While married, like many Christian women, I bought into the idea that if I prayed hard enough and did all the right things, that my husband would have a miraculous change of “heart”, repent of all his wrongdoings, and our marriage would be restored to God’s purpose for Christian marriages. During that time, I signed up for all the “save your marriage” emails from many marriage restoration experts. And I even bought the book called something like How to save your marriage in 20 easy steps all by yourself.
But none of that worked!!
I fell for the deceptive marketing that marriage restoration was possible after several affairs and no real repentance… if I just followed their advice. God does perform miracles. But not in every single situation. And certainly not when we’re willing Him to do exactly what we want. His will be done… not ours.
Internet advice about saving your marriage.
While writing this article, I Googled marriage restoration miracles and I got back 1.7 million results. After scrolling through the first page I realized most of those results were selling something – the results were pages of testimonials from these websites selling their success stories.
Then, towards the bottom, I saw the website (RMM) that sold me the biggest lie that I so wanted to believe. They said I was praying wrong, communicating wrong, and needed to keep enduring abuse, neglect, and cruelty because that is what God would want. So, I listened.
It took me a very long time to realize their advice was to just be a doormat to whatever he said or did, without standing up for my rights as a human being! Turn the other cheek meant to take the abuse and then kindly offer the other cheek for more abuse. I was a martyr taking the pain and continued hurt to save just one more Christian marriage, or family, from divorce.
Are all reconciliation websites bad?
No, I’m sure not. I know a few marriage websites that are doing what they can to keep marriages emotionally healthy, while also speaking up against abuse – they tell you to not stay in cases of abuse or adultery (which is just another sign of abuse). There are also stories of saved marriages when the cheating husband was not abusive (not using his wife for selfish gain) and chose to repent – rather than being caught.
But you have to know what the motive of each website is before you proceed. Is it really to help save marriages that need saving? Or are they trying to force women back into abusive and adulterous marriages – where the adulterer has no reason to stop either wrong behavior?
And many times a mild abuser (I know, is there really such a thing?) will demand more power and control when he realizes he can get away with abusing his wife. I’m sure this was the case in my marriage, as I allowed myself to be used and abused, actually, welcomed it.
But in the end, my marriage ended in divorce! And now I encouraged abused women to leave and find safety – even from adulterers.
A toxic dance that leads to abuse.
I believe this is where the abuse really escalated. After the first affair, he was sneaking to still speak with his affair partner, when our pastor, my counselor, and even his boss who had just fired him for the inappropriate relationship, told him to stay away and focus on his family. His focus was NOT his family… it was himself and his feelings for someone else.
My pastor was telling me that this was an addiction problem and that I should be more understanding of this fact – which caused me to be even more of a doormat. I felt at that point I needed to ask my husband to pick me and our family over here. That cycle continued for the next 10+ years.
I know this is the story of many women that I speak to. Someone, whether it was the author of a book, their pastor, or family, told them to just wait for him to change. But oftentimes, they do not change… they just continue the same pattern.
Miracle results are not typical!
Do you believe all the ads you see on TV claiming to be a miracle product? No, we’ve learned to be skeptical even with testimonials showing transformations. This should also be how we look at marriage restoration websites offering every person who lands there a miracle – their marriage saved, buy now! And after that, you’ll… live happily ever after!
The questions we need to be asking are: If marriages are being saved, is the marriage healthier after? Are these marriages worth being saved in the first place? Can God change a narcissist who doesn’t see themselves as the problem? Are the people in the marriage thriving or just staying married so they don’t have to face a divorce? Are we saving toxic marriages?
God can save a marriage but the point is, will He save all marriages? Probably not! And it’s not about a wife’s ability to save the marriage and change the husband. It’s about everyone in the marriage getting emotionally healthy (instead of being toxic). Each person has to decide, for themself, that they’re going to do the work on themselves – for the right reasons.
I tell my coaching clients if you’re going to stay married, and that’s your choice to do so, then make sure you’re becoming emotionally healthy and not easily swayed by your husband’s words, choices, or behaviors. But if his toxicity affects you and causes you to be a passive or passive-aggressive participant, or you feel you will always be miserable in this toxic marriage, then it’s best to separate and divorce. I don’t believe God intended marriage to be hell on earth!
When is it hopeless?
Some marriage experts say never, but that’s not true! It’s for you to decide when things are hopeless for any change. No one can tell you when you’ve had enough and it’s time to separate and/or divorce. When time and discussions with God show you that things are never going to change, that you just can’t stay healthy living with this man, no matter how much work you do on yourself, then you have a right to make that decision.
What should I look for if he wants to come back?
Look for true repentance, not just someone who says they’re sorry for what they’ve done (or what they caught doing). Repentance is actions not just words. Repentant people will confess before they’re caught and they really are willing to do anything and everything, for any length of time, to make it up to the people they hurt. But they’ll also make a 180˚ change in their life – in order to be repentant before God.
They also fully understand the consequences of their actions and there are many. This means that he’s working on his own character (his integrity, his walk with God, etc.) rather than checking off boxes to control the entire situation. He wouldn’t be expecting your trust after a very short period of time or expecting you to just forget everything he’s done. He would know that this is a huge deal and you may not be able to trust him again – ever!
And most importantly, he won’t be trying to control the entire situation as an abuser would. A repentant person will surrender their own will, for that which is God’s plan – meaning with or without their marriage. He knows he’s ruined his character and it’s his job to correct that and prove his true character to others (over a long period of time).
He won’t expect anyone to cover the truth with lies to protect his reputation with others. He would know that this is his story and could be used in the Kingdom for God’s purpose – to help others.
People or marriage?
As I often share on this blog, in my books, and on YouTube, I believe God cares more about the lives of people than He does any marriage. A marriage is supposed to enrich your life not ruin it. If you are hoping for a miracle that changes your husband into something that he’s not nor ever been, we’re here to walk with you to a thriving life.
Did you or do you still believe all marriages can be saved? How have you come to a better understanding of what God wills for your life?
May God bless your healing journey,
Do I believe all marriages can be saved? Yes, if it is God’s will. When I was first going through my divorce I was very hooked into RMM. But then I realized the guilt trip is wa putting me on. I believe in the covenant of marriage and more than anything I wanted to save my marriage. But I couldn’t do it on my own and my ex-husband was so awful that I believe God ended my marriage in divorce to save me! He revealed the affair before it even started to save me! I don’t owe my ex anything. I can stand before God with a clean heart because I know I confessed my part and moved on. I don’t believe God wants you wasting time on a person who can’t/won’t change and I am almost certain God does not want you suffering abuse! Furthermore if you were outside of God’s will, He has His way of bringing you back. The story of marriage reconciliation with RMM was great. I believe it definitely was God but that does not mean that story is for everyone. My life today is 1000% times better if I just spent my time waiting on my ex. I did believe at what time God was going to send him back and I told God that if it was His will in obedience I’d take him back but I truthfully didn’t want him back.
Jen Grice says
Thank you for sharing what you believe. It’s good to have that established and what you will and will not accept in the future. I believe God cares more about saving the people (His beloved children) in the marriage than he does saving a covenant (a promise).
Thanks Jen…that was a great article. I’m going to save it to read over and over. I like what you said about marriage isn’t supposed to be hell on earth. I lost my way staying in a marriage with a man with a porn addiction. He brought it in the marriage and 21 yrs later I asked him to leave and the addiction was still fully in tacked. He said all the right things about wanting to change. We went to many counselors and marriage conferences but still the addiction and lust for other women continued. My issue with some people in the church is they say porn is not adultery and unless u have lived the life I lived how can they say that! My ex was contunually thinking of other women in a sexual way. I love God with all my heart and I bought into all those lies that I needed to pray and keep praying. I believe I did everything possible. I am now 6 months into a separation. It’s hard, my emotion were so wonky but I am starting to settle down. I never had a chance in my marriage. I am 57 and my plan is to remain single the rest of my life. I want to devote myself to God. I truly feel that part of my life is over. I’m not waiting for the man to ride in on a horse and save me. My days are spent with only one man! The creator of the universe!
Jen Grice says
I often say… “Adultery happens in the heart way before it happens in the bedroom.” This also applies to those who say emotional affairs or dating while married is not adultery. And habitual porn use too. A man’s heart is divided when you feels the need to digest pornography (or any other addiction) just to get through the day or week. God should fill the hole and a spouse should be the icing on the cake – he shouldn’t need for anything else. I’m sorry that happened to you. But glad you’re here and finding encouragement in your healing journey.
Thank you Jen for your reply. Your words are so true… “Adultery happens in the heart way before it happens in the bedroom.” Because he brought the addiction into the marriage that is why I never felt I had a chance to be his wife. I was always compared to the beautiful women in his fantasy and I never measured up. His heart was divided… that is so true! His fantasy women were never disappointed with him. There was never any work involved on his part. It was always about him and his needs. He finally let the addiction destroy our marriage. So sad…I never wanted it to end this way. After 21 yrs I finally lost hope and I was tired of shouldering the facade. But Praise God! I never turned away from Him. My heavenly Father helped me many times. I’ve never blamed Him. My ex chose his path and now my path is restoration and healing…forgiving myself and him and not being bitter. Ending my life being the best version of how God created me to be.
Jennifer Y. says
Excellent article, Jen! Packed with truth!
Here are some things I’ve learned in my journey out of my destructive marriage:
1. If there has been adultery, the covenant of marriage has been destroyed. If it’s been destroyed, you don’t have a marriage to save!
2. God took this so seriously that the adulterer was to be publicly executed (destroyed)! He never suggests patching things up!
3. The book “How to Save Your Marriage Alone” is POISON!
4. Serial adulterers commit adultery because THEY LOVE IT!!!! And they don’t love you!!!!
5. It’s NOT healthy to stay together for this children’s sake!
6. A careful look at scripture shows that divorce is God’s mercy in that it releases someone from being yoked with an evil person! Thank Him!
7. Divorce SHOULD BE in our vocabulary and the church should have a plan in place in the event that they need to step in and make a way for women and children to get safe, get support and a fresh new start!
8. True repentance takes a LONG time to show! Separation and NO SEX for a year to see what the man is going to do, would be a healthy plan. But it’s not likely that he will use this time wisely.
9. It’s not an addiction. The Bible calls it a sin and the lust of the flesh. As children of God we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh and walk in the spirit!
Jen Grice says
Thanks for sharing this great list of what you’ve learned! God bless!