Question: “How did you know when your marriage was over?”
I did not have one lightbulb moment of realization…I had several. But, interestingly, none of them came as an aha moment that my marriage was done, per se.
The first was when I was threatened for the first time, and I remember thinking, I think I might be done. But what I didn’t mean when I said that to myself was, I’m going to get a divorce. What I meant was, I think we are officially irretrievably broken and even if we stay together for the rest of our lives, a line was just crossed that cannot be forgotten or undone.
Another moment came after an argument that was so disarming and damaging, I called a friend in the middle of it and she told me to come over, where I proceeded to lay on her couch and she and her daughter tried to talk me into getting medicated immediately…I was simply that broken into pieces, possibly the closest I’ve ever been to an actual nervous breakdown.
And yet another moment was when my church leadership released me to legally separate. It’s one thing to think to yourself that things might be over, but to have a group of people look at you and say, we don’t see reconciliation in your future…that sort of changes everything.
But the final I-knew-it-was-over moment came when the judge looked at my spouse on our divorce day and asked if the marriage were over and my husband said yes, and I stood there, screaming in my head, “It is?!?”
And I have had to replay that five seconds over and over and over again because there are moments and days when I still do not believe that my marriage is finished and dead and behind me. Still. Seriously still.
But I don’t think this is what you’re asking. I think you who are asking this are in a very hard marriage and you want to know if and when you’ll just know that it’s over for you.
I think there are two kinds of marriage-enders. One is the kind that initiates the ball rolling. The other is the kind that lets it happen. I am holding no judgment when I say this.
I initiated getting the ball rolling on getting us help one final time. And I initiated the legal separation (but only after wise counsel). But I look back on my reconciliation process and realize that I was being led. I was not running the show. I was trusting that God put those eight people around us and he was leading me out through them (though they may not want that burden of responsibility on their shoulders), that is how I saw it.
I did not have one certain bad thing happen to me and then go to a lawyer to get a divorce.
A thousand bad things happened, and then one day someone called it abuse, and then a threat came, and then I begged for help, and it came rolling in, and I just let the tide pull me in and then right out, believing in my core that God was sovereign through it all.
So if you are in a bad marriage and you are clinging to Jesus, I fully believe he will let you know if and when to go. Read Scripture. Stay or get connected. Stay or get in counseling. Ask or keep asking for help. Be open to work on yourself. Pray for a heart that is soft and willing and teachable. Do just what needs to be done today, with as much kindness and gentleness and respect as you can muster. And you will find yourself following him into a stronger marriage or following him out into wholeness. But either way, you will find that you have gotten closer to him than you ever were. And it won’t be about just one moment.