Divorce is unique to each couple. This is my story.

 

This week I’m starting things off by sharing with you my divorce “story.” It took awhile to think through how I wanted to talk about my experience without sharing all of the sordid details.

What happens in a relationship cannot always be explained to others, especially if someone hasn't ever experienced abuse. Some people present really well out in the world, but in the confines of a select few relationships they turn into someone else completely. Those outside of the relationship have a hard time comprehending how bad things really are. This is a subject for another day though.

In this 23 minute video, I read a letter I wrote to my husband that captures the essence of what went on in our relationship. The letter quotes Leslie Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, my marriage vows, 1 John 4: 16 and 18, Psalm 103:11-12, Proverbs 31:12. 

My story is not the same as yours, but there’s hope and redemption enough for both of us. Sending you a big, big hug wherever you are. 


If you don’t want to watch the video, you can read the essence of it below:

The last time I was alone with my husband was after a fight where my heart stopped as he looked me in the eyes and said, “you are unworthy of deserving love and I’m withholding it until you can show that you deserve otherwise.” 

After that comment I finally understood that we were on completely different pages and had been for quite some time. 

Despite that comment, I still had hope that things could work… and so on one of my biggest birthday days, when life starts looking pretty dim if you’re single, I read this letter to my husband.  I would no longer be alone in a room with him based on some fights leading up to when he actually left our apartment so I read this letter with my in-laws and best friend present. People who had been with us since the beginning of our relationship and who wanted the best for each of us.

It’s a long letter, but it captures the essence of my experience. I got married when I was in my late 30s after resigning myself to the fact that I probably wouldn't get married. I had a few friends who were not married, but I had a ton of friends who were married. Getting married was a really big dream of mine. When I met my ex-husband, I thought, “Cool, I've arrived, I've made it. I get to be like everyone else.”

It was quickly apparent that my marriage was not normal. I was confused about why it was so hard and, and not as “fun” like I thought it would be. I know marriage requires work, but this was work on a whole other level and I didn't know or understand what sort of situation I was in. 

I read this letter to my husband on my 40th birthday. Even though one of my “nightmares” was to be single, divorced and 40 I had reached a breaking point where I could no longer go on in my marriage as it was.  

Get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in. The letter is pretty much exactly the same, but without his name or our pastors name.

THE LETTER

                                                                                                                        May 2, 2018

Dear [Husband],

Thank you for making time to listen to this letter and for letting me read it to you in front of others. There is a lot in here, so please sit with this before responding. Listen with an open heart and mind and please pay attention to the essence of what I’m saying not to an exact word.

Our marriage has had problems from the very beginning. I have contributed my own share of the problems. As you know, I have realized what my main hang-ups have been and are and have been openly and honestly working on them. It takes a long time to undo bad behaviors, but any forward progress needs encouragement and acknowledgment. I have shared with you all that I have been learning and recognizing in myself. It’s been hard and painful, but as I come out of my time of intense personal learning and growth I almost don’t recognize myself. It is freeing to experience life on the positive side of things versus the negative side of things. To learn the TRUTH and to recognize and identify lies.

In the midst of my personal growth, it seems like we are on different pages and even on different teams when it comes to this marriage. While marriage is indeed a challenge, I don’t believe it was meant to be painful, extremely difficult and hard. I read recently, “When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing, and working toward being a better spouse, you are a godly wife, but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage.”

You have made it abundantly clear that you have been and continue to withhold love from me until I can prove that I am deserving of it. Unfortunately, this is not what marriage is about. If Jesus had withheld love from all of us until we deserved it then we’d all be going straight to hell. He’d never have wasted his time coming down from heaven.

In our wedding ceremony our pastor said this:

“Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us a snapshot of what love looks like. Yet, oddly, he mentions only two things of what it is and then begins a string of things of what love isn’t. He writes:

“Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.

My guess is that Paul is wanting to write a list of what love is…yet is caught after just two that the love that can be shown to one another is much greater than any list…so he finds it much quicker to share what love is not.”

Two years ago we promised in front of our friends and family:

To have and to hold
From this day forward;
For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Till death us do part,
According to God’s holy law;
In the presence of God I make this vow.

I read recently that “Unfaithfulness in marriage doesn’t only occur in the sexual realm. It happens when there is a regular pattern of not caring, not providing, not protecting, and not honoring. Unfaithfulness is leaving the marriage relationship even when you haven’t physically left the home or even the marital bed.”

And that, “One of the blessings of a virtuous spouse is that you trust that he or she will do you good, not harm, all the days of your life (see Proverbs 31:12). There can be no freedom or honest communication when we feel afraid or have been threatened – physically, emotionally, or both – or if we have a price to pay whenever we honestly share our thoughts and feelings.”

It has become abundantly clear, especially since going through our marriage retreat, that I am not in the loving marriage I thought I was in. There are recent actions and decisions made on your part that have made it possible for me to see more clearly the true nature of your heart towards me and our marriage and it is very distressing.

I filled out a questionnaire recently and the below questions are the ones I had strong answers to. The answer options are Often, Sometimes, Seldom, Never.

5. My spouse threatens to leave me and take the children. [children n/a]

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

12. I don’t feel free to challenge my husband or disagree with him.

 Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

15. My spouse screams and curses at me.

 Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

16. When I tell my husband my deepest feelings, he laughs at me, ignores me, or uses them against me.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

17. My spouse disregards my needs.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

24. My spouse does not like it when I get positive attention or affirmation from other people – friends, family, church, work.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

27. My spouse refuses to listen to my point of view.

 Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

28. My spouse blows up when I ask questions about why he did something.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

38. My spouse ignores me for long periods of time.

 Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

39. My spouse refuses to engage or participate in everyday family life.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

41. My spouse tells me that he’s the one who is being mistreated by me.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never 

42. My spouse says the problems in our marriage are all my fault.

Often  Sometimes   Seldom  Never

44. There is a double standard around what’s acceptable behavior. He gives himself more leeway than he gives me.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

45. My spouse refuses to tell me how much money he earns.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

46. I have no voice regarding how our finances are saved or spent.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

47. I have no idea what my husband does with our money even though I’ve asked.

Often  Sometimes   Seldom  Never

49. My spouse omits information that keeps me from knowing the whole story about something.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

51. I feel crazy in my marriage.

 Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

52. I feel trapped in my marriage.

 Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

53. I don’t feel I can be myself in my marriage.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

54. I feel like a child in my marriage.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

56. I feel tense around my spouse.

Often  Sometimes   Seldom  Never

57. I feel angry around my spouse.

Often  Sometimes Seldom  Never

58. I feel afraid of my spouse.

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

61. I am using medications, excess food, and/or alcohol to cope with my marriage. 

Often  Sometimes  Seldom  Never

The questions from the quiz describe characteristics of an emotionally abusive relationship. There were 61 questions total and I’ve included the ones that I answered Often or Sometimes to. The author says that answering the last eleven questions (51-61) with Often and Sometimes, means your marriage is taking a toll on you and it’s important not to ignore what’s happening. Answering Often for more than five questions [to questions 1-50] means it is definitely destructive. I answered Often to all of the last eleven questions and Often to 10 and Sometimes to 4 of the remaining questions.

I was so grateful to find a resource that put into words what has been happening in our marriage from the very beginning. These behaviors are not what “to love and to cherish” are supposed to manifest as.

On our second date, the river boat cruise, you showed that you were observant, you were concerned about my needs (you got clean silverware for me when mine blew off the table), you picked me up and dropped me off when I could have easily driven myself (especially since you lived walking distance from the river boat) and you had taken the time to think of an interesting date. When I saw that you were left handed just like me, something deep, deep inside was like, “God, is this a joke????” I would never have thought that God would consider answering my childhood prayer to marry a left-handed man so I could have a left-handed family. From that moment on, with a few bumps here and there, I was really happy to have met someone with a similar family background, similar faith and morals, appreciation for alternative ways to earn a living, a sense of humor, willingness to make a meal in the kitchen, ability to be a good friend, interest in exercise, a dedicated hobby, and a generous spirit.

The times when you have treated me well, you have treated me well. I felt special. I felt loved. I hope that when you think of me you can say that I treated you well when I was treating you well. Freedom to pursue your interests, to travel when you wanted, willingness to stick with you through the initial and continued recovery of your addiction, forgiveness for transgressions, some really good laughs to name just a few.

I think marriage was a shock to both of us. It’s hard to learn that you’re selfish and then how one’s selfishness affects the other person and the marriage. It’s hard to accept the fact that behaviors that worked when you were eight years old are now completely outdated. Maybe that’s why so many people choose to live single lives. They don’t have to recognize their weaknesses and they don’t have to be other facing. I’m not sure. But, I do know that despite the fact that it’s been difficult to get stripped down to the core of my being and then to start the rebuilding process, if I press on, I know and firmly believe that I will experience many blessings and so much goodness all because I changed my brain and it’s mental inputs, I have reflected on and examined myself, coming to some hard conclusions on where I have been living in a non-loving way, and I have recognized my need for God on a daily basis.

Jesus Christ will change your life if you let him walk alongside you as the loving friend that he is. My heart and mind are not the same that they were when we were married. Through the challenges of the last two years I have learned so much and one of them is what it means to look to Him for my worth, both personal and professional, to learn what it means to TRUST in Him even if it means I can’t see what’s ahead. I’ve learned what idols are and how crippling it is to cling to them. I have learned what it means to love like Jesus and how hard, yet beautiful, that really is. I have also learned that God is LOVE. We so easily say that, yet do not fully grasp it. Anything that is not love, thoughts, actions, deeds, anything, is of the enemy. I’ve learned what it means to kill negative thoughts and how hard it is to do that. It’s easier to dwell on the negative than put things in perspective and see the positive. I’ve learned why I behave in certain ways and I’ve learned and am putting into a new practice how not to behave in those ways (very, very difficult).

The thing is, I can only change myself. I cannot change you. You have to take responsibility for your actions and your behaviors and the painful parts of our marriage that you have contributed to.

Given your most recent behavior and declarations about me and towards me, it seems best for us both to dissolve this marriage. Never in a million years would I have dreamt I’d say that. I sincerely believe that our marriage can be saved, but only if both of us are willing to look INWARD at ourselves, be willing to change our behavior towards the other and choose to love the other everyday. It doesn’t seem like you are willing to work on yourself as much as you think I should be working on myself though.

Whatever I am doing is not enough for you to love me. I have already confessed to you and repented of the behaviors I brought into our marriage. I know I am not perfect, but I have put a lot of effort into my end of the bargain. The end of my rope has been reached and I will not live in this marriage as it has been ever again. 

I will never spend another evening crying myself to sleep or crying as soon as I wake up. I will never stand and watch you go crazy while you yell at me. I will never tell another friend that Jonathan’s not here because we’re fighting. I will never be told that I need to ask permission first to share something I’m excited about. I will never be ill in a hotel room out of state and be denied the privilege of having my husband care for me. I will never feel unsafe again in my own home. I will never stop to wonder who I can share my thoughts and feelings with because my own husband will not listen to me. I will never have my thoughts, feelings and vulnerabilities used against me ever again. I will never have someone tell me to reign it in when I’m having fun and dreaming big. I will never have someone tell me they’re skeptical of me reaching my goals and dreams. I will never have someone tell me after a disastrous fight that “I was just trying to do the right thing” when the opposite of what was done would have been the right thing. I will never be with someone who has to dig deep just to hang out with me, who makes me wonder why I am unworthy of his love on a consistent basis. I will never tell a friend that marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done nor will I tell myself or others that marriage was the worst decision I’ve ever made. I will never again have my needs ignored or brushed aside. I will never again have my husband threaten to leave me or tell me he wants to be separated. I will never be embarrassed by my husband and his actions and I will never justify his behaviors ever again.

Again, I know marriage hasn’t been a walk in the park for you either.

In conclusion, God loves you, He loves me and He loves marriage. He does not love abuse.

First John says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4: 16 and 18

Right now, I am not fearful. I do not know what the future holds. The act of reading you this letter, the thoughts expressed in this letter and the day on which I am reading this letter should indicate to you that I am doing this not in fear of what you will say or do or what will happen to me as a result, but because I love you and I love myself. This might be the most loving thing I can do for you right now.

Whatever your thoughts or feelings are in response to what I have said, please sit with them for a time and while processing, turn to the One who loves you more than anyone else in the world. He knows you deeply. He knows everything. He knows your deepest shame, your deepest hurts, your deepest longings. Yet He deeply, deeply loves you. He created you. He wants the very best for you. You just need to want the best for you as well.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103: 11-12

If we end up parting ways, I want you to know that I love you and I wish you all the best. Maybe one day I’ll walk by a television screen and you’ll be on it and I’ll say to whomever I’m with, wow, I used to know that guy.

Anna



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