My husband and I agreed we never should have married. We wondered, did we make a mistake in marrying? Here’s what we did about it.
It could’ve been a scene from Father of the Bride when our daughter Alison and her boyfriend announced they were getting married.
While I whooped and hollered and hugged everyone in sight, my husband grew uncharacteristically quiet and drummed his fingers on his leg. I chalked it up to Barry’s aversion to tuxedos or panic over a wedding’s high cost. But once we were alone, I discovered it was something else altogether.
“I don’t want them to make the same mistake we did,” he told me. I gulped. “But they’re not us,” I assured him. “Besides, look how far we’ve come in 21 years. Do you still think we made a mistake?” Although I knew he would agree that God had transformed our marriage, it was a hard moment.
Barry and I got married three months after we met, with little clear thinking but an overwhelming physical attraction. By the time we discovered we had nothing in common, we had already vowed to love each other. Forever.
Very soon I discovered I was pregnant, and neither of us wanted to break up our family. So Barry and I spent the first decade of our marriage pondering the “if onlys,” each thinking we’d married the wrong person. We had a few laughs, but secretly we believed a truly fulfilling future was out of our reach.
And we weren’t the only ones. Several friends have admitted they reached a point in their marriages where one or both partners said, “We made a mistake. My needs aren’t being met. I want out.” Our friends Mike and Amanda, for instance, were considered a “mistake” before they even got started. A premarital counselor told them they were “totally incompatible.”
“But we were in love!” explains Mike. So he set out to do everything right. He read marriage books and followed every principle. He didn’t understand that no book could dictate how, exactly, to shape his unique marriage to Amanda. But because Mike thought he was doing everything “right,” when something went wrong, it was never his fault.
Amanda says their marriage was like “Pharisee Meets Samaritan Woman” —she was always in the wrong. When she was angry, she’d retreat from Mike, leaving the room and creating emotional distance. Eventually both of them turned their attention to separate friendships and activities.
For a while Barry and I also lived as “divorced marrieds.” Barry sought fulfillment through sports and tinkering around the house, while I worked on crafts and sewing projects, shopped with friends or went to church activities. We kept ourselves detached, each thinking we could’ve done better with someone else as a life partner.
Such extreme emotional detachment can lead to infidelity. A couple from my Bible study fell into the “divorced married” trap. “We didn’t fight,” explained the husband. “It was just nothing.” They both felt their marriage was a mistake, and both had extramarital affairs.
Disappointed couples often dwell too much on what might have been. In his book For Better, For Worse, For Keeps (Multnomah), Bob Moeller points out,
“Retracing our life’s steps and wishing we had made different choices may provide momentary distraction, but ultimately it does nothing to bring reconciliation.”
It does the exact opposite, in fact, by breeding discontent and resentment. Mentally rehearsing where you went wrong keeps you from being thankful for what’s right, and from working to make things better. Emotional distance and the “if onlys” are warning signs that a marriage is in danger.
Another indicator is blame. I blamed my marital unhappiness on the fact that I’d become a Christian early in our marriage and Barry hadn’t. I felt sure he was the reason for all our conflicts and distress. And I let him know often that our life would be so much easier if only he’d obey God. Finally, he told me that if I wanted a Christian husband so bad he’d go to church and pick one out for me. That’s when I realized my pushy behaviors were hurting, not helping.
Where to Go from Here
It’s easy to rationalize: I married the wrong person. Since we’re both miserable, the logical thing to do is get out now. Yet how often do we ask, “Does God think my marriage is a mistake?”
“Dwelling on whether or not you married the right person ignores God’s stake in the choice you already made,” write Dr. Richard Matteson and Janis Long Harris in What If I Married the Wrong Person? (Bethany). Barry and I may not have shown any regard for God’s purposes for us, but our choice to marry didn’t surprise him. Looking back, what we once considered a mistake we now view as part of a higher plan.
“God’s purposes are greater than our poor choices,” writes Moeller. “He can accomplish things we never imagined, in spite of our mistakes.”
I wish I could say Barry and I set up a ten-step plan to improve our marriage once we realized we were living with regrets. Personal growth takes time, but we hung in there long enough to let God work. Here are five steps that will help you set your disappointments aside long enough to focus on what’s good about your marriage.
1. Begin at the beginning.
Go back to your original vow to remain married for the rest of your lives. “The way to renew a marriage doesn’t begin with a change of emotions,” writes Moeller, “but with an act of will.” The restoration of joy and fulfillment is brought about by living by our promises.
My friends from Bible study who both committed adultery could have claimed they had biblical reasons to divorce, but they made the difficult choice to stick with their original commitment. “It wasn’t easy,” the wife admitted, “but with divorce not being an option, it forced us to work toward reconciliation.”
2. Let go of past hurts.
Barry and I began acknowledging our individual failures and seeking each other’s forgiveness. As the verse in Philippians says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal.” In this case, our goal was a mutually satisfying union.
I stopped viewing Barry as he could be (which he interpreted as disapproval) and began appreciating him for who he was (among other things, trustworthy and responsible). I realized I actually liked him!
3. Keep going until you get there.
As Moeller stresses again and again: “The only way out is through.” That means no giving up-even in adversity. Our friend Mike, who liked to do everything “right,” learned the hard way that no problem is solved by running from it.
When his wife, Amanda, put up a wall of anger, Mike would console himself by saying, “All I need is Jesus.” But a counselor pointed out that unless his retreating into God’s presence resulted in reaching out to his wife, his actions displeased God. Although he likened it to confronting enemy fire on a battlefield, Mike began reaching out to Amanda. “To me,” she said, “more than all the ‘right’ things he does, that shows me that he loves me.”
4. Dare to believe.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:20-21 that God “is able to do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams” (Amplified). That promise is true for marriages —even when only one partner is willing to change. “There’s always hope,” says writer and speaker Claudia Arp, “because God needs only one heart to begin to work in a relationship.”
Instead of bemoaning a “marriage mistake,” I relinquished my ideas of what makes a satisfying marriage and asked God to give me a servant’s heart toward Barry. Packing his lunch, running errands for him, keeping the driveway swept-I did these things (and still do) because I know Barry views them as proof of my love. Over time he responded by staying home more and choosing to spend time with me.
5. Give it time.
Sigmund Freud said, “Someday, given enough time, we will look back on our lives and discover the most difficult moments have become the most precious to us.” My “someday” came about ten years ago when Barry gave me a ring he wore as a child, a gold band with a diamond and ruby chip. He said, “When we first got married, I didn’t love you. But I do now.” Through my tears I confessed my original lack of love and added, “I love you now, too.”
Did we make a mistake? It doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is the love we’ve found from the God who redeems and makes all things new.
This article was featured in the Summer 1997 issue of Marriage Partnership Magazine, which unfortunately, is no longer being printed. But they do have a huge number of archived articles posted on the Todayschristianwoman.com web site. We highly recommend that you visit it to see what you can learn about marriage.
The author of this article, Nancy Kennedy, lives in Inverness, Florida. She is the author of Honey, They’re Playing Our Song (Multnomah/Questar).
68 responses to “Did We Make a Mistake in Marrying?”
I married 20 months ago; my husband had an affair with his ex 8 months after we were married. During the period after he had the affair he was hateful, angry and drunk every night. I always wondered what I had done that was so wrong. He admitted having the affair a week after our first anniversary. I asked him to leave so we could work on our marriage; he moved out and things began to get back on track, then in November I discovered he had had another affair with her. He didn’t admit to this straight away and when he did I threw a fit. He then said he didn’t want to be with her but on his own. He started AA and said he was sorry for everything and shouldn’t have married me.
I got confirmed last year and so marriage to me is for life. I have said hurtful things to him, which I now regret. So I am in the wrong, I never gave him enough respect but then I need to realise that perhaps throwing him out wasn’t the answer; I felt swamped and needed time to breath. He wants a divorce and so I filed for judicial separation. I agreed to pay for it (he has no money he says) but now he says spending money on this isn’t what it takes to be nice. I replied I was trying to do what he wanted. His answer was that isn’t what it takes though!
I am stuck. I know God has a path for us all and I trust him to lead me down the path. However I’m confused why he would hurt me so much. My husband says to just be happy like he is. I’m afraid I cannot be. I’m hurting so much. I wish we could talk and work on our marriage together as a team. He wants to be friends like we were before we got into a relationship but I’m unable to just say “oh yes let’s be friends again, just because you have decided marriage is not what you want.” I will still be your best friend and dump all you’re problems on me from your relationships like you used to! Am I wrong? We have not seen each other for 3 and a half months and no texts or calls for two. I miss him.
Before anyone gets married you should use your brains first before you take that big step. Been there and done that.
Annie, you’re not wrong to take a stand against cheating. No matter what, that is never acceptable. It’s easy to be “happy” when you ignore commitments and just do whatever you feel like doing, regardless of the promises you made and the uncomfortable times you go through when you’re learning to grow together as a couple. What’s the saying, “no pain, no gain?” It’s tough sometimes to learn how to compromise with each other and learn what you need to, so your marriage relationship grows forward to become a marriage you BOTH enjoy. It’s also tough to stick together through the tough times (which we all go through). But in the end it is SO worth it!
As for saying things you shouldn’t and acting disrespectful, you know you shouldn’t. You’re feeling convicted because of it and that isn’t a place you want or should be. Please don’t allow yourself to believe the lie that because you hurt so badly, solutions to do that, which you should not, are acceptable. They aren’t. Yes, you can say tough things, and expect certain things (like honesty, etc) but do it in respectful ways, which will be difficult because I’m sure you want to hurt him to the degree that you’ve been hurt, but it will backfire on you, if you do. Read through the things you can find in the “Surviving Infidelity” and “Emotional and Physical Affair” topics on this web site. That may help you.
As far as filing for “judicial separation” honestly, I would let him do so. If he wants to get a divorce and/or live like a single person, I wouldn’t let him live with me (my heart is not a revolving door to be played with), but I also wouldn’t file. Let him finish this dirty work, if he truly wants out. Don’t give him an excuse to say that you aren’t the one who is committed in your marriage. Fight FOR your marriage, not against it. That’s what you promised in your wedding vows. Be a promise keeper. If he isn’t; then he files and lives without you. That is my humble opinion. I pray the Lord helps you to be wise in what you are going through (my heart goes out to you). I also pray the Lord comforts you and shows you His love, as you lean upon Him. He will never forsake you. He knows what it’s like to love people and have them revile back at Him. He can help you in ways no one else can. I hope you see that.
This is so sweet. I wish that this could be the case for all relationships. Unfortunately, for marriages where there is abuse like mine, leaving seems to be more loving. There is so much hurt to overcome. But it was nice to read how God healed their marriage.
Reading this, I actually felt tormented and sick. I married the father of my child KNOWING that God had told me not to. I had given my life back to Christ and had remained celibate for over 2 years. The father of my child came back and seemed to be in a different place. We originally broke up because I wanted to take a purity stand for God and wait for marriage before I had any form of sexual relation again. At the time it was something he couldn’t do and I respected his wishes…
Role on a year and 2 months later and he cane back. During that time I had gotten so close to the father, constantly hearing his voice, walking into new territories with him etc. My daughter was 2 at the time and although I don’t think I was honestly in love anymore with him, I allowed myself to BRG the father to let me marry him because I wanted my daughter to have her father there. I didn’t want her to grow up and feel rejected by him because he might be too busy with children he might have fathered else where.
So after a sex free, kissing free (kissed once) year we got married. 3 months on and its been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure. I keep crying out in repentance to the father, desperate repentance, to the point tears well up in me now. We’ve argued and its been so harsh, especially on my end as I carry this guilt. I’ve thrown it back in his face a few times that we shouldn’t have gotten married but haven’t told him it’s because Gods said no.
That’s the other thing, he acknowledges that Jesus is Lord but he hasn’t made him Lord of his life, which adds to my shame an guilt that I married a semi believer. He claims to love God and believe him, knows how I should behave and act as a Christian but does not claim to depend on Christ and the Father or the Holy spirit for anything. In the meantime my daughter gets to see her dad everyday and absolutely adores him but I’m feeling so broken. The arguments we’ve had have been malicious. His words have been extremely cutting, to the point where he talks to me like I’m nothing, tells me to go to my room, and disrespects me.
I can’t really express the magnitude through this mini writing session. He wasn’t always a nice guy either. My family were really weary about us being back together let alone being married. I couldn’t never share any of this with anyone without hearing ‘I told you so’. So here I am with this big secret and it’s hurting me so much. I truly believed in my vows so can’t go. Plus it’s just more sin divorcing him especially since I already sinned by marrying him.
I’m aware of that story in Joshua where the Israelites made an oath with the enemy and didn’t realise until it was too late because they didn’t consult the father about it first. But their punishment only came when they broke their oath. And that’s how I feel right now. The Father has graced me and showed me great mercy in allowing me to marry my husband despite my disobedience. However I believe that great chastening would await me if I ever left. I feel so completely heartbroken and stuck.
I’m not suicidal just extremely repentant and a little afraid. I declare daily that Satan cannot have my marriage. I declare that my marriage will be a success in Jesus and command it to be so in Jesus name, but how can I feel this much pressure only 3 months in??? That’s what scares me? How is it possible for us to make it then? I remember I commented earlier about humbling myself to the Father and repenting and He will heal the land, that he can do it for my marriage too, but I already feel so weak. I’m fasting and am really needing strength right now. Please pray for me. I’m feel a little hopeless.
I wish I had of comfort for you but I am not the comforter. I have my story. I am that semi Christian you spoke about.
Before I got married, I loved Christ in my own sense of loving Him but I still had sexual relationship, though I believed in bed undefiled. My interpretation for bed undefiled was that I should not marry a lady the moment I had a sexual relationship with her. Before, I got married more than 5 years ago, I renewed my commitment to Christ. My reason for renewing my relationship with Christ was because I hoped my sexual desire will end the moment I get married. I did not really leave my ugly sexual life behind because I love Christ through through, even though I cry in my heart “oh, Lord how I love you”.
I married a virgin, it was easy because she was not in same country with me so I don’t have to struggle. After marriage, she doesn’t really love making love. I think she is not emotionally connected with me. The moment she does something that hurt me, I turn around and do something that hurt Christ like watching pornography. I am tired of this kind of life, Christ has been so so so good to me, but I keep hurting him. Few days ago, she did something that annoyed me, and I am getting tired of being the only one that has to apologize, try to please and make the other person happy. I decided that no more. The result.
A. I have not prayed for 3 days now. Before, I pray morning and night, read my bible.
B. Watch a lot of pornograhy.
C. Indecent phone and video conversation with another woman.
D. Frustrated and dejected.
But I don’t want to be the one that will apologize and make everything good again. Am heading in a dangerous path I know it but I don’t want to be the one to stop.
Please let your husband read this. He stayed with you for a year without sexual contact, he gave his best.
My husband and I got married after dating for 8 months. Like expected, we don’t have a perfect marriage but with God’s grace we are able to make it work. Lately, I’ve been getting thoughts about if I did marry the right guy, or I’m so stupid for rushing into things. It caused me to be a little doubtful and scared of what our future will bring. After all, my husband and I love each other but we’re not quite similar. We have different likes and dislikes, it takes a lot of compromising for us to enjoy what the other one enjoys. I can’t help but think, maybe this is the consequence of marrying too fast.
Then I read your post. The “what ifs” don’t matter now. I realized if I dwell in that, I’ll be driving this marriage until it crashes. I’m motivated to just be the best wife God wants me to be for my husband, and while I’m occupied with doing that, I’ll continue to believe that God is watching over us and by His grace, will bless our marriage. Thank you so much for sharing! You’re a blessing!
Oh D, Thank you so much for sharing this. This is so encouraging. I pray the Lord continually reminds you of the vow you made and helps you to be the wife He wants you to be (whether you should or shouldn’t have married in the first place). I pray for your husband too –that God will give him insight to be the man of God and the marriage partner and husband He wants him to be. The enemy of our faith wants us to dwell on that, which will destroy our marriages. When we focus on doubts, we aren’t able to see the possibilities that God can show us on how to do what we need to do. We are held back from growing in Christ and growing where we are planted.
For years I have used a prayer outline during many of my times of prayer. Here are 3 of the points that I have used (and feel that you may consider using them):
• Heal me of my many broken places… Hold me together. Bring healing and wholeness to my body, soul, spirit, and mind. Pour Your rightness into my emotions.
• Restore the years the locusts have eaten—either by what was handed to me or by what I chose in rebellion. Restore to me the joy of my salvation.
• Help me to possess a joy that comes from heaven—one that gives me the strength to face whatever life has to offer.
Sometimes we wrongly choose to do things that God may not have wanted us to do. And sometimes it LOOKS like these are things that we shouldn’t have done, but yet God, in His sovereignty wants to use it to help us to grow. It may not have been outside of God’s will after all. I’m not sure whether you should or shouldn’t have married your husband. But please don’t focus on the ways in which you are “not quite similar.” My husband and I have a LOT of different “likes and dislikes” and yet when we stopped focusing on the negativity of it and started putting our focus on how we can make it work together FOR our marriage, it’s amazing how good our marriage has grown. We’re now a great team and DEEPLY in love. It takes determination, intentionality, compromise, God-given wisdom (that we pray for) to do this. But it is so very worth it.
As you say in your comment, put your energy into making your marriage a good one, rather than focusing on doubts. God’s grace is amazing when we lean into it. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
Amen! Amen! Amen! I so totally agree with you Cindy.
My wife came to me last week and said the same thing. She was married before for 15 years and its been 6 months for us now. Because of my foolishness and not living with her in an understanding way, she said to me that she is not in love with me anymore and wants to separate. Her heart is harden for me, but I am trying to die to myself and let Christ mold me and praying He softens her heart. I hurting bad, but hopeful God can turn this around.
My wife says she is Christian yet is unforgiving. I have repented for my mistakes and want to save our marriage. Her answer is to get a divorce and her family supports this. They are Catholic and claim they are believers in Jesus. I’m confused. We have three small children and my heart is broken because of all this.
Chris, Here are some thoughts for you: Not knowing what you have asked your wife to forgive you for it’s hard to get behind her eyes to know if she feels you have been truly repentant. We find a lot of people classify their sins like adultery, viewing porn, verbal abuse as a “mistake.” Sin is sin, not a mistake. However, if you have gone to God (first) and sought His forgiveness and then to your wife to confess your sin then the natural outcome should be that you would receive forgiveness. The next step is that you would change whatever it was that led to the sin you asked her forgiveness for.
When we have hurt our wives and then ask for forgiveness they want to see if we are truly repentant. That is demonstrated by how our lives change, both in the present AND in the future. If you’ve made “mistakes” in the past, asked her forgiveness, and she gave it to you only to have you fall back into the sin again that can destroy her trust.
If you really want to change and win her heart back ask God to reveal to you what you need to change and then DO IT. Go back to our web site and in the SAVE MY MARRIAGE section where you’ll find some articles that can help you understand more of what you need to do. Also, go into the BITTERNESS AND FORGIVENESS section. You’ll find articles that will illuminate more of what your wife may be feeling and what she needs from you. Then go to your wife and tell her what you are doing to change and ask her not to make any rash decisions. Tell he you are willing to do ANYTHING to save your marriage. If not for yourselves, then for your children.
Next, go to your priest and ask for help. Most priests I know are more than willing to help a couple in his congregation get help to resolve conflict in marriage. There is also a program the Catholic church offers called Retrouvaille (pronounced Retro-Vy). You can find it at http://www.retrouvaille.org. They offer a free weekend retreat for couples who are on the brink of divorce (they have an 85% success rate in keeping marriages together). They offer them all over the world so there should be one near you.
Chris, if you are sincere about your heart being broken then you need to make putting your marriage back together as the primary mission of your life where you will leave no stone unturned in trying to find healing. There are no “quick fixes.” Then, you have to be committed to the life-changes you’ll be making for the rest of your life. Divorce will hurt these kids the rest of their lives. You reconciling and restoring your marriage will positively impact them the rest of their lives. When you and your wife stand before God some day to give an account for your lives what do you want your legacy to be?
I’m sure there are probably an equal number of “things” your wife needs to change too. But God has placed the burden on us husbands to set the example and lead our wives toward spiritual maturity. That doesn’t mean you are responsible for her decisions, she will give an account to God for those. We (husbands) are responsible for creating the environment in our homes where our wives and children can know the love of God and surrender their lives to Him and live for His glory.
Chris, I hope this gives you a place to start to restore and heal your marriage. ~Steve Wright
I know I can no longer stay married. After 20 years of praying and hoping that we can live disciplined and also have a life together as husband and wife and grow… I have given up.
20 years of crying and fighting about the same patterns choices. I’ve let him lead me …. but I in turn have lost my power independence and financial standing. He just doesn’t care either way…. He has no empathy and no remorse for his choices.. He also has a drinking problem.
I can’t risk waiting to see if of God will touch and change each of us. The damage is done. I cannot lose another year… taking responsibility and finding a way to get away for good.
I’m agry at myself for thinking my love for him would’ve changed him. His actions repulse me and have stressed me out so I have nothing more to give. I can’t wait till I have all my plans in place. So that I can leave without needing any support.
It’s he only way I can do things. If he has to know he will try stop me. He has already said if I try leave he will take my kids and won’t see hem and he will make sure I suffer and have no money etc. I take that seriously, and am making sure that I have a way to get away.
We are not meant to stay with people who break us down and try keep us from growing. That is wasting precious life.
My husband and I have been married for almost 7 years now. We married when I was 20 and he was 19. Over the past seven years we have experienced poverty, a stillborn child, a hospitalized son and another healthy boy. I feel we are in a much better place physically but recently he has told me that he thinks we married too young and have nothing in common.
I can tell he is depressed but I just don’t know what to do. I am trying to make things better at home but it doesn’t seem to be helping and I am so overwhelmed with taking care of everyone. I have been praying so much for him because I feel that is all that I can do. I just want him to be happy.
Where do you go or what do you do when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God told you NOT to marry that person, and because you were out of your mind with grief, fear, and loneliness, you did anyway? How can you put something together that God told you wouldn’t work in the first place? We are like oil and water. I am miserable ALL the time for 5 years now.
I am benefiting greatly from this website reading so many similar situations to my own. Thank you all for being so courageous to get your feelings out there (or rather here) in a safe space. I feel also I have made a mistake in marrying this person, even only months into it. It’s been almost 2 years and I worry for the future regarding our happiness. Thank you all again for your honest shares.
Hi Kelly, Thanks for your comment and affirming words. I thought of another article for you to read. You can find it at: https://marriagemissions.com/help-i-think-i-married-the-wrong-person/. It has a lot of linked articles in it that may help you, as you read them, as well. I’m thinking particularly of “The Marriage Map” because I’m thinking you have gone on into Stage 2, zooming into Stage 3. But I could be wrong. Just know it isn’t unusual to have doubts once you marry. You just have to work at trying not to focus on them and look for the good.
I don’t know your circumstances, but if he’s basically a good guy–you just aren’t sure if you’re as compatible as you thought, that’s where the work comes in of “marrying” your differences. You both now have the mission before you of finding ways to make your differences work for you, rather than against your marriage. All of us who have good marriages have gone through this stage, and are still working on marrying our differences. All kinds of new things come up to make that necessary. But eventually, as you work on this, it’s amazing how your differences fade more into the background and you see more good than bad, more enjoyment than disappointment.
Pray about all of this. Pray, read, and glean through the articles we have posted on this web site. And then apply what will work for your particular marriage. I pray this helps.