Thought For The Day:
“True love is always unconditional. Healthy, loving relationships are never unconditional.”
Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt
Question For The Day:
Do you confuse staying committed with accepting abuse?
So, I recently brought back a throwback post I entitled “Forever, Forever Ever?” where I shared some thoughts on the need for us to get back to expecting commitment in marriage. To me, young couples these days are all about the upgrade whether it be their iPhones, Jordans or their marriages and are quick to abandon their vows the minute things get uncomfortable. This microwave generation wants happy, stable, and healthy marriages instantaneously without the need to put in the work and unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Like Fredrick Douglas once said, “without struggle, there is no progress,” which means everything worth having takes time to achieve. So though it’s cute to find a handsome young groom, it’s beautiful when life molds him into a solid husband. The difference between the two is generally time and maturity.
Nowadays, it’s as if marriage is embarked upon like one of those free trial offers you get in the mail. Try it for free and if you’re not satisfied, just take it back for a full refund. The only problem with the marital return policy is that there’s no way to really get your investment back. Years of struggle, compromise, children, shared debts and mutual responsibilities make exercising the return policy extremely complicated and emotionally expensive. If you’ve spent any significant amount of time building a marriage then you know that it’s never as simple as they make it seem on television and in the movies. We love to boast about “moving on” as if there is a handsome, godly, perfectly sensitive and infallibly supportive soul mate waiting in the wings, ready to step into the role of husband once our current partner has exited stage left. Every breakup we witness in the media, seems to move someone from “calling it quits” to “stepping out with her new man” at warped speed. This fantasy, I think, has confused many of us into believing that there is always someone better just waiting for us to drop our loser husband so he can step in and make our lives better.
However, if it’s true that all of us need time to grow, mature, change, and develop into the best version of ourselves, then why do we expect perfection from our men out the gate? Think about it. If you can say that you are nowhere near as crazy, irresponsible, or scattered at forty-five as you were at twenty-five, isn’t it fair to assume that the emotionally-inept, unfocused, or underachieving man you are so fed up with might also be a different person in twenty years? Why are we allowed to grow and get better, but we are intolerant of this process in our men? This is why I believe that commitment is really the heart of a lasting marriage, not perpetual happiness. What good will it do us if we divorce our man while he’s still a wreck and then watch another woman reap the benefits of his maturity and growth down the line? Perhaps if we could just bear with the growth process, the hard years might just be worth it in the end. I know personally, if I’m going to endure my spouse’s growing pains, then I have earned the good man I’m getting when all is said and done. So if it comes down to the issue of divorce, are you positive that it’s worth it and if so, how do you know?
I’ve had this discussion before with friends and family members, and I do believe that every woman has to have her deal breakers when entering a marriage. It takes a good amount of self-awareness to be able to say with certainty what things you do not feel you can overlook in a marriage. For me, it is infidelity and abuse of any kind. These are two things that I just don’t see myself dealing with and I believe they would require too much of me and my children, so I know I would have to step away if these occur. Part of being prepared to marry in the first place requires that you know your deal breakers and express them to your partner in no uncertain terms before you walk down the aisle. This is boundary setting and a marriage with no boundaries to begin with is certain to go off the rails quickly. It should never be that “anything goes” in a marriage and that a man should be free to run amok and treat you however he wants to. I fear that this is what women may assume I’m saying when I urge commitment in marriage. To make matters more confusing, you’ll frequently hear how women are supposed to “submit” to their husbands “in everything” at church, which can sometimes be interpreted as accepting abuse.
If you are being controlled and forced to behave a certain way, that is not submission. If you are ducking punches, being constantly accused of infidelity, demeaned, ridiculed, berated, called out of your name, or kept from living the life you desire, then you are not honoring marriage, but dishonoring yourself. The commitment that I describe as necessary in marriage is committing to a person despite their flaws and personality defects if those defects don’t stunt your own growth process. I don’t have to necessarily leave an unmotivated, depressed, or emotionally unavailable man especially if my continued progress and the application of my own faith could be an inspiration to him. However, if I cannot progress or am not allowed to progress because I am in danger or prohibited, then I must accept that I am being abused and need to take the necessary steps to protect myself and my children. Too many women have it twisted though and leave when they should stay, and stay when they should leave. Here are some points to consider if you’re confused about your next move with regard to your troubled marriage.
Are you and/or your children safe?
If you are literally living in fear for your safety or your life, then this is not a situation to commit to. Although it can still be your prayer that your husband gets the help he needs, you should not risk your own well-being, health, and peace of mind to facilitate this for him. Your priority is to get yourself and your children to a safe place. You may still decide to remain committed to your husband by praying for him or even supporting him in counseling if he’s decided to work on himself and actively pursue treatment. Though likely, abuse doesn’t have to mean divorce. However, it should always mean that change is in order and it should be a requirement before continuing the marriage can even be considered.
Are you put down?
If being in your marriage leaves you void of self-respect and self-worth then you need to step away and regain proper perspective. If you feel incapable of pursuing your God-given gifts and talents and are constantly being made to feel inferior or less than what you know yourself to be, then committing to this type of degradation does not make good sense. You should demand due respect and if your partner is unwilling to give it, then you must set boundaries and protect yourself.
Is it only about what you want?
If your desire to leave your marriage is solely based on what you want and your desire for continual happiness and satisfaction, then it may be time to check your expectations. Are you giving your husband the grace that your vow requires? Are you supporting him, praying for him, and encouraging him in areas that still have a chance to improve? If not, then consider how you will feel if God answers your prayers and your husband does become a better man after you’ve divorced him and his next wife is enjoying the happiness you prayed for. (It happens, trust)
Bottom line, if your husband’s ways, though irritating, are not doing more than making you unhappy sometimes, perhaps you can choose to be patient and wait on him to grow up. You might also want to spend more time fulfilling your dreams and meeting your own needs, remembering that God is your source. Choosing to wait on God to move in your marriage is the mark of a mature woman who ultimately has faith in God’s ability to do all things. However, if staying the course means sacrificing your dignity, self-respect, dreams, growth and development, safety, or possibly even your life in the name of “standing by your man,” then you have no choice but to do what you must to preserve your safety and sanity.
Even if you’re not ready for a divorce, you should still separate yourself from an unhealthy situation while new ground rules are being established. At minimum, clear boundaries have to be set and your husband would have to demonstrate an ability to respect them if both of you desire to work it out. If he is not willing to respect your boundaries and is also not willing to admit to his flaws and seek help, then you probably need to let it go or love him from a safe distance. Married or not, as a woman you have an obligation to always honor and cherish who should be your first and ultimate true love…….you.
“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”
1 Corinthians 7:15