You’re ready to give up. You aren’t sure you ever really loved him or desired him—at least not the way you’re supposed to. It was a mistake to get married to each other, but with the kids and the house payment and the extended family connections, you’re stuck—or are you?
You aren’t happy in your marriage, and you’re pretty sure he isn’t, either. You don’t ask him, though, because once the words are said they become real and you have to deal with it.
You used to be pretty sure he was the problem. He was always thinking about what he needed and never gave you what you needed. He did some things that hurt you years ago—he said that something important to you didn’t matter, you found porn on his computer, he had an affair, or he closed himself up to you.
You built walls of protection around your heart. Every word, every effort from him to get through those walls just makes you build them thicker and higher. You’ve gotten good at keeping him away from that deep place where you’re so vulnerable that trusting him can hurt you.
You’ve avoided sex for years. It used to be okay, but he keeps wanting more. He wants to do crazy things. He wants you to have an orgasm every time and thinks that means you actually enjoy it. He wants you to say words you don’t want to say. He wants you to act in a way that just isn’t you. He wants to kiss more, and passionately. He wants you to leave the light on during sex. He wants “real intimacy,” whatever that means. (You’re pretty sure it just means sex.) He wants what you don’t have to give.
He was the problem. Sex was the problem. You’ve known this for years—and so has he. After all, when you told him that the problem was him, he didn’t disagree with you.
But lately, something has been different.
He’s been spending more time reading the Bible. He serves you sometimes without even asking for sex afterwards. He prays over you—out loud. He talks about your love languages and love bank and love this and love that. You have no idea where he gets this stuff from, but he’s suddenly sending you links from websites you’ve never heard of. It never stops. He wants you to do a Bible study with him. He says you need Jesus. You’re pretty sure you just need a break.
You don’t even recognize him anymore. This is the guy you wanted to be married to way back when, but you aren’t the woman who wanted that anymore.
He talks about healing your marriage. You aren’t sure what that means. After all, would God really want to heal a marriage that shouldn’t have happened in the first place? There’s no way you two belong together, even though you’re stuck.
You look at his eyes and see all that pain that you know you put there. Great. Now you feel guilt on top of your own unhappiness.
He says you have a hardened heart. Well, duh. You had to harden it all those years ago when he hurt you. What does he expect you to do? Dismantle the wall just because he wants you to?
You’re pretty convinced that he’ll never let up on the pressure for you to work on your marriage. As long as you could put it all on his shoulders and say that he was the problem, you were able to distract him from that. But you can tell he’s been working hard on all those things you complained about for so many years.
Pretty soon, there won’t be any escaping the fact that maybe you’re the problem.
You are so, so weary. You want to give up.
In some ways, you already have.
You’ve avoided the D word so far. Divorce just sounds so expensive and complicated. It would be embarrassing, too. Still, you’ve started to think about it. You’ve looked into the legal process. You even check out the rentals online, just in case.
Now he says you need to make a choice. He says he has been patient with you. He says he loves you, unconditionally. (And you admit to yourself, but not to him, that you have seen this in action.) But he says that married people need intimacy, and that it includes what you’ve avoided all these years. You realize that he doesn’t mean sex. Well, he means sex, but he means more than that, too. He wants you to knock down those walls it took you so long to build. He wants your trust. He wants your heart. He wants . . . you.
You think that it would be easier to just start fresh. Get a divorce. Start a new version of life. Promise yourself that with your next marriage, you’ll do better from the beginning so you don’t end up in such a spot of misery. Then again, you’re pretty sure you don’t want to be married ever again. You know that God hates divorce, but you try not to think about that just now.
Somehow, though, you suspect that maybe you have been part of the problem. You know you don’t really want to go through a divorce. Avoiding a divorce would mean that you have to go to counseling and actually take it seriously. It would mean that you have to have conversations that are hard sometimes. It would mean taking a serious look at yourself in the mirror and working on what you see there.
It sounds so, so hard. Exhausting, even. And it would feel a little like you’re letting him win.
But then you think about women you’ve known who’ve gotten divorced. They don’t get to see the kids every holiday. They have a wild dating life, though—but then you think about what it would be like to be back in the dating world and you shudder. You’ve envied your divorced friends when they talk about all the freedom they have, but you’ve also watched them sob into their drinks about how lonely they are. You don’t want to become bitter, and you’re pretty sure that’s what divorce would do to you.
You think about what it would be like three years down the road, when you are alone for the weekend while your kids are with your husband their dad. You imagine them walking across the stage for their high school graduation and realize that you won’t have anyone to really share it with. You wonder what it will be like to be the mother of the bride who has to be seated far away from your husband’s next wife. Working on your marriage would be hard, but divorce might be even harder.
You wonder if you would ever have a moment when you wonder, “What if . . . ?” What if I had actually tried to make it work? What if I had taken the risk to be vulnerable and try to trust my husband? What if I had made a real effort to work on the marriage? Wouldn’t the whole process of divorce be just as hard as actually working on the marriage in the first place?
You think about your kids and your family asking you, “but did you really try to keep it together?” You know that if you divorced tomorrow, the honest answer would be no.
You think divorce might be the easy way out—but you know that it isn’t, not really. Divorce would change you. You’ve stuck with it this long, and you figure you might as well stick it out.
But there’s your husband, telling you that being stuck the way you were for so long just isn’t an option. You know he means it. You realize that you want to stay married, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. You have no idea how to make it work. You aren’t sure you’re up to the challenge.
Your husband has worked on himself and made some changes that are so real they scare you. He is clearly serious about having a better marriage. He has put a lot of work into learning how to be a good husband. Do you really want some other woman to benefit from all that? Maybe you could really try counseling. Maybe you could give it a shot. Maybe you could work on trying to be vulnerable. The guy he used to be wouldn’t be worth the risk, but maybe this version of your husband is.
You have a decision to make.
Either way, it’s going to be really, really hard. If you have issues in your own heart, they are going to be there and need to get worked on whether you stay married or not.
So, sister, what is it going to be?
Are you really ready to give up? Are you really?
Maybe . . .
. . . you shouldn’t have gotten married—but you did.
. . . you don’t love your husband the way you should—but you can learn to.
. . . you aren’t happy—but you can work to change that.
. . . it is possible to learn to trust, one tiny step at a time.
. . . your husband is right that intimacy is worth pursuing.
. . . your husband sees something in you that you yourself have forgotten how to see.
Maybe the marriage you’ve had isn’t worth the effort—but the marriage you could have is.
Maybe you’re pretty sure you can’t do it on your own, but maybe you don’t have to do all alone. Maybe your husband is right and you do need Jesus–and between Him and your husband, maybe, just maybe it’s possible to pull this marriage thing together after all.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.