Story: One woman says her husband claims to be more committed to the marriage than she is
(I'm grateful to this Christian woman for giving me permission to put her story in this blog post. And as always, I want to make it clear that sometimes it's the husband who is genuinely invested in making the marriage safe and loving, and not the wife. Sometimes a wife is the self-centered person who abuses or betrays her husband. I have several stories in Chap. 9 and elsewhere in my book about men as victims of abuse or adultery. UPDATED to add that men sometimes show their investment in a little different way that women. See bottom of this post.)
In her own words (she's replying to me, Gretchen Baskerville):
Transcription of this dear woman's Facebook comment: "This was my experience exactly. After many years of reading all the books, attending all the couples Bible studies alone, finding counselors, scheduling and attending marriage retreats, implementing all I read and learned… I finally had the permission (in my own heart) to leave. Once I made it known that I was leaving, he would take my keys, block me in, yell at me all the time that I would ruin our kids' lives, that I was just like my mother and sister (who are both divorced), and he would say over and over "I am the only one fighting for our marriage. I'm going to keep fighting for our marriage until it's saved. You'll never make it on your own. I am the one who worked for everything we have. You're lazy, this is all your fault." I once told him "do you realize that fighting with me is not the same as fighting for our marriage?" He was so angry and contentious all the time that I don't actually think he understood. I'm two years out of it. I have conflict free-relationships with others. My kids and I have a peaceful and loving home. I couldn't be more grateful for this community I have found stepping up and offering help to those of us who had just grown so weary of trying.
Let's look at her story.
She wants a safe and loving marriage and we have evidence. She's spent years of time, effort, and money:
- —buying and reading marriage books (and implementing their advice)
- —finding therapists her husband will see
- —arranging for them to go on marriage retreats
She's deliberately and consciously changed her behavior to match the advice of Christian marriage book authors. She's committed. I sense she loved her husband or at least wanted to have a good marriage with him. But after she'd tried everything, she realized these steps have been one sided. He may be bringing home the income, but she's the only one trying to make the marriage respectful and loving. She can't do that singlehandedly.
The marriage isn't better. It's actually worse.
When she finally gave up and let him know, he had a choice:
To invest and make the marriage better, or to block her from leaving.
He chose the latter.
He wants to be married. No need to apologize for that. As Christians we value marriage. But here's the problem: he doesn't care to make the marriage loving. How do we know?
He has defined "saving the marriage" as blocking her from leaving, using:
- —coercion (taking her keys),
- —physical restraint/bullying (blocking her car)
- —false accusations ("you're lazy")
- —fear bombing ("you'll ruin our kids' lives")
- —intimidation (he's angry and contentious)
- —demeaning ("you'll never make it on your own")
- —devaluing (implying that she has made no contribution to the family's success).
How can he claim to believe in the sanctity of marriage? Where is his love and his sacrifice? Does he have a pang of conscience and go to therapy to work on himself? Or does he just get defensive and manipulate his wife?
Rather than actually changing his attitude and investing to make the marriage safe and respectful, he manipulates. Notice the end of her story: She and the kids have a peaceful and loving home now.
To be fair, sometimes the man is the more invested spouse. For men, the signs of investment might be a little different. For example...
- —Avoiding fights by giving her everything she wants to keep her happy.
- —Feeling 100% responsible for the happiness of the relationship.
- —Giving her financial control in a way that he pays for everything and all of her earning can be spent on herself.
- —Saying nothing when she complains about him in public.
- —Going to any counselor she wants. (No say in important decisions.)
In cases like this, the invested spouse has proven their commitment. Every day they entered that tense home and faced a person who used coercion, bullying, and intimidation, they proved they believed in the sanctity of marriage. Every decision they made to give up their own wishes, desires, preferences, and voice, is another evidence that they were willing to sacrifice their wellbeing to keep the marriage.
How many more days do you need to prove
to yourself that you tried hard enough?
If this describes you, if you decide to pursue a life-saving divorce to save your life and sanity, and to escape a marriage with adultery, sexual immorality, physical abuse, mental abuse, substance abuse, or abandonment/neglect, you are free to go. And God will still love you. Really.
1 I'm indebted to Patrick Doyle for introducing me to the idea that we show our investment in the marriage by all the ways we spend time, money, and effort into saving it.
Examples of 150 examples of types of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect) and explaining the term "gaslighting," along with many first-person stories, read Chapter 4 in the Life-Saving Divorce.
For a diagram of the Duluth Wheel of Power and Control and The Abuse Cycle, read Chapter 4.