Hope for Your Painful Marriage

The first step to healing is to be honest with the reality of your problems.

Here’s a sign of a marriage that has hope: they are honest about their pain. I can deal with the phone call from a relative or a friend who asks for an ear about a troubling time in their home. In fact, I have two stories to share, both a few years past.

First was a call from a dear friend as she was driving out of town. She had left her husband and children. She wasn’t planning on coming back. She was on her way to visit an old high school friend in another state. A guy.

Within 20 seconds of the phone call I saw where this was going.

It was a desperate call, but it was bluntly honest. How refreshing honesty is to hear, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am that she reached out to me. I was able to divert her drive to a long, tearful talk at a coffee shop. She poured out her pain and her frustration and her regret, and we worked through some fundamental issues with her marriage. It turned out okay in the end. She went back home. Today years later, her family is intact, the kids are happy, and the marriage is good. Not perfect (is anyone’s?), but not shattered.

Compare this to the second story of a different friend. No phone call, but a de-friend from FB, ignored emails, silence (she and her family lived out of state). Chris, a friend of her husband’s, called to inquire and found out that she left her husband and children for (you guessed it!) an old high school fling. Marriage shattered. The father carried on and is making the best of his family today (his children are absolutely beautiful people!), but no thanks to my friend. We never did reconnect, but I hear she’s full of stories of how “difficult” things were in her marriage.

Here’s the kicker: I never would have expected it before. Hers appeared to be a perfect family. She was lying to me for years. Though there were battles going on inside herself, she felt the urge to keep those battles secret, hidden from her friend, and replaced with a totally different presentation that was so far away from honesty. I felt the betrayal her husband and kids felt.

There are real problems with marriages. I get that. But the first step to healing is to be honest with the reality of those problems. Pull one of your close friends in and share the honest reality of your problems. If you are considering breaking the bond between you and your spouse without seeking help, you are continuing to be dishonest.

And another thing: pull in a friend who will be an advocate for marriage, not someone who will encourage you to “break free” and get a divorce. Of the two examples I gave, the first was much more honest than the second. She reached out to someone she knew would try to heal her marriage. I’m not sure why my second friend totally de-friended me (she was previously a close confidant of mine), but I suspect it was because she knew I would be an advocate for her marriage. She chose the affair. One a true and honest friendship; the other a continual dishonest walk in a lie. There is no freedom nor is there a future in the dishonest path.

If there is an inner battle going on with your marriage, pause. This is your life. Be honest, seek help, and start to heal. Feel free to forward this message to the friend who chose to confide in you.

About Wendy Jeub

Yes, Wendy Jeub has brought 16 children into the world, and loves each and every one of them. So much so, she'd welcome more!

  • Bethany

    Good post. But I don’t think you should blindly advocate for every single marriage. Number one, that’s wrong–some marriages will never heal and will lead to decades of more misery. Number two–if people know that you mind is made up before they even talk, they won’t reach out to you.

    They are trying to decide if their marriage is worth saving; they don’t want to talk to someone who has already decided before they know the facts.

    After all, some marriages involve physical or sexual abuse, which people are ashamed to talk about. Would they really want to discuss it with someone who is 100% certain all marriages should be saved?

    • Dellferkin

      Advocating for married people to stay married is something we should all do. Please dont pull out extreme worst case scenarios like sex abuse just to prove your point, it discounts your credibility. Wendy thinks couples should work through marital problems, so does God.

      • Katie

        There are some extreme cases where separation may be necessary, but then the couple is still safest and happiest if they do not remarry, and it leaves the door open so that if that broken person truly does change, they could come back.  I wish it wasn’t so but remarriage in that case is dangerous.  Many times they repeat the pattern and marry someone worse, and many times it triggers violent jealousy and can end in death.  I knew a woman once at church whose ex showed up on her doorstep and shot her to death because she was seeing a new man!  Most 2nd and 3rd marriages also end in divorce, and step-parents are much more likely to abuse children.  In fact, most girls who are abused are abused by a step-parent.  Statisically, a step-parent is the most dangerous person in teh world to a child.  Sadly, most step-parents in one survey said they do not even love their stepchildren.  Only 25% said they did.  God bless those who do, but in cases where the first marriage was a wreck seems a hard thing to find someone.  If I found myself without a spouse I would strongly hesitate remarriage just based on what I know to be true statistically.  I have seen a few marriages survive the unbelievable, but both people have to be willing to at least try.

      • Rose

        Well, what should your readers do if they are experiencing such extreme cases? Assume Chris and Wendy’s advice doesnt’ apply to them?

        Actually, it happens more often than you think, and it is sad that the Jeubs don’t even attempt an answer for them. And usually, it is just such people who are seeking divorce.

  • http://twitter.com/SmockityFrocks Connie

    Thank you for this post! I have just this type of friend. In fact I talked to her today for some encouragement along these lines. Not that I was on my way out the door, just needing encouragement to do what is Christ-like. She always gives me the kick in the booty I need.

  • BNB

    “I hear she’s full of stories of how “difficult” things were in her

    Maybe things were difficult, not “difficult.”

  • Rosemarie

    Why is your friend dishonest, just because she chose not to confide in you? You may not agree with her choice, but that doesn’t make her dishonest.

    Maybe she talked to other friends before she made her decision. Does she need to consult every friend she has before leaving, in order to be “honest”?

    Perhaps she suspected that you had already decided she should stay, even before you heard what she had to say.

    Perhaps she is happier now. Does that please you, or displease you? It almost seems as though you want her to be unhappy, because you don’t approve of her choice.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

      I think Wendy’s point is simple, not too difficult to understand, Rosemarie. Whether her friend was lying before or is happier now is a double bind: 
      (1) She was actually happy before, so her running off with her boyfriend is not justified. (2) She was lying about her happiness before, so how is running off with her boyfriend considered an honest trend?

      I don’t care if she’s happy or not. Neither does her husband or children. My goodness, Rosemarie, are you honestly defending her leaving her family? As long as happiness is the result, this is okay?

      Unless I’m misunderstanding you…

      • Katie

        It’s not hard at all to understand.  A close friend is like family, you trust and support each other.  You confide in another and you assume the other person would tell you and not put up a front if they were having problems.  To leave without saying why it’s like they left you too, and especially when you care about both people in a marriage and one of them defrauds the other, the friends feel betrayed too.  I could quote lots of other statistics, about the fact that even a friend of a friend can pass misery around.  My husband and I found ourselves in that situation.  We tried to be friends with both husband and wife during a divorce, and support them both.  But when the truth became evident of what was actually happening, we both felt really betrayed – not as betrayed as the husband of course – but still betrayed that we had been lied to about what was actually happening.  After all, we were there to help and we offered to listen and our time and advice.  It’s hard to see.  I’m babbling but all that to say, if you can’t at least be honest how can you have ANY real relationship??

      • Rosemarie

        Of course I am defending her decision. Do you know what went on in her family? Were you there behind closed doors? Or are you judging her without that knowledge?

        • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

          Okay, I think I understood you fine.
          You’re missing the point. No, Wendy DIDN’T know what was going on, that’s the problem. She was weaving a web of deception, and her fling with her new boyfriend didn’t solve anything. 

      • Timbes2

        ‘Happiness’ is a god of this world and it seems is becoming a god in the church, as well. I think it to be another form of selfishness when you’re willing to sacrifice everyone else’s well-being for your ‘happiness’.

  • Bea76

    I think couples should explore staying together when they still have some love and respect for each other but I realize that, sadly, it isn’t always realistic.  I had a friend who was wishy washy about leaving her husband (this went on for months!) and I listened to her but never gave an opinion.  One day I happened to be talking to her husband and I was floored by the things he said about her (I knew her story so now I was hearing his) and the amount of disrespect he had for her and how often he kept putting her down.  After she finally decided to leave him I told her I 100% supported her decision because her husband had absolutely and utterly no respect for her and that can not be salvaged.

    On the complete opposite end of the spectrum I had a very good friend who I had lunch with on a Friday and come to find out on Monday she left the state.  For about a month no one had any idea what was wrong and we were all extremely worried.  Turns out she and her husband of 35 years were finalizing their divorce (she told no one) and the realization hit her and she couldn’t face any of us.  She and her husband were the model couple and she knew that if they announced the divorce everyone would be telling her to stay together given that they had been married 35 years.  Once I finally got in contact with her, after a few phone calls she told me that the last 5 years had been horrible and he was an absolute different person after coming home from Iraq.  When I told our group of friends why she left they all said “Oh but they have been married so long and he absolutely adores her” and as soon as I told them that she had said he came back from Iraq a different person and counseling didn’t help not a single person ever said another word.  She came back to Colorado 8 months later and as far as I know not a single friend has brought up the subject of her divorce because we all know how bad Iraq was for those first waves of soldiers and most likely the core of her husband did change. 

  • Mrs. P

    Doesn’t the Bible say that God hates divorce?  My sister married a good, hard working man, but he wasn’t too involved with their 4 sons, and it displeased her, so she divorced him. He had also cheated on her with another woman; he confessed everything and begged her forgiveness, but she had made up her mind that it was over, and divorced him, anyway, even though he desperately begged her to stay, with such weeping over her.
    She married another man who has 7 out of wedlock children, and was selling narcotics to supplement his income. My heart cries for my nephews, because their father loves them, and a beautiful family was destroyed by Satan once again. Our Lord Jesus told us to forgive one another.  That goes for marriage, too.

    • Cassie

      If the husband is breaking the Commandments, it is not a beautiful family. Of course, this adulterer is going to beg for forgiveness when threatened with consequences for his actions. 

    • Wendy Jeub

       Sadly things don’t always ‘get better’. Divorce hurts so many.

  • Salamander99

    With my own set of acquaintances, when  a person leaves a marriage to “be happy” with another person, the “happiness” usually fades within a few years.  People are either happy or they are not happy–but very rarely does a drastic change in circumstances produce lasting happiness.  That’s not to say it doesn’t happen–the abused wife, etc will most likely be much happier without her abuser as a spouse.  But so many women I know run away from their families, abandon their children/husbands because they don’t think they are “in love” any more or some other man is paying them attention.  And it lasts for a couple of years (and a couple of kids later) and then they move on to the next “greener” grass –destroying yet another family.  It is so heartbreaking and I’ve on numerous occasions tried to talk them out of it but to no avail.

    • Janie

      It’s not just women who abandon their families. Men do, also.

      Actually, statistics show that 75% of second marriages are successful and happy.

  • Guest

    My husband is that second “friend.” He told me everything was fine (I’d been asking cause it seemed not fine). He came to church with our family every week and didn’t let on to anyone there or in our (joint) “circle” what he was thinking, feeling, or planning. Until March 4, when he left. He refuses now to speak with our Pastor, and of our friends, or anyone from church; he barely speaks to me.

    • Guest

      should say “to our friend, or anyone from church;”

    • Wendy Jeub

       How heartbreaking. I’m sorry it went that way.

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  • diana

    It is never OK to cheat on your spouse. Out of respect for the person who gave you their heart, love and Life. Out of Respect for your home and children. And most of all For your self and the God you serve. 

    All marriages go through very hard moments, ALL. But you put mileage with God, you should make it out of Hell more than ok  and stronger than when you went in. I can’t speak for my husband but I haven’t in 15 yrs of marriage I haven’t cheated.  I want to hold my head high when my name is called. I feel so bad for the children, they are the ones who suffer the most. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/arden.sleadd Arden Sleadd

    I have also had friends like these. I feel so betrayed when they leave their husbands without the slightest inkling ahead of time that anything is wrong, and I feel guilty that I must not have been a very good friend or they would have confided in me. But then I realized that I don’t go around talking about the hard times in my marriage either, because that is to betray my husband’s confidence. It’s gossip, and rarely respectful towards him. I work it out in the privacy of my home. So these friends who keep mum are often trying to work things out like they should. If they still avoid you, it’s usually because they have made up their minds and don’t want biblical counsel or the pain of having to explain it all to you. Of course, they are completely unjustified to be running into the arms of another. I have also observed that when they are bent on leaving, they will often rewrite history and make it sound like things were worse than they really were. The capacity for self-deception is unbounded. Depression and mental instability can play a big part in the woman’s inability to control her tongue. Of all the marriages that were on the rocks in my personal circles, only one has healed and improved; the marriage and the husband always was good, it was the woman’s depression issues that threatened it. No wonder God hates divorce.