Marriage Missions International

Building a Godly Marriage – Marriage Message #212

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)  

When we marry we believe that if we are both Believers in God that we will build a Godly marriage. Oh, if it were only this simple!

Yes, the “chances” that we will have a Godly marriage are greater if both spouses are godly themselves, but that’s not the only determining factor. Building a godly marriage takes more than saying wedding vows and then living together. It takes determination and intentionality to live out your wedding vows and also it takes actually living them out.

The Bible says in James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

What we’ve found to be true is that the principles for building and living out a Godly marriage are the principles for loving as it talks about all throughout the Bible. But you have to actually apply what God says in His Word for them to work. God, whose very name means LOVE, can teach you how to love each other and build a Godly marriage but you need to call upon Him to help you and then apply what He tells you to do. Then, your house WILL be filled with “knowledge” and “rare and beautiful treasures” as it tells us in Proverbs 24.

But it won’t be easy —especially in the same way we thought it would be before we married. For some reason so many of us think that we will glide into marriage with ease. (Sadly Steve and I fell into this same trap.) After-all, if we love each other, and we’re both Christians before we marry —won’t our love just grow stronger as the years progress? That would make sense in theory —sure! But in reality it’s much more difficult.

It’s like what Dr Ed Wheat spoke of in his book, Secret Choices:

“It has been said that marriage presents one of the most difficult personal problems in life, because the most emotional and romantic of all human dreams has to be consolidated into an ordinary working relationship. Many of us would agree. And yet the statement is not precisely true, for marriage is no ordinary relationship.

“God designed it to be the ideal partnership in which each partner supports and complements the other; a partnership which is continually renewed and refreshed by the presence and power of love.”

Building a Godly marriage is about being partners and working through the many issues that come up with intentionality and Holy determination and perseverance —being dispensers of grace and mercy. It’s the same kind of grace and mercy we want from God, and we are to apply in our marital partnership.

There’s one thing about marriage that’s for sure: “At prime moments, God will use your marriage to show you how to love the unlovely.” (Dennis Rainey) It’s amazing how “unlovely” your spouse can appear to be at times.

It’s like what Bridgette Dunk, from GTO Ministries said,

“Marriage is a union of two individuals who have come together from different families, each with a different set of expectations concerning marriage. For this reason, it has its challenges. Both spouses have been shaped by positive and negative experiences within their own childhood homes.

“Because of this, each has a predetermined idea about how conflict should be handled, the value of money management, religion, children, and what it means to love someone.”

Again, it will take applying the principles laid out in the Bible to learn how to do that in order to build a Godly marriage. And it will take hard work and determination.

As Dr Steve Stephens said in his book, Marriage: Experiencing the Best:

Many of us grew up with Hollywood fantasy that once married you automatically live happily ever after. Wonderful relationships should just happen, shouldn’t they? If relating is too much work, it’s not worth it. Tony Campolo writes, ‘Love becomes nonexistent and marriages collapse primarily because most people don’t work hard enough to create love and build marital relationships.’

“We fail to realize that things of value cost us time and energy. Marriages are demanding and draining. Good marriages don’t come easily.”

He also said, (with which we also whole-heartedly agree):

“It’s a sad state of affairs when we take better care of our cars and houses than we do our marriages. We change the oil, fill the tank, check the tires, and periodically tune up our cars. We change light bulbs, wash windows, paint walls, unplug toilets, and re-roof our houses, but what do we do to maintain our marriage?

“The truth is, more damage is done than repairs are made. How important is your marriage? Is it more important to you than your car or your home? Are you willing to put in the time and energy and whatever else it takes to prove to your partner how valuable the relationship truly is to you?”

So, what it comes to, if you want to build a Godly marriage is the following:

1. Read and apply the principles for loving, as outlined throughout the Bible.

2. Ask God, whose very name means LOVE, to teach you how to truly love your spouse —not with human love, but with a Godly, Christ-honoring love (which won’t come naturally).

3. Live in partnership throughout your marriage with each other and with God.

4. Realize that you have entered into a union, blessed by God, with someone who is very different than you (and probably very different than you thought THEY were also) but still, you determine to persevere through whatever circumstances you find yourselves in.

5. Know that it will cost you time, energy and that it won’t come easily.

6. Come to terms with the fact that anything of value will take cost you something. And because marriage is something that God values and you should too (as you live in covenant with God and your spouse), it will be worth it all for your sakes and for the sake of God’s Kingdom work.

7. “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

In your marriage relationship, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

Cindy and Steve Wright

 

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Comments

17 Responses to “Building a Godly Marriage – Marriage Message #212”
  1. Brenda says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA) I am married for 23 years. This is a very short version of my life. I developed an addiction for gambling 8 years ago. When my husband found out about it he wanted to leave me. We discussed it and he said he will stay only if I would go for therapy. I agreed to it but he never wanted to join me in counselling, said it was my problem. I went though a lot of emotional abuse. I went for several counselling sessions on my own.

    Since then he constantly brought up the gambling and started to abuse me emotionally. It caused problems in our relationship in so many ways, fighting over finances, family, our sex life deteriorated. I lost my mother and sister in this time. He started to drink more and would then want to be intimate after that. My daughter was then raped in December 2008 and my husband accused me of it being my fault. I became depressed and ended up in a clinic for depression. My husband still refused to join me for counselling.

    I’ve decided that I am going to leave him. He still refuses to go for counselling but wants me to give him another chance. My love for him is gone. I don’t have any feelings left for him. He said that we must give our lives to God and our marriage will change. I do have a relationship with God and know He can change anything but I still feel I cannot stay in this marriage. Am I wrong to not want to give us another change? I cannot go through that kind of emotional abuse again. I lost myself over the past years and did not know the person I became. He previously wanted to leave several times always telling me that he does not love me and that he regrets ever marrying me. What shall I do?

  2. Brenda says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA) Cindy, I wrote previously and need a response from you. Please answer me. My marriage to my husband is over. I don’t love him. I cannot find it in my heart to feel that old feeling again. Through all our emotional abuse, I have lost what he meant to me. There was a time when he told me often that he doesn’t love me and that he never should have married me. That he could get someone better than me, that we do not match, that a lot of people told him that we are a mismatch. That I have such a bad personality that people do not want to be around me, that I am a bad wife and mother.

    Now that I decided that I will not take it anymore, he wants to go to church council, want us to renew our wedding vows. He said if we pray our love will come back, that I cannot do this to the children. They said that it would be better for them if we just get a divorce, because he doesn’t have a relationship with him either. Am I bad if I don’t want to try again???

  3. Tony says:

    (USA)  Brenda, I wouldn’t say you are bad, but if you quit, then I don’t think you are honoring God.

    Your husband has a really good idea, go to the church counsel. It’s likely you BOTH have legitimate complaints about the marriage. You’ve only mentioned your complaints. What are his specific complaints that leads him to believe that he shouldn’t have married you? It seems he has some.

    So why not suggest that you will go along with your husband’s suggestion as long as it includes a plan for BOTH of you to be given the opportunity to present your grievances AND a requested solution to those grievances?

    Anyone can complain. It seems both you and your husband are good about complaining. What SOLUTIONS do you want to see, (other than divorce)?

    In other words, if you have a complaint about his behavior, what would you like to see that behavior replaced with? What about him? If he has complaints about your behavior, what would he like to see changed.

    If you both approach this with the idea that you are willing to address your faults and irritations in the marriage, then you can rebuild that romantic love that you once felt.

    Perhaps this is what it will take for each of you to hear and respect what the other has been saying. It seems to me BOTH of you have been complaining, but few solutions have been tried.

    So going to Godly mentors to find solutions, not just share complaints is an excellent idea.

  4. Cindy Wright says:

    (USA) Hi Brenda, I’m sorry I haven’t written a response to you before now. I have to say that I was praying about what I would be able to say since you seem so determined that your marriage is over and that the love you once had for your husband is gone forever. What can I say to you at this point? But since you specifically asked for my opinion, I will give it.

    Brenda, I don’t doubt that you are a very nice person — not "bad", but someone who has been deeply hurt by words that never should have been said. For that reason, it appears that you have allowed a shell to build around your heart to protect it from being hurt in that manner by your husband again. I can well understand why you would guard your heart. You had to (from what I read of your comments).

    I don’t know what compelled your husband to say the things he did. Whatever his reason… he should never have said those things. They were mean spirited and showed a lack of compassion and maturity. I don’t know if your husband said them during fits of immaturity and selfism, or what, but they were wrong! We’ve all said things we later wish we could take back, but unfortunately, we can’t. I don’t even know if your husband truly regrets saying what he did. He should… and it SEEMS like he might, but I’m not there to hear his side of things and to look into his heart. However, God is.

    I remember though, going through an excessively immature time earlier in my own marriage where I verbally pushed and bashed and said the worst things to my husband trying to push him away from me. I had been hurt so deeply, earlier in my life, and I didn’t know how to handle unconditional love being given to me. And yet in my heart, I wanted the opposite of what I was saying I wanted. I wanted my husband to prove his love to me by reading my mind and my heart — no matter what my actions said. It’s stupid, I know. As I look back on that time, I don’t know what got into me other than stupidity and immaturity. Thankfully though, my husband hung in there and eventually I saw that he loved me unconditionally and it changed my heart and my future actions.

    There have been other times when my husband’s words and actions were stupid and immature (he is the first to tell others this, so I’m not talking about him in ways he wouldn’t approve). But by the grace of God, I was able to weather the storms, and we now are careful about our words and actions. Our love is so very deep and rich for each other — especially because of, and despite the history we have had together.

    It’s important to grow in control of your compulsions. My husband and I had to learn to do that. Left to ourselves, as humans beings, we could easily destroy everyone and everything that is most valuable to us — including the love our spouses. Only by the grace of God, do our marriages survive!

    I write this to say that I can well understand why you would build a protective barrier around your heart. No one should be treated like that. It’s inhumane, and my heart goes out to you that you have had to suffer in this way. I can only imagine the compassion that God has for you… He knows what it is like to have people He loves say and do hateful things as well. He can minister to your heart, because He understands.

    He can also make all things new. He has the power to resurrect the dead — even dead emotions, I know… I’ve been there. There was a time I didn’t think I could ever love my husband Steve again. But I opened my heart up to God and to what HE could do within my heart and our marriage if I gave HIM a chance. Of course, Steve would have to participate in the process for things to really change… and thankfully he did.

    I don’t know if this is true with your husband. Your husband’s motives may or may not be sincere right now. But I would tell you what I believe I would do (and DID do in my own marriage). I would get on my knees and pray that God would protect my heart. I would pray that HE would resurrect this marriage if it is meant to be. I would go to church (like your husband asks) and give my husband time and the opportunity to prove he is sincere in the changes he claims he wants to make. I would not trust my heart to my husband, but to God to work through my husband if he is sincere.

    Time and actions will prove themselves, but I would lean into the process of healing. I would ask God to reveal my own sin and do what Tony suggests above — start working together to come up with solutions — not complaints. You’ve been there and have done that! If this effort to reconcile is sincere on your husband’s part, then you need to work on helping each other come up with solutions as a team.

    If your heart gets hurt again, it will mend… because you and God would see to that. But I believe it would be worth the try. It’s like what the one man said, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!" If there is reason to trust… pray that God will reveal that to you. If you need to be more guarded and proceed slowly, that’s ok. God will eventually show you if you can truly trust your husband this time, but lean upon God during this process.

    You say your children want you to divorce. I just don’t know about that. Maybe right now they do. But whatever… they have SO MUCH to gain if your husband starts loving their mother again… and together you can help him to show your children the love they need. A lot of men are relationally challenged and need gentle, respectful guidance. If he is sincere in his wanting God to be in the middle of your relationship, he won’t discount that which you could teach him in this process. It will take resurrection power for that to happen and willing hearts, but it is possible with God’s help.

    Again Brenda, I don’t know what is actually happening in this situation, but from what you have written, this is what I perceive you should do. But go with God on this and He will lead you in ways that will help you in the future — not harm you. Believe in Him, lean upon Him, trust in Him, and go with Him and you cannot go wrong. I’m praying for you Brenda, that you will have wisdom and that God will bless your efforts in trusting once again.

  5. Brenda says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA) Hi Cindy, thank you for your response. I just want to say to Tony that yes, maybe it sounds as if I am complaining and to answer Cindy’s question on what might have caused my husbands words to me. When I gambled he did not know about it. The gambling caused heavy financial problems for us. He studied the effects of gambling on a family and discussed it with a lot of his friends. Because I never ever kept anything from my husband, I felt so guilty about the gambling.

    My husband then told me that he found out about it and that he is so disappointed in me and that he was going to leave me. It was the first real problem that we encountered in our marriage and I could not understand why he would want to leave me. I promised that I would go for counselling and did but when the therapist asked my husband to join me he did not want to, he said that he was not the gambler and I must sort out my own issues. We continued after I stopped with the gambling but our marriage was never the same because the emotional abuse started.

    My husband started to call me all these ugly names. He started to drink, stay out late when I wanted to discuss it with him, he said that it was all my fault and that I hurt him so much and that he will never forgive me. Three years ago he resigned from his work to start his own business.

    He is very good in what he does but he neglects the business and has been having come togethers with his friends at home. When I come home from work I was not to be upset when he has been drinking with his friends because it was my fault. This were so bad I developed depression and sometimes wondered why I was still going on with this relationship.

    My husband never had a good relationship with the children. He is very traditional and the children have to do what he says. They are not allowed to raise their own opinions. I could not take it anymore and requested that we do exactly what he is now asking… to go to church counsel or marriage counsel. For years I pleaded with him but he refused and made me sometimes felt like dirt.

    Again, I asked him about a year ago to go with me to a therapist and I arranged to see a Clinical Psychologist who also does marriage counselling. My husband refused after he initially agreed and even after the psychologist wrote him a letter and called him on several occasions he did not answer the letter or picked up his phone when he was called. I went through that counselling on my own but I am not responsible for this marriage on my own.

    In December 2008 my lovely daughter was raped and my husband accused me that it was my fault because I would sometimes allow them to go out. I became so depressed that when I seek therapy for my daughter I could not stop crying. I was admitted to a Clinic for 23 days. Again my husband refused to even visit me there and did not want to attend the family sessions. This is when I finally decided that I cannot keep this marriage working on my own. I realised that I do not love him anymore, that I was just hanging on to this because of my belief that I am not to get divorced.

    I now have had so many discussions with God and I am sure He will not punish me for leaving my husband. It is only that now my husband is telling me that I don’t have faith and that my belief in God is nothing compared to his.

    My husband doesn’t have a permanent income and that is the only reason I am still with him in the same home. I am waiting for our house to be sold so he can have something to start with when we share the profits.

  6. Tony says:

    (USA)  So again, one thing about you and a laundry list about him. Frankly, you have reason to be disappointed with your husband. No argument about that.

    But I find no biblical grounds for divorce, and if your husband wants you to seek the counsel at church, he is taking the best course possible. Despite all his faults, at the precipice, it seems he has suggested the better, more Godly course of action.

    You can continue to complain and blame him for all the faults in the marriage, as well as minimizing your contributions. You can tell yourself that it’s OK to leave because God will forgive. But the bottom line is you are choosing to break a vow and to be lead by emotions and children rather than the Word of God.

    As I said, despite the flaws you claim your husband possesses, it appears he also has some Godly wisdom if he’s seeking a Godly solution to this problem. So may I suggest that for every fault you claim your husband has, find one of your own and start working on it. I seriously doubt your only sin in the marriage was gambling.

    Frankly, I can see how your husband would arrive at the conclusion you don’t have faith in God. He’s suggested THE Godly solution to this, have each of you present your complaints about the marriage and the desired solutions, have the church mentor each of you in living a Godly marriage.

    If you are unwilling to go to the church and place yourself under Godly mentoring, and to ask for him to do the same, then yes, where is your faith? It appears, by leaving, you are placing your faith in YOUR ability to run from the "problem" instead of God’s ability to grow each of you through the problems.

  7. Brenda says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA) Tony, you sound very harsh. Why now that my husband is asking for me to stay and give him another chance, do I have to except blindly that he is sincere? I have been begging for almost six years with him to go to counselling with me, church included and he refused.

    God did not say that we should accept any kind of abuse and my husband did exactly that. He emotionally abused me to an extend where I did not have a personality. I only started to become and accept that I am my own person, someone God loves and accept the way I am. If I do go through with this divorce, it will be because I have been talking and seeking His guidance in it. My going and asking Cindy’s advice was only a way of seeking that guidance as I receive her Marriage counselling every week. I used to print it and gave it to my husband, but he even refused to read that. Thanks again Cindy. Your response was of great help.

  8. Tony says:

    (USA)  Brenda, If you believe you are in the right and your husband is so abusive, then I see no reason why you would not be willing to place yourself AND ask that your husband also be placed under the authority of your church.

    Actually, God says that the believer will suffer many things. If Christ suffered and died, why do we expect NOT to suffer.

    Please don’t confuse that truth with the idea I approve of abuse. I don’t. I simply don’t believe the answer to sin is more sin, and personally, I believe walking away from your vows is to answer sin with sin.

    Are you your own person, or are you God’s child, a believer bought by the blood of an innocent slain savior, who died to set us free from all our sins? If you believe in Christ, you are bought with a dear price and have to follow Him.

    That may mean taking your husband, your marriage and even yourself before the body of believers and saying we’ve BOTH made a mess of our marriage, but my husband and I are seeking to follow God in this matter.

    Cindy was clear that my advice was good, that going to the Church with the idea of finding solutions was a good idea. It may be painful to hear, yet it’s in love that I say to walk away is to disobey God. God does not say anywhere in scripture that you can divorce because you are abused.

    You are not the only one abused here. You discount it, but your actions of keeping secrets from your husband is every bit as emotionally abusive as what you accuse your husband of doing. I don’t say that to tear you down. I say it because in every marriage there are TWO sinners, not just one.

    I believe that if you ask Cindy about her marriage, and the problems that she’s experienced, she will tell you she was just as much a contributor to any marital crisis that occurred as her husband.

    There are two sinners in every marriage. Walking away from the one whom you vowed to stay with until death is the equivalent of wishing he or you were dead. Is that a Godly way to approach the problem?

    Finally, I understand you have deep feelings about this. I really do. I simply encourage you not to allow your feelings to lead you into a sinful solution to a problem, when God can solve it in a Godly fashion.

    What difference does it make regarding “why now” Why look at this as a negative? Can you change your approach and find the positive, that he FINALLY sees that he needs a different approach? It would be a shame to throw him away the moment he’s beginning to get it.

    So what is it going to be, honor your vows and get closer to God, trusting God, being there as God grows both you and your husband? Or will you walk away from God, by not trusting He is going to do a work in both you and your husband?

    In my heart, I believe if you walk away, you are giving up any spiritual growth you’ve made in your walk with Christ.

    If you are seeking God’s advice, then why not look at Matthew 18, which says if we have something against another believer, take it to them, and if they don’t change, take it to them with a small group of witnesses and finally if still no progress, take it before the whole church?

    You have legitimate complaints about your marriage. Your husband has legitimate complaints about the marriage. So why go against what God says to do by abandoning your husband and refusing to fall under the mentoring and discipline of the church?

    Sometimes the truth is harsh. Look at the message Christ delivered to the Pharisees, calling them whitewashed tombs and sons of hell. If you think I’m being harsh, I suggest you dig into some of those scriptures that call men fools, and how Christ talked about the Pharisees. I’m pretty tame compared to that.

    I am confident I am standing on God’s word when I suggest you follow the very excellent suggestion your husband has made. Am I saying he’s right in all cases? Not at all. Am I saying he’s right in this case? Yes.

    I believe you don’t feel you’ve been heard in the marriage. Well, this is a chance for you to be heard. I also believe your husband has not been heard in the marriage, and he deserves the same opportunity to be heard as you do.

    So what is wrong with taking a step back, presenting your complaints about the marriage AND also presenting your vision of how you would like to see this marriage conducted? What is the worst thing that will happen, he will say no? He’s been saying no already.

    Are you afraid YOU might have to change some of your approach? You might have to admit that you’ve hurt him as much as he’s hurt you.

    What I see is you minimize the impact of your hurtful actions upon him, but focus intently on how he hurts you. How is that love? If I understand your complaints, you complain about how he hurts you, and how he focuses on how you’ve hurt him.

    As long as each of you are focused only how the other is hurting you, and you minimize and deflect away the complaints about you each are hurting the other, then nothing will ever be resolved in a Godly fashion.

    I respectfully asked you to think of ways you’ve hurt him, complaints he may have about you. Instead of doing this, you continued to justify your decision with more criticism of him.

    Did Jesus die only for your sins? Or does Christ forgive your husband as well? Christ died for your husband as well. So if you expect forgiveness, scripture tells us you have to forgive as well.

    So my advice, which I admit is hard to hear, but I believe it’s 100% grounded in the Word of God is to decide today that you are going to forgive your husband, and that you are going to focus ONLY on your own sin, without regard to his sins, and that you are going to trust that God and his Church can mentor both of you to be the loving spouses you are meant to be.

    If both you and your husband fall under church discipline and your husband still does not change, then the church can give you the word that he’s sinning against God and against you. But let them do their job, both in your life and in his life.

    A believer is to never divorce another believer. 1 Corinthians 7 is clear that a believer is not to choose divorce. The only way a believing spouse is to divorce is if an unbelieving spouse chooses to leave them.

    Since I don’t believe you are a non-believer, I don’t think divorce is a Godly option for you. It may be a worldly option. But woe to the believer who knows sin and chooses sin over what he or she knows is right. I didn’t say that, God did in His Holy Word.

    So, even if you cannot believe it, it is with great love that I endeavor to deliver this most difficult and challenging message.

  9. Tony says:

    (USA)  Brenda, One more thing. I don’t think I’m any more harsh on you than you are being on your husband. Frankly, I think I’m far less harsh upon you than you’ve been on your husband.

    What you’ve written here has been mostly complaints about him. I’ve little from you regarding what you have to change in your life.

    Getting away from your husband really doesn’t grow you spiritually and in fact may stunt your spiritual growth.

    So I stand by my recommendations to follow your husbands advice on this matter and to stop looking at his faults and start looking not only at yours, but what you need to do to be the Godly wife calls you to be.

    Follow your husband’s advice and go before the church, seeking Godly mentors to grow and mature BOTH you and your husband in the matters of having a Godly marriage.

    If it seems I’m harsh on you, perhaps you should examine how you write about your husband and ask yourself why you have two standards. On one hand, you have the standard that it’s OK for you to be harsh on him. But on the other hand, it’s not OK for anyone to point out where you may be falling short.

    Could it be this double standard has driven a wedge between you and your husband? Could it be he doesn’t feel loved? I don’t doubt you don’t feel loved. But why do you assume that you are the only one who doesn’t feel loved. I don’t see any validation and acknowledgment that he too may not feel loved, that he too has valid complaints, and that he too has things about you that he not only would like to see changed, but that God would like to see you change.

    That’s all I’m saying. Stop looking at him and hold up God’s mirror to you and your actions. When you have your walk perfected, then you can devote your efforts to changing him. However, I believe when you do this, your husband will not look as bad as he does to you today.

  10. LT says:

    (USA)  Hi Brenda, I’ve been reading all the comments and wanted to add some input of my own as well.

    Obviously, if anything anyone says goes against what you feel the Holy Spirit is telling you to do then you must go with what you believe God is guiding you to, but I do also know that God can send two or three witnesses to establish. This is a very biblical principle.

    I hear what you are saying about your past problem of gambling and your current problem with regard to your husband’s emotional abuse.

    I believe that you did have a problem and did due diligence on owning it and resolving it through counseling. I do feel that you need some validation on your feelings here on this website because some of the comments may have not seemed very validating. Indeed, some of the responses were very invalidating.

    I’m curious about the emotional abuse starting up after your gambling problem. Generally, abusive marriages are abusive all along. It’s unusual that it would start up after many years with no prior red flags or incidents. From what you describe, it sounds as though that is the case with your marriage. It does constitute emotional abuse, however.

    I lived for 14 years in an abusive marriage and am currently separating. I do know the symptoms and effects of it. Anytime someone else habitually blames another (usually it’s the spouse) for their problems or just generic problems, it’s abuse. For your husband to blame you for your daughter’s rape is truly ridiculous. It’s sad.

    Regarding the counseling – I agree with the others (not everything they say but their collective suggestions to try going to the church and getting counseling). You are valid in being concerned that your husband’s suggestions, after SOOO many years of refusing counseling, to go to counseling all of a sudden are suspect but that does not mean it’s insincere.

    I Cor. 13 says that love is long-suffering. Handling abuse and even remotely considering divorce has to be a step by step process.

    I do believe that you should go to the minister but, as a victim of domestic violence, let me tell you – get separate counseling of your own and suggest your husband to get his own. I recently attended joint counseling with my husband only to have him threaten to hit me, yet again, weeks later. When I saw the counselor again, who is a Christian and ended up telling me to divorce unless my husband got focused abuse counseling by a psychologist on his own, my counselor’s response when I asked why he didn’t tell me this after our first time we saw him for an intensive was that my husband “said all the right things.”

    Abuse is not something to mess around with and the people doing it are very emotionally and mentally unwell. So… let me advise you at some point you will need to each of you get individual counseling. However – I do feel that you need to see your minister together and you both need to bring up the issues.

    I don’t know what his complaints are about you. It doesn’t sound like he has a valid issue regarding the gambling anymore so he might have nothing. But you DO need to tell your minister of the emotional abuse. Only you know whether or not that should be done in front of your husband or not. The victim of abuse is always the one who will best be able to tell what their spouse is likely to do in reaction. Even then, if you’ve been exposed to it long enough your judgment might be off.

    Those are my thoughts. Give the counseling a try but be careful in how you go about it. All research says not to have joint counseling with someone who is abusive for several reasons, one of them being that if anything is said that the abuser doesn’t like they might likely go home and take it out on their spouse, possibly physically. Another reason is that they tend to “work the system,” and say the right things and they can snow a lot of people into believing them when they say that their spouse is lying or their spouse is the one with the problem not them (these are forms of denial). So I don’t know how much denial is going on in your husband’s part on this but be careful.

    I hope this helps. I wanted to give you some validation on your concerns, especially as someone who has been in the position of being abused by a spouse and is wrestling with some of the same issues you are wrestling with. My big question is – has your marriage always been abusive? Is that what led to the gambling? That’s what’s concerning me in all that you write. I’m also concerned when someone comes with their issues about marriage problems and then they are told “just look at yourself.”

    I was in a position where I have 2 young boys, the youngest only a few months old and I saw the pattern of physical abuse in my marriage (which my husband still has not and will not get individual counseling for) starting up again. I went to my church about it and their answer was just look at yourself and stop trying to change your husband. About two weeks later he shoved furniture into me when he was angry at me and threatened to hit me in front of our child. I can look at myself all the day long for the rest of my life but that will not remove the sickness in my husband’s heart and mind to where he actually wants and vocalizes a desire to hurt me bodily when he’s angry. So I want to make sure that you are not treated that way from any responses you get.

    It occurs to me to wrap up my comment with this suggestion – if you want to know whether or not your husband is sincere in wanting to get counseling and trying to change – try the following. Have a sit down with him but only when you are both calm and there is no stress and no one is in a hurry to get somewhere. Using “I feel” statements and not “you” statements (that puts the other person on the defensive) you need to be very clear with your husband that you want him to get individual counseling for emotional abuse before you will consider joint counseling.

    I read in a Leslie Vernick book that a way to determine the sincerity and willingness to change of an abusive spouse, as well as their concern for their spouse’s feelings, is to not let them “have their own way.” That sounds petty if misconstrued so I’ll try to clarify – if someone is a bully or bossy or blaming and they’ve always been allowed to be this way, when the victim puts up a boundary to no longer take the disrespect, the abuser will either do whatever it takes to get help and resolve the problem OR they will react in their habitually abusive way. So the book suggests putting up a boundary against continuing disrespect and the person doing the disrespecting will react in one of two ways and that’s how to gauge their sincerity at really wanting to change.

    What you need to do is set a firm boundary in a calm emotional state (when your husband is calm as well) and tell him you are uncomfortable with the types of words he uses and blame for things you are expected to take when you don’t feel they are your fault. It’s important to keep the language neutral, like I said. Tell him you feel that there is some emotional abuse going on and that it would be best taken care of by individual counseling (for both of you, individually) If he says ok, then he might be sincere at changing. If he reacts and blames, well then you have your answer. Take a look at Leslie Vernick’s website and her book entitled, “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.” She’s very neutral and is never hasty (in any of her communication or her books) to suggest divorce. I’d say that’s a good place to start in terms of getting some more answers than what you can find here on this board.

    Go with God and feel free to come back to this board and write back. Like I say – I have two young kids and cannot always respond back or keep up with this website like I’d like to but I will try if you need any further advice. God bless.

  11. Joe says:

    (CANADA)  Hi Brenda, You mentioned in your text that for 6 years you had waited and begged your husband to come along for counselling sessions and seek God’s help but he refused. I imagine you would have prayed fervently during this time too. Sometimes, just when you are about to give in, your answered prayer is just in the corner. So on 1 point, I do agree with Tony (although from a woman’s perspective, I believe Tony is a little too harsh in his counsel) that perhaps FINALLY, the answer to your fervent prayers that your husband joins you to seek help is here. Having waited for so long, will you just throw God’s answer to your prayers in his face?

  12. Glenn says:

    (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA)  After reading the message of #212, I received a much clearer picture of how we as Christians/Christ followers are to build a Godly marriage. I am 52, and I have been married twice, and preparing for my third marriage. Often in marriages, I’ve seen with my own eyes, that compromise winds up causing division within the marriage, therefore usually ending in a bitter divorce. I believe that if a marriage is to be successful, each partner’s life must be in alignment with God. Having God at the center, in front promoting a Holy resume which presents love for God, and allows a marriage to receive God’s blessings. God does not like compromise, because it compromises one’s love for Him. And if this happens with one’s love for Him, it will destroy marriages.

    So, with this being said, do what God outlines for marriage. Put forth the effort to love one another in Godly love, not human love. Human love is filled with emotions, Godly love is the purest in form of love both need and is essential.

  13. Wendy says:

    (USA)  I love my husband more than words can say. We’ve been married for 23 years and have been having a lot of hard times getting along financially. But God told me this man was the mate he had for me and we’ve been together ever since. It has been very hard, learning how to live together.

    2 years ago he asked for a divorce; I was devastated, prayed and went to counseling. I did the Fireproof book but he wasn’t interested, so I did it by myself. I need him in my life; he’s my existence. Now he comes 2 years later and says he doesn’t want to be married anymore… the very love God gave to me is threatning to walk again. There is a girl that he’s been talking to that is not a Christian, and is getting a divorce. He says they are just co-workers, but I’m scared of losing him.

    He’s my rock; I’ve been on my knees. I’m an intercessor and prayer warrior so I know how to pray, but all I want to do is cry. I tell him that he talks about integrity and honor at work to his boss. I told him he should do that in our marriage, as well. I don’t want to let him go… he’s not cuddly anymore, hardly kisses me. I’m lonely and I miss his touch his kind words, but I will not let the enemy steal my marriage.

  14. Loise says:

    (KENYA)  I thank God for such a ministry. I desire to be taught of God of all that is required of me. I am getting married this year and having opened this site I have really learnt. These are very deep truths. May God continually bless and enlarge your territories that you may reach many. Thank you for allowing the Lord to work in you and through you.

  15. Lisa says:

    (U.S.A.) I would love to be able to share my relationship I have been having with a really good friend of mine. We met each other back in Jan… and ever since we have been in a courtship relationship with help from God and everyone around us. We have become good friends. We have talked and are still talking about marriage. If you like someone, then so much time is not important, right? What I mean is we just might being married next year?

  16. Lucita says:

    (USA) Hello, I have been married for 10 months and my husband has physically abused me. He says he has repented and asked me to forgive him and wants to continue our marriage. My famly wants me to get out now. I am praying each day for guidance from God. Dont know what to do. There are so many things I love about him.

  17. Ken from United States says:

    I really want the best out of that which is called Life, which God has given to me. I also understand that nothing good comes easy. I also believe that for couples to make the best out of their marriages, then they need to constantly readjust there self-life so as to suit there spouse. Because of individual differences and different cultural and traditional backgrounds and upbringings.

    I, personally had issues with my wife to be, she does not pick my calls and even when she sees me on the way, she don’t even talk to me. From the dream that I once had sometime ago, God is still working on her heart and from the dream, she appeared to still be childish. But for some time ago, I wanted to leave her alone, because I don’t see any relationship between childishness and her not picking up my calls and having respect for me. I have tried on several occasions to ask her, what’s my offence? But she did not tell me anything.

    God wanted me to actually get married to her. So all she does is to from a distance, introduce and point me to her friends, and that’s quite irritating to me. From wise conselling from Christian friends, I have resolved to ignore her and be patient with God and also to continiously be praying for her. I still need further advice on what to do.

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