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How to Parent in the Midst of a Difficult Marriage

How to Parent in the Midst of a Difficult Marriage

You’d think my trickiest mothering season would’ve been transitioning from being a married mom to a single mom when I went through my divorce two years ago. And don’t get me wrong, that was hard, and it still can be challenging to navigate all this on my own.

And yet, that was not the toughest stretch.

My most difficult parenting season was the very-hard-marriage years. And here’s why.

Because I was trying to do what they say to do in all the articles and books and that is to never argue in front your children, which I totally understand. But what they mean when they say that is the subtle message of don’t let your children see your real marriage.

Talk about a seemingly impossible task in a marriage with abuse and addiction issues. The best I could usually accomplish was trying to stop myself from crying before reaching my bedroom door.

So, moms, if you find yourself slogging through the daily monotony of motherhood dragging behind you the ball-and-chain of a marriage that leaves you crying yourself to sleep most nights, there is hope and help.

I’m not going to give you the tips that “regular” marriages get; things like touch more and submit more and cook his favorite meal more.

I’m not saying not to do those things, but I will say that what you need is sort of extra-strength.

Pray. You may be done praying. You may not feel heard anymore. It may seem pointless. You may think it doesn’t help anything, so why bother? But I’m going to ask you to keep praying anyway. Don’t just pray that your husband will change. In fact, you might even want to take a breather on that one for a little while. Instead, I’d suggest you pray that God heal your marriage, bring you the help you need, reveal to you your true reality, and soften your heart. These are scary prayers, but they are all prayers that God wants to and will answer.

Read. You have probably read every Christian marriage book out there, like I did. And there are a ton of them. But there are very few difficult Christian marriage books out there. I’ve got two I’d like to recommend. The first is Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. This is the best difficult Christian marriage book I’ve ever read by a professional, and it’s practical and biblically based. And I have a new e-book/PDF entitled Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage. With all the books I’ve read out there, I never came across one written by a woman who actually experienced and lived through a difficult marriage. But I have, and I remember the pain and confusion as clear as day, and I wanted to reach out with the hope of Jesus.

Reach out. This will probably be the most difficult step. Because you maybe have already hinted about your marriage issues or you perhaps have already asked for help, and you were possibly given that “regular” marriage list and patted on the head and sent right back in to battle, weapon-less and without protection. But I assure you that there are people and places you can go to get good, solid help. I’d start with places like Celebrate Recovery or AlAnon. I’d check out a Christian counselor. And I would prayerfully seek help from your church’s leadership. However, if you do not feel heard, believed or understood, I would move on and ask again until you are heard, believed and understood.

Sweet mom trying to get through your day with the additional burden of a difficult marriage, please know that you’re not alone. Please know that God sees your tears and your pain. And please know he wants to bring you healing.

Elisabeth Klein is the author of Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage and Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaks several times a month to women's groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers' Guild. She focuses her attention on women who are in hurting marriages or find themselves divorcing.  She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at or on facebook.

Publication date: March 27, 2014