Christian Marriage and Divorce – When You Have Done Enough

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Christian marriage and divorce – can the two go together? Is divorce ever an option in a Christian marriage?

I founded this ministry to help newlywed wives embrace the depths and delights of matrimony; specifically, help her understand how sometimes, the delight or bliss, can come after the hardship, or blues.

(My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years, takes you through the hot-spots of early marriage and offers practical steps to take)

Christian marriage and divorce - what happens when a newlywed wife feels she has done enough to save her marriage? Is divorce an option? A few thoughts

Today I want to look at another aspect of marriage, namely it’s fragility.

Because while it’s important to understand the blessedness and permanence of a marriage union, it’s equally important to understand that the marriage covenant is between two broken people.*

Update: After hearing from some of my readers, I want to make a quick clarification: I do not encourage couples to come into marriage with divorce as part of their vocabulary. I believe in fighting for our marriages – that’s what this blog is all about. To help newlywed wives draw closer to God and their husbands so they can enjoy marriage as God intended. In today’s post, I am addressing the wife who is in an abusive or adulterous marriage (or has been abandoned) but who is too fearful or passive to engage godly counsel; she feels “locked in” with no recourse or way forward. The Bible offers a way forward and that’s what I am exploring today.

Before we move on, let me point out a few things;

First, God gave us marriage to give us a glimpse of the unconditional, enduring love He has for us. In a Christian marriage, we are meant to see what selfless unconditional love looks like and learn how to give it and how to receive it.

However, one thing that is lacking between spouses in an earthly marriage, which we have with God, is absolute unbreakable devotion. Hebrews 13:5

Second, God does not desire divorce. Yet He recognizes that humans are given to error and gave conditions under which a spouse may be released from a marriage union (adultery – Matthew 5:31-32 2, abandonment – 1 Corinthians 7:15 and physical abuse)

Released, not because He has failed or desires a marriage to fail, but because one or both spouses have decided to be released. God is divine, and part of His divine mystery is that gift of choice.

I’ve been thinking about abnormalities in marriage, specifically the red flags that should galvanize a wife to action. And by action I mean seek outside help from a mentor/pastor, snap out of passivity or even risk separation if their spouse won’t change their behavior.

To the wife who is wondering “Will my Christian marriage end in divorce?” and “how much is too much”, a few thoughts;

  1. Husbands do not become divorce-able overnight

In most cases where a newlywed husband is a problem, it is seldom that he became one after the wedding.

People hardly ever change overnight. I am sure some men can hide their true nature, but those cases are  uncommon, especially if you took time to know the person.

Most frequently, the signs that something are amiss with a man are there during courtship.

And here’s an important thought; simply slapping a vow on a guy who isn’t ready to be a husband doesn’t turn him into a good husband. A wedding doesn’t change a man who isn’t ready, it merely postpones a problem.

Simply slapping a vow on a guy who isn't ready to be a husband doesn't turn him into a good husband. A wedding doesn't change a man who isn't ready, it merely postpones a problem.Click to Tweet

Hurrying things along, thinking that God is indebted to make a Christian marriage work is mistaken. In the end, marriage is only as good as your ability to choose well.

If you are in a hurting marriage right now, you may want to consider your journey to the altar.  Perhaps there were red flags that were ignored or explained away.

I don’t mean to be insensitive or shift blame, I just think it’s important to be honest with yourself. If you are going to find help and healing, you need to figure out how you ended up here.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they took off from God’s presence. But God came looking for them; “Adam, where are you?” He called Genesis 3:8-11

It’s not that God didn’t know where they were, He knew. But He wanted them to know where they were. It’s important to locate yourself, so you can map where you need to be.

Christian marriage and divorce - what happens when a newlywed wife feels she has done enough to save her marriage? Is divorce an option? A few thoughts

The first couple had to reap the consequences of their wrong choices; perhaps you are reaping the fruit of impatience, pride, lack of faith. But there’s hope.

God slaughtered an animal and covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness; a picture of the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who takes away our sin.

God is not calling you so He can condemn you but so He can bring you to wholeness.

2. Christian marriage and divorce – yes, marriage can break

A spouse can leave, (and however difficult that is,) and you still haven’t lost everything because you have God and He is everything. See Genesis 15:1  Psalm 27:10  and  Deuteronomy 31:6

I didn’t understand this, to the level I do today. But reading from newlywed wives who can’t figure out how a husband ought to love them has made it clearer, how spouses ought to treat one another.

Here’s the thing. A true Christian marriage is a Biblical marriage. It should be governed by the Word of God.

Broken down, it means your husband is not above God’s will or Word. He doesn’t have a right to treat you however and it’s counted as okay because he’s a husband.

While there is sanctity within the bonds of matrimony, the sacredness doesn’t extend to hiding sin and wrong in the name of “private business” or “I am your head.”

When concerns that go against the word of God and common decency (even regular growth pains we can’t solve between ourselves) arise, it’s time to invite trusted counsel.

The Bible shows us how to do this in Matthew 18:15-17 – if you cannot resolve it between the two of you, ask a friend or mentor to talk to him. If he doesn’t listen to them, take it to an elder/pastor/spiritual authority.

If he does not listen to them, then consider him a non-believer, one who has left the faith and needs repentance and God’s grace. (read, your love and grace too. And if you are in danger, includes removing yourself from danger and working on reconciliation – if it’s possible – from a place of safety.)

Hurrying things along, thinking that God is indebted to make a Christian marriage work is mistaken. In the end, marriage is as good as your ability to choose wellClick to Tweet

God commands a husband to love his bride the same way Christ loves his bride, the church.

As a wife, you have to consider how Christ loves the church to understand how your husband ought to love you. He lay down his life for her. Even the most amazing husband struggles with that concept sometimes, but mostly he strives to love as Christ did.

And as his wife you recognize and make room for imperfection (because he’s human, just like you), but do so within the word and will of God.

While God is grace and love, He goes to great lengths to show us what grace and love does not look like, so we know what to do when it’s absent.

A husband hitting his wife, abusing his wife emotionally and mentally, cheating on his wife, moving out of their home and she has no idea where he went to, is indicative of a man in need of help.

If you can’t address a problem because you are terrified of his anger, you need to consider what that means in light of God’s word.

Christian marriage and divorce - what happens when a newlywed wife feels she has done enough to save her marriage? Is divorce an option? A few thoughts

I’ve heard different versions of “he’s a generally a good guy/he believes in God and serves in church/only when I make him mad does he get out of control and hit me. I don’t know what to do; I’ll continue praying and ask God what to do.

Of course, keep praying.

But accept your husband has a problem and needs immediate help. Covering and excusing his behavior blocks his deliverance/acceptance of the problem.

At the end of the say, wouldn’t you rather a man goes to heaven unmarried (if it comes to that) than to to hell married? I know that sounds harsh, but consider that true faith submits itself not just to salvation, but to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

At the end of the say, wouldn't you rather a man goes to heaven unmarried (if it comes to that) than to to hell married? I know that sounds harsh, but consider that true faith submits itself not just to salvation, but to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.Click to Tweet

If a husband claims salvation, but goes ahead to display anything but salvation in the space where he should be most like Jesus, perhaps he needs to face reality.

And as his wife, you help him do that when you say “no” to sin, abuse, adultery in your marriage.

I cannot make the decision for a wife wrestling with these deep challenges, including the possibility of divorce; she needs to find and walk with godly counsel.

But I can tell you that God does not want women abused, cheated on, abandoned, manipulated and controlled in the name of protecting a Christian marriage.

And it all starts with a wife understanding how Christ loves her, and how that love ought to look like in marriage.

3. Divorce should never be rash

It’s important to take the time to pray, to fast and seek the face of God. (If you don’t know how fasting can change your marriage, check out this post – Fasting for Your Marriage – The How To and Benefits

Invite trusted help, go for counseling, even if your husband won’t go. If you are in danger, you can do all these from a place of safety.

God changes hearts and just because divorce is on the table doesn’t mean it has to end that way. God can turn things around. And if it still ends in divorce, you want to look back and know you did all you could to save your marriage.

Christian marriage and divorce : Marriage in its proper place

Indeed, marriage is beautiful and meant to last till-death-do-us-part. But God is more interested in the condition of our hearts and where we will spend eternity, more than in giving us an earthly happily-ever-after.

Surrender, is an important place to come to, even for those of us in happy relationships; we need to offer up our marriages to God and recognize He alone never fails.

It is so easy to make an idol out of marriage in the early years – I know because I did. But we need to dial back and see our marriage for what it is. It is not at the same level as God, it does not indicate how much God loves us or how amazing we are.

The love of God is Jesus hanging on a cross, dying for our sins.

The moment we put marriage in its proper place – a gift and blessing – perhaps we will then release our husbands from unworkable expectations; we will accept they are human.

And when they wobble, we will more easily release them into the hands of their Creator. 

Divorce and separation are a difficult, sad subject; there’s so much to say and many angles I haven’t covered. But I just wanted to share what’s been on my heart lately.

~

Tired of the fussing, fighting and distance? Want to restore joy, healing and happiness to your marriage? Or maybe you just want to love better, create the marriage of your dreams, God’s way. My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After In The Early Years will set you on that road. Buy it here  Amazon Paperback I Kindle I Barnes & Noble I PDF I UK/Europe PDF . Or Click here to go to the book page. Blues to Bliss book

*A marriage is ultimately between three – the couple and God. However, God honors the choices that a couple makes and in that regard, a marriage will only last as a long as the couple decides for it to last.

19 Comments

  1. I’m glad to go through your write ups and to share in people’s life experiences.
    I met my husband and we got married after few months without really knowing much about each other, we are barely 3 years and with 2 kids.
    He told me he had no friends before we got married which I advised him to work on getting quality friends but I discovered few months after marriage that he had fleet of female friends he kept active communication with through voice calls, video calls, chatting at all times even at midnight. I presented this to him and frowned bitterly about this but this only led him to keeping things away from me and even putting passwords on his phones.
    I had a way with his password and discovered a chat he just had sex with a lady. I felt bruised and cried bitterly. Confronted him after some days but he denied. I got even more bitter and angry that sometimes he’ll make some posts on social media. He went to my church which is where we got wedded and asked for divorce and this led to me being summoned.
    We attended sessions with the priest, each person stating his/her grievance. But he kept adding hurts to existing ones, he’d leave the house without telling where he’s going and would come back from 10pm sometimes few minutes to midnight. When I ask him his whereabouts, he’d simply say he went to see a friend yet I never really got to be introduced to his friends.
    Sometimes he doesn’t eat at home that he’s not hungry or the food is not presentable.
    I will not say I do not have my flaws, I do.
    In the midst of all these, I still beg him for sex at least to distract his mind from the female folks, even though most of those time, I get turned down or we engage in arguments before he gives in.
    In the process of begging for sex, I took in and our daughter was barely 7months old. He denied paternity of the child and I passed through that process up to giving birth alone with no assistance(financial or otherwise) from him.
    The maid I had left due to his attempts on the girl leaving me alone with the pregnancy, baby and work with no assistance from him. He outrightly told me that carrying out domestic chores is taking up another person’s responsibility.
    Between last year and May this year, he has made 3 divorce attempts.
    I’m sorry for taking our time but I want to share these pains. Even with the fact that he’s out of job for some months now, he doesn’t still see the need to help out in the house. We are not emotionally yolked, we only live as flat mates.
    The most annoying is that he has no regards for the marriage, could stay on his phone from morning to night chatting and having conversations with a certain lady. It is obvious that he’s done and I’m planning on walking out because this has really lingered, he sees nothing wrong with this behavior and I’m afraid of having health challenges due to his lifestyle.

  2. We’ve been married 22 years and I’ve struggled with various relationships throughout the years that my husband has had that were emotionally inappropriate. One of those involved a childhood friend and that relationship started our marriage off on the wrong foot because my husband was unwilling to give up their communication. There was always the excuse that they were raised like family and he saw her as nothing but that. Her text messages continued and she was always very complimentary and told him how much she loves and misses him. Recently, I found a message that was sexually explicit discussing an affair she is involved in. Sadly, my husband replied with “wow, now I need to find something”. I was devastated and he has no idea why since it was just a bad joke.
    There was also an old girlfriend about 8 years ago that I found out he was planning to meet for lunch while he was out of town. So, at this point I am feeling pretty horrible. I’ve always had insecurities due to the close friend/family and his commitment to their relationship verses my feelings.
    We have started counseling but he can’t even get past the first few exercises of giving me all of his account passwords. He apologizes but there is zero attempt to be forthcoming, transparent or show any empathy (though in his mind he thinks he’s doing everything). Our counselor has now asked him to go meet with someone alone without me.
    I am very discouraged and losing hope.

    1. Victoria, I am so so sorry. It’s heartbreaking. I am glad you are getting counseling. I hope you also have a private visit with the counselor and get insights into what you can do, including boundaries etc

  3. As a guy, I’d like to tell my story from a man’s perspective.
    I had a difficult marriage. I was on the recipient end of a lot of anger and unforgiveness. We got married way too fast and didn’t know each other, and that was my fault. I wanted to get married so bad. Marriage was my idol, like you said. And the first month in I was like, “What have I done?” We were in ministry and married for over 27 years. I admit I was an idiot of a young husband and did and said things to hurt her. But no matter what I said or did or how much I changed, she would never let those things go. Every time (or almost every time) she got mad at me, she’d whip out the phrase “For __ years you blah blah blah…” Fill in the blank with how many years we were married, and whatever the offense was she was mad about in the moment. I walked on eggshells constantly. In the early years of our marriage, I would fire back and we’d have huge fights. Then over the last 10 years I avoided conflict as best I could or as my patience would allow. If something was bothering me that I wanted to talk about, I would think for hours or even days how to bring it up in a way she wouldn’t explode in anger at me. But it almost never mattered. She would take offense, get mad and fire back. She would repeat things I said using a snotty tone that I did not use, adding mean, sarcastic things I did not say. She would recount memories of things I did not do, or did not happen the way I did them. I was living in a crazy cycle, never knowing when the slightest thing, some act of forgetfulness, some perceived slight I did would bring her wrath and anger. And the bizarre thing: After many big fights, I would be emotionally drained and exhausted. She would be happy as a lark, almost like the fight energized her. I could never figure that out.
    Over the years as I stuffed my anger and frustration, I started to develop strange health issues the doctors couldn’t figure out. But I knew. I knew it was repressed anger and despair. I was depressed. And I knew eventually the marriage would kill me… literally.
    We got counseling separately, but that seemed to make her more condescending to me. We tried couples counseling once and it was a disaster. After the session she was furious and hurt that I said what I felt, apparently embarrassing her in front of the counselor, but she felt whatever she wanted to say about me was just fine.
    She journaled regularly, and as ashamed as I am to admit this, from time to time I’d sneak a peak at what she writing. When she mentioned me, it was usually negative, sometimes just neutral, but never positive. She would complain about me, call me names, label me things like narcissistic, hypocrite, etc. I never let on that I knew.
    Over the years I prayed, I cried, I pleaded with God to change me, change her, to do something. For 27 years I did that. I stuck with the marriage for so long because of my beliefs about divorce, beliefs that I preached and taught, because of my job as a pastor, the commitment I had made, the shame of divorce, and then when the kids came along I stuck with it for them.
    But one day I let myself get sucked into another fight. It got heated and in the middle she said, “For 27 years you…” and let me have it again.
    In that moment something inside of me snapped. I stopped arguing and shut my mouth. But in that moment I was done. I will always be able to picture that moment frozen in time. From that moment it was a matter of figuring out how to get out of the marriage. I wept and cried for hours and weeks before God. I knew I was going to do something he didn’t want me to do. I told him I knew he wouldn’t want me to divorce my wife, but I said “I can’t do it anymore, I’m sorry.”
    I clung to Psalm 51:17, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
    All I had to offer God was my broken spirit. Utterly, completely broken.
    It took six months until I had things ready to tell her. She knew it was coming because of the change in my demeanor. I would have bet a lot of money she was going to agree, but she said she didn’t want it, God didn’t want it, the kids would be devastated, and on and on. Then I told her I knew what she thought about me, and she said, “You’ve read my journals, haven’t you.” She said she didn’t mean those things, but I said to her, “For 27 years you wrote those things.” She played the victim so she could take the high road, in my opinion.
    I told my adult children that Saturday, which was gut-wrenching, and had to stand in front of my church that Sunday and tell what I was doing and walk off the stage. Make no mistake, going through divorce, even if you are the one asking for it is devastating, painful beyond belief.
    It’s been a couple years now. I’ve moved away from that town and got a job outside of ministry. I’ve been through DivorceCare groups three times. I’m rebuilding and starting over.
    Sorry for the long post, but it’s not always the husband who is the angry, difficult one. I totally admit I was not the victim, I did plenty wrong. Some of the things she said about me, she was right, I was those things and did and said those things. But I could never overcome the anger coming at me, the bitter unforgiveness, and the real or imagined offenses I had committed.
    I fully understand I will answer to God for my choice one day. As his son, I will throw myself on his mercy and grace. I have taken consolation in Psalm 51:17, and also thinking about how I would treat my son if he willfully did something I did not want him to. I will never say God led me to divorce my wife. I know it’s not what God wanted. I cry as I write this, even after two years. But I have seen God’s grace and mercy and kindness to me in the most amazing ways since I divorced my wife. It has blown me away and humbled me.
    So that’s my story.

    1. I am so sorry for all that you have been through, and I completely understand. Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear the path. I am in a similar situation and feel torn between what is best for me, my husband, my children and what God wants for my life. Twenty-eight years of marriage and I shouldn’t feel this way. God needs to intervene.

  4. I have been with my husband for nearly 9 years and he has not matured at all in that time, as a matter of fact has regressed. He had 2 jobs and we went to church together every Sunday. After a long time I learned he had not graduated high school, which was not an issue for me at the time because he was so motivated to working hard. He ended up losing or walking away from both jobs and church. At that point, I encouraged him to pursue his diploma, and he “agreed”, and began working toward that, or so I thought. He would say he was working on it, but after a year, I told him if he cared about his and our future together he would do what it takes to get it. He agreed, but still didn’t do it. I told him I could not be with him if he did not care enough about his future to do the work needed to move forward in the future, and I broke up with him with the hope he would figure it out on his own. Many months later he let me know he finally got his diploma and we began to date again, because I believed he finally understood the importance. We got married within a year of dating again, and within the first year of marriage I learned that he had lied to me about getting his diploma. At this point, I had married him and moved to a different state, where his family was, and we were STILL living with his family in order to “save money for our own place.” He would not look for a better job, and come to find out, it was because he worried about needing his diploma. Fast forward years, and now we have a toddler and he STILL refuses to do the work to complete his diploma. He commutes 40 minutes each way to a minimum wage job and has to work on sundays so it has been years since he has gone with me on a regular basis. I also cannot convince him to open his bible for anything. We are struggling financially, and have medical issues arising with no plan for the future. At the beginning of this year I found communication between him and a woman from his work where inappropriate pictures and conversations took place. I told him that if he wanted us to survive, he MUST leave that place immediately, and do whatever it takes to graduate, and start attending church regularly, or at least on occasion with me and our son. However he went the opposite way. He stopped working on his school completely and began picking up extra hours at work and taking extra shifts every single week, and still would not attend church or even ask his work to consider changing his schedule to have sundays off. When he didnt come home after one of those extra shifts, or communicate with me at all, I had had enough. After multiple more times of his working needed him to stay late, I asked him to leave the home until we could speak with a counselor. Weve since spoken to a counselor, who said our intentions must be followed up with action. He agreed, but has not done anything even still. I’ve been praying for so long for God to lead me the way He would have me go, and give me the strength to endure this pain. I don’t know what to do at this point, and still pray for God to not only open the eyes of my husband somehow, but to also open my eyes to the steps I should take if my husband refuses to listen to anyone including God. Prayers would be so greatly appreciated!

  5. My husband of 3 1/2 years has anger issues. When he has his outbursts he becomes very verbally abusive. Then sometimes will give the silent treatment and not speak to me for days. There is no physical abuse involved, but during his episodes I usually shut down because I dont want it to escalate. You dont mention verbal/emotional abuse in your post. He doesnt want to do counseling and I think it’s because he feels like he’s being attacked when he’s called out on his behavior. Is verbal abuse something I’m supposed to continue to endure while I pray and go to counseling and hope he changes?

    1. Oh no Megan, emotional and mental abuse are real and I have updated the post so I am more clear. I am sorry it came across differently. You are not meant to endure any abuse in the sense of do nothing about it. Please find help for yourself, go to counseling even if he won’t go. And absolutely confide in someone. Things don’t change, unless we do something about it.

  6. Cynthia Lee says:

    So tired of being lied to, stolen from, and disrespected. I’m done! I can not work to rebuild a marriage and trust by myself. My husband is in constant denial about his unfaithfulness and I can’t continue to live with the games and lies. He pretends to want to work it out, but stays out without accounting for his time away. He doesn’t call to say he’s late nor does he spend any time with me. I went to a Christian counselor by myself as he refused to go. I’ve prayed and asked God to show me the lesson I am to learn from this suffering. I don’t believe He wants me to live this way.

  7. My husband has been lying to me for 10 years. We’ve been married for nearly 7. I never knew about the lying and manipulating before the wedding. It was always about money. He started gambling, selling some of our possessions to gamble. All the while lying to me. It had gotten to a point where he hadn’t had a stable job and income for nearly two years. He always manipulates and shifts the blame. He won’t be held accountable, and only ever attended 2 sessions of counselling. I’m so done. We’ve been separated for the better part of this year and he hadn’t done much to fight for our marriage and I am done fighting, crying, pleading, begging, screaming, arguing, and turning a blind eye.

    1. SImone, I am so so sorry. I pray that God comforts you and leads you with clarity.

  8. I’ve been trying to forgive/get over my husbands betrayal for 7 months. It is not getting better. Worse actually. I’m now on 2 kinds of anxiety/depression medication. I have constant panic attacks and constantly question his love and commitment to me. When is enough ..enough? I love him so much and he says he loves me just as much. He is sweet and loving and affectionate, but in the back of my mind I’m always questioning his loyalty. I don’t know how to stop. I want to get over it and move on. But it’s been so long now that I feel like their is no restoration possible. Please help

  9. Jennifer Qualls Johnson says:

    Thank you for your words they help me find a little bit more peace. My husband and I have been separated for almost two years- we have been marries for 13 years and have attended counseling for probably about 5 of those years. We have taken marriage classes

  10. I have been separated for 2 1/2 yrs. For 1 1/2 I continually asked my husband what his intentions were. After no answer, I filed for divorce and began on my road to healing. Getting him to sign was also a challenge and one day he called and apologized for everything and said he would not divorce me. I was devastated. I waited for that for so long and now I wasn’t sure I wanted it anymore. After prayer, I decided I would give it one last try. Since I never really wanted it to end and God never told me to file, I felt the right thing to do was reconcile. Currently, still separated, but trying to build. It’s not easy and there are days I’m still unsure, not hopeful, apathetic. It’s hard to build when there is no emotion involved. Keep us in prayer. I liked this blog. Very insightful in retrospect.

    1. What difficult road, Kay. Thank you for sharing your journey. I have prayed for you.

  11. Your thoughts on marriage are so inspired. It’s clear you pray before you write ♥︎

    1. Glad you found the post inspiring, Penelope. Yes,I pray for God to speak to hearts 🙂

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