Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Dear Dr. David,
I was married recently and within a short time my husband was physically violent with me during an argument. I immediately left our home. I told him I was leaving and he was trying to keep me from leaving and he grabbed my arms and left bruises on them. I was very freaked out so I went to some family's house and stayed for several days. I felt like I just needed a little bit to regroup. After I went back home things were very awkward between us. We tried to talk, but would just end up arguing. I started sleeping in the guest bedroom...and I certainly didn't want to be physical with him. I was angry and hurt over what happened. And I felt like he wasn't truly sorry and didn't realize the significance of what happened.
I went to a counselor a couple times and asked him to go. He refused. So I filed for a divorce and it wasn't until after the fact that I found out that he had gone to see the counselor. Since then, he has gotten two of his friends to move in with him to our apartment. Besides the last few harsh words we said to one another, we haven't really communicated in several months.
But God has been dealing with me very strongly about this. I want to make my marriage work. I want to do everything possible to get back with him. But it's very difficult to communicate with him since we are separated and because he always has his friends with him. I've tried to contact him twice, once through a phone call and once through an email. He hasn’t responded to either. But I have just begun to pray and ask for restoration and for the Lord to begin to convict him. (Keep in mind that he has refused to sign the divorce papers so we are still married) I'm asking that he will be grieved over our marriage and I've asked my closest friends to begin to diligently pray for the same thing.
I'm wondering if there is anything else I can do? Should I keep trying to contact him? Should I be patient and give him some time? I'm just confused and wondering what else I can do. ~ Confused
You are describing a very complicated situation. Let’s deal with one issue at a time.
First, I’m impressed that you are now trying to go slowly and thoughtfully. It is easy, as you know, to react instead of act—to act out of the emotion of the moment, rather than prayerfully considering the best course of action. So, keep up the good work—go slowly.
Second, you’re allowing God to soften your heart. It would be easy to shift into a negative posture, expecting him to make all the moves for reconciliation. You are wise to consider your role in these marriage problems, and explore a larger perspective than simply the violent incident.
Third, you’re gathering supportive friends around you, praying for your husband to be convicted, and for the restoration of your marriage. You seem to understand that it is unlikely your marriage could be restored short of him taking responsibility for his violent actions, which will come from him experiencing “a godly sorrow that leads to repentance.” (II Corinthians 7: 10) God is able to convict his heart. Hopefully this absence will allow him to see his wrongfulness and bring him to a point of wanting his marriage to be restored.
Fourth, I think it is important that you inform him of your heart’s desire to see the marriage restored, and leave the rest to him and God. You indicate that he has gathered friends around him, implying that he is not wrestling with his actions or making any efforts to work on the marriage. These will be his decisions to make—much is at stake, and all you can do is periodically remind him of your heart’s desire.
Finally, what should his return to the marriage look like? Here are some suggestions:
- A willingness on your husband’s part to take full responsibility/ accountability for his violence and seek counseling for it;
- Couples counseling to address the arguing and conflictual relationship which existed prior to this incident;
- Spiritual accountability from your pastor.
Remember that God hates divorce, but He also hates violence. (Malachi 2: 16) I hope that in your desire to reconcile you do not gloss over the violence which existed in your marriage. If that is not eradicated, further eruptions of violence can be expected in the future.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
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