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.
I so agree with you Elisabeth that it is not one moment but the accumulation of moments. The amazing thing for me as I look back on this question was, was how MY state of mind kept me married so long. Often when those moments happened I was broken and confused and not trusting God. There were many times over the years that I had every “biblical” right to leave, but I was afraid. I was not trusting God. I would think, ‘I can’t leave now… The kids… His job… Our church… My friends…. My finances… Could not survive!!’ I was not trusting God!
The “last” time things had actually been going really good for us. We had just finished a year of counseling. I was on fire in my walk with God. I had just started “Experiencing God” by Blackaby.
When the shoe dropped so to speak. The porn started again, and then the sexual demands. I am not talking about intimacy between a husband and wife. I was regularly available to my husband, but many years before I had begun to place boundaries on my body. I would no longer allow things that were physically or emotional harmful to me. Over the years I had to stand my ground many times on this issue. And 9 times out of 10 I succeeded! On the 10 time I would feel broken and demeaned all over again because I allowed it!!! But this last time I did stand! He pouted for about a month and there were angry words, ‘I was not being a submissive wife’ etc. At that point he had planned a “business trip” to Russia. I found emails (such an amazing God thing in and of itself as I suspected and prayed God would reveal the truth)! He was meeting a women 20 years his junior that he had been on line with for the past several months! His relationship with her was, I believe, the reason he began once more to demand from me! His thinking “you are not meeting my needs so I have to go outside our marriage to have them met”.
Even in all of this I did not take leaving lightly! I asked God over and over during the next month to show me His will for me. Every question I asked, every “fleece” I laid before The Lord, he answered. It was time! Time for me to trust Him to provide for me and protect me. He promised over and over again that though the road would not be easy He “would never leave me or forsake me”! I am so grateful to God. That was exactly two years ago! The divorce was final one year ago.
Here is the MOST AMAZING thing though….. God did not leave or forsake my husband either!! He has walked through this time of consequences and I see our God doing wonderful things is his life! I pray for him all the time. He is the father to my two teenage sons and I want only the best for him! God has redeemed me from any anger and bitterness as I have walked more closely and consistently with Him in these last two years than in 18 years before. Our God is all good and He will redeem ALL who put their trust in Him.
Thank you Elisabeth for you ministry here! Sadly it is VERY needed to so many!
God bless each of you as you continue to trust Him and seek Him!