There are two things that helped saved my marriage:
Poverty and Weakness
To be precise, it was the fear of living in poverty and a lack of strength to raise the kids on my own.
I’m glad that I didn’t leave my husband because I couldn’t handle being a poor single mom.
I’m glad that I did not leave my husband because mentally and emotionally, I was too weak to parent (well) on my own.
Could you imagine anyone making such assertions? Geez! I should have some dignity…but I figured I’d just go with the truth.
What’s ironic is that unfortunately, yet, fortunately, in my case these assertions are true. I’ll explain the sense of that statement in a moment.
At a low point in my marriage, I gave a lot of thought to leaving my husband. I had just had enough. I was seizing from pain and anguish, and when I realized that there was a Biblical prohibition against me leaving my husband, I choked hard on the truth of the Scripture. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a back door out of a seemingly bad & challenging marriage.
How shameful that as a Christian, I tried to devise a plan to escape. Where was my grit? My sense of stick-to-itiveness? I had no biblical grounds for divorce (or probably even for separation). My husband had not cheated on me; he did not abuse me physically, verbally or emotionally. And even without committing the aforementioned offenses, really, he was a good husband. But that didn’t change the fact that I was struggling and in a lot of pain: pain from dealing with the difficulty of blending a family, of having divergent views on discipline, of not knowing how to resolve conflict, and all the other everyday stuff that strangles marriages and causes them to take a nose dive. There was nothing new, just all the stuff that’s been dogging marriages since the beginning of time.
I thought “escaping” the pain by leaving him was my only source of relief, when really, leaving him would have been synonymous with jumping out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire. In these instances divorce solves nothing; and when kids are involved divorce leads to a whole host of other problems you could only begin to imagine.
Mind you, my husband never thought such things. He never thought: Well, the going is tough, so I’ll get going. He’s not a quitter. It’s not in his DNA and it’s not a part of his character. But unfortunately, it was certainly a part of mine.
I still remember sitting at my mother’s kitchen table, crying, trying to figure out how to get out of my predicament.
I thought about how I would have to take take our (then) four kids. I mean, that’s only logical, right? Moms don’t walk out on their kids – they leave with their kids, or perhaps they are being left with their kids. At any rate, it’s usually a momma with the kids.
But then I considered what my financial situation would be with life on one income. On my own with four young kids, I would most likely live in undesirable housing in an compromised neighborhood. Yes, I probably would have landed in my parent’s basement with the kids while I got my life sorted out, but how long could that last? Even though my husband and I didn’t have much, I knew that we could have more together. I like nice things, and I saw no fiscal light at the end of the tunnel for a single mom trying to raise 4 kids solo. Statics show that divorce is one of the leading causes of child poverty. I didn’t want me or my kids to be poor. If I left I would be too poor to stand life. Scratch that idea!
Next, I thought about how I would cope mentally and emotionally as a young mom with four young kids. I have to say, I was very sober minded when I pretty much reasoned that it would be too much for me to bear. I thought that I would be crushed under the emotional weight of carrying that load alone, and I remember feeling ashamed that I was too weak to take it on.
Some years later, I found myself in a character named Linda, the wife of the lead character in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. Linda was suffering from one of the same maladies as I was when I contemplated leaving my hubby (I wrote about that here). There comes a point in the movie when Linda leaves her husband (played by Will Smith) she tells him that she’s taking their son with her. When Will tells her that her son is not going anywhere, her questioning response is that a child’s supposed to be with their mother, “Right?” Will then tells Linda that she knows she can’t raise their son alone; she just won’t be able to handle it. She wrestles with the truth of his response and eventually concedes to leave their son with him.
Now that I’ve grown as a Christian and I understand more about the wonderful role of a husband, spiritually, physically and emotionally, I don’t feel the least bit bad about not feeling strong enough to leave my husband and raise my kids on my own. God didn’t create me to be alone. He created me to be a helper to my husband (Genesis 2:18). He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Conversely, it’s not good for me to be alone. My husband’s strength compliments my weakness, and my weakness compliments his strength. The beautiful thing is that I don’t have to be strong enough to do it on my own – I have a strong husband to lean upon. This is a truth that I could not see early in my marriage and that I could not learn from a book. It had to be lived out; learned from experience. I was never meant to bear the” burden” of parenting on my own!
Society cringes when thinking about how women stay in “bad” marriages due to an inability to make it on one income. But I see how something that looked like a negative actually served as a huge positive for my entire family in the future. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus! If I could have see a way out, I might have taken it.
“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.”
― J.E.B. Spredemann
Many years later, when I consider the factors that helped to deter me from leaving my husband, I feel so fortunate and I think I am the happiest woman alive! I am completely astounded and in disbelief of what God has done in our marriage. On some days, it’s sheer bliss! (And on other days, it’s quite normal.) 🙂 And to think, I almost threw it all away.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).
God, thank you for saving me – for saving me from myself.