Should I stay? – Blog by Dena Johnson Martin Christian
This is a question I get asked frequently:
Should I stay in my marriage?
This is also a question I struggled with for a very long time after finding out about my first husband’s infidelity. I had made a covenant before God and man, and it was not something I took lightly. I was always taught that the scriptures allowed for divorce in the case of adultery, but I also believed that God could do an amazing work of restoration in our marriage.
It was a dilemma deciding how to move forward.
Looking back at my first marriage, I can see with clarity what I couldn’t see in the midst of pain. I can see the years of dysfunction. I can see the verbal and mental abuse. I can see manipulation and control.
Perhaps even more obvious is what he didn’t do. He did not repent. He didn’t choose me and our marriage. He did not choose to surrender to God. He didn’t do the work of searching his heart and soul to become a better man.
He didn’t give me a reason to stay.
If you asked me if you should stay in your marriage, I would probably answer with a series of questions. If you’re struggling with a marriage, here are some things to consider.
Does he accept responsibility for his actions? If your marriage is going to survive, both people must accept responsibility for their part in the demise of the marriage. Here’s the thing: none of you are perfect. You both have areas where you may need to improve. Howeverit is very possible that one of you bears most of the responsibility
Is a spouse a porn addict? Does a spouse have an affair? Does one spouse always take while the other is a born giver? Does marriage feel one-sided? If you do a study on narcissism or emotional abuse, you’ll see that often an empath is attracted to the perceived strength of a narcissist. A fixer will be attracted to someone who needs help.
If your marriage is going to survive, the culprit must be willing to accept responsibility for their actions. He/she must understand that loss of trust is a direct consequence of his/her choices.
Is he ready to do the hard work forever? When trust has been broken, it’s anything but an overnight solution. The tendency to fall back into past fears and insecurities is still there, and it requires a lifelong commitment to the victim spouse and to God.
Is there a work trip out of town? Share your location and make sure your spouse definitely knows who you are with and what you are up to. Do you use your phone to watch porn? Upgrade to a flip phone. Make sure your spouse has access to your history on all your devices. Install a monitoring app. Did you communicate inappropriately on social media? Delete the app. Delete your profiles. Make sure your spouse knows all of your passwords.
There is no cost too great to save your wedding. Is your spouse ready to pay this price – with the rest of their life?
Is there a pattern of abuse or lack of integrity? Let’s be honest: sometimes a deal is the result of bad boundaries and bad choices. Other times, if we are being totally honest, it is in keeping with the character of the individual.
Unfortunately, my first husband had a profound lack of self-esteem. He asked for approval in relationships with women. It was a pattern from the start of our marriage, though it wasn’t until later that it actually acted in a relationship.
Having an affair was a major character flaw that had been present for many years.
As I mentioned earlier, I now see the abuse that we have all suffered. His verbal tirades were obscene. His anger designed to control us. His desire to be served at all costs. There was a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior.
If your spouse shows a continued lack of integrity or abusive behavior, he should consider your decision about your marriage.
Are you ready to let God work in and through you? Whether you are the victimized spouse or the aggressor, this question is for you. God can – and does – work in and through those who are willing to let Him. No matter what’s going on in your marriage, you have to be ready to completely surrender to their way of life.
But let me go further. Are you able to fulfill God’s purpose for your life in this marriage? Or, is your spouse controlling you to the point that you can never do all that God has called you to do? In other words, do you have to live in sin by not following God’s plan for your life to stay in this marriage?
I don’t know about you, but I never want marriage to be an idol in my life again. Looking back, I see where my beliefs told me I had to stay, even though I knew staying meant I could never be or do all that God had called me to be and do. Sometimes it’s about acknowledging God’s call and your spouse’s expectations. I’m not referring to a one-time event in a difficult marriage, but rather God calling on your life in a toxic marriage. And there is a big difference there. You must pray and listen, ask God for discernment to know which way to go.
And when you pray these prayers, God is faithful. It will give you the clarity you need to know if you should stay or if you should go. The beauty is that however you go, it will go with you.
He is faithful to the very end.