When recounting the ending of my marriage – and my part in it – I sometimes say things like, “I didn’t call out sin early enough.” That statement is 100% true. And I 100% didn’t.
But when you read that statement, it’s sort of a passive-aggressive, only-half-admission of guilt. Because what I’m really saying in those words is that someone else was doing the sinning and I didn’t righteously do enough about said person’s sin as I sat there all holy.
And that’s not what I mean when I say that.
And yet I totally and completely mean that because I like to be the victim. I’m good at being the victim. I could win the Nobel Peace Prize for victim-ocity. And then I’d put my trophy on my mantle and show people when they came to my house. See, I didn’t stand up for what was right early enough and long enough and correctly enough…woe is me…it was so hard…boo-hoo… You can see why I won this award, right? I rock at victim-ness.
Over a year ago, I wrote about my part in our marriage’s ending. And all of that is true. But a year-plus later, and I’m still realizing more. There was so much more.
I was mean.
I didn’t let my husband be who he wanted to be.
I maintained everything. I was a control freak. I told the members of my little family how they should behave, even though one of the members of my family was a grown-up.
I was desperate to make sure no one really knew how broken we were because – other than my marriage – I loved my life and I was too selfish to risk it all blowing up in my face. I was the supervisor in charge of image management of our family.
I say that I wasn’t myself during all those years – and in huge parts, I wasn’t – and yet, it’s not like I was locked up in my closet. I still lived a really big, full life. I kept me busy. So I wouldn’t have to look at my marriage, but maybe more so, so I wouldn’t have to look in the mirror and at my heart and at how sinful I was being and how much pain there really was and what it might take to really try to turn things around.
I prayed. But a lot of the times, the prayers were help me…change him…release me.
I cared much more about me living in perpetual pain than I did the pain my then-husband was living in.
I just wanted the pain to stop but I didn’t want to have to do the hard work it would take to get us to the other side. (I did end up doing the huge amounts of hard work, but not until fifteen years in.)
I was selfish. I was a brat. I was unkind. I was disrespectful. I was critical. I was not a good wife. I would not have wanted to be married to me. And if I were my then-husband, I might have acted and reacted the way he chose to act and react.
Please hear me: I am not trying to put myself down. And I am absolutely not justifying what went on in my marriage, because it isn’t justifiable. But I am trying to look inside and be honest and true and real. But hear this as well: most of the time, my heart was in the right place…and most of the time, I didn’t know any other way but what I was doing. Those are not excuses…I messed up so very much. But I need you to know – and I need to remember – that I wasn’t intentionally horrible to another human being for the past twenty years. But I was unintentionally horrible for a lot of that time. And I need to own that. And I am so very sorry for that. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner…
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.
You have put into words the thoughts that have been in my heart for a long time. I’m a much wiser person now, more intentional, more thoughtful, but also more wary and more cautious. I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and I’m hopeful I won’t have to learn them again.
I regret that I don’t know your story, but reading this you should know how brave I consider you to be. Bravo for your courage in writing a very difficult post.
Thank you, Melody.
I’m right in the middle of the same thing you experienced. I have to keep reminding myself that I share the blame, but I cant seem to get past his part in all of this which is huge because of his very ungodly behavior which I can’t reconcile even though he isn’t Saved. To be honest you could have pulled a lot of what you wrote right out of my head. I don’t know where my situation will end up but thanks for sharing.
I lived much the same in varying degrees, at various times during my marriage which dissolved after thirteen years and three children. Ministry and the ministry lifestyle/dream created a false god which I worshipped more than authenticity. I was unwilling to risk losing that in order to be real and insist on the help we needed.
Well done on a brave post. You and me both, sister! I’m haunted by my part in it.
I too am haunted by my part. I can’t wallow in that muck and mire though, I have had to allow God’s mercy and grace to flow in, around and through me. This was a brave post by our sister in Christ Elizabeth.
Many praises to you for your honesty!!!! If the world made such introspection a priority the world we be a much better place. You are not alone. I’ve had the same epiphany too. When I was living my life as a legalistic Christian (with good intentions) I didn’t realize the problems that resulted. Not extending grace and being judgemental–God had to really get ahold of my little heart and break me. Now I see things so much clearer and I’m striving to love others with the gracious love God’s bestowed on me. May your post impact so many and from your transparency may many work with the Holy Spirit to do some serious soul searching……..
I too have had to look at my part in the dysfunction of my marriage. My pride prevented me from seeking help and from living an authentic life. My mission in life was to have the perfect marriage, family and home, unlike my childhood. I was going to do it better-do it “right.” I was sometimes overbearing about keeping the house clean and picked up so everything would look prefect from the outside.
My husband was abusive and manipulative from early on and I struggled to pretend all was fine. After all these years it has taken a huge toll and I’ve had to humble myself and seek help. Through this process God has taught me that I don’t have to be prefect, that He has loved me unconditionally all along. Now the healing has begun and I have learned new boundaries (More importantly I’ve learned I’m entitled to boundaries!) We are working on our marriage and I’m leaving up to God. Thank you for sharing both sides Elisabeth. The Lord’s word says “all have fallen short of the glory of God.” We do well when we take a good look at our own hearts first 🙂
Thank you for your honesty. I know I blamed and cried victim and then became an aggressor in the cycle of abuse that happened in my life but the Lord holds us accountable for our part. Your confession will lead you to further healing. As I started to confess more and more of my faults and sin against the Lord and my husband, changes happened in me and even to those who hear. We are all still a work in progress and your walk on the broken road as you share it is broken into beautiful. Thank you Elizabeth
Elisabeth, I can so relate. I’m so glad I’m not the only one…so many times I tell myself that despite my mistakes *he* made the decision to cheat…but I still hurt for how I hurt him and how I hurt my marriage that is now over.
I have been struggling with believing that God can forgive me for my part in the breakup…and I’ve been struggling with forgiving myself. I look at my right foot and see what I had tattooed there the day I got the final papers: “Forgiven and Free”. I had it put there so I could remind myself of that fact: I truly am forgiven and free, thanks to God’s great gift to us. I still feel bad about my part in the breakup and I’m thinking that might last a very long time…but for today at least, I feel in my hear that I am forgiven and free.
Thank you for putting this into words…as I think so many times when I read what you’ve written, “I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
God has blessed you, that you can see this. Thank you for sharing this. It gives others like me the courage to look at our faults, own them and do better.