I wanted out. My marriage was over. My husband was rarely home. When he was, he was working, de-stressing from his job by playing on the computer, or sleeping off jet-lag and long days of meetings. There didn’t seem to be any benefit to being married.
It wasn’t just his absence, but what it communicated to me. I felt unloved, used, and taken advantage of. His work, hobbies, free time, and desires seemed more important than me, than family, than us.
I was lonely, starving for attention. I needed to know I mattered. I always said I’d never be one of those women. The kind that have affairs. I was a Christian. I loved God, read my Bible, and prayed every day.
Even so, a close friend soon captured my heart. By God’s grace the relationship didn’t become physical. But it was still an affair… an emotional affair.
When I realized there was another man who could love me, who would be there for and with me, I knew my marriage was finally done. Why would I intentionally stay in a painful marriage with someone who didn’t seem to care?
Surely God wanted me to be happy.
Then my world came crashing down. My husband had been gone for three weeks and was coming home in a few days. It was time to let him know our marriage was over. Before he got home, though, God used the Body of Christ, His Word, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to shake up my world like never before.
A Christian friend asked me hard questions about my marriage. She prayed a targeted prayer for my marriage and against my emotional affair. In our private and tolerant society it is unusual for someone to ask personal questions and challenge our lifestyle. Yet she did.
The next morning an encounter with a stranger and a conversation with radio hosts Gary and Barb Rosberg made things even more black and white: I was being selfish and unfaithful in my marriage.
Finally I went to God. I begged Him to understand why I really needed a divorce. But the heavens were silent. I decided to play the trump card. “God, didn’t you promise that Christian marriages would be happy? Won’t you keep your promise?”
The heavens finally broke open. I felt God say He would keep His promise to give me a happy marriage if I could find that promise in Scripture. I searched. And searched. And searched.
There is no happy marriage promise.
I was devastated. God graciously turned my eyes to the book of Hosea, not to chastise me, but to show me something new.
Hosea, a new prophet, was told to marry a prostitute. You can’t tell me he didn’t at least hope his faithful love would turn the heart of his wife, a lady of the night, to fully love him in return. She didn’t. There was nothing beautiful or “happy” about his marriage.
I got angry with God. Really? You knew this would happen, and yet you still told him to marry her? You planned this?
After hours of ranting and praying, I was exhausted, my heart empty, my emotions raw. Then I saw something I’d never seen before.
It was hope in God and in His promises that carried Hosea. Hosea didn’t just love his wife. He loved God and so he loved his wife. Laying there on the carpet I knew that I knew that I knew that if I wanted to hear God greet me with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” I would need to love God and obey Him. Just like Hosea.
So I stayed. I ended my affair. I didn’t leave.
It was hard. It was work. It still is. I stopped focusing on making my marriage better. I stopped thinking about how to make my husband happy or how he could make me happy.
Instead I turned my attention and focus on God. I prayed for strength to be obedient. I prayed for joy when I felt despair. When I felt God prompt me through His Word or the quiet whisper of the Spirit, I obeyed. It was like putting on a pair of blindfolds and saying, ‘Okay God, lead. I’m following.’
Obedience meant apologizing. It meant changing my tone or keeping quiet to begin with. It meant bringing him a can of coke. Each day God gave me something to do as an act of worship to Him and it often looked like blessing my husband or a refining of my character.
About 6 months after I made the decision to obey God above all else, the Lord took off the blindfolds. It was time to see where He’d taken me.
I was still married to the same guy. I was still picking up his socks and wishing he’d come home. But there was joy. Joy in the midst of the mess. And for the first time in years, my heart was for my husband.
And I had hope. I’d been convinced hope was dead. There’d been almost nothing good between us. But God brings the dead back to life and creates new things where there is nothing. He did that for us.
We’ve been married 18½ years. We still disagree. We still hurt each other’s feelings. We’re far from perfect. Yet with God’s grace we’re learning to make it work, better and better.
Many ask how I stayed in my marriage and some say I shouldn’t have. I tell them all the same thing: My focus on obeying God helped me stay.
Does God want His people to have a happy marriage? Absolutely! I truly think He does. But He doesn’t promise it. Above all He wants obedience. Obeying God won’t guarantee you a happy marriage, but it will give you all the ingredients for joy and hope in the midst of the mess.
Read Trent's perspective: Why I Stayed, Too.
Carla Anne Coroy is the author of Married Mom, Solo Parent: Finding God’s Strength to Face the Challenge. She is a regularly blogger on her website www.carlaanne.com and serves as a staff writer for an online Christian women’s magazine Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. Carla Anne lives in Canada with her husband, Trent, and four homeschooled children.