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How I Ruined My Marriage

How I Ruined My Marriage

One divorced woman’s cautionary tale
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My Christian marriage, which lasted almost 19 years, ended last year. Our separation and the year since the divorce have given me plenty of time to sit with my part in the demise of my marriage.

I, of course, also gave plenty of thought—obsessive amounts of thought—to my husband's role in our breakup, but as I am learning and relearning, there is always more than one side to each story. In fact, I believe there are three sides to every story . . . yours, mine, and God's (otherwise known as the truth). Then within each of those three sides, there's also my perception of each, your perception of each, and again, the truth.

I come to you, baring my soul and my faults in whispers. I am ashamed of myself and the ways I behaved during that union. And yet I come to warn you. My desire is to elevate the beauty of Christian marriage in our culture. So I come bearing the knowledge that only someone whose hard marriage ended has acquired. Please listen with an open heart, not necessarily to who I am and what I did wrong, but to see if you recognize yourself in the ways I related.

I yelled. A lot.

I looked out for "number one" and tried to protect her (me).

I was cruel and self-serving and critical with my words. Probably daily.

I looked out for "number one" and tried to protect her (me).

I didn't serve my then-husband enough.

I didn't build him up enough.

I didn't let him be who he wanted to be.

I cared much more about my living in perpetual pain than I did about the pain my then-husband was living in.

I didn't respect him. Let me take a moment with this one. I used to argue that once I felt he deserved respect, I'd begin to respect him. I now believe that there are two kinds of respect. There is earned respect and there is role-expected respect. For instance, I might not respect President Such-&-Such, but if he walked into the room, you'd better believe I'd stand and probably clap just because of his role. So if nothing else, I withheld role-expected respect.

I wanted the pain to stop, but I didn't want to have to do the hard work it would take to get us to the other side. (I did end up doing the huge amounts of hard work, but not until 15 years in.)

I prayed for him and I prayed for us, but I didn't do so enough. And when I prayed, the prayers said things like help me . . . change him . . . release me.

Harder to identify

Now things take a slightly different turn. With the above list, I was aware that I was messing up all the time. The list that follows are things that I didn't know how to do any differently until it was too late. These things used to not feel like things I was doing wrong.

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Displaying 1–3 of 14 comments

MONIQUE R Yamashita

April 18, 2014  6:53pm

Thank you for this thoughtful and humble article. After reading it I felt very convicted of my own responsibility in the destruction of my marriage that ended in divorce. For years I tried to blame my husband for the hurt, pain, & devastation. There's a catch, I'm a believer and he is not. I went into the marriage with this set up & it should never have fazed me that he wouldn't align himself to my belief system. I backslid so many times. I was a horrible example of Christ in our marriage, such a hypocrite in so many ways. There was infidelity on both sides but I was the first to sin this way. I've been divorced now 9 months and I'm the one who initiated the divorce. I was so moved & convicted by this article as it deeply convicted me of my selfishness and cowardliness. I have asked the Lord to forgive me but as important I wrote a letter to my ex-husband asking him for forgiveness. I take complete responsibility for the loss of my marriage-we are called to a higher standard

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March 11, 2014  1:35pm

I read the book about Respect mentioned in one of the posts above. Obviously, didn't help in that husband has substance abuse problems & after 31 yrs. marriage I see no change. He was an alcoholic for most of the marriage. He ended up in the hospital w/ pancreatitis several times. Doctors said he cannot drink anymore, so he changed "drugs." Unbelievable. I am standing my ground this time & told him to leave. I've enabled long enough. Prayed forever. No change.

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February 22, 2014  3:52pm

The passage is reminiscent in what I saw in my then-wife. Just short of our 20th anniversary, my wife filed for divorce. This was 3 years ago and it still hurts. This, after I was baptized and had confessed to an affair I had 15 years prior at a time we were previously separated (unrelated to any outside involvement). After thinking on it a couple of weeks, she decided she wanted out. No forgiveness. My wife had been a Christian since almost a year after we married. I later understood my role as a husband, as a Christ-centered husband, that was missing. We'd argue and fuss, but I could never articulate what I was feeling until I read "Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs" by Emerson Eggerichs. Then the "aha" moment clicked. But, by this point, it was too late. She had read "all" the marriage/relationship books. I admit to being rather dismissive to many of them when she presented them, but this book spoke to me. After becoming a Christian, I'd challenged her on some of these points (especially after reading both Power of a Praying Husband and Power of a Praying Wife), but now that divorce was in play, she had no interest in any kind of reconciliation or even acknowledging culpability in our demise as she specifically once stated that "It was my fault" for the marriage deteriorating, though she later tried to backtrack on the comment. I thought my getting baptized would bolster our union, not only for my own salvation, but a real commitment to each other with God at the head. As a result, things have come to light that whatever she was going through at the time, this event had put a wrench in her "interest" in someone else in her spiritual sphere. Though she recently called and apologized for some things that I shared in an email to her on New Years Eve, so I wouldn't come into this new year still strapped to baggage from the past year, since I never had any kind of closure, and laid out a lot of things she didn't know I felt or knew about. Obviously, there's more than this abbreviated piece I've laid out, but I still love my "wife" dearly and pray that God continues to work on her heart (and mine). Thanks again to the author for her openness.

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