Desperate Marriage Myth #3 – Only Have 2 Options

Couple Fighting

The third myth in our Desperate Marriages series is – I have only two options, resigning myself to a life of misery or getting out of the marriage.

This myth hangs on the coattails of last week’s post, Desperate Marriage Myth #2, People Cannot Change. Since you’ve determined that you and/or your spouse cannot change, it follows that you might believe that your life will be miserable if you stay in the marriage. This kind of all-or-nothing thinking doesn’t take into account the reality that with surrendered hearts, hard work and godly counsel, a desperate marriage can make a 180.

In fact, I’m here to testify that God did just that in my marriage. Sure, we’re still two messy people who sometimes have messy moments in our marriage, but God has taught us so much through the very trials that threatened to pull us apart. It wasn’t something we could fix on our own. But with good counsel, godly accountability, lots of prayer and tons of forgiveness, God helped us rebuild our marriage—and now it’s better and stronger than it’s ever been!

So, yes! God can change you, your spouse and your marriage, so that you’re not doomed to a life of misery.

Now to the second option – “getting out of the marriage.”

I’ve counseled many couples and often this is the conclusion one or both come to when they’ve grown impatient with the rate of improvement. They are tired of the hard work that’s involved and they believe getting out of the marriage will relieve them of the hard work and pain.

In my experience as a counselor of, not only married people, but often newly divorced people, they almost always experience a huge wake-up call once divorced. Suddenly the little bit of influence they had on their spouse in the areas of finances, parenting, even just friendly interactions is gone. Now their ex-spouse is not just unmotivated to work together civilly but also sometimes angry and prepared to make their ex-spouse pay for divorcing them! Add to that the financial difficulties that come with having extra expenses because you must set up two separate homes, and you’ve got the makings of a hot mess!

In other words, believing that this second option will solve your problems is idealistic at best and naïve at worse.

It’s also important to realize there are more than two options.

Obviously, you can commit yourself to going to couple’s counseling like my husband and I did and work through the issues in your marriage. If your spouse is unwilling to do this, you can find support, wisdom and perspective by going to a counselor on your own or seek the help of a pastor or godly friend. If you’re in an abusive relationship, you can seek the help and counsel of a battered women’s shelter in your area. And finally, you can work on finding peace and fulfillment through your relationship with God—which is a choice that can be done in tandem with all the other positive choices mentioned.

I recognize that sometimes the choice is made for you, sometimes you have a biblical basis for divorce, and sometimes you’re in an abusive situation and must leave to protect yourself and your children. My emphasis today in on widening the field of options that are available.

I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve worked through a marriage crisis or desperate situation. How did you and your spouse find your way out of trouble?

 

Whether you’ve had a desperate marriage or not, what marriage resources have you found to be invaluable in helping your or others’ marriages?

 

photo by Lindsey Beard

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Linking up with – NOBH, Momma Notes, Marriage MondaysMaking Your Home Sing Monday, Living Proverbs 31, Playdates with God and Marriage Monday

  • Nannette Elkins

    I have not really had a desperate situation in my own marriage, not that it was perfect, but we have weathered 34 years together, most of them happily! I would say communicate, communicate, communicate! As a pastor’s wife that was the biggest problem I found in counseling too. Couples just didn’t seem to talk to one another any longer. They just “assumed” things about each other and then the little problems turned into bigger ones and they stopped talking, stopped listening, stopped any sort of intimacy and the marriage was essentially over. A snowball turned into an avalanche! Talking through your problems many times can save a heartache. Praying together is so necessary if both parties will agree. If those things do not work, then counseling can be a great next step. Great post!!

    • You’ve hit on a very prevalent issue, Candace Jo. I often see this problem play out in the lives of the couples I’ve counseled. So the first thing I do is encourage them to connect each day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. And yes, this is very much like that small snowball at the top of the hill. People don’t realize how much it gains momentum and eventually crushes them and their marriage. Thanks so much for stopping by, my fellow-pastor’s wife and friend! You’ve really added some new thoughts to the discussion!

  • Candace @ candacecreates.com

    I am loving this whole series and the rest of the great things I am learning on your blog. My husband and I have been through so much together. I think our faith has been an incredible light during those times. I am also a big fan of counseling as you discussed.

    • I’m so glad to hear it, Candace. Thanks for letting me know that you’ve appreciated the content, because that really encourages me. And saying that your faith was an incredible “light” is a great way to put it. God really opens our eyes and lights our way when we surrender the mess to His capable hands. Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the discussion, my new-found friend!

  • Kim Adams Morgan

    Beth, this is a great series. In marriage, I don’t think you can NOT have hard times where you both need to hang on to each other or the marriage would fall apart. But that is the key, hanging on to each other, not fleeing. You have to be willing to stick it out and know that it wont always be this way; that God moves you through circumstances and builds you both up in the process…and it is a wonderful thing if you just learn from it.

    • Yes, staying committed and trusting God to move you through the challenges are two incredibly important things to do, Kim. When we face those challenges it’s easy to withdraw from both God and our mates, but doing that, as you’ve pointed out, will only make matters worse! Thanks for adding these thoughts to the conversation, sweet friend. And yes, YES to learning from every mess or challenge we face is actually a blessing in disguise!

  • Pam Mueller

    Beth – love the series you are doing. I think bringing the too-big things to others- the Church, a small group, counselor, family and friends – is key. Don’t keep things under wraps when they are difficult. :o)

    • Aww, thanks so much, sweet Pam! You’re approval and interest in the series means so much! And yes, finding that godly counselor or small group to help you through those times is absolutely critical to finding your way out of a desperate situation. Hugs to you!

  • John Wilder

    Most people get divorced because they want the pain to stop. Divorcing only increases the pain exponentially. Many people feel that they married the wrong person and if they divorce their spouse they can marry the right person. The problem is that the divorce rate for second and third marriages are 65% and 75% respectively. This is because kids battle with step children because they are still grieving their parents divorce and want them back together and will do anything and everything to sabotage the new marriage and usually get their way.

    The key is to go to a marriage coach who will teach you how to have good conflict resolution skills and will help you to work through problems in a short period of time rather than dragging it out for months

    • Yes, that’s often the way people think, John. They come to believe they’ve married the wrong person and there’s some perfect soul-mate out there for them, not realizing that Christ is that soul-mate! I agree that communication and conflict-resolution skills are invaluable at a desperate time. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  • Thank God that people can change and marriages can be resurrected! I’m living proof of that and I hope that we are teaching our children to be different from the world-to value marriage and refuse to consider divorce as the only option when their marriages don’t make them as happy as they thought they would. Sometimes I fear for what my kids are growing up into (this world), but ultimately, God has called me to raise them and teach them about Him-I can let Him worry about the rest! Great post!

    • I’m so glad to hear that you’re living proof of God’s work in your life and marriage. It’s always so encouraging to hear from those who’ve persevered and trusted Christ to redeem and resurrect their marriages. I was at the AACC (Christian counselors) conference this past week and many of the speakers and teachers brought up the moral decay our country and really our world is experiencing. It truly is alarming, but God’s still in control even though it looks discouraging and often without hope. As you’ve said, we can let Him worry about the rest! Thanks for your encouragement, Jamie! I appreciate it!

  • Mia

    Dear Beth
    I have been married for 28 years and I can assure you that we went through lots of troubled waters. Before my Hubbie met The Lord Jesus, he used to badly abuse me verbally, emotionally and a few other ways. To make a long story short; when I started to set godly boundaries and also prayed very earnestly for my marriage, did he seek help. Our Pappa has truly performed a miracle in my marriage. When I first fell ill with Fm//CFS he had no patience or compassion; now he looks after me as if I am his most precious possession! I just praise our Pappa for His goodness. Like my Hubbie always likes to joke; divorce was never an option, but murder…. 🙂
    Blessings XX
    Mia

    • Yes, godly boundaries and praying for your marriage are powerful tools in redeeming and bringing health back to a marriage, Mia. It’s amazing what God can do with those two simple acts. And it sounds as if God truly did a miracle in your marriage if He was able to turn your abusive husband around in such a huge way. I’m so glad that he now treats you as the treasured possession you are! And also glad that he didn’t choose the murder option! lol! I’m so glad you’re around to share your story here and at your beautiful blog! Thanks for constant encouragement, my friend!

  • Yet another wonderful post in this series Beth.

    I remember a particular night, in my early months in marriage, after going through yet another ‘honeymoon buster’ season, sitting back and in sincerely telling God ‘i cannot do this anymore, i give up, guess this is the way it’s supposed to be’ and hearing God speak to me ever so softly “before you do, bring this issue up with …..” (my pastor’s name).

    Mentoring and trusted counsel has helped us out some of our tightest times. Sure we haven’t always felt nice exposing ourselves in that way, and we weren’t very excited by the tough love we received. But it sure beat beating against a wall and feeling desperate and alone 🙂

    I like what you’ve said about widening the field of options. With God there’s never a dead end and if we persevere and seek Him diligently, we’ll find rest and answers. Maybe not in the ones we were looking for! but the very best we can have.

    thanks for sharing on this once again. This is a great series.

    • Ah, yes, Ngina! I think God whispered that same thing in my ear when I was struggling in my marriage. Counselors and pastors have really helped us to find our way out of the minefield of messiness. And as far as widening the field of options, I just don’t think people stop to think about what all of their options are. I hope this gives some who are contemplating a divorce, pause before they do so. Thanks so much, sweet friend!

  • rboerner

    You know I can relate to this scenario so well. I had many times where getting out seemed like a much better option but fortunately I made a decision to take my vows seriously and learned to depend on God. I remember sitting down with a friend many years ago and telling her I was going to throw in the towel. Many friends would’ve encouraged me to go for it because they knew of my situation but this friend believed in God’s healing power and gave me encouragement to stick with it. Since that time God has placed many other great women in my life to encourage and lift me up through this journey. The one thing I would encourage others to do in this situation where you are torn as to which road to travel is to choose your marriage and then place yourself around women and COUNSELORS who believe in marriage and can support you in your journey. Unfortunately, there are some counselors(and many friends) out there who will tell you to get divorced. My husband and I have been on a long bumpy road but God has placed His healing hand on our marriage and every day gets easier.

    • I’m so glad that you had that godly friend who told you probably what you didn’t want to hear. And you were wise enough not to reject her words and to work like crazy to bring your marriage the health and growth it needed. You also bring up a good point, Becky, we really need to be careful who we turn to when we are in these kinds of desperate situations. Often we gravitate towards those who tell us what we want to hear and we never learn the blessing of surrender and trusting God to do the miracle that He so “desperately” wants to do in our lives and marriages. Hugs to you!

  • So very true, these myths are causing people to give up hope, it blinds the eyes of couples so that they do not see the light in front of them. We have many options on how to act or react, if only we look hard enough, I know it isn’t always easy but when we are determined to make our marriages work, we see these wider range of options!
    Thanks a lot for this post Beth, I gain some light here.

    • Yes, they are deceptions that come straight from Satan who wants to destroy our marriages. Of course, our own self-centered natures blind us as well, even before Satan gets busy! But you’re right, Ugochi, we need to remain committed and determined to work on our marriages. God will bless when we do these things as we trust Him to bring the result. Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend!

  • Here is a follow up question to this blog – what do you tell the spouse married to someone who will not change? A spouse withdrawn from the relationship and remains for pragmatic reasons. Who has created a relational system that is working for them and despite efforts by one to confront brokenness and live in Christ, the other will not budge? Do you think this violates the marriage covenant? This is a situation I commonly hear, one spouse willing to do anything and another who does not care. I’m interested in your take. Thanks!

    • From what you’ve shared, unless there’s more to the back story, I don’t think this violates the marriage covenant, Scott. But with that said, I also think this is a excruciatingly hard place to be and to stay committed to. You know as well as I do that pat answers and a step by step process will only scratch the surface of such a hard dynamic. I do know that this person must lean into God as if their life depended on it–in which reality it does! I hope that this person finds a lot of godly support to help them navigate and walk through this valley. It’s a one day at a time kind of journey, that’s for sure! And I don’t feel I can give your question the adequate and fitting answer here in the comments. But I do appreciate you asking me and getting the discussion revved up!

    • One more thought, Scott, I’m wondering if this spouse that is “doing it all” should not do so much. Perhaps this person is “carrying” the relationship and needs to let more natural consequences and responsibilities fall in the path of their spouse. Just a thought.

  • Love how you share your journey of getting over, Beth! Tons of marriage resources have been incredibly helpful to me (The Surrendered Wife, Sheet Music, the 5 Love Languages, come to mind first). But what I have found most beneficial is surrounding myself with other couples who are happily married and having marriage mentors. Birds of a feather…

  • MATILDA

    must testify the good work of Dr Lawrence that help me bring back my husband that left me for so many years for another woman is now back to me and beg for forgiveness. If not for the work of Dr Lawrence my husband will still be there now big thanks go to you i will always testify you for the good work you have done for me. Sir i will also like people to contact you for help you can get to him with this mail :drlawrencespelltemple@hotmail.com……… Matilda