When I attended DivorceCare a ways back, every person in that room – man and woman – had horrible stories to tell of their marriages, their exes, and their divorces. If someone had been an impartial third party and had been listening in, they would have gathered that all of the attenders had been married to monsters and it was a shame and we should all be pitied and lauded for being married to them for as long as we were.
But I remember thinking back then that what were the odds that all of us were the good guys? (Now, granted, the typical “victim” is probably more apt to seek out help through something like DivorceCare, but still…) Had there been another group running simultaneously in the next room of all our exes, I have a feeling we would have all looked like horrible, mean, controlling people as well.
In the past year-and-a-half of my more focused attention on the issues of difficult Christian marriages and domestic abuse and separation/divorce and how the Church handles it all, I have heard hundreds of stories of Christian-marriages-gone-wrong.
And in all that time, I can only think of three – three – where the women speaking to me implied in their story-telling that they were fifty percent to blame for the fall and ending of their marriage. Three. Out of hundreds.
But we can’t all be the 100% victims, now can we?
In the past six months, I’ve had two people lie to me about their marital/divorce circumstances (that I know of). And when I say lie I mean in that they painted the picture of their marriage to be, in one case, so much less their fault than their spouse’s, by leaving out some really important details, and in the other case, all of their spouse’s fault and none of theirs.
I have since found out that both of their stories were an inaccurate view.
But here’s the thing. All of our stories are an inaccurate view. Truly.
There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and God’s. I can only see my side. I can only know what I feel, what I experience, what I hear. And even then, as time passes, it steals away little moments and pauses and motions and gestures and words said and words not said.
However, that doesn’t mean I should play the fool. I just found out yesterday that someone told me a story that was totally skewed from the truth, and I had believed it hook, line and sinker. Thankfully, and quite coincidentally, I stumbled upon the reality within about twelve hours of the original version, but still.
So here’s where I’m at with all this. First, I have a feeling this person actually believes her version. And I get that, I really do. But because of that, I have to guard my heart and pray for great discernment. I hear horrible stories about husbands and churches all the time, I’m sad to say, and I need to make sure I don’t just buy into everything I hear.
And yet, I can only go by what I hear. And what I hear 99% of the time is just the woman’s side of things. Because I’m not a counselor or a lawyer or a judge or a pastor, I’m not going to interview each ex-husband, each ex-church. And really, I only need to know her side of things. Because I’m just offering a listening ear, some suggestions for healing, pointing her back to Jesus, and as much grace as I can muster.
But this we should all remember: there’s always, always more to the story.
I absolutely agree. My marriage failed. I was irritable and preferred time alone and that was not helpful in my marriage. My husband’s response was inappropriate and abusive, but that does not negate my actions. My actions were not pleasing to God. My ex goes to divorce recovery and he says all the people there are the victims. I imagine he talks of my behavior and that is fair. He probably doesn’t mention his reactions, and that is none of my business. What we both need to do is to forgive (why bother if we are divorced? Because God said we must.) and move toward serving God and living lives that are pleasing to Him. We need to draw closer.
Children of divorce often see this reality play out in their lives. They hear each parent’s version and sometimes it doesn’t add up. It’s not even that the parents are totally lying (although sometimes they are)… it’s just often they can only see their pain, their interpretation. I hope that what I observed growing up has helped make me a better spouse. Sometimes I just pause to think, “If I were married to me… what would my actions/words/etc look like? Would I be happy, confused, hurt?” And sometimes when my husband does stuff that seems “obviously” wrong or horrible, I have to take a step back, step outside of my interpretation, to really understand (I am blessed with a great husband, and 95% of the time I have indeed totally misinterpreted the “bad” of our marriage. Of course, some marriages really are in crisis and rough stuff is going on, so I don’t want to make it sound like my experience applies to everyone).
Having working in couples who are struggling with affairs for the past fourteen years, I can corroborate that I’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands, of individuals want to talk to me about their marriage, and I can count on one hand the number who came to me and said, “Well I did this…” or “Here’s how I’ve contributed…” The vast majority want to tell me about the horrible thing their spouse did and DO NOT want to even consider their own actions, much less change them!
I had one client whose wife was an office person for a doctor and she was having an affair with one of the patients. She had an attack of conscience and went to speak to the doctor about her situation … as if it were “a friend” having the affair. When her husband found out about her infidelity, and she told him the doctor told her it was alright, he thought that was a little odd because the Good Doc was usually a pretty upright, wise man. Then he found out that she told the doctor “the husband” screamed at “her friend” for hours and hours, and didn’t that kind of verbal abuse justify leaving the marriage? My client asked, “Did you tell the doctor that I screamed because I just found out you were cheating?” “No,” she said “I didn’t think it was any of his business.”
So I agree–always remember there is another side to the story AND chances are very great that you just are not hearing all the facts. In fact, chances are that you are hearing the facts that put the person talking to you in a better light, and not hearing the facts that might knock them off their victim pedestal.
Thank you for your honesty…and your heart! I pray for clarity all the time so that God can show me places in me that have been responsible for the state of my marriage. If we are truly seeking God’s wisdom we have to be willing to see the ugly parts of ourselves, and the mistakes made, with God’s, and sometimes friends and bloggers ((giggles)) gentle, loving help, so that we don’t carry our baggage into the future and the lives of others. We must constantly weigh our perceptions against the truth of God’s word and act accordingly. That’s why He tells us to wait on Him, but it’s never easy.
My husband was a bigamist during our entire relationship and part of our marriage. In addition, he was a pathological liar and he admitted this at one point himself. Even when I found receipts with his other wife’s name on them, he told me they were never married – she wanted to get married and he said no, so she used his last name. He was a major manipulator and was emotionally abusive. He would create scenarios to achieve his desired outcomes. I did not really see (with eyes wide open) all this until my marriage was almost over – I made excuses for him to myself and anyone else who tried to tell me the truth. I believed him and needed to believe him because I loved him.
After my marriage was over, I spent many hours with the Lord about my union, feeling guilty, ashamed and upset that I did not represent Jesus well to my husband. I felt I could have done things differently to try to change my husband. The Lord showed me the ways I was to blame and what I could have done differently. I could have restrained my anger more and worked harder on having a gentle and quiet spirit; I could have acknowledged the signs God brought to me before I married him to let me know he was married to someone else and that he had anger issues – even though I didn’t believe anything that was brought to me because the people that brought the truth to me didn’t like my husband and I thought they were bringing me lies about him; In that way, I chose to believe my husband’s lies over the truths God was bringing me.
I could have chosen to leave the marriage once I spoke to his last 2 wives and heard more emotionally and physically abusive experiences they went through with him. So – we are all victims – God brings us the truth that would set us free through His Holy Spirit – it is there for us in signs, in people, and if we listen – God will speak to us. We are to an extent – what we allow.
Joyce, I am so very sorry for your painful situation, but very grateful to hear how God is working in your heart. Keep walking, my friend. -Elisabeth
I absolutely agree that there are three sides to every story. One of the common beliefs of an abusive woman is that she is to blame for everything based on the constant lies her spouse tells her. I am thinking that by the time you meet these women, they are in recovery. It is during that time of recovery that she begins to realize how bad her spouse treated her. This might be why every one you meet has a spouse who is the bad guy. The blinders are off and they are beginning to see how horrible their lives really were.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Faith. -Elisabeth
This topic is difficult for me, as Faith mentioned, I’ve spent the majority of my marriage trying to fix me. Even in marriage counseling I have as far as I can remembered owned my poor reactions. I was amazed how the counselor would believe my husbands version when I was the one owning my poor reactions. I don’t understand the balance in this. I don’t believe my marriage ended because we were 50/50 to blame. If you own your stuff all along and try hard to change your reactions but the other party continues to lie, abuse, etc., it doesn’t make sense to spend tons of time figuring out the parts you’ve already owned.
San, I agree with you. If you’re already owned it, then move on in freedom. -Elisabeth