A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A Critique Forum on the Article “In a Difficult Marriage?” | at “Kyria” by Elisabeth K. Corcoran

The following link is to an article I just read online entitled “In a Difficult Marriage?”  The author, Elisabeth Corcoran, does not provide details of why her marriage was difficult, so we are at somewhat of a disadvantage in evaluating the advice she gives in this article.  However, as I read through it, I was struck with the fact that if what she is writing as advice were taken to heart by an abuse victim, real damage and trouble could result.  That is my take on it anyway.

I provide the first few paragraphs to the article here and then you can just click on the link to read the rest.  I would be very, very interested in hearing your evaluations of Corcoran’s advice and I think that perhaps in posting these comments we can do some good for victims who are no doubt coming across the same kinds of counsel.  And if I am wrong and you think Corcoran’s advice is good, well, say so.  And there are some things here that are good, so we should point them out as well:

This may seem ironic or even hypocritical: I am a divorcing woman, giving advice on how to stay married. After many years of work, my marriage has come to an end. But let me point out two things. One, I stayed married for quite a long time, and two, I believe 100 percent in marriage. I am pro-marriage and always will be.

So here are some things you can do if you find yourself in a marriage that feels more difficult than the norm. These are the things I tried over the years to hold on as long as I did.

I’m writing this to the people I have met over the years who have told me that they are in a hard marriage and don’t know if they can keep going one more day. And trust me, I have met way too many people in that situation who are followers of Jesus married to followers of Jesus. Being a Christian does not exempt you from marital problems; in fact, the downside is, we tend to keep it to ourselves and suffer in silence much longer than the rest of the world.

Prayer. I have counted on prayer to get me through. I have begged God to work in my life and marriage more than I’ve prayed for anything else. I have sobbed my way through prayers on my bathroom floor. To be honest, though, I have also prayed more than I’d like to admit that God would release me. I wanted out of my marriage for as long as I can remember, and I was honest with God about it. But I also prayed for my spouse … on my knees … begging God to heal. I stayed through a steady stream of conversations and pleas and whispers to God.

The Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit could have done the work in me that he’s done so far. I have so, so far to go, but he burned raging out of me. I still yell sometimes, I’m sad to say. I still have anger issues. But the Holy Spirit worked in me to help me hold my tongue more than I have given myself credit for. I stayed through having the Spirit of God living in me keeping me there when I didn’t want to be there.

In a Difficult Marriage?

15 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This is difficult. It sounds like she was at least mentally/emotionally tortured after their arguments, but she does not really admit to abuse or discuss it. If she divorced, just because they had disagreements that left her feeling helpless, then I am not certain that is Biblical, but she is somewhat vague in this area. At one point, she talks about “sins” and that God allows divorce for certain “sins”, which made me wonder if perhaps her husband had been unfaithful to her by committing adultery, but she chose to stay. Maybe her “friends” were either telling her to forgive him and go on, or telling her she was free to leave him, and either way, she is saying she has put in her “dues” to the marriage. Don’t know, but her not being specific, leaves so much room for guessing (as I am doing above!) that it is impossible to actually figure out whether the advice is good or not. I would say this is dangerous to do; just to generalize a situation and then give advice about how to stay in a marriage. People who are really looking to do what is right in God’s eyes, or who really want to please the Lord, are going to read this and say, “Okay, I can do this”, when perhaps God is trying to tell them to get away for their own safety and protection. This is a hard one, but I would say that this kind of vague and blanketed advice should be disregarded, without a clearer explanation of what happened in her marriage. Just my thoughts.

  2. This IS a hard one, because none of us know what went on in Elizabeth’s house. While most of your blog readers are really sensitive to abusive situations, it may be possible that what Elizabeth’s husband struggled with was pornography. He might have been kind, gentle, generous, etc. but had an addiction. Perhaps the addiction progressed and he had an affair …. literally, God only knows. And please hear, I am in no way minimizing the pain caused by pornography …I am not a fan of “The Power of a Praying Wife” but Elizabeth has certainly read enough books to write one! Yes, if a woman in an abusive situation read
    her blog, she might feel guilty about considering leaving if she had not tried “everything” but on the whole, I appreciate what Elizabeth has written.

  3. joepote01

    Hmmm….

    Like Anon & Morven said, above, Elizabeth is vague enough to make a critique difficult.

    I will say that I commend her strength and her faith. I’ve lived a path similar enough to understand the difficulty involved.

    A few phrases stood out to me:

    “I stayed by reminding myself that the staying-married crown would be the most treasured crown I would have to lay at Christ’s feet”

    I’m not sure what to make of this statement. It sounds a lot like legalistic belief that the suffering and hanging on are of benefit in and of themselves. Sacrificial love lived out through faith certainly is godly. Just hanging on and refusing to divorce no matter what…??? Not so much…

    “I believe all marriages can be saved”

    Although I think I understand what Elizabeth is getting at, I can’t say that I agree with her in this statement. Yes, if both partners choose to whole-heartedly commit to each other, to the relationship, and especially to God…if they seek wise counsel and work thru issues, yes, no marriage is beyong hope if that is the case.

    However, if one partner refuses to invest…or worse is outright abusive, trampling the marriage vows unrepentantly… No, there is nothing the innocent partner can do, in that case, to save the marriage. So, the statement “all marriages can be saved” is misleading, at best, and downright cruel to someone living in an abusive relationship with an unrepentant spouse.

    Just some of my thoughts as I read the post…

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, Joe. I appreciate the points of the first two comments, but I suppose my main concern was with the two statements that you comment on. Maybe the main lesson to learn from this article is that a victim needs to take care in applying the conclusions of someone else without having sufficient data provided. And certainly the unqualified idea that every marriage can be saved is one to not lay upon one’s own shoulders. Reality is that not every marriage can be saved, particularly one in which a classic abuser is operating.

  4. KayE

    There is a real difference between a “difficult” marriage where maybe one partner has addiction or mental health issues; and an abusive marriage where the dynamic is abuse of power and control. Elisabeth Corcoran doesn’t give specifics about her situation but she does make statements that make me wonder if her marriage might have been in the first category.
    Firstly, she says she has felt ‘fierce love’ from friends who she could trust and confide in, who listened to her and supported her. In contrast, an abused woman often has no support at all from friends because the abuser has prevented her from seeing them, driven them away, or recruited them to his campaign of power over her.
    Next, the fact that she has found couples counseling helpful to her marriage strongly suggests that power and control was not the main issue. She says ‘There is something to be said about an objective third party looking at a situation and being able to tell both individuals what needs to be tweaked to move forward.’ In an abusive marriage, this just won’t happen because the abuser does not accept he has any problem at all. Abusers use couples counseling to cause more harm to their victims.
    Then she says, ‘Reminding myself that marriage is not forever, just another 50 years, and I could do anything for 50 years’ and ‘I stayed by reminding myself that life is short compared to eternity.’ This thinking doesn’t reflect reality for abused women who are often and realistically in fear for their lives.
    Finally, perhaps her most telling statement is, ‘I could have left, really, at any point. There was no gun to my head.’ This statement is the strongest evidence of all for the absence of power and control in her marriage. For abused women, leaving is really difficult.
    I believe her advice could be helpful to people in a similar situation to her own, who do seem to be her intended audience. But it won’t help victims in marriages where the issue is abusive power and control. The problem is that the phenomenon of abuse is almost completely ignored by the Christian church, and victims are left to make do with advice that just doesn’t work for them.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Kay. Your analysis and observations are well-taken. And you sum up the lesson very well.

  5. Anonymous

    As long as we are talking here about “every marriage can be saved”, I have something I would like your thoughts on. I listened to a talk today about a couple who had both been divorced and then married each other. They were both Christians in their first marriages and were both married to Christians. Now, here is my point. The first marriage, for the husband, ended because the wife was unhappy with him and didn’t like the life they were living. The first marriage, for the wife, ended after her husband (a deacon) had an adulterous affair and did not wish for the marriage to continue and sought a divorce.

    Now, back to the husband’s first marriage. So, after this talk, I asked him the question “what constitutes immorality, in Matthew 19:9”? I was told “only adultery”. He went onto say that the only reasons for Biblical divorce are adultery and desertion (ie leaving). (I agree, but would say that abuse is desertion.) He also stated that sexual abuse in the marriage bed is not cause for divorce, but should be brought to the elders’ attention, so they can help the Christian husband see his “faults”. So, imagine my confusion as to why he was divorced and thought it was okay, when there was no adultery or leaving or abuse. There was no adultery, and even though his first wife did not wish to remain in the marriage, HE very willingly, by his own admission, moved her out, without a fight, and even signed the divorce papers when presented with them, and did not refuse to sign them or fight for his marriage. She was a Christian. I wonder if anyone else is left confused, being told the only reason for divorce is adultery or leaving, and then told by a minister, that he is divorced because his wife did not like him that much, but he was willing to give her the divorce. Is it just me? Am I not seeing something here? I am actually quite tired of hearing how all these ministers are divorced for their “own biblical reasons”, but refuse to allow someone in a much worse case than their own, even separate from their spouse. I do not hear them say, “I made a horribly sinful mistake by divorcing my first spouse” and then counsel me to stay because they learned so much from their own error; but rather I hear them justify their divorces, never saying it was even a sin or a mistake, and then bind me (and others) to an abusive marriage.

    I think part of the reason the article referred to in the blog post is not one that should be seen as good counsel, is that it can bring confusion to those seeking refuge from abusive marriages. There is enough confusion in all of this, just trying to deal with all the aspects of the marriage, and lots of vacillating. Advice like this, simply trumps lessons learned, and makes room to apply more guilt for not staying a little longer and in my case, makes me think perhaps God is telling me I just have not tried hard enough, or endured enough pain and abuse yet.

    • Dear Anon, I would react like you to that case of the two divorcees you described. The information given to you made is sound like the man did not have biblical grounds for his first divorce, and so his professed doctrinal standard for divorce didn’t fit his own actions. You didn’t miss anything: there WAS a disjunct, and you noticed it.

      And I agree with the comments about Elizabeth’s work that Kay that Joe and you have given. While I can see that Elizabeth’s words may apply more to non-abusive situations, such as the man having a porn addiction, I find it problematic when anyone gives marraige advice which ignores or overlooks the possibility that the person reading the advice may be suffering abuse from their spouse.

      Also, just throwing another idea out here: is it possible, or likely, that a man will be a professing Christian with a porn addiction but NOT be also somewhat abusive to his wife, and progressively more abusive as his addiction grows deeper and deeper? I would imagine that such a man would be so keen to hide his addiction that he would be abusing his wife in order to keep her from discovering his addiction. Would like to hear what others think on this, or if anyone can tell me of a case they know where they guy was addicted to porn and was NOT abusive to his wife.

      • MicroGal

        HI Barbara,
        Been a while for me to post.
        I stumbled on this review after reading some of Elisabeth’s writings of late (I was in a group of hers for a while but found it no longer fit my needs).

        I’m curious about the question you pose about a man being addicted to porn but NOT abusive to his wife. Good question.

        In my situation, my ex was addicted to porn and I had no clue (shocker….). I thought we had a good first year of marriage and the rest went steadily downhill. However, I later found out his lust was not satisfied with porn alone and he had been cheating on me all throughout our marriage. The abuse ramped up greatly as he sought to hide both porn and affairs. It was an absolute nightmare for me. I’m so thankful to be out.

        I truly doubt a man could have an addiction and NOT be abusive. The gas lighting, projection, and denial all work together to create a very toxic environment.

      • Anonymous Woman

        Its impossible. A lot of porn is filmed abuse, degradation, and rape. It tells lies about women. The argument that a man’s porn habits, especially at regular levels, not even addiction extremes, does not affect anything else in life is nonsense. Media is huge. Combine the reality that a man is climaxing, on a regular basis, to violence, abuse, violation, degradation, etc shown in porn.

        There’s a lot of research studies that show a man’s porn use correlates with his rape myth acceptance, seeing man/woman interactions as adversarial and zero sum, sexual aggression and hostility goes way up, as does the callousness of the man.

        Porn is filmed prostitution, violence, and woman abuse. Prostitution is paid rape. Porn is totally different from erotica. The porn of today is HORRIFIC. What used to be gonzo porn is now standard. To keep competing for porn dollars, and increasingly desensitized calloused depraved users, the violence, humiliation, degradation, abuse and violence levels keep being upped and upped.

        The real core turn on with porn is the subjugation, humiliation, violation, and objectification of a woman. Using, abusing, degrading, harming, and humiliating a woman is the meat and potatoes of it all.

        Porn is woman-hating. It is bottled, concentrated misogyny.

        Any time you forget that prostitution is paid rape and the temporary buying of a human being’s organs for use and abuse, you must stop and go back to the basic truths. Porn is rape, paid rape, violence, woman-beating, and serious depravity centered on woman-hating.

        Then there is the chemical releases and all, rewards, pleasure felt by how??? The harming, abuse, rape, beating, degrading, humiliating of a human being.

        Also, many girls and women have been born and bred into such. Fathers, etc incestuously sexually abusing those females from early on, then they are said to be ‘consenting’ upon turning 18, homeless, option less, taught from early on their only value is in ‘servicing’ some creep.

        Okay, I must stop but I wonder if many Christian women know what today’s porn is like. Maybe they do.

      • Anonymous Woman

        Also, about the ‘incest pipeline’, I read about such. Thankfully I never had exposure to any of that, but that’s a huge blind spot for many Christian women. Once a person reads the research about who the various victims of porn are, its all the more revolting. Almost every one was sexuallly abused or raped or molested before 18 and many are dead within 5 years of the porn industry’s use and abuse of them. And that depravity gets men off.

        Very serious stuff. The men who aren’t porn users are worth waiting for and finding. Just because a lot of men are serious porn users doesn’t lessen the harms. If a lot of men are cliff jumping and dying from the fall, just because they all went leaping en masse to their deaths doesn’t make their death lessened or any less real or serious.

        OK. My blood pressure is up and up. Better stop.

      • Hi A.W. you might like to follow and share the things which Collective Shout are saying. It’s a grass roots organization in Australia that is objecting to the pornification of women and girls’ bodies.

        I don’t know whether a similar organization exists in America. You might like to try to find out, and let us know.

      • Heather Black (formerly H)

        This is in reply to Anonymous Woman. I really appreciate your description of the reality of porn as misogyny. Will keep this very much in mind when considering future potential spouses and walking with friends and sisters doing the same.

      • Anonymous

        Also, about porn shoots and the supposed ‘they like it’ nonsense, most, if not all, porn shoots consist of forcing the woman to say she wanted it, she liked it, she consented, and she’d do it again if she could because it was so much fun. The porn has something like ‘post interviews’ on camera and if the victimized women don’t smile for the camera and say how they consented to it all, they loved it, blah, blah, blah, then they don’t get paid.

        And just like pimps go trolling the streets for runaway girls to enslave and entrap, the porn industry wants its victims to be basically living on the street, in a car, desperate for money, hungry, and its reprehensible.

        Porn is the devil’s playground. It is not fantasy. Those women suffer as do the little girls. And so much of porn is geared to younger and younger where child porn blends in with ease.

        And through it all, the woman is forced to smile, to say she likes it, to beg for more abuse, to endure horrible violence and depravity and then say how much fun it was and is, how fulfilled she is, …….. and the lies keep going.

        Think about today’s internet porn generation with the average 10 year old already seeing porn online and that 10 year old probably thinks it’s real, that the abused woman in the shot is really liking it, that women want to be raped, etc. I don’t have any children but I really feel for those who do have minor children these days.

  6. Heather Black (formerly H)

    “Reminding myself that the staying-married crown would be the most treasured crown I would have to lay at Christ’s feet” is very disturbing.

    I wonder if she still believes that is true, or if she was just stating the belief that kept her in the marriage longer than she needed to once she realized that wasn’t true? For example, I told myself things about how glorifying my suffering in marriage was and how marriage is about the gospel, therefore divorce is pretty much rejection of the gospel (thanks for that poison, John Piper), but I had to come to reject these things before I could leave my marriage in good conscience. Because if she still believes this, I would be concerned for her and any woman looking to her for advice. It reeks of Piper’s marriage-is-the-gospel mentality.

    Honey, your marriage is not the most treasured crown you have to lay at Christ’s feet. It’s not even one of the crowns, honestly. Marriage is a thing of this world. There will be no marriage in heaven. Do we lay perishable things at Christ’s feet once this world passes away, or more precious imperishable things? That’s not to denigrate the strength and faith it takes a godly woman to endure in a difficult marriage. Rather, this truth elevates what God wants from us and magnifies what truly pleases him. Faith, obedience, love, relationship, worship, etc. Your marriage may end for a biblical reason or even an unbiblical reason, but if you are in Christ you can still lay many far more precious crowns at his feet, made of things that will endure for eternity.

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