Saturday, 27 July 2013

How did you know it was time to stop praying for your marriage?

Comment on the ‘Running into the Other Woman’ post:

I too am facing a similar situation. in my case my husband was a serial adulterer and there was abuse involved. He kicked me out with my kids (after 10 years of marriage)for the current OW a much younger person - she's 28 who claims she's a born again Christian. Long story short, I was relieved at first when he asked me to move out but it has been tough for the kids and I. But I have had peace o! No more wondering how he would hurt me next, being able to be comfortable in my home and feeling uncondemned + the children are safe from his constant criticism.I have to do emotional repair work every time they go to spend time with him. I have prayed for God to touch and change him and restore the marriage (although I often wonder why- my experience as his wife was a nightmare!) for the sake of my kids and because no matter what I've read, I don't think God wants anyone divorced. He has been somewhat involved with the kids and has filed for a divorce - we're still in court. In all this time he hasn't honestly addressed the things he did to me in our marriage even though I have been open about my repentance for my part of the mess. I don't think he has changed, he has been in an open relationship with this OW - living together, parading her as his wife. Its going on 3 years now and I'm wondering, how long more do I have to wait before shutting the door on that marriage? I do not intend to stay celibate for the rest of my life but and still trust that God can and will give me a positive marital experience but..will it be with another man or this one? If with another man, how can I ever trust anyone else again? What will happen to my children? I wonder all the time. Just wanted to see what answers other Christian women in similar situations have and how they reached the point when they stopped praying for the restoration of their marriage. What are some practical steps to take going forward? Answers would be really appreciated.

REPLY (a bit all over the place, but …)

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for writing. I actually printed out your comment so I could read it again on my way home yesterday and think about it some more. There’s a phrase that jumped out at me, and I found myself underlining it: ‘… because no matter what I’ve read, I don’t think God wants anyone divorced.

I read that and thought: That’s a loaded statement.

I could spend a lot of time dissecting that singular statement, but that’s not why you wrote. So, I won’t.

Your main reason for writing, if I understood your comment correctly, was to hear from other Christian women in similar situations about practical steps for moving forward – i.e., for getting out of the rut of praying for the restoration of a marriage that you’re no longer sure is healthy for you and your children. I would like to invite others to share their own opinions and experiences.

First, though, I wanted to say that I can relate to the relief you felt initially when your separation began. It seems contradictory, but when a marriage that you value has also been a source of immense tension, relief is a natural emotion to have. Peace is such a priceless thing. I occasionally think about the fact that, before Jesus’ departure, of all the things He could’ve left with the disciples, He chose to leave them peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14: 27, NIV).

Plus, as you know, the Bible advises us to be anxious for nothing, but to let God know what our requests are instead … and then, once we’ve done that, we aren’t promised anything in that verse as a result of our prayers – except for an unfathomable peace (Philippians 4: 6-7).

And that short ‘sermon’ for the day is just my way of emphasizing that if, as you say, you’re living a more peaceful life right now, then you’re in a great place despite the other circumstances.

Your main question:

Just wanted to see what answers other Christian women in similar situations have and how they reached the point when they stopped praying for the restoration of their marriage. What are some practical steps to take going forward?

My initial thought is that there probably aren’t any clear-cut steps. The earlier posts on this blog (mainly from 2012) document how I, personally, came to a place where I felt like the restoration of my marriage was ‘out’ – not because I didn’t believe in miracles, but because I decided that this was not a miracle that I wanted anymore. I’ve talked repeatedly about how this was a gradual process, though – I definitely didn’t start out jaded. For years, I was hopeful, and had there been some miraculous turn of events years ago, then that would’ve been great at the time. Later on, however, my desires began to change.  Again, several years elapsed and several events occurred before this change began to happen.

I guess what I’m saying is that, from my experience, this is something that happens organically; it can’t be forced or nicely-organized into seven neat steps, for instance. And so, I’m giving you a boring answer: let the passage of time do the work and take you where it will. I don’t think there are ‘7 steps,’ after which you suddenly miraculously no longer feel like praying for restoration. I think you just pray and live until you don’t feel like restoration is what you want anymore – if it ever comes to that (and who knows? It may not. Your husband could turn around by some miracle; it has happened before). I sense from your comment that you’re still a bit conflicted about it all – glad you have some peace but also still sort of invested in the marriage and in the life of your estranged husband: what he’s doing with the OW, what she’s doing with him, etc. And that’s understandable. You should take as much time as you need to resolve those feelings. If you do eventually decide to move on, then you will one day come to a point where you’ll only be mildly interested (if at all) in what is going on with him.

In your case, though, it also depends on how things play out with your husband. You’ve indicated that he’s filed for divorce. I have to ask you a blunt question (pardon me): Once the divorce comes through, would you be devastated if he married the OW? If not, then there’s a possibility that you would no longer feel obligated to pray for restoration at that point. But if you would feel bad about it, then it goes back to the issue of continuing to live, one day at a time, until you wake up one day and are surprised by what the passage of time has done.

Your questions around the possibility of re-marriage – trust, your children, fear of the unknown – are very important ones and anyone in your position would ask them (I’ve asked similar questions myself here: They are important questions, but from your comment, I sense that they are not the most important ones for you to answer right now. Let tomorrow take care of itself; let the One who holds it worry about it. In the meantime, you’ve been given today. What are you going to do with it?

I hear you about the ‘lifelong’ celibacy issue ( ) and I do not doubt that you will eventually have a positive marital experience, if that’s what you want. In the meantime, the important question isn’t whether that experience will be with your estranged husband or not. The key question, in my mind, is: Who are you going to be when that time comes? Will you be the sort of woman who chooses a man that’s incapable of honoring her all over again? I am convinced that we can get what we want in life, and I will repeat that I believe a positive marital experience is something you can surely have. But remember, you will still be the one doing the choosing – whether it means choosing your current husband again or choosing someone else. And so, you have to be ready …

Now, I’m asking myself how a woman can know she’s ready. My answer is that a woman is probably ready to make a wise decision in regard to a life partner when she’s in a place where she really values her own company and her own individual life – when she can think a bit wistfully of several things she would have to give up if she allowed someone else into her life. I’m no expert, but to me, this is an indication that she has something going on for herself and isn’t seeing a relationship as the solution to all of her problems in life. This is the sort of woman that needs some serious convincing by a man that he’s worth her time in the first place and he has to put in some work to actually woo her away from her own individual life into a shared life with him. And rather than rush to leave her life behind, she should have to spend a least a little bit of time weighing what she would be losing by doing so, against what she would be gaining.

I’m sorry I haven’t offered any really practical steps, but I’m glad your message wasn’t just to me; it was to any Christian woman who’s been through something similar and has something to share. I’m hoping that any woman in this category that reads this post (or any woman that feels led) will share her thoughts and experiences, too.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you well, Anonymous. You and the children will be all right because you are not alone. There is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Peace be with you. 



  1. Hi RMJ,I don't have anything to add. You have said it all. I have been through it all and I totally agree with you on this "It seems contradictory, but when a marriage that you value has also been a source of immense tension, relief is a natural emotion to have. Peace is such a priceless thing".

    1. Hi, Nzilani - Thanks for the affirmation. This is such a delicate issue and I always worry about the dangers of generalizing from my own experience alone, so it's good to hear other voices out there. I hope other people write in to give Anonymous further direction. In the meantime, here's to peace!

  2. RMJ thank you for your thoughtful reply to this dear woman.

    I can't add anything, but I would like to share this note I wrote to a woman in a similar woman in 2009.

    To colored girls who have considered suicide (or murder) when marriage was not enough...
    December 29, 2009 at 6:39am by Ekene Onu

    Maybe he hurt you
    Maybe he left you
    Maybe he disappointed you
    Maybe he betrayed your trust
    Maybe he broke your heart
    Maybe he broke your spirit

    May be you left him
    May be you are still together
    May be you are confused about what path to take
    May be you are pressured into staying on one
    One thing is for sure, no matter how you find yourself, in or out you can still be happy.

    I got the saddest response to my note the other woman. From a woman who felt she lost her husband to one. It was filled with pain and bitterness. She felt victimized. She painted herself as less than and I know how that can feel when your self esteem is damaged.

    I want to give her a hug and say this...

    Perhaps you keep replaying the horrible things he said to you in your mind. Perhaps you look in the mirror and you no longer like what you see. Drown the noise out. Get a new soundtrack.

    Just forgive and let go. Move on. You are not a victim.

    Yes, he may have hurt your pride and shattered your heart, but you can still be happy. He was not courageous in leaving and your marriage was never a trap...He chose to walk out, ok, fine.

    Truth be told, the demise of your relationship was not caused by him or you alone. Maybe there were things you both could have done better, maybe you could have both become better, because no woman can take a man permanently who wasn't already looking for a way out. So yes, this realization probably hurts and things may suck right now, but this is not the defining moment of your life.

    This pain will pass, if you let it. What looks like an abandonment is actually a release. So you have downturned lips, get together with some girlfriends, have a glass of wine or two, put on some great music, allow yourself to cry it all out, then dance it all back, reclaim your sexy, reclaim your soul and open your eyes and live.

    I know the other women may seem a person to envy right now, but I assure you the picture is not as rosy as you think it is. And anyway who cares. You have a brand new life ahead of you. A chance to do it all over. How many people get that?

    You have your children, who no doubt are the most precious things in your life. Give them a kiss and hug and laugh with them. Shoot, if you can't call anyone, call me. Together we can cry and then dry our tears, we can pray and hear from God, then we can laugh and make merry, we can look at the life that is ahead of us, because I don't have any plans of dying and I will share with you the chapters that I have closed that were filled with pain and I will show you those that are not yet written that will be filled with joy. When something like this happens it is tempting to stay there but my darling turn the page. This is one chapter, it is not your whole story. Rewrite your poem.

    I was the wife, in a past life
    Now I look forward, now I look up
    I have dried my tears, I have quelled my fears
    I now know my worth, I know how to push forth.
    I gave birth to children, I will birth myself.
    Into a new place of healing and forgiveness, into a new place of possibilities and blessings.
    Today I am rocking joy and I refuse to wear shame.
    Today I will laugh
    Today I will live
    Today I will love
    Watch this space...
    because the best is yet to come.

    1. Good word, Ekene. Thank you for taking the time to share this. I know it'll bring comfort to many that read it, and I especially hope it does to the lady that left the comment.

  3. Words of wisdom, rmj; I think it is so important for every woman to be in a place where 'she has something going on for herself and isn’t seeing a relationship as the solution to all of her problems in life'. God bless you for your thoughtfulness.

    1. God bless you. Thanks for your comment.

    2. Make Jesus your everything and let his will be done.Trust Him,He has a good plan for your life,to prosper you and give you a hope and a future.All things work out for good for those that love the Lord.Look to Jesus,keep your eyes on Him only.He will heal you and give you what's best for you.God bless

    3. Thanks for your encouraging comment. I hope the lady I was writing to in this post gets to read it. Indeed, God heals.