The marriage damage no one’s talking about …

There’s a thing that causes marriage damage no one’s talking about… at least not that I’ve seen much.

And someone needs to bring it up – and as God would have it, that someone this time is me.

It has to do with the attention of another MAN.

I received this via email a while back:

What do you do when the hurt & pain you endured from infidelity, lying, cheating, drunkeness, staying out all night and acting like nothing was wrong with what they were doing lasted so long that you lost all loving feelings? Now they are ready to work on the marriage, have stopped drinking and cheating, but I just don’t even care any more.  My prayer today, right before I saw the email on “Wounded”, was I pray Lord to You to summon the courage inside of me to pursue in the midst of my weariness. I exchange my strength for your strength by applying Your Word. I even noted ***ACTION REQUIRED***. But I don’t know what “action” to take other than turn it over to God and continue to deal with one situation at a time.

I desire a character change from anger, hurt, unloving feelings, irritability, sarcasm, procrastination, etc.; all towards my husband. I read that we should honor the feeble because we need them to help us understand that without God’s grace, we could be like them.

No kidding.

This isn’t uncommon. A wife (or husband) works hard, growing in her relationship with God, pursuing Him with everything she has, trying to be the best follower, wife, and mom she can be (and in that order), and still can be rejected… just like wounding can occur anyway in the referenced post above.

(Please note I am not speaking about abuse. If that is your situation, you need support and safety on a whole other level.)

So where is our hurting girl above at? This heart hardening is a thing only God can fix. A God intervening softening of the heart miracle thing only He can do – she needs to pray compassion for herself and her husband. She needs to bathe in God’s love for her so she can extend it to her husband once again. In His timing.

What a wife (or husband) does during and after that waiting time, while recovering from rejection, however, can determine whether or not the marriage can be saved. Let’s talk through a few of the options:

  1. Remain steadfast, continuing to learn, choosing to serve regardless of how she is received or rejected (Biblical)
  2. Continue doing option 1 and be open to what she might be missing (often she has unhealthy behaviors of her own, a lack of boundaries, and may be an enabler, or she is so narcissistic she can’t see her contribution) (also Biblical as an option)
  3. Take positive action given what she learns from option 2 (Biblical)
  4. Harden her heart and avoid interaction with her husband, decreasing pain in the short term
  5. Fill her life with other things/people/idols to dull the pain
  6. Consider separation or divorce (if she does this, she still must be seeking reconciliation – she can’t date or marry anyone else)

Here’s the thing few will talk about… when she’s “numb,” or “lost all loving feelings,” the marriage is super-vulnerable. If she’s living with constant negativity, criticism or abuse, even years of consistent lack of affection, she won’t realize it when it is happening, but the kindness of another man stands out to her, causing the assault of thoughts of an impure variety – and most of them are non-sexual in nature. The impure thoughts that can drive a dagger through the possibility of the marriage healing are simply fond and warm toward a man other than her husband.

That’s where they begin, anyway.

Where they lead is death.

I’ve talked with women that love God with everything they are but are in difficult marriages. They don’t want to think warmly of another man. But they find themselves doing so and are at a loss.

They are surprised.

Shocked.

“I can’t go to my dentist,” or “I look forward way too much to seeing my chiropractor,” or even, “The guy I have to work with at work is way too cute… and I don’t get it, he’s not even my type!” are some of the thoughts they have. “He is so nice to me… I’ve been so lonely for so long…”

Yikes.

Desperate for affection of any kind, they are easy prey for men who would take advantage of them in their vulnerable state.

Eye contact lingers.

A smile engages. Discussion ensues…

Then…

Enough for here.

There’s another thing few talk about… this notion that “Matthew 18 applies to marriage” (which I happen to believe, btw) – but what is often missed in Christian teaching is simply that all discussion of someone else’s sin against another needs to be done gently. Lovingly. There are many authors out there who are Christian that support “shunning” the “sinning” spouse… and given new info, many walk down this path, torch in hand, energized to “stand up for their rights” in a way that proves their “sinning” spouse is wrong… And I don’t have issue with women speaking truth in the middle of a moment, or setting boundaries… but I’ve listened to the training.

I’ve seen the results.

What they don’t know is this “shunning” and “verbal assertiveness” (which is just as often another way of labeling an unkind assault or defensiveness) has a low (less than 5%!!!) success rate in saving a marriage.

I know.

I have talked with many of the authors and counselors of these materials.

They admit they don’t save many marriages.

Why they continue is beyond me. I don’t get it.

What both of these groups need to realize is simply this: the marriage needs to be protected. A hedge, boundaries, rules, need to be employed for the  unloved and affection-starved.

At the first sign of a tempting thought, a warmth, admiration, or fondness for another man – RUN. Here’s a few verses that can help you with this:

Bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

The guy may be awesome – but his company is bad if you can’t capture those thoughts and tame them to the mind of Christ (and yes, this verse has many meanings).

What do you do?

RUN.

Flee.

Stop spending time with him.

Understand that if he “makes you feel good” and your husband does not, you are on a path that often ends in divorce.

And the other issue? Those that suggest “shunning?” Or the harsh verbal aggression in the name of protection?

Sorry. LONG discussion… but suffice it to say, these are NOT tools to wield at a “sinning” husband. Remember Jesus’ words, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and respond with love and grace.

That doesn’t mean “rolling over and taking it” or “becoming a doormat.” It does mean speaking the truth, while being gentle, loving, kind, patient… Strong. Oh, how about this verse:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

I have a much longer dialogue about Matthew 18 here and here – and most marriage experts, including the well researched Gottman method, ascribes marital failure to a husband’s unwillingness to be influenced by his wife (see the last point here), but women need to allow his influence, also – it’s part of submission. Being OPEN to our husbands.  At the end of the day, they are held “responsible” by God. So No, don’t follow them into sin (check the death of Sepphira in Acts and remember Acts 5:29) and Yes, “confront,” but it could look like a question, or a simple statement, “I know you love me (thanks Shaunti Feldhahn ((seriously read this one if you read nothing)), for all your boss research on men!!) and I am feeling hurt by our inability to connect on this issue…Can we (question that is positive oriented, like “focus on resolving this instead of what went wrong last time?” or, “talk through what we both need to happen over the holidays?” or “talk about how your work hours are effecting the family?” etc.).

So. Don’t stop respecting. 🙂 Regardless of how you are treated – love well, WHILE respecting.

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At any rate… we’re open for discussion again. 🙂 And the survey results will be up this week. Thank you SO MUCH for contributing! 🙂 Feel free to chime in about what you think of the above. Be sure to check Shaunti’s article. It’s awesome. 🙂

Love to you,

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In the meantime, and I know it can be a MEAN TIME, you might check out one or more of the following top-shared posts.

101 Ways to Love Your Wife (viral) More stats
101 Ways to Respect Your Husband (viral) More stats
How to Calm Down an Angry Husband
15 Ways to Show Disrespect to Your Husband…
Why Is Your Wife Unhappy?

Also, Boot Camp 2016 is open for registration. Raise the Bar! (the public speaking workshop) has just a few spots left, and we tend to fill up fast in the alumni tracks. If you feel led to be a Titus 2 woman using our unique discipleship method that leaves women forever changed, check it out. More info forthcoming in the next several weeks. Plus, it’s an awesome gift from your husband to you for the ministry God might be calling you to.

If you are booking retreat speakers, you can check openings  through the www.GreaterImpact.org website for more info. We typically book 12-18 months in advance.

titus 2 women leadership

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

10 thoughts on “The marriage damage no one’s talking about …

  1. Very good article. I read what Shaunti Feldham wrote, and it made sense. What you wrote Nina made a lot of sense as well. An affair will NEVER improve a marriage. I do agree that women do sometimes need support from other women, and encouragement. I have found when my husband makes critical comments (rarely now), that I just need to say: “That felt unloving.” If he responds with “You’re too sensitive – or “whatever” I say: “It still felt unloving.” That way I let him know, without criticizing or condemning him. That seems to give him time to think, and helps me to keep my self-respect as well. I don’t know if that helps at all. It does work for me. And, it’s progress – not perfection. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is always first and foremost. He will give us the wisdom we need – if we sincerely want it. I just so appreciate that you are addressing this topic, Also, we do need to look at our own expectations. Sometimes us women want “love, love, love” and do not realize that our guy is a man and not a woman – and we should let him be that. Why I added that, I don’t know. Just did.

    • mariajj2555,
      That is very good, especially “Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is always first and foremost. He will give us the wisdom we need – if we sincerely want it.” —Excellent. That is wonderful.

      We use lots of questions that we just keep cycling through all year long:
      1) Do you feel safe expressing opinions different than mine?
      2) What do you need me to hear that I am just NOT hearing or understanding?
      3) What am I NOT doing or should stop doing that you need?
      4) What do I do that makes you feel really loved/ respected/ important?
      5) What can I be praying for you about?
      6) What romantic/non-romantic needs am I not meeting?
      7) et. al., et. al., et. al., etc.

      That gets the issues right to the surface, which usually causes a massive fight, —ha, ha, ha, ha, ha —just kidding; —No, it keeps the issues where we can solve them and not where they fester. I like how you say: “It still felt unloving.” —Getting that out there is really important.

  2. “What do you do when the hurt & pain you endured from infidelity, lying, cheating, drunkeness, staying out all night and acting like nothing was wrong with what they were doing lasted so long that you lost all loving feelings? Now they are ready to work on the marriage, have stopped drinking and cheating, but I just don’t even care any more.”

    —The safest course is to always, constantly engage the Holy Spirit and then listen to the Holy Spirit. . . . .Maybe I am totally wrong but I think marriage counseling is only for the well-intentioned. Someone engaging in “. . . infidelity, lying, cheating, drunkeness, staying out all night and acting like nothing was wrong with what they were doing” and it has lasted like *forever* —well, I say that is an emotionally unavailable, narcissistic personality and for those and various mental disorders (—interpersonally exploitative, psychotic, emotionally unavailable, devoid of empathy, etc.) —I think you move right to separation/ safety/ divorce. If you have Bible text issues with leaving faster see: Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: by Dr. David Instone-Brewer and Dr. David Parker, Chapter 5; The Sayings on Marriage and Divorce re: The Text of The Living Gospels. High views of Scripture, scholars reading the text, and not people just trying to justify divorce, because they don’t have to. Christ called us to freedom, real freedom, not slavery or shunning.

    If the person is truly, sacrificially repentant and broken and “someone new”, well that is totally different. . . . .Now, all that said, women that hold onto hate falsely believe if they forgive they are letting their husband believe they are a doormat. What they don’t understand is hatred can’t be isolated or turned off. It manifests in their health, choices and beliefs. Their values and walk with Christ make adjustments to justify their negative emotions. Not unlike malware infesting a computer system, their spirit slowly becomes corrupted and they make choices that don’t make logical sense to others. Hatred left unaddressed will crash a person’s spirit. The only thing we can do is to reboot, by fixing ourselves, not others. This might require installing a firewall of boundaries on our emotions. Anyways, each of us is responsible for cleaning up our spiritual registry. . . .Oh, if it were only as easy as talking about it. . . . .I don’t do boundaries well, I either have doormatitis or lawsuititis.

    • I’m not sure I am fully in agreement, Rebecca. I’ve seen God work tons of miracles when wives stick it out, and when they do hard things, like separate with the intent to protect themselves or their children from destructive behaviors or sin against them. That’s a long discussion, for sure, but if you come to Boot Camp 2016 (and can I just say you totally should? I LOVE your comments here!!!) we can discuss over tea in the evenings! 🙂

      The woman in the email above should totally be on her face, like you said, listening to the Spirit – because her husband has decided to finally do what is right. I’ve seen believers move from knowing “about” God to really knowing Him, and it overhauls their life. Repentance. Grief for sin. NEW CREATION. God’s in the transformation business, and I don’t want to get in the way of something He may be doing.

      And sometimes that shows up a few steps IN – but before repentance and full-on-New-Creation has instantly appeared. Transformation can be slow, sometimes, even though our God can heal instantaneously. We in the West typically get it slow…

      I haven’t heard of the book you mentioned, but I will check it out. Thanks so much for being involved here. You are a treasure to Him and to us. 🙂

      Love to you,
      Nina

      • Nina, you say: “. . . I’ve seen God work tons of miracles when wives stick it out, and when they do hard things, like separate with the intent to protect themselves or their children from destructive behaviors or sin against them.”

        . . . .Well, I am sure you have a lot more data than I do, so that could be true and if that is true than it is very, VERY good news. I love miracles, they are very faith affirming. Nina, I just fear for so many precious women who wind-up getting AIDS or worse from cheating spouses. . . . .It is no accident that narcissists and altruists often have a magnetic attraction to one another. Can you see how perfect the fit is? The altruistic feels the need to selflessly serve others and this is just what the narcissist wants. Narcissists want to be worshipped and gratified in every way possible, and this is just what altruists offer, thinking it demonstrates their moral virtue. . . . . There’s a reason narcissists don’t learn from mistakes and that’s because they never get past the first step which is admitting (and really repenting of) that they made one. It’s always a wife’s fault, a counselor’s fault, a lawyer’s fault. Ask them to account for a mistake any other way and they’ll say, “what mistake?” Then when they have exhausted every other possible excuse, they are ready to work on the relationship. . . .Anyone who wants you to live in misery for their happiness should not be in your life anyway. ―Oh, and I’ll check the schedule for Boot Camp 2016. I can use all the instruction, conviction, correction and training in righteousness I can get.

        “. . . .and can I just say you totally should?” . . . . ―Always, certainly say whatever God tells you to say. I know your heart is good. (―and I know your heart is also as black and filthy as a sinking coal pit 🙂 and completely untrustworthy too 🙂 ―as is mine, but you totally know what I mean.) I trust you and value women who help me grow in Christ.

        “God’s in the transformation business, and I don’t want to get in the way of something He may be doing.” . . . . You know what? That is true but that is only true if it is a REAL metanoia (μετάνοια) as the Bible says: A throwing off of every conceptual cloak of self-defense for that man, and a giving up of the resistance of his ego and an ecstatic self-emptying. Then maybe he can become a demonstrable product of love. ―But I guess really it is only as hard as he is resistant to the Holy Spirit, however. I am praying for that!!!

        ―And thank you and especially Bonnie for continuing to allow me to pray for your prayer requests. I love praying for those posting here and all the needs in your ministry.

        Much love,
        Rebecca

  3. Thanks for posting the Gottman article. It helped me understand much clear why it is so frustrating to talk through issues with my husband . No matter how I try to explain how I feel about an action he turns it into a criticism of him. Recently I have been very hurt by his response to forgetting our anniversary. But I have only talked to him about my feelings on it once. I guess I am taking the Proverbs approach to not wasting words on one who is acting foolishly.

  4. I’m so glad you put a voice to wives who are attracted to men other than their husbands. This is called an emotional affair and the topic warrants our attention. Without accountability with another godly woman and the Holy Spirit, it will consume one’s thoughts and progressively steal their time and attention from their spouse and family. It has the potential to progress into a physical affair. Both emotional and physical affairs are a real threat to one’s marriage. Thank God, he is able to deliver us as we bring light and accountability into our repeated thoughts and draw near to the Holy Spirit.

  5. I’ve been reading books on shunning and literally just about to shun my husband for his sin. But this is the first thing I’ve read on how it doesn’t work and its not good. Thank you. Coincidence? No. My God is faithful once again.

    • Carla.

      Please listen to God on this – and know that I do, however, agree with you. But I’m human. You may be one of the less than 5% that these methods actually help, but it’s more likely there are other things you need to be doing instead. Necessary Endings, & Boundaries in Marriage, by Dr. Henry Cloud, are a good place to start.I am praying for you, sister.

      Love to you,
      Nina

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