Christian Marriage: For Better or for Worse – No Recourse for Spouse’s Bad Behavior?

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What is a spouse to do in a Christian marriage when a spouse is behaving badly or even abusing?  “For better or for worse” can keep a spouse captive in a very unhealthy relationship.

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Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 

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Tim Challies wrote an article, 6 Deadly Enemies of Marriage, specifically relating to Christian marriage.  For the most part, I found myself agreeing with the “enemies” Challies identifies:

  • neglect of foundation (Biblical foundation of marriage)
  • neglect of prayer
  • neglect of fellowship  – he identifies as the local church.  I wouldn’t go that far, but whatever.
  • neglect of communication – that’s a biggie
  • neglect of shared interests
  • neglect of sex

However, it was this comment by “Goodguy” that stopped me in my tracks (I added paragraphs and bolding):

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GoodGuy

As usual, the advice on marriage for Christians lacks teeth. I’m especially amused at the statement that neglecting sex is disobeying God (I agree, by the way) but if your spouse DOES neglect sex, what exactly can you do about it?

The pulpit, Christian marriage counselors, deacons and Christian websites all have the same answer: NOTHING.

The recommendations most Christians make for marriage are good.

The failure of Christian marriage, however, is that those same people would tell you “for better or worse” means you have to put up with abuse, sexual neglect and addiction.

My criticism of Christian marriage has been the same for years: it works great as long as everyone obeys the rules; when they don’t, you’re stuck with no recourse for a spouse’s bad behavior.

All the good ideas in the world mean nothing if your misbehaving spouse knows you’ll never leave. Such a marriage philosophy just creates a breeding ground for neglect and abuse.

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Is this guy off his rocker?

Or do you agree?

Is there no solution for a spouse’s bad behavior or even abuse?

Does the church have a responsibility to get involved?

What if they don’t get involved, then what?

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68 comments on “Christian Marriage: For Better or for Worse – No Recourse for Spouse’s Bad Behavior?

  1. I think no matter if it is a Christian marriage or not you do not have to put up with any type of abuse. As a person whose marriage just came back from the cliff of divorce I can honestly say that almost all of those things listed above where major problems in our marriage. At first my husband was unwilling to see there was a problem even in our marriage counseling sessions and blamed most of it on my being overly emotional and too sensitive to anything he said. When I finally came to him and said he needed to step up to the plate or it was time for a divorce, something we both agreed early on in our relationship was never really an option, he finally came to the table and we began to work things out. We are stronger now than when we ever were when we were dating. I don’t agree that in a Christian marriage you are stuck with no recourse for an abusive spouse, however divorce should never be a first option for something as simple as lack of communication or neglect of sex. I think there are too many avenues for help. That being said if it is a physically abusive situation then the person should seek immediate help to get out of that situation whether it is a Christian marriage or not.

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  2. “All the good ideas in the world mean nothing if your misbehaving spouse knows you’ll never leave. Such a marriage philosophy just creates a breeding ground for neglect and abuse.”

    This is why so many narcissists, sociopaths and just plain old bores are attracted to comp/patriarchy groups. It provides cover and affirms their position. If the wife wants out of an impossible (abuse, neglect, etc) situation, SHE is the sinner. Not him. It is a perfect environment for him.

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  3. What I think a lot of people don’t get is that the “covenant” of marriage is the foundation for the institution. When a spouse breaks that covenant repeatedly and unrepentantly, the covenant is essentially over. Thus the marriage is over. All that is left is the legal shell of the institution. I liken it to the book of Ezekiel where God’s glory departed from the temple. The core of their religion was gone from the place, leaving an empty shell full of empty rituals. That is what a marriage is when the covenant has been broken by one party, a shell with no real meaning and purpose but to remind the participants of what they could have had.

    Further, by forcing a spouse to stay with an abuser (a covenant breaker), then the church is making the victim responsible for the sins of the abuser. That is something that is never seen in Scripture.

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  4. Since there’s not any true persecution or martyrdom of Christians in America, some think that people should become martyrs in a marriage, instead of enjoying the freedom that Christ brings us. These same “Christians” are responsible for the image of Christians in secular society; that of hypocrites who care more about devouring their young, shooting their wounded, and shackling the rest with their chains of legalism.

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  5. My concern is that every little dislike and inconvenience in a marriage relationship these days can be labeled abuse. To me, abuse is living dangerously in a relationship with fear of being physically hurt or experiencing serious emotional pain. I have been married for 32 years and there have been times that both of us felt pain (so what we thought was pain) in reality it was a bump in the road and we got through it. Not always by great communication and talking things through…..often by one of us just suffering through the circumstance in prayer until God broke through to the other and there was repentance and forgiveness. In the middle of the crisis we always think….”I just cannot take this any longer” when in reality, these trials help us to grow in Christ and as marriage partners. Too many today rush to the “divorce” threats when all along Christ’s intention for marriage (in my opinion) is to make us holy and not happy.

    If you want to draw close to Jesus…..get married. If you love your spouse and love the Lord……it will make you holy and your life will be filled with continual challenge and change as you conform to the image of Jesus. If there is true abuse…..I say leave, live elsewhere and start to pray. Divorce is a last resort option after a long period of time and the spouse will not see his/her sin and repent.

    We also as Christian brothers and sisters have a responsibility to go to each other to point out sin and beg for repentance when we see a friend in sinful behavior…..what happened to accountability? If my Christian brother/sister will not be subject to accountability, I bring another Christian and then before the church and then cast him or her out. Haven’t seen much of that taking place in the “Church” these days, and if you do, they just run to another church and their sin continues to be not dealt with. Anyway, the bible says that God HATES divorce and we should too. We should do everything in our power to reconcile….oh and by the way, I’m still madly in love with my wife of 32 years!

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  6. Ron, Just a few thoughts on your comment I hope you will consider:

    “My concern is that every little dislike and inconvenience in a marriage relationship these days can be labeled abuse.”

    I have heard this one from the pulpit for too long. First of all, none of us are INSIDE that marriage or INSIDE that home no matter how much “accountability” you can call for. Secondly, most abusers hide it well from the outside for years and those who are abused know this and will look like the sinner to the church folks supporting the poor abuser. Most abusers look extremely charming and humble. I kid you not. They know what they are doing. And lastly, your definition of abuse might be different from others. I think there are many forms. Long term emotional abuse can be MORE devastating to not only the spouse but the children.

    Do you know the population with the least amount of divorce? atheists/ agnostics. Why do you think that is?

    ” If you want to draw close to Jesus…..get married. If you love your spouse and love the Lord……it will make you holy and your life will be filled with continual challenge and change as you conform to the image of Jesus.”

    Oh my. I think you have taken a biblical metaphor WAAAAAY to far! What about our single brothers and sisters? Paul actually teaches the OPPOSITE of what you say above because they can “devote” themselves to the Lord without the responsibilities of marriage.

    “We also as Christian brothers and sisters have a responsibility to go to each other to point out sin and beg for repentance when we see a friend in sinful behavior…..what happened to accountability? If my Christian brother/sister will not be subject to accountability, I bring another Christian and then before the church and then cast him or her out.”

    So how does this work? The only way you might even know of the abuse is if the abused tells someone. But what if you see no physical evidence? What if the abuser is an elder who is loved by all? Would you believe her or him who tells you she is “over emotional” and yes he was a bit harsh with her but she is overreacting. By your comment, I would guess you would believe the elder.

    As to accountability, are you going to move in with them? And if a believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit why is all this human accountability needed? Why all the hand holding to keep people in line. Aren’t they saved and in sanctification? I saw way too many accountability groups become “group think”. Dangerous stuff, btw.

    “Anyway, the bible says that God HATES divorce and we should too. “

    I really think you need to delve into that one a bit deeper. I don’t think you understand it in context. Well, actually most pastors don’t either. Sigh.

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  7. Hmm, in general I’m in agreement but does anyone else think it’s weird that he zeroed in on sexual neglect? I mean, how often is that a “bad behavior” that is under direct conscious control of one partner? Sometimes, probably, but not often.

    Maybe if your question is “My sex dispenser is broken! What can you do fix it?” the answer might be “nothing”, but I’m sure most marriage counselors, christian or non-, would have some advice on how to work through the issue together.

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  8. Wendell G (10:58am) Yes, and the divorce is merely a public acknowledgement of that insistent breaking and re-breaking of the covenant which destroyed the relationship.

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  9. When considering the Bible passage that says “God hates divorce,” I think an important question to ask is “Why?” I believe that understanding exactly what it is that God hates about divorce would help a lot of people struggling with questions raised in this post.

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  10. Hmm, in general I’m in agreement but does anyone else think it’s weird that he zeroed in on sexual neglect? I mean, how often is that a “bad behavior” that is under direct conscious control of one partner? Sometimes, probably, but not often.

    I think he zeroed in on the sex aspect because it is one of the original 6 enemies that Challies listed, but then it seems to me he went beyond that one point and extended it to other areas. In other words, I do not believe his comment primarily had to do with sex, although he started with that point. I could be wrong, though.

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  11. Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on divorce was’nt meant to ban all divorce or limit it to a few narrow circumstances, but to protect, mostly women, from casual divorce. Moses’ injunction to “write a certificate of divorce” was to protect women, for withou one, a woman was left out in the cold when a man “put away” a woman—what Jesus actually said—no one would remarry her. The church has made divorce into a new legalism. Yes, divorce always must be an option, or else abuse is enabled.

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  12. Ron (17, 11:23am) What God HATES (as you put it) is when a person in an intimate relationship incessantly tears his/her partner down, someone who God made beautifully and with care/love. How dare another human treat badly someone for whom God became human sacrifice?!

    That is the essence of the passage some people love to blithely quote without looking at verses before/after. Why do people not read the full passage? It is addressed to men, did you know that? “Anyway…” you say, as if that’s the throwaway clincher.

    Sure, bad treatment can be forgiven since we all do wrong, but what if it happens 100 times with no sense of genuine repentance and new action? What about 1000 times? Living with an insistently cruel, callous, or self-centered partner means being wounded many x per day x 365 days per year. What number do you think acceptable before the covenant is destroyed?

    Sometimes when people have a solid relationship with a willing and open-hearted partner, they forget how blessed they are and then they become arrogant, finding it easy to judge others. Why would people with dying relationships listen to the ignorant advice that often arrives under the word “accountability”? The only people who have wisdom to offer broken relationships are those who are humble about the success of their own relationships and who have also expended long energy in to empathetically learn the actual nature of broken covenants.

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  13. The term was “divorce for any reason” which meant “any reason the husband chose to allege”, which is another way of saying “for no reason at all”. It was a divorce that was available under Mosaic law if a man wanted to be divorced, he could be divorced, but had to give the woman a document to that effect. It was a very devaluing form of divorce. An “I do not want you in my home so I can have that cute one instead” kind of divorce.

    Jesus was saying that that form of divorce, without papers or with, was demeaning to the woman and contrary to the will of God.

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  14. I have always been taught that divorce was allowed only for adultery and abandonment. And then we read of pastors who hold the permanence view of marriage like Piper and Baucham. With so many opinions from so many “leaders,” it sure makes things complicated for those in dire straights – trying to honor their pastors and their views.

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  15. One further comment to Ron. You wrote: “Too many today rush to the “divorce” threats when all along Christ’s intention for marriage (in my opinion) is to make us holy and not happy.”

    I do not know about “rush to divorce threats” because I have not lived in any marriage but my own, have only seen others’ from the outside, and have listened to only a few people tell me about their marriage struggles. But I do know that Christ never said that marriage is to make us “holy and not happy”.

    We are clean and free because of Christ. He gives us the ability/opportunity to journey towards the persons that God intended when S/He made us. The journey towards God’s intentions is a holy undertaking. Marriage can help or stymie it, depending on the hearts involved.

    When a person is becoming more as God intended, he/she will be happier, that’s just how it goes. It is a true happiness: a peacefulness, contentedness, sturdiness.

    There is nothing holy about hurting someone else or about accepting destruction of the self by indulging another’s sin. Nothing at all. Jesus did that sacrifice, a one-time thing that only a God-man could do, and he conquered it in three days. “It is finished.” Any further practice of such is an insult to the completed work of Christ, and a denial of the fruits of that work.

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  16. I left a comment on his blog addressing his page from a different angle (my post at his is under the name “Daisy”). I don’t know if it’s the sort of blog where my posts can stay, or if he or a moderator will delete them later.

    I noticed that he ended his page by blaming Satan for why Christian marriage are falling apart. For example, he wrote:

    Just as Satan wants a couple to stop communicating with God through prayer, he also wants that couple to stop communicating with one another.

    …Satan loves it when he can compel an individual to withdraw from the church;…

    If Satan cannot destroy a marriage, he will at least determine to weaken it.

    etc. That’s a lot of Satan-blame going on, as though Christians are devoid of any responsibility in these areas.

    I also noticed that he sort of got into guilting or shaming people for not attending a church regularly. That won’t work on someone like me.

    Here are some quotes from the post I left there:
    ——————————————-
    First of all, I think this is misplaced. The world doesn’t need another “how to have a great marriage” type editorial.

    There are many Christian single women age 30 and over who wanted marriage, were promised by Christian preachers, parents, church people, and dating books, that if they prayed, had faith, and waited, God would send them a Christian spouse. But some of us have remained single into our 30s and 40s. We have never married.

    ….There are more single Christian women than there are men, meaning, some Christian women have to marry Non Christians. Christians rarely want to address this staggering issue but instead prefer to keep churning out these “how to have a great marriage” type editorials.

    There is more a problem with protracted, unwanted singleness among Christian adult women over 30 than anything.

    … As per your point about sexless marriages. I find that very funny. Some Christians are quite keen on spreading the propaganda that if only a Christian person remains a virgin until marriage, that the sex will be regular and great.

    In the past few years, I have stumbled across many secular and Christian magazine articles, advice columns, blogs, etc, where both Non Christian and Christian married couples admit to having terrible sex, or no sex at all.

    …Christians ought to stop holding up falsehoods about sex and marriage to get kids to abstain from sex

    …Christians are destroying marriages with their inept teaching about the topic, and by neglecting to help single women over 30 get married and treating singleness like it’s a disease – not Satan. The church needs to take responsibility for how it has messed up on all this.

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  17. How about following God’s example? He was “married” to the nation of Israel, but she was repeatedly unfaithful to Him. He gave her opportunity to repent and tried to work things out, but eventually divorced her.

    Divorce should be a last resort, but it does need to be an option, for reasons already mentioned by others.

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  18. Ron, It appears to me you see marriage as an institution built for suffering. Let’s see what you’ve said:
    “often suffering through the circumstance in prayer until God broke through to the other”.
    “Christ’s intention for marriage (in my opinion) is to make us holy and not happy.”
    “If you want to draw close to Jesus…..get married. it will make you holy and your life will be filled with continual challenge and change as you conform to the image of Jesus.”

    Did you get those ideas from listening to teaching in another institution, your church?

    To cause someone else to suffer is wrong/sin. To teach suffering as a valid part of marriage or any relationship is dangerous and wrong. To say suffering will be cured by prayer & God “breaking through” is cruel. This is not helpful to those who are hurting or being abused.

    Wasn’t marriage designed to be a loving covenant AND relationship blessed by God? Don’t you think that’s more accurate?
    Isn’t the church made up of living, breathing individuals following Jesus Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit vs an abstract institution?

    There are remedies for abuse in marriage. Any/all circumstance(s) can draw us closer to God, painful or enjoyable. What we need to get crystal clear is that doesn’t make the wrongdoing action that caused the pain right, just or good. Wrong is wrong, sin is still sin. Crying out for Justice blog is a good resource for Christians dealing with abuse.

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  19. “There is nothing holy about hurting someone else or about accepting destruction of the self by indulging another’s sin.”

    Very true. As if one spouse causing the other suffering is holy because it made the other person grow? Take that to its logical conclusions is scary but it is taught out there…a lot.

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  20. Ron, As for accountability, that’s just the latest buzz word of Celeb preachers in institutional churches. Political correctness should be ditched for polite honesty. Accountability swings to the opposite extreme. And it is an excuse for control over someone else. You yourself said Christian brother/sister should subject themselves to accountability (whatever the church wants that to be) or they get kicked out of the church.

    Sounds like you might attend a control-mongering institutional church like this one, IMO.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/februaryweb-only/mars-hill-discipline.html

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  21. “I have always been taught that divorce was allowed only for adultery and abandonment.”

    Instone-Brewer is a great resource for understanding the OT Hebrew and what Jesus was referring to. I first heard of Instone Brewer because Piper was warning against him. I figured he was worth checking out. I first heard of NT Wright the same way.

    Piper is like reverse advertising for me. :o)

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  22. There are remedies for abuse in marriage… including divorce! Take actions to be safe. Wrong is wrong, sin is sin. In all relationships & institutions.

    Also, if someone is being abused & needs help, don’t expect it from church. I wouldn’t recommend it. Call or go to a shelter. Christians usually get this all wrong.

    Jeff Crippen’s site is excellent.

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  23. In all fairness to Ron, he has some valid points. By taking his position to an extreme, it is easy to create a straw man to refute.

    Consider the following scenarios:

    Wife crashes car into lamppost
    Husband gets angry and yells at her

    Wife buys expensive new dress on credit (when they are already over their heads in debt)
    Husband gets angry and yells at her

    I think these may be the kind of scenarios Ron was envisioning. Are either of these situations valid cause for divorce? Hardly. But going by some of the responses to Ron here, you would think they are.

    In both cases there was hurt and suffering caused by both the wife and husband. There is a need for repentance and forgiveness. And there is opportunity to learn and grow.

    I understand that many commenters here have been victims of abuse, and certainly a pattern of “Husband gets angry and yells at her” could fit into that category, but not necessarily so. Would a repeated case of “Wife buys ??? on credit (when they are already over their heads in debt” a valid cause for divorce?

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  24. Tia, thanks for the help. I’m
    New to all this blog stuff and your assessment of my thoughts is spot on. I really don’t know much about abusive marriages however I have known a lot of very selfish “Christians” who get divorced over things not related to abuse at all but pure selfishness. I have talked to both parties many times and it is rarely abuse in my circles. Since I don’t know much about abuse that seems to be the thrust of this discussion, I probably shouldn’t of even commented. My point was that so many seek divorce when there are really no biblical grounds. If there is abuse, the kind that has stirred up some of the anger that I see in the previous posts, I’m no expert and I certainly agree that one should flee that relationship. I just am a little shocked at all the negative comments and feel really misunderstood. Oh well, I have broad shoulders and can take it but probably won’t rush to comment again!

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  25. You know there’s a problem with the Christian view of marriage when women hope and pray that their husbands will cheat so that they have a biblical excuse for leaving an abusive marriage.

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  26. Ruth said,

    More broadly, I become very weary with the defensiveness of those who say, no really, I just use OCs for medical reasons and not for that sketchy contraception!

    Why is that?

    I don’t like being accused of having pre marital sex, and that is what some of these people do. They assume if you’ve used the pill it was because you were having pre marital sex.

    Actually, I get tired of people assuming that any and all singles are fornication, regardless of the pill aspect of it. Not all unmarried people are having sex. Some of us were waiting for marriage to have sex.

    I did only use BCPs for health reasons and not for sex – I’m over 40 and still a virgin.

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  27. I don’t understand pastors who “guilt” people to constantly attend and serve at church. I know of many couples where one spouse neglects his/her spouse and children because they are obsessed with church work. I have also noticed and been personally affected by the amount of time some members in the music ministry spend rehearsing and performing. The attention they receive almost becomes their idol at the expense of family. On another topic, I was told that in 30% of marriages with sexual problems the wife complains that her husband has lost interest and she wants more “action”!!

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  28. David Brain Nerd said,

    But now, the pill has become a god to many women

    Actually, I think sex has become a God to a lot of people, both male and female Christian and Non Christian.

    Sex has become a God to our culture to the point Christians (even you) now buy into secular presuppositions about sex, such as, nobody can be a virgin as long as I have (over the age of 40).

    It is assumed – by many Christians, not just Non Christians – that nobody can go without sex past their early or mid 20s, and that having pre martial sex by 25 – 30 is inevitable if one has not married by then. The Bible does not teach that at all..

    But Christians support that view, which is why most now promote early marriage and educating teens about using birth control.

    Even ‘True Love Waits’ (Christian program for sexual abstinence) has re-hauled their program this year to dump the virginity message: Christians have thrown in the towel on chastity and virginity being possible and Christians perceive teaching these ideas as being a waste of time.

    Observe how preachers such as Mark Driscoll, and every other preacher, thinks a man cannot go without sex for more than a day, and that is why they lecture wives to give the husbands sex every two minutes.

    The Bible teaches
    1. people (yes, even married people) can live without sex (husbands don’t need sex every week) and
    2. people possess sexual self control

    I read a book by Christians that discussed the history of people’s view about sex (among other topics), and up until Freud (19th century psychiatrist) and later, Americans used to believe people could be sexually abstinent for long periods of time…

    With Freud, though, came weird views about sex, eg, about not having sex by one’s early 20s supposedly stunts a person’s maturity or health, or supposedly creates neuroticism in women and other, negative issues in men who don’t have sex by age X. His thinking about sex (and he was not basing his views on the Bible) permeated American attitudes about sex, and Christian views about sex, in the 20th cent and beyond.

    That book, combined with my own observations of Christian culture, confirms that Christians have allowed secular culture to color their views and assumptions about sex.

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  29. “What I think a lot of people don’t get is that the “covenant” of marriage is the foundation for the institution. When a spouse breaks that covenant repeatedly and unrepentantly, the covenant is essentially over. Thus the marriage is over. All that is left is the legal shell of the institution”.

    Yes, this is so true!
    I would add that, for those whose spouse has never intended to keep those vows, there may have never been a marriage in the first place. This is what always comes to mind when I hear about folks who say, that “he never showed that side until after the wedding; what can I do now?” Well, if the spouse deceived you into the marriage, if there is abuse, unfaithfulness, etc, from the start, then there is no marriage….& never was.

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  30. Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on divorce was’nt meant to ban all divorce or limit it to a few narrow circumstances, but to protect, mostly women, from casual divorce. Moses’ injunction to “write a certificate of divorce” was to protect women, for withou one, a woman was left out in the cold when a man “put away” a woman—what Jesus actually said—no one would remarry her. The church has made divorce into a new legalism. Yes, divorce always must be an option, or else abuse is enabled.

    Amen!!

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  31. “With Freud, though, came weird views about sex, eg, about not having sex by one’s early 20s supposedly stunts a person’s maturity or health, or supposedly creates neuroticism in women and other, negative issues in men who don’t have sex by age X. His thinking about sex (and he was not basing his views on the Bible) permeated American attitudes about sex, and Christian views about sex, in the 20th cent and beyond.”

    There’s a thing called “The Manosphere”. Its an online blogosphere where men gather to bash women, complain about the Illuminati/Rothschild/Feminist/Socialist New World Order we are all supposedly living under as well as to exchange tips on “game” i.e. pick up artistry i.e. how to “get hot young sluts to spread their legs in under 3 hours”.

    There’s also a thing called “The Christian Manosphere” where they discuss, you guessed it, pretty much the same.

    These so called Christian men are claiming that men will go crazy if they don’t have sex by 18 and that’s why so many young American men are shooting out buildings and schools.

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  32. Ron/TIA,

    It’s naive to think that you will stop all the “Christians” you know from getting divorces over minor issues by preaching sermons equating marriage suffering to holiness. Isn’t working, is it? And you get to decide if they are minor, how would you 100% know? Maybe it’s better to talk about the greatest command & what following Jesus is & let them decide? Following Jesus is a choice. If it’s not a choice, is God failing in the marriage department with all the many divorcing couples you’ve talked with, Ron?

    If you leave your car door unlocked & someone steals everything, does it make theft right because you learned from it (to lock the doors)? Preaching that suffering is good is craziness. And it’s dangerous because there are devoted Christians suffering who think it’s their job to suffer & their abusers job to make them suffer because of this teaching. They think it’s ordained by God. And/or they think they aren’t praying enough/hard.

    Where are the sermons that specifically address them & their situation? Abuse in marriage? We don’t hear it or it’s a sentence or two in the sermon calling suffering good = suffering is meant to be to get us to holiness. So what do you think the takeaway is for them?

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  33. TIA/Ron, you are speaking of relatively healthy human intimacy in which both will make mistakes and then eventually deal with it, because both spouses are openhearted over time. They want to sort things out even when it gets shaky now and then, n’est-ce pas? It is a lovely thing, a case of the whole being greater than the parts.

    There are also those relationships in which both persons are immature but they make it through because they both grow up, and that is also plain lovely. But perhaps they don’t make it through because one or both refuse to grow up. We can’t force people to grow up by imprisoning them together for long periods of time–it just doesn’t work, becomes counterproductive and destructive to any children involved.

    There are also those marriages in which one partner has a power-hungry or narcissistic streak. It is more common than those who have decent marriages think because they want to believe that all people are like them, only unwilling. They forget the depths to which the human heart can sink. Such marriages are recipes for disaster.

    Of the above choices, only two have a future together: the openhearted partners or the immature partnership in which both become willing to mature. This blog has spiritual abuse as a focus, so the power-hungry relationship will be the experience of many readers here. Given that, it isn’t surprising that commenters take Ron to task.

    Marriage is not an end-all be-all, but on the other hand, anyone who goes through a failed marriage, whether immature/ mature or narcissistic/openhearted, every. single. one. is deeply torn up by it. It is not the divorce itself that tears a person up, but the failure of intimacy, of which divorce is the formal acknowledgement. It is important to understand that the consequences of a failed intimacy are contained in the thing itself. It always leaves deep scars. To then cast judgment on such people is like kicking a dog who is already down and that’s not something that people who worship the God Who Is Love will want to do.

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  34. Some brief points.
    “God hates divorce” is a mistranslation. Read the ESV, the 2011 NIV or the Holman Christian Standard Bible — they all say that the one who hates in that verse is the divorcing man, not God. (Malachi 2:16)

    The Biblical grounds for divorce are abuse, adultery and desertion. I explain this in detail in my book Not Under Bondage.

    Anyone who says ‘you can leave if there is physical abuse’ needs to learn a LOT more about abuse and the mindset of abusers. Many abusers torment and crush and control their spouse without ever using physical violence. We have a definition of domestic abuse at our blog A Cry For Justice. Here it is:

    Very few people know what abuse really is, though everyone seems quite ready to give advice to its victims. If you believe that abuse is physical battering, you have some learning to do.

    Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.

    While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.

    Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim’s person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.

    * Sometimes the genders are reversed.

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  35. Best advice a pastor gave to me almost 40 years ago: If she doesn’t want to be faithful to you in marriage, let her go, as gently as you can, let her get on with her choices in life, and get on with yours. Don’t make a big fight out of it.

    So I did. And God later blessed me with a spouse who loves me deeply and, even though there have been some rough spots, for over 35 years, there has been no question about our faithfulness to each other and to God.

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  36. Ron, I just want to add that it did sound to me like you were speaking just from your own experience of a healthy marriage — one which has had various tough times over the years but had got though each of those times okay and you still do love each other. Well done and lucky you! (speaking to both of you there)

    I appreciate your honest recognition that you don’t know a lot about abuse. I think that was evident in your initial comment, but not worthy of condemnation. Abuse is such a weird and different animal that people who are in healthy marriages where each partner has basic respect and common decency towards the other have *No Idea* what abuse is like and how different it is. The masquerade of health that the couple present in public makes it hard for non-abusive people to have any idea of what is really going on under the surface/behind closed doors.

    I should add here that abusers put on this masquerade to disguise their true colours from the community and win allies in the community so that they can further isolate their partner, whereas the victim puts on the masquerade out of fear and shame: fear of the abuser’s retaliation if the truth got out to the community, and shame because of the stigma that is so often attached to being a victim of domestic abuse.

    I understand, Ron, that when you were writing your initial comment you had no idea at all that some of your wording would be TRIGGERRRRRING for people who have been through domestic abuse or have supported loved ones as they run the gauntlet of domestic abuse. Thanks for being brave enough to share you shock at the responses in this thread. I hope you keep commenting on JA’s and other blogs. 🙂

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  37. Ron, I once had the same beliefs you have. I too have been married to the same woman for almost 38 years. We both love each other dearly and would not think of abusing the other. Yes, we have had ups and downs, but have worked through them through prayer and support. God knows I have given her reason to divorce me because of a previous addiction to pornography, but God blessed me both with a forgiving wife and intervention in my life that has led me to repentance.

    I also agree that many people get divorces to easily. On the other hand, I was brought face to face with the reality and ugliness of abuse when we found out my daughter’s marriage of 12 years was ending due to long term emotional abuse. I won’t go into the entire story here, but I can tell you that the things he did to her were horrific and honestly made me want to shoot the man.

    I went through a lot of emotions and this went counter to my beliefs about divorce and sent me to the Bible and to some excellent work by David Instone-Brewer, Barbara Roberts and Jeff Crippen. I need to also say that I am a former pastor with a degree in theology from Howard Payne University in Texas, so I did have some background in Greek, though not Hebrew.

    When I looked at the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings on divorce, the original language used and the setting, it became obvious to me that the apparent prohibition on divorce was not as clear as I had been taught. Unfortunately, too many in the church, including pastors, do not bother to research using sound principles of hermeneutics. It is just too easy to go by tradition or by what other celebrity preachers are teaching.

    I would strongly suggest that you take a look at the ACFJ blog and read the stories of men and women who were abused by their spouses. Examine some of the resources there and keep an open mind. You have already shown a good deal of intellectual honesty by admitting your lack of knowledge on abuse, so I have high hopes that the resources mentioned will at least get you thinking.

    Finally, please understand that the reactions you have been getting are probably coming from very hurting people who not only endured long term abuse in their marriages, but then abuse from their churches, the one place they should be able to go for refuge. They have been disbelieved and in some cases kicked out of their churches for committing the second unpardonable sin, divorce. Unfortunately, some of your words are big triggers for abuse victims as it comes across that you are another in a long line of people who will condemn them. I am not saying that this was your intent, but that is how the language you used comes across to them.

    I encourage you to search for truth and research the subject. I think any of us here are willing to help anyone who is on an honest search for the truth on this subject.

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  38. Hi Ron,

    I am glad you commented (sorry about the regrets, though), because the way that I look at it is that I know that over a period of time, thousands will read one particular article and so your comment certainly represents some of those readers. Your voice is important because you are expressing your reality which is very likely the same as others, too. Please don’t feel bad about commenting. I’m glad you’re here. Everybody is at a different level of understanding. The ones I am concerned about are the ones who refuse to challenge their own thoughts.

    If you were to ask my opinion about divorce before having a blog and now after having a blog, you would see that my opinion has changed. Much of that is due to the fact that I have been exposed to a lot more stories, many with abuse (because of the nature of the blog). I’ve been taught for 30+ years that divorce was only allowed for adultery and abandonment – that if there was anything other than that, you need to suck it up and pray that God would do a miracle.

    I also used to think that most people who divorced did it on a whim and that Christians were better because we took marriage seriously. This is what was taught from the pulpit of some of my churches, too. Someone showed me a study not long ago that indicated most people who divorce do so for very serious reasons (abuse, adultery, abandonment). That was a revelation to me.

    Two of the biggest issues I have learned since blogging is this:

    1: Church leaders are sometimes the most ill-equipped to deal with fractured marriages, discerning risks involved in a bad marriage situation, addressing real abuses, providing support: emotional, spiritual, and physical (or monetary) support for those families involved in a marital crisis.

    2. Essentially, church leaders can become enablers of abuse by their non-response to situations in which spouses/children are living in emotional/spiritual/physical prisons.

    This enabling can create a secondary abuse scenario: spiritual abuse. So now the person must deal with a horrific marriage, plus the shepherd who is supposed to care for their souls is failing to do so. This can lead to a crisis of faith, someone leaving church or abandoning faith altogether. This is serious business – not only for the spouse, but for the children who are witness to this as well.

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  39. Well, see, that’s what I get for posting before reading an entire thread. It seems that Wendell and I both touched on the subject of spiritual abuse.

    I’m very thankful to have Barbara and Wendell sharing their knowledge and experience here. Here is the link to A Cry for Justice blog. You can always find it in my blogroll, too. I have learned a lot from ACFJ and have sent quite a few people there. It is a much needed ministry. I hope that church leaders will gain more knowledge and understanding on this topic which surely is widespread.

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  40. If a man rejected his wife, Moses required that the husband give her a certificate of divorce. We tend to think that the divorce was effective on issuance of the certificate. The reality, however, is that rejection constitutes divorce. Moses required the granting of a certificate, not for the purpose of effecting divorce, but for the purpose of certifying what had already taken place, and also for the purpose of freeing the woman from bondage to the man who had rejected her.

    When Jesus said “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6b, ESV), surely He was speaking in opposition to the rejection of one spouse by another. Surely Jesus was not saying that a rejected wife was to be denied the certificate releasing her from bondage to the rejecting spouse.

    One might object that Jesus also said “[E]veryone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery . . .” (Mt 5:31b, ESV). Some preachers may tend to use this verse to condemn an innocently divorced spouse for remarrying. However, the better reading of this teaching is that the spouse who rejects (whether by adultery, abandonment, neglect, abuse, etc.) bears the moral culpability for having forced the innocent spouse into a second marriage. It is analogous to a situation where a bank robber commandeers a vehicle and at gunpoint forces the owner to drive the vehicle away from the scene of the robbery at high speed. The kidnapping bank robber will be held responsible, not the owner of the vehicle.

    If one spouse rejects the other, (again, whether by adultery, abandonment, neglect, abuse, etc.), and if a pastor counsels the innocent spouse that they must remain in that marriage, they are in violation of the principle, announced by Moses, that the innocent spouse must be released. If a pastor counsels the innocent divorced spouse that they may not remarry, the pastor ignores the fact that it is the at-fault spouse who is morally culpable. In both instances, the pastor is guilty of spiritual abuse.

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  41. One reason why Ron’s comment may have triggered the response it did is because emotional abusers are so adept at hijacking the pastors words and using them to not only excuse behavior but turn the tables. I have heard this over and over from many women who have escaped abusive marriages and why “church” simply made a horrible situation, worse.

    The pastor will typically preach on divorce and how people divorce over trifling issues they should work out. The abuser jumps on this and deconstructs his emotionally abusive behavior to “trifling”. See, the abuser is the one who defines, too. She is presented as the one looking like an over emotional whiner and making mountains out of what the abuser redefines as a molehill.

    When one sees this over and over year after year, one can get a bit put out with these typical sermons on marriage. And when one learns of networks of ex pastor wives who have been emotionally abused, one wonders. One wonders because often the typical marriage sermon maps the marriage to the Trinity or Body of Christ taking a metaphor way too far. Add in the typical comp doctrine and you have a recipe for serious emotional abuse that the abuser is quite adept at adapting for his purposes.

    (Abusers can be wife or husband. I am just using the typical scenarios I have seen)

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  42. Wendell, thank you for sharing your honest reaction to your daughter’s abuse; I know it would be my husband’s (AND MY OWN) reaction if it happened to our children. The fact that she stayed in that relationship for 12 years should be indicative of how insidious the nature of abuse is – as a child of my parents’ toxic marriage (of 17 years), I can tell you that abusers are very good at being ‘ordinary people’. Until you are living under their roof, however, outsiders have no idea how cunning and manipulative these people can be.

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  43. The pastor will typically preach on divorce and how people divorce over trifling issues they should work out.

    Lydia:

    Another place where this is coming from is women in the church. This is very pervasive in homeschool communities in which women are encouraged to find “Titus 2” mentors for their spiritual accountability and encouragement. What frequently happens is a wife will tell her spiritual mentor of the abuse going on in the home. The mentor will encourage her to respectfully appeal to her husband. If one understand abusers, an appeal is not going to do a thing – they are wired for abuse.

    After respectfully appealing and finding that doesn’t work, the wives are encouraged to pray to ask God to change the heart of her husband. They are to endure this suffering for Christ – that they had an unhealthy dependency on their husband to meet their needs and this abuse will cause them to rely on Christ to meet their needs.

    Let’s not forget that this is not only about the wife, but affects the children as well. The children in the family are learning dad’s destructive behavior, the disrespect he has for his wife and now the wife is also dealing with the emotional responses from the children as well. Guess what will happen with those kids? They will likely repeat the same abusing patterns – – the girls will learn to put up with abuse and suffer and the boys will learn how to use their power to control.

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  44. An Attorney said: “Best advice a pastor gave to me almost 40 years ago: If she doesn’t want to be faithful to you in marriage, let her go, as gently as you can, let her get on with her choices in life, and get on with yours. Don’t make a big fight out of it.”

    Very good advice.

    Julie Anne, I do believe that most people do not divorce “on a whim.” I think most cases we see of that are by celebrities. And, since they are in the news most often, I can understand why Christians may think that people who divorce only do it on a whim. I think that most people who divorce have been struggling with their marriages for several years. Finally, for one, enough is enough.

    Like you, I have seen too many people struggle and hold on to loveless and abusive marriages because they believe that God doesn’t want them to divorce. And, you are right. Most pastors are not equipped to deal with the emotional and mental aspects of a person’s mental health. Unless a pastor is a licensed counselor, I don’t think that they should be providing marriage counseling.

    In the end, I do not think that one partner needs to “suffer for the cause.” If a spouse is unfaithful and abusive (neglectfully, emotionally, physically or sexually) then the marriage needs to end. They have broken their vows. For those who believe that marriage is a representation of God and the church, God does not treat the church abusively. Neither should a spouse.

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  45. Julie Anne

    You write @ JANUARY 17, 2014 @ 1:09 PM
    “With so many opinions from so many “leaders,” it sure makes things complicated for those in dire straights – trying to honor their pastors and their views.”

    Seems another reason to NOT follow Mere Fallible Human “leaders” – Ever…
    Seems the “leaders” of the people cause them to err. – Who wudda thunk it?

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee* cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *the leaders* of this people cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    “so many opinions from so many “leaders,” is most likely just another reason why Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leaders.” For you have “ONE” Leader – Jesus. Mat 23:10 NASB.

    And – Be His Sheep – Hearing His Voice – and Follow Jesus. John 10:27.

    And, if you are one of His Sheep? Interested in “His Truth?”
    You can get “His Truth” directly from Jesus – NO middle man.
    Seems Jesus, wants to be your “ONE” teacher. Mat 23:18 NASB.
    Jesus even says, the Holy Spirit will teach you ALL things… 😉
    And they shall be ALL taught of God – And you can hear His Voice…
    And, the apostle John says, You Need NO MAN teach you… 😉

    John 18:37
    …Every one that is of the truth *heareth My voice.”

    1 John 2:26-27
    These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and
    **ye need NOT that any man teach you…**

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you ALL things…

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to *hear His voice,*
    that *He might instruct thee:*

    Psalms 32:8
    I will instruct thee and teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

    It does take a step of faith to believe and trust you can hear His Voice…
    And Jesus “can speak to you” and **teach you** “ALL” truth.

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  46. Yup – About ALL this divorce stuff – Why NOT ask Jesus?
    For yourself? What Jesus thinks is best for you?

    MY Sheep – Hear MY Voice – and Follow me…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

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  47. Kathi,

    I especially liked this:

    For those who believe that marriage is a representation of God and the church, God does not treat the church abusively. Neither should a spouse.

    Amos – good to see you, friend!

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  48. missdaisyflower, thank you for all your wonderful points — especially about the lack of Christian men in churches. I was saved when I was 37, and my first church had about 4,000 members. There were hundreds of single, divorced moms like me. There were about 10 divorced men my age. I was told to pray for a husband, and if I did things like online dating or asking someone out, I was “striving” and “wouldn’t be in God’s timing.” I finally saw this for the mind control and manipulation it was.

    I cannot tell you the pain brought up every time someone cites “God hates divorce!” Because the rest of that is unsaid: “And you’re divorced, so God hates YOU!” I cannot tell you how many times that was rubbed in my face, and how poorly I was treated because I was divorced. These people made it quite clear that I was beneath them.

    Fortunately, I got out of these churches and learned a new way to look at God and love Jesus. I am still a Christian, but going back to one of these churches is not for me. I will not tolerate that kind of criticism and condescension in the name of “God’s love” again.

    Finally, the one person who can judge an abusive situation is one who’s been there. My ex was addicted to porn (his own words) but didn’t think it was a problem that needed to be addressed. I disagreed. We divorced 15 1/2 years ago, but I am still dealing with an untreated addict. I am preparing to go back to court this summer to get thousands of dollars he owes me and has already been ordered to pay, because heaven forbid he should actually work and pay his bills! Or follow a court order. Sometimes the abuse doesn’t end with divorce.

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  49. “■neglect of fellowship – he identifies as the local church. I wouldn’t go that far, but whatever.”

    Of course, the same old story of people who leave the church. He neglects the lack of fellowship that occurs when people ARE GOING to church. When the church neglects people, marriages are affected the same way as if people leave church, or even worse. What if people leave a church because they are neglected by the church to begin with? What if they receive the same level of fellowship watching football on Sunday as they do being as “involved” as possible in church?

    “Is there no solution for a spouse’s bad behavior or even abuse? Does the church have a responsibility to get involved? What if they don’t get involved, then what?”

    This goes to my questions above. If a church isn’t involved with helping marriages along to begin with, then they certainly aren’t going to be good at helping when things really go wrong.

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  50. For Better or for Worse – No Recourse for Spouse’s Bad Behavior?

    All I can say is if I was an abuser, I’d be reciting that proof text chapter-and-verse.

    TOTAL JUSTIFICATION! AND SHE CAN’T RUN AWAY! “WOMAN, SUBMIT! DO AS I SAY OR I BEAT YOU!”

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  51. For those who believe that marriage is a representation of God and the church, God does not treat the church abusively. Neither should a spouse.


    I see a linkage here. If you’re a wife-beater, wouldn’t you gravitate towards a church where God treats the church abusively? Then when you abuse your spouse, you’re just being Godly(TM). And wouldn’t abuser types found and run a church that justifies their abuse? “Men of Sin” will glom onto any cosmic-level authority to justify what they were going to do anyway.

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  52. Ron / TIA,

    Almost half of divorces are due to very serious problems: adultery, abandonment, drug addictions, alcoholism, verbal and emotional abuse, domestic violence, etc. If the only people you’ve met were in the other 50% then I can understand why you hold the views you do.

    But this is what studies show.

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  53. Let’s not forget that this is not only about the wife, but affects the children as well. The children in the family are learning dad’s destructive behavior, the disrespect he has for his wife and now the wife is also dealing with the emotional responses from the children as well. Guess what will happen with those kids? They will likely repeat the same abusing patterns – – the girls will learn to put up with abuse and suffer and the boys will learn how to use their power to control.”

    JA, The kids are also learning how the “church” deals with it. And it all becomes their normal. And we wonder why it has gotten so bad in the institutions out there. DUH.

    And if I hear Titus 2 one more time, I will scream. Does no one do context these days? Titus 2 was the go to verse for SGM women and their idol, Carolyn Mahaney. Hellooooooo? I would rather see some Luke 8, “Jesus Approved” sort of women. :o)

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  54. Thanks for being willing to see where Ron was coming from. When all (or at least most) of your experience has been with healthy marriages, it can be difficult to understand another perspective. I especially appreciated Patrice’s comment at January 17, 2014 @ 7:39 PM describing different marriage scenarios. Some marriages are doomed to failure from their inception.

    Honestly, I know of many marriages that should have ended in divorce long ago, but people are so hung up on “divorce is not an option.” In those scenarios, divorce should actually be more common.

    Divorce cannot and should not be easy or painless. But the pain and suffering should fall on the guilty party, not the abuser. Again, God gives us the right example. His divorce of the nation of Israel is a real lesson in that regard.

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  55. Sorry, my brain and fingers weren’t working together on my last comment. The one sentence should have read, “But the pain and suffering should fall on the guilty party, not the *victim*.”

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  56. @Ron, I have no doubt you are still madly in love with your wife. I wonder what she thinks….. I was in a “church building” with people who called themselves Christians. We all had “accountability” and said things like “God wants us “holy” not “happy”. Which is a bunch of crap by the way. So is “accountability”. These are controlling techniques set up to keep people in line. Telling people No gossip, no talking negatively, etc. Keeps people who are hurting others, protected and cared for, while the true victims remain silent. All these things are not living in the freedom that should be ours. God wants us happy and healthy and loving this earth He gave to us. Not all bound up in rules and regulations and sin sniffing. I left that cult I was in and will never go back to those legalistic authoritarian places. They are full of High Minded, arrogant, Pharisees.

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  57. @lydia, I just saw your post. I cracked up when I read Titus 2 and thought of Carolyn Mahaney right away. I often wonder what will happen with all the women who have not be “allowed” to find work “outside the home” when something happens to their wonderland world. Husband gets sick, or drunk, or leaves etc. Will she depend on the “church” and the leaders to consider her a widow and take care of her? Josh Harris will have a lot of women on his hands in the near future if any of those sgm women stayed at clc. SGM is a place to have a Warning Label assigned to it….

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  58. What is a wife to do who has endured 37 years of a husband’s addiction to pornography? His addiction has ebbed and flowed, but each downward spiral takes him to new depths, with the latest cycle of using company computer and iPhone for porn caused him to be fired from his $300,000 a year job last summer.He remains unemployed. Yes, we have done the counseling thing, but he has never shown true brokenness nor repentance. We have drifted into a cool companionship. My heart breaks everyday.

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  59. What is a wife to do who has endured 37 years of a husband’s addiction to pornography? His addiction has ebbed and flowed, but each downward spiral takes him to new depths, with the latest cycle of using company computer and iPhone for porn caused him to be fired from his $300,000 a year job last summer.He remains unemployed. Yes, we have done the counseling thing, but he has never shown true brokenness nor repentance. We have drifted into a cool companionship. My heart breaks everyday.

    Anonymous3 – My heart broke for you when I read your comment. I have changed my views on divorce and what constitutes grounds for divorce since reading much more on this topic and looking at the history of the particular verses on divorce. Your husband broke the covenant of your marriage when he ventured into pornography. If he has never shown any sign of brokenness or repentance in 37 years, you will likely have to wait more than 37,000 years to see it. What I am saying is, if he wanted to change, he would have done it by now. People can break addictions, he is choosing not to.

    So now what do you do? I guess it depends on what you want the rest of your life to look like. You are in a predicament in that many church leaders hold to the idea that if a man’s penis did not enter another woman’s vagina, then he did not have an affair and so you may not get support from church leaders if you were to file for divorce. I think that is ridiculous. An emotional affair can be even more damaging to a marriage and that is how I view porn: he is looking to other women for his sexual gratification rather than you. As I said earlier, he broke your marriage covenant 37 years ago. You have not had a marriage for 37 years. A divorce merely provides a legal document certifying that it is over.

    This is something only you can decide. There is a lot to consider – – if you file for divorce, how to make a living, custody issues if children are in the home, division of assets, etc. Will you have support from church/family? You already know what it looks like if you remain with him. Are you able to have a decent life living like this? Some women can get themselves very busy in ministry work, busy with the grandchildren, etc, and basically live as roommates and try to ignore “what” they are living with.

    I’m so sorry you are going through this. I was just thinking you might benefit from talking with other women who have had related issues. If you’d like to join the SSB private forum, please let me know and I can send you an invite.

    I just read this post at A Cry for Justice and it is excellent: http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/the-similarity-between-doug-wilsons-words-and-rape-in-pornography/#comment-27696

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  60. Dear Anonymous3. Your husband has a BIG problem. You cannot fix him.
    You deserve much more than a ‘cool companionship’ – like genuine love, respect, and help for your broken heart.

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  61. Anon3 – My heart broke reading your letter too. I just saw a very interesting study about female victims of abuse, and it reminded me of you. It said that when an abuse victim leaves a relationship, she almost always reports feeling a lot happier afterward, but before she leaves, she often thinks her unhappiness will be much greater if she leaves than if she stays. That was me, many years ago. I thought I’d be miserable and the world would end if I dumped my abusive preacher husband. Your husband is addicted to something. Doesn’t matter if it’s porn or drugs or gambling–if he dropped the porn it’d just be something else; his brain chemistry needs the boost at this point. He is sick, and he’s refusing to get care, and it’s wrecking your life. You sound so alone, but you aren’t. This is something a lot of us have dealt with. Please know that the first step is hard, but the next ones come a lot easier.

    Fly and be free, my angel dove. Go ahead. I’ve heard your cry. You can do this. You have my permission to do what you need to do to be healthy. I dumped a husband for way less than you’ve endured, and I’m doing great now. A gentle, loving heart like yours deserve more than this. I absolutely refuse to believe that there’s a god up above dictating these terms. There is no heavenly plan that requires you to struggle in such pain. If there is a god at all, then she/he/it is loving and kind–and would never advocate your suffering. Get a good, licensed, secular therapist and start learning the skills and acquiring the tools you’ll need to get free. Good luck… and much love from your sisters, who’ve walked this path ahead of you and broken the trail. You are not alone.

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  62. Interesting post. I just finished reading a great brand new book I hope all are blessed by as I have been called “The Wholehearted Wife: 10 Keys to a More Loving Relationship,” by Erin, Greg and Gary Smalley. The 10 keys address all the 6 Deadly Enemies above and so much more – Honoring, Personalities, Communication, Conflict, Connecting Sexually. It says, “A More Loving Relationship Begins with You.” Whether wife or husband, it begins with us. Biblical, inspirational, affirming. One of my favorite quotes is, “When we turn to God for help, he fills us with his love and enables us to see ourselves and our husbands through his eyes. Keep in mind that a wholehearted wife focuses first on her own heart!” I highly recommend it!

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  63. For better or for worse – not in the bible. So many things are man made about marriage. The definition of marriage in the bible is totally different from what the marriage of today is. Some people go to the altar under false pretenses e.g. financial, to get the opportunity to live in another country, planning to leave after a certain time frame. Since God knows a persons heart would he join these two people together. What about a person who emotionally abuses a spouse by not being a partner or parenting their child. I was married for 16 years and tried my best to be a good wife and mother. I put up with emotional abuse in many forms, although I realised after a few months I had married the wrong man. The last straw was when I became pregnant with my daughter and after she was born I was treated as though I became pregnant by another man. God loves us would he want this for his child?

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  64. The guy is not off his rocker, after 26 years of marriage to a narcissist and an emotional abuser I agree with him that my ex knew that I had to forgive him and that I honored my vows for better or worse and he exhausted me with his controlling emotional abuse and created constant chaos in my loving home with my children until he cheated on me and God gave me a way out scripturally. However my children, 3, all grown still suffer as do I from the effects of emotional abuse. Narcissism is nothing but a demon that works in someone who does not truly have God’s love in their heart. If that demon has a willing vessel, he is there to kill steal and destroy all the love, joy and peace from your home and the narcissist knows it as does Satan himself. This person is used to perform Satan’s will just as God’s people know when they are being used to do God’s will. And no matter which side either is on there is fulfillment when Mission Accomplished! It’s just a matter of time before Jesus’s words ring true that a house divided against itself cannot stand. No matter how much you pray for that person, forgive them, believe in faith for that person. For they have no conscience, no remorse, no empathy for others. Cold and Hard Hearted to the pain and emotionall damage they constantly inflict. They truly are without natural affection for spouse and children or the damage created to tear down, not build up and edify. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist and you are a Christian you are in the midst of spiritual warfare. Trusting in God is your only way out. Praying for God’s wisdom and following his lead and guidance. Honoring your vows yet Faithfully knowing He will make a way of Deliverance in His time. He will heal the wounds as we yield ourselves to the opportunity to receive God’s grace that enables us to forgive . He will restore because what the devil meant for evil is the thing God promised me He would use for good to bring every one of my children to Himself. And He is faithful. So moral of my story is do not take that Vow, For Better or Worse before God unless you know that you know that you know in your heart and in your spirit that you are taking a vow to honor the one God has for you.

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