Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Unexpected Twists and Turns

Roy and I have experienced a little entertainment this week.

Through a series of strange twists and turns, we discovered that we have two mutual friends (who know each other), both happily married. Both of these men were previously married. And this weekend we discovered they were both married—to the same woman (at different times, of course).

As we began to compare notes on these previous marriages, we began to see such uncanny commonalities.

Both men were taken in by this sweet, pretty thing.

Both men were working and appeared to be doing well financially.

Both men have since been accused of severe verbal abuse throughout their marriages to this woman.

Both men strongly suspected she was cheating during the marriage.

Both men were blind-sided by her desire to get divorced.

Both men were virtually robbed of all material possessions when she left (one left with only a few of his clothes and a Styrofoam cup).

Both men endured severe emotional pain as a result of the divorce.

Both men are just now--decades later--understanding the depth of the lies and manipulation they experienced at the hands of this woman.

Since their divorces, this woman has gone on to a number of additional relationships. Without fail, it appears she has been seeking out financially successful men to better her position in life. After meeting these two men, everything she has said is called into question. If you know these two men, it is obvious neither one of them is truly abusive.

In reality, she has been the abusive one. She is a master manipulator, preying on unsuspecting men.

As I have contemplated this situation throughout the week, it has led me to emphasize a few realities about divorce:

There are two sides to every story. I know my ex-husband made claims about my infidelity. While I was not perfect, I promise that I never had a relationship with another man until after my ex-husband had moved out of the house. I made some foolish choices in my pain, but my marriage was already over—and had been for a long time. At one point he even made the claim that I just woke up one morning and decided I didn’t love him any more and wanted to marry someone else. Somehow, the three years of his infidelity (as documented in our divorce decree) was just an insignificant event that had no bearing on our marriage.

I have had multiple people come to me and ask about the circumstances of our marriage. Those who care to hear the full truth quickly discern there is more than his side of the story. I actually had a lady I had never met message me, a lady who had dated my ex-husband briefly until she somehow found my side of the story and realized the truth—especially when she discovered he was also cheating on her.

If you are being maligned, please believe God knows the truth. Keep Psalm 37:4-7 in mind and pray that your righteousness will shine like the dawn and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. God is your Defender, and He does a much better job of defending you than you ever could.

Divorce does NOT take two people. Honestly, I was raised to believe that people are generally very good at heart. I was raised to believe that an affair is always the result of two people who are not meeting each other’s needs. I was raised that adultery only happens in the face of failures within the marriage.

That’s nowhere near the truth.

The truth is that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). It only takes one hard heart to choose to walk away from the covenant of marriage. One hard heart to determine the marriage is not worth fighting for. One hard heart to decide there must be something or someone better out there. One hard heart to become deceived by the world. One hard heart to decide God’s way is not best. One hard heart to turn against the Father. One hard heart to seek personal gain above the good of another individual.

While I have never claimed to be perfect, I did my best to create a safe haven at home. I held true to my promise to love, honor, be faithful—until it was obvious my husband was intentionally abusing my trust and the sanctity of marriage. I was faithful to the best of my ability until God gave me permission to walk away from the abuse that had become common place in my marriage.

There are often victims and perpetrators. Narcissism has become the word of the decade. I try to be very cautious in using this term without the mental health diagnosis to back it. I tend to simply use selfish and self-absorbed as terms to describe narcissistic behaviors.

But the reality is that there are narcissists and empaths. There are addicts and enablers. There are manipulators and naïve. There are perpetrators and victims.

It seems that the narcissists/addicts/manipulators/perpetrators tend to be experts at finding the empaths/enablers/naïve/victims. The former seems to be much wiser to the ways of this world and the latter tend to be trusting and easily deceived into believing the care and concern is genuine.

Scripture teaches us to be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents (Matthew 10:16). I think our churches have failed at teaching the shrewd as serpents portion of this scripture, especially with women. Women are taught to be gentle, submissive, loving, respectful without giving notice that the heart is deceitful and if we don’t protect ourselves, we will be destroyed. We need to do a better job of teaching about toxic relationships in the church and how Christians can recognize and avoid toxic people who would seek to destroy us.

Women are not the only victims of domestic abuse. So often, we hear the statistics of domestic abuse in relation to women victims. However, there are many men who are also victims of manipulative women who seek to destroy. I think men are hesitant to admit they have been the victims because it might somehow make them less masculine. They might not recognize the abuse because they are supposed to be the protectors, and they go to great lengths to protect the women in their lives.

However, there are conniving women who prey on men and seek to gain from them—gain wealth, status, power. I will never fully understand the mindset that is only about pushing oneself forward regardless of who is hurt, but I know plenty of people like this—both men and women.

And the church is not exempt from these people. As a matter of fact, because the Church has done such a lousy job of teaching on toxic relationships and has focused so heavily upon the Christian virtues, the Church makes the perfect place for a perpetrator to seek out his or her next victim.

I actually had an uncle who fell victim when his wife passed away. A “sweet” Christian lady swept in and eventually spent every penny he had. It was the same with the ex-wife of these men. She played the part of the sweet Christian girl because it gave her access to men who were willing to fight for their marriages at all costs.

Women are not the only victims.

While I hate being the “divorce advocate,” can I just say that sometimes divorce is appropriate? God never wanted His children to be victims of abuse in the very relationship that was meant to reflect His love for us, His bride. He designed marriage to be a safe place where two people can be fully known, loved, and accepted. I wouldn’t wish the pain of divorce on anyone—but I would take the pain of divorce over an abusive marriage any day. And I will passionately defend victims’ rights to divorce until God calls me home.

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Interested in coaching to help you navigate the twists and turns of life? Send me an email at dena@denajohnson.com with “coaching” in the subject line. Or, if you are interested in an online support group, please send an email with “support group” in the subject line.



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