An Open Letter to the Spouse Who Wants Out: I Know How You Feel

When there is a spouse who wants out, it usually starts with a phone call. Maybe an e-mail. 

And this is the part where I feel my gut clench; I find my fingers covering my lips. No matter how many times I’ve received the news of a spouse who wants out, I’m stunned for a bit. Broken.

The communication is typically from the husband or wife desperate for the marriage to work. He, or she, is pleading with me,

“Please call. Please, please meet with. Please email something — anything — to my spouse. Please do whatever you can to talk them out of leaving, or worse yet, divorce.”

Some of my most challenging, gut-rending work — though it’s why I do what I do! — is when one spouse who wants out is completely done with their marriage.

I’ve written previously describing what to do when your spouse wants out. But now I want to speak to the spouse that actually wants out.

To the spouse who wants out …

I realize you don’t know me.

Still — I feel compelled to tell you that I understand.

I should acknowledge I don’t know the details. You might have understandable reasons to be mentally composing your packing list. All those pieces coming together — the texts, the absences — on an affair. Or that “History” list on the internet peeling back that revolting addiction. You might be just dog-tired by the yelling, the name-calling, the dread when your spouse walks in the room. Maybe you can’t stomach one more bender. Perhaps you’ve been pleading for attention for so…long…you just want to be noticed, loved. Cared for by anyone. You’re just a spouse who wants out.

Whatever the case might be — I do get it.

My anger drove a wedge so far between my wife and [me], when she thought of kissing me, she wanted to vomit. (You can bet she told me.)

When I found out about my wife’s affair, I was done. I didn’t want anything to do with her.

When my wife uncovered my struggle with pornography, we didn’t talk for days. She didn’t know how she could continue to be married to a “sicko” like me.

If I’m completely honest, even some of our small arguments repeated over a period of years sometimes (embarrassingly, now) produces thoughts of not particularly enjoying being married.

But do not miss this, because it might be the last thing you expected to hear: God understands.

He’s been through what you’ve been through. Believe it or not, He lives it every day.

He understands what it feels like to be ignored and rejected. He understands that jealousy for attention, He knows people screaming, even hurling insults His direction. He even understands what it feels like to be cheated on, because He’s experienced the pain, loss, and sheer anger when someone he loves turns away — even in hostility. He understands what it’s like to slog through an ongoing, aching relationship and He gets what it takes to commit to an unhappy relationship. (If you need proof, make sure you check out the books of Hosea, Jeremiah, and Hebrews 4:15).

More than that, God cares. And it compels him to comfort you in your pain. His deep compassion motivates Him to extend strength to your throbbing soul. But He doesn’t just leave you there. He wants to wrap you in wisdom and direction during this baffling time (2 Corinthians 1:3).

See, God wants things to be different.

Remember when you and your mate first met? That first date? Those first months of dating, then marriage? Remember what originally magnetized you to your spouse?

I’d guess you didn’t marry your spouse with the intent of leaving. At one point, you had dreams for your marriage.

But somewhere, somehow, something went wrong. Horribly wrong. Maybe not all at once, but your relationship changed. Deep down, even now, you wish things could be different.

God longs for the same thing. He has the ability to make what went unbearably wrong in your marriage right.

God is in the business of raising dead things, including your marriage.

Truth: Reconciling a marriage is hard. Divorce and re-marriage are harder. Part of the reason you’re a spouse who wants out is [that] you believe there is someone or something better out there for you. You might be right.

But statistically, I wouldn’t put my money on it.

I know what you’re going through is very emotional. Most facts will fail to resonate or seem to apply to you right now. But let’s get honest about the odds: 45 [percent] of first marriages fail, 65 [percent] of 2nd marriages fail, and a whopping 73 [percent] of 3rd marriages fail.

I know you’re willing to roll the dice on these stats. But as hard as reconciling your current marriage will be, the alternative will very likely be harder.

There. Is. Hope.

From the beginning of time, God has continued to pour out everything he’s got to restoring what’s been broken. When everything seems hopeless, He pulls out all the stops to bring hope. When things are dead, He exhales life.

My wife and I didn’t think our marriage had a chance. I had reconciled to the fact that someone else was going to be a dad to my daughter. And again, my wife wanted to retch at the thought of being intimate with me. It was completely dead by any standards.

Well. Except His.

But God did this — he totally restored our marriage, and made it stronger than ever.

I would have never dreamed this was possible.

Do not underestimate what God might want to do in your relationship. I don’t know what God has in store for your marriage, but let it be said of you that you gave it everything you’ve got to the reconciliation process.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18

Don’t leave anything on the table. Zero regrets. The stakes are too high.

Your marriage will not be restored overnight. But you can take a step in the direction of restoration today.

So to the spouse who wants out

Allow me to suggest that your first step is not an action towards your spouse, but rather an expression of faith towards God: HE can restore your marriage into something you never thought possible.

I’m praying for you…and your marriage.

Hans Molegraaf
Hans and Star Molegraaf have a powerful testimony of God's ability to revive a dead marriage. They served with FamilyLife for four years and now provide resources, events, and counseling to married couples through their own marriage ministry, Marriage Revolution. They and their six children live near Houston, Texas. You can find the Molegraafs at their Marriage Revolution blog, counseling site, Facebook, or Twitter.

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