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,