Most of the emails I receive from women say that their husbands abuse them or are unfaithful or are alcoholics or have left them. And their lives are a mess. And they need help. And I do the best I can to offer what I’ve got…some encouragement, some tips, some resources, some support, tons of compassion and empathy, always lots of hope.

But then, I occasionally get an email like this:

“I have been married for five years to the sweetest man on earth but he is also very abusive at the same time. It got so bad that I left a week ago. He is now crying and begging me to come home because he claims to love me and that he has completely changed. I am so hurt because I love still him.”

Or this…

“I don’t know if I fit into your category [of a hard marriage].  You see, I know that I am blessed with a husband that loves me very much but he gets a kick out of picking on me to the point that I get ill.”

Ummm…wait, what??

Where do I begin?

First, let me say upfront that I know it’s not as easy as me telling them to just up and leave those men. I don’t know the whole story; I don’t know those women personally; that’s not my decision to make. Besides, I literally never have and never will tell a woman to divorce her husband (I’d suggest to come up with a safety plan if she and her children are unsafe, yes, but to outright divorce him, no.)

However, the first thing that came out of my mouth when I read the first email was, “If he can be ‘very abusive at the same time’, HE IS NOT THE SWEETEST MAN ON EARTH!” and when I read the second, “If he picks on you until you’re ill, HE IS NOT LOVING YOU VERY MUCH!”

I want to take those precious women in my arms and I want to give them a good talking-to. I want them to see the difference between a truly good and kind and loving man, and an abusive man who sends her round and round in the cycle of abuse.  They are in the honeymoon phase of the cycle each time they think their husbands are just the most loving, just the sweetest things, and the rest of the time – which if I had to wager is a majority of the time – they are being abused.

So, who am I even writing this post to?

Well, the old Beth is writing to the new Beth saying, “Don’t you remember living in denial for so long, honey? Show some compassion.”

And the new Beth is writing to those of us who are no longer in that daily pain, “Be grateful you’re not there now, be grateful Jesus rescued you, be grateful for every lesson learned, be grateful for the peace.”

And the new Beth is writing to those two women who emailed me, and to all of the women in difficult Christian marriages who think something is off but aren’t sure what and to all of the women in difficult Christian marriages who totally know they are being hurt and deceived, and I’m saying, “I’m so sorry. I’ve been there. I know the constant pain and confusion. I know he sees you and your pain and I believe it breaks his heart. I also know, sweet girl, that there is hope. I don’t know your relational fate but I do know that there is not one situation on this planet that cannot be bettered. There are steps you can take to become more whole, even in your very difficult circumstances.”

And then I would pray for her…for the courage to face her reality and to tell someone, for the right people to come alongside her, for conviction over her husband’s heart, for protection of her and her children. And I would welcome her into our fold so that she would know she’s not alone.

If post resonated with you, email Elisabeth to join her private Facebook group for women in difficult marriages.

Life isn't always how we want it. When change seems elusive, and we're stuck in old routines, a gentle push or some self-reflection can make a difference. Let these questions be that nudge to get you moving.

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