Surviving a Destructive Marriage and How God is Restoring It
Recognizing you’re in a destructive marriage is both devastating and enlightening.
I found my marriage in an unexpected place. It felt as if I just woke up one day to some serious issues that had been brushed under the rug for years. I don’t know if it’s a combination of the way I’m wired mixed with my own life experiences, but I’ve always been one to “keep the peace”.
This trait led to a lot of unnecessary apologizing on my part.
Apologizing When I Wasn’t in the Wrong
I apologized to keep the peace. I didn’t want to “rock the boat” or make things worse. Often when issues would arise, I would minimize them or even apologize when I hadn’t done anything wrong. On the surface, especially as a Christian wife, apologizing when you haven’t done anything may seem “saintly”, “godly” or “holy”. But it really isn’t. It only robs your marriage the opportunity for healing and growth. It robs your husband of taking responsibility for himself and his own actions.
I believed that my apologizing showed my value for the relationship more than “being right”. In reality, it only caused more destruction. Because it didn’t allow for the issues to be owned by the one they belonged to (in this case, my husband) and so they never got resolved.
Anger, Resentment, and Confusion Grew
What added to the issue, and took a long time to figure out, was each time this happened, I’d stuff anger and resentment deep down in my heart. I was angry that not only did he not own his mistakes, but he allowed me to take responsibility for them. The anger and resentment would temporarily go away…until the next time we had yet another incident. Then it would all come back again and it would only continue to grow.
I remember during an incident one time thinking, “How can someone say he loves me so much and treat me like this?” I really wrestled with this. It added so much confusion to our relationship. I was living in a destructive marriage and had no idea what to do about it.
Owning Responsibility is a Large Part of Growing
I had my share of mistakes in the relationship that I owned up to. But often, I was owning up to what wasn’t mine to own, too. By taking his issues as mine, they were left unresolved because the power wasn’t within me to fix them. I couldn’t make my husband act a certain way or take responsibility—only he could do that.
When I realized what was happening and how this behavior, which I believed was “peacemaking” was actually hurting us, I stopped. I stopped apologizing when an issue wasn’t mine to own, and I allowed my husband to own what was his. So, if he acted out of anger or stress, I would not apologize for his actions. I stopped making excuses for him to other people. I was the last one to fully see I was in a destructive marriage.
One example: if he was hungry, rather than go and make himself something to eat, he would sit on the couch and complain that he was hungry. It was a manipulative way to tell me to make him something. And if I didn’t, he would “punish” me by going to bed and leaving me to myself…to feel guilty that I didn’t just make him something rather than let it turn into a conflict.
Know Yourself Apart from Your Husband
It’s so very important to know yourself in matters such as these. Trust your instincts and your intuition. If something feels “off” it probably is. Explore it further. If you feel at times you’re going crazy, you probably aren’t. Write down fights or conversations that are confusing and try to get as many details as you can. So much of the confusion is in the details.
I had to learn to not take on feelings and responsibilities that were not mine. If my husband was angry because I didn’t do something he wanted, it wasn’t my responsibility to fix his anger by giving in.
My husband’s behaviors were abusive and destructive. Manipulation. Gaslighting. Love-bombing. Guilt. Threats. Lying.
Me “trying harder” as a wife only reinforced these behaviors. He needed to feel the weight of the destruction he was causing in order to stop. He needed to take responsibility for himself and learn what it meant to not always get what he wanted. And he needed accountability.
I only helped contribute to our struggles by protecting my husband from himself and everyone else. I thought, as his wife, it was my job to make him and keep him happy. So, of course, I did what I could to give him what he wanted. I thought I was helping him, and helping us, but I was only further hurting him, myself, and our marriage. So I had to do my part and step back from rescuing him from himself.
Both Spouses Need to Work to Heal a Destructive Marriage
When all this came to light, we both set out to work on it; to work on us. My heart was heavily guarded. For the year prior to these struggles coming to light, I had slowly built an emotional wall to protect myself. But the more my husband worked on his part, slowly the bricks began to come down.
Abuse doesn’t just happen and sometimes it’s not even fully realized by either party. It comes as a result of deeper issues or trauma that need resolving or healing. When those issues are worked through, the destructive behaviors cease as a result.
And while he’s been working, so have I been.
I dug deep down to remember the girl I was when we met. When our future was ahead of us and the possibilities so bright and hopeful. To this day, I fight to bring her back to the surface.
God intended marriage for good and His desire is for us all to have a beautiful, biblical union. But I think it’s also important to recognize and remember, we live in a fallen and sinful world. As people suffer individually through the sin of others, so will marriages as a result. God is faithful and can restore, but both spouses need to be willing for that to become a reality. Sometimes, that is not always the case.
My Heart Struggled to Trust
While my husband occasionally has bad days and rarely bad weeks that send me spiraling back into a trauma state, we continue to hang on.
My heart struggled to trust and feel safe. But I tried and trusted God, hard as it was. We were in a place where we needed to work on ourselves as individuals first. I needed to allow God to work in my heart and heal the parts that have been broken.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I highly recommend seeing a trusted counselor to help you sort through all the confusion. Find someone to talk to. Do not isolate yourself or bottle up your concerns.
A 52-Week Devotional for the Deeper, Richer Marriage You Desire
An intimate, loving marriage is so much closer than you think
Imagine if, at the end of the year, despite your busy schedules and all the demands on your time and attention, you and your husband were more in sync, more connected, and more in love than ever before. Sounds amazing, right?
That kind of marriage is what is waiting for you as you read through the fifty-two weekly devotions in Loving Your Husband Well. Each entry includes a specific theme, related Scripture, a powerful devotion, thoughts for further reflection, practical ideas, and a prayer, all designed to help you love, cherish, and serve the man who shares life’s journey with you.