times what you really meant? Let me guess, he just smirks, walks away, and basically “wins” yet another argument, and you’re left wondering what just happened. Do you know why? Because there is no reasoning with someone who is not reasonable.
Have you cried yourself to sleep a hundred times after sex? Let me guess, because you feel like a hooker? Do you know why? Because this isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
Sweet ones, I cannot tell you what to do. I will not tell you to leave. But I want you to answer this question honestly: is your marriage the same or maybe even worse than it was a year ago, despite your continued efforts to fix it?
If you’re answer is yes, then it’s time to do something different and new.
Here are some suggestions:
If you’ve been to the same counselor for the past few years and you tell her the same thing every week and she gives you the same advice every week, and nothing is changing, it might be time to try a new counselor.
If you’ve been looking for bottles of alcohol or receipts around your house to prove what you already know deep down – that your husband is drinking and lying about it – and you keep telling him to please stop, and nothing is changing, it might be time to walk through the doors of AlAnon.
If you’ve been telling your husband to stop yelling at you and to stop calling you names and every argument ends in yelling and name-calling, and nothing is changing, it might be time you set up some actual boundaries. (Remember, telling someone what they can and cannot do is control; setting a boundary is telling someone what you will and will not live with. Check out Boundaries in Marriage.)
Or, if you’ve been going this whole thing alone, and just arguing and crying, and your marriage has never changed and you have no hope at all, it might be time for you to bring someone in for the first time, like a counselor, a mentor, a church leader you can trust.
If you keep doing all the same things, you will get all the same results, I guarantee it. Actually, let me correct that statement: things like this – abuse, addiction – tend to get worse when left unchecked, so if you keep doing all the same things, you will more than likely find yourself getting worse results as time ticks away. God wants so much more for you: healing and wholeness and joy and abundance. Don’t keep doing the same thing. Ask Jesus what new thing he wants you to try today.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.
This is an excellent post, since so many of us have been guilty of this definition of “insanity.” I would like to add another “if you find yourself…”
“If you constantly find yourself thinking that *you* are losing your mind–that you are going crazy–get in to see a counselor immediately. Don’t wait. BUT (and here’s the punch line!) if the counselor (and family, and friends) all tell you that it is *not you* then you need to take steps to protect yourself, and make some major changes. You are in a toxic relationship that is killing your emotional and mental well-being. This is dangerous territory.
I feel there is a difference between leaving and divorcing. I at one time was abuser. Unfortunately, my sons mother chose to divorce instead of leave. I sought the help i needed which made me the person i should have been all along. I just didnt know where to look.
Counselors only make you feel better about the situation. They cant help you if you dont know the source and most men dont know the source and most counselors do not specialize in verbal abuse and control.
All the points you made are valid. They are all actions of a verbal abuser and controller.
Google verbal abuse and the second return contains all the answers and help.
I still have hope that one day my sons mother will heal totally and we may reunite. In the meantime, i continue to educate myself and help and mentor others on this horrible, destructive behaviour…
Blessings to you all…
Bill, I know you are not a therapist but I would like your opinion. if this is an inappropriate question then please feel free to ignore it. You seem to understand how destructive a pesons words can be. My husband has never been abusive in any way but recently I found out he looked up an old girlfriend and has been communicating with her via email. I found out by accident one day. in the emails he was calling her “my wife” and she was calling him “my husband.”. I got mad and told him I was leaving. he apologized and told me he loves me as a wife but this other woman is his soul mate. I dont understand what he means by that. we have been married 22 years and have two grown children. we are both in our mid 40′. I did not leave him but I don’t trust him anymore. he tells me he is no longer talking to her but I’m suspicious. I guess I’d just like your opinion. I don’t know what questions to ask. I’m just devastated.
Elisabeth, thanks for being so honest. I’ve been reading your letters and they truly help a lot. My husband did not have an affair but from reading the emails going back and forth between them they might as well have. They called each other husband and wife and talked about missing each other and wishing they could be together again. as I mentioned to the gentleman Bill previously my husbandtells me he loves me but she is his soul mate. I don’t know what to do with this but I’m feeling like he’s cheating on me. I want to leave but I don’t know if this is something we should just work on instead. can he change? does it mattr? is it wrong? I’m so lost. how will I know if he won’t talk about it again?
Great thoughts, Elisabeth. I just want to add, if you change the status quo by either changing your actions/reactions, be prepared for him to continue what he is doing.
At the beginning of 2012 I resolved to stop nagging my STBX about spending money he/we didn’t have, spending literally hours on the phone ever day, etc., etc., etc. One of the biggest things I stopped doing was listening to him complain about his dad (very manipulative but a business *partner* in a very dysfunctional, controlling sort of way). I realized that my listening helped nothing–STBX never, ever did anything to solve the problems or make the situation better and I used large amounts of time and energy trying to find a solution.
I began to reply to his complaints with (kindly said) “So what are you going to do TODAY, to try to resolve it?” and “I will listen when you have steps you’re willing to take to make the situation better.”
Unfortunately, rather than work to solve the problems, he joined match.com and at some point began communicating with another women–who, I”m sure, was more than willing to everything he had to say and sympathize with all of the problems.
I found out about his affair in July and moved out in Sept. after realizing he wasn’t willing to try and had abandoned me and the marriage long ago.
I am so sad, and angry, that he was willing to give up his marriage rather than try to solve his problems with his dad–which, of course, are still going on today. (of course there were many other factors in the marriage troubles).
I do not regret doing what I did; as Elisabeth points out, if you don’t do something new and different, the marriage will not improve and will probably get worse. Our marriage was getting worse. I so regret not doing something–anything–sooner and possibly saving our marriage…but when he was willing to give up EVERYTHING to continue the dysfunction with his business and with his dad, I don’t think there was anything else I could have done.
I am starting over now, and it’s very, very hard. But it is such a relief to be away from the dysfunction, the wondering, the disrespect…
Bill, I’m so glad to hear that you’ve finally found the healing you needed to stop being abusive. What I wish you could also find the ability to be grateful for the fact that it probably took your wife divorcing you for you to find that healing. Women communicate to men in many ways, and most abusers ignore or even punish those “cries for help.” Only after reaching the “point of no return” (divroce) do most abusers seek help. It seems that you may have been one of those. Remember, unless your wife remarried, you could have always sought her out and wooed her again. Divorce is not final, but it may be the only resort when an abusive spouse won’t listen to anything else.
Great post. I did have to tell my husband no more drinking in our home and I closed our bank account which was drastic but im the one trying to be responsible. It’s hard now he’s even more upset but I had to do it for my son and I.