My heart breaks for a marriage we know of. He did some things that were wrong. No one is justifying them. Least of all him. He has admitted his wrongdoing—to himself, to God, and to his wife. He has completely changed his ways and is seeking to grow as a man of God. But she got hurt and she locked her heart. She seized control of all major family decisions. She dictates who does what when and how.
My heart breaks for their innocent children. They are beautiful, smart, good children. Children who are scared to death. Mom’s anger often flares. She speaks of divorce. She thinks about herself, but not about them. It looks like she is positioning herself to make the break. She thinks she will be better off. She won’t. Her kids won’t either. The kids tiptoe around Mom to maintain an uneasy peace. They deserve better.
My heart breaks for this husband and for this wife. They could still have a solid marriage—an extraordinary marriage even. But first, there needs to be forgiveness. He tries his best to appease her, but when there is a refusal to forgive, every infraction of her rules is blown out of proportion. There is no chance to change for the better in the unforgiving spouse’s eyes. Because she holds on to hatred, she is unable to see the changes he’s already made. She is trapped too. And lack of forgiveness blocks the hope of reconciliation. It’s like trying to drive your car forward while looking exclusively in the rearview mirror.
Forgiveness is understandably hard.
My prayer for her is that she will remember the greatness and the mercy of God and how much He forgave her. (Matthew 18:21-35) I pray she will be willing to forgive her husband with God’s help. I pray God will give her compassion for her husband by allowing her to understand the situations in his life that brought him to the place of transgression in the first place. I pray she will have the courage to forgive—one by one—the ways her husband hurt her. It will not come quickly. She will need to be persistent. She may cry a lot of tears. But at the end of forgiveness would be freedom and union with both her husband and with God. They could start restoring the damage they’ve done to their children.
I also pray for the children. God desires a loving, nurturing environment for them to mature in. Instead, they know their lives could fall apart at any moment. They can’t just be kids because they may tick someone off. They live in fear. May God be their Comforter, and may he provide places of safety for them.
I grieve for them—but also for so many couples and families who are in their situation. If this is where you find yourself and are willing to consider trusting God and forgiving your spouse, we cover the topic of bitterness, resentment, and forgiveness in our book The Marriage Dance in the chapter on “Common Sins that Damage Marriages.” There is hope. There can be restoration. I have seen beautiful examples of that scenario as well.