The Unraveling of a Christian Marriage: 3 Common Questions
- Monday, October 31, 2011
My husband and I are both followers of Christ and have been since we were teenagers. Our courtship was rocky, filled with a lot of arguments, tears and long-distance phone calls. I had no less than a half-dozen dear friends suggest gently that he and I weren’t good together, but I was scared and needy and stubborn.
I loved my husband but love was not the reason I married him. I married my husband because I was afraid that God would not provide me with the life that I longed for – a husband, home and children – if I didn’t marry the man in front of me at that time. I didn’t think anyone else would ever love me. I also was under the impression, growing up as a child of divorce, that two other truths were foundational. One, arguing is part of any relationship, and lots of it; and two, it is normal to have to beg for the affection of a man. And our relationship fit the bill. So I moved forward into marriage, even after giving myself the once-over in the mirror, wedding gown and all, and telling myself I could still walk away.
But I stubbornly walked that aisle on October 15, 1993, in front of family and friends and told God and my husband that no matter what, I would stay married to him for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea what would fall under the heading of “no matter what”.
We had one good year, maybe. I was happy. I felt secure. Our fighting had practically evaporated. I even remember telling people that the problem must’ve been the distance, because now that we were married, we almost never argued. But that couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t. Our honeymoon phase lasted about nine months. Then arguing ensued. And I was a yeller. I would go into rages that would leave me lying on our bed until I would sob myself to sleep. I felt controlled. I felt trapped.
I say this only to illustrate the depth of my pain, not to garner pity, but I began praying that God would kill me because I knew I could never leave my marriage. I knew I could not get a divorce. In my mind, it wasn’t that I was choosing not to, I literally felt it was not an option of mine. I prayed for my death. Daily.
Around the five-year mark, I began meeting with two women from church to go through a book on marriage. It was during this time with them that I shared not only the depth of my marriage pain and the frequency of our arguments, but the knowledge that alcohol was becoming the third party in our relationship. I thought they would be able to help me. I thought this was my answer. But as it turns out, people – through no fault of their own – do not always know how to handle this kind of thing. So I was given, repeatedly, a list of things to do to be a better wife. Pray more. Serve more. Have sex more. Cook more. Praise more. Respect more. Keep my mouth shut more. I felt patted on the head and sent back into the room after being told to try harder and keep taking on the chin whatever was being dished out, because I probably deserved it.
Maybe if I did all these things I’d become the kind of wife he wanted and needed and he’d stop drinking. That was my hope. Be the good wife, and he’ll choose me eventually. And if he doesn’t, it’s because I’m not a good enough wife. I felt that deep down for years.
More years passed of the same. Our two children grew. We were in and out of counseling (nine counselors all together). We were in and out of couples’ groups. I read practically every book on marriage ever written. I tried to do all the things I was told to do. But the arguing continued. The drinking would stop and start. The lies would sustain me for awhile. I would cry myself to sleep more nights than I can remember. And I died a little more each day.
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