“I can’t unsee what I have seen” is how I feel lately.
I know most of my long-term readers are/were here for great practical tips for marriage.
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10+years, sharing stories from my marriage, coaching strategies, and practical encouragement to help marriages thrive. And I love that and continue to love that.
But my life has changed over the last few years. A chronic health condition. People close to me going through dreadful experiences in their relationships. Coaching women in hard places and getting a front-row seat into people’s lives.
And new data from Sheila Gregoire, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, and Joanna Sawatskys (in their book, The Great Sex Rescue.) Reading. Researching. Listening.
It has wrecked me.
I don’t want to help people stay married. I want to encourage people to be HEALTHILY married or have clarity when their spouse doesn’t commit to health.
Most believers are taught to “protect” marriage, and we are huge ambassadors for happy marriages. The Bible also points to having a reason for what we believe in (as in, have some rational explanation for what you believe ), so I am not against encouraging couples in that regard.
But I also know that many individuals are trapped in harmful marriages, and everyone out here keeps talking about “praying and believing,” “God loves marriage “and “marriage is hard for everyone,” and I just want to add my voice to the many who have been saying “That type of advice is actually harmful to some people.”
I love marriage. I love being a part of the body of Christ. But loving marriage and being part of the body of Christ isn’t synonymous with shutting our eyes and ignoring areas we need to change.
We can love marriage AND call out unhealthy and destruction. We can be the body of Christ AND judge ourselves. We can love people AND hold people accountable.
We don’t have to choose. We can do both.
Holding the church, and consequently the Christian marriage, to a high standard is actually what we’re supposed to be about. I hope many of us will see that.
“Church protects abusers” – Unable to Unsee
I hope we’ll open our eyes and be unable to “unsee.” I hope we’ll be wrecked with holy grief and anger. I hope our hearts will burn at injustice. I hope we’ll love our wounded sisters and brothers how we love ourselves.
I hope we’ll hate the pain and suffering they endure as if it were happening to our very bodies and souls. I hope we’ll embrace the discomfort of the truth they share.I hope we’ll “sit down and listen,” i.e., stop defending and rationalizing every time a wounded person has something to say against the church or Christian marriage.
Will you join the movement? Let’s stop helping people stay married. Let’s start helping people stay HEALTHILY married. Let’s support those who need to exit marriages that are death traps for their souls, spirits, and bodies.
Here’s the thing about healthy marriages
I know some people believe I have a negative view of marriage/proposing an easy way out for couples experiencing normal marriage problems. (I know because I’ve heard from them.) That’s not what I’m about, at all.
I know healthy spouses are not “perfect” people. Yet they are willing, empathetic, pliable human beings.
They might have seasons of hardheartedness, even have abusive behaviors sometime. But they take responsibility, confess their sin, repent with fruit to show.
Their intentions for their spouse are not evil. They do not continually and as a pattern seek to repress, by pass, ignore, seek to destroy the “personhood” of their spouse.
They do not enjoy it when their spouse is suffering and feeling unheard. In fact, there’s a sense of sadness or disquiet when the relationship is not mutually beneficial and equal.
Destructive people don’t have these characteristics. That’s what makes them destructive. Expecting their spouse to be the healthy individual absorbs all the responsibility and none of the benefits, while they enjoy the benefits with none of the responsibilities.
And that’s what I feel we need to call out. Not because we hate people but because we love them. Love is also accountable. “Church protects abusers” is not what we’re to be known for.
Helpful Resources for Toxic, Abusive or Difficult Marriages
If your spouse is toxic, abusive or chronically problematic, if they are engaged in unrepentant sin (repentance comes with fruit!) please get to a safe place and talk to a licensed counselor who is trained in relationship abuse and trauma. Please talk to someone safe. Here are a few resources and websites to check out.
- Hope For Hurting Wives
- Flying Free with Natalie Hoffman
- Leslie Vernick
- Confusion to Clarity with Helena Knowlton
- Life Saving Divorce with Gretchen Baskerville
- Sarah McDugal
- Patrick Weaver Ministries
- Heather Elizabeth
- Betrayal Trauma Recovery
- To Love Honor and Vacuum with Sheila Gregoire
- Strong Wives with Bonny Burns
- If you’re in danger, call an emergency hotline in your country. Canada: 800.799.SAFE (7233). United States: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). United Kingdom: 08 08 16 89 111. Australia: 1800 015 188. New Zealand: 0800 456 450. Kenya: 0-800-720-072. Nigeria: 0800 033 3333. South Africa: 0800 428 428.
Abuse Training For Churches
If you’re a church organization who desire training on how to become safer for abuse victims, check the organizations below who are doing amazing work in that space.