A Cry For Justice

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

Marriage Vows: What Are We Really Vowing to Do? (by one of our readers)

I, (name), take you, (name), to be my [opt: lawfully wedded] (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect [opt: obey] you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

Above is a traditional wedding vow. It is said on a day usually filled with happiness and love, shared between two people and their family and friends. Although several today in the Family Integrated Churches movement are adding much more to these vows, the above vows are pretty typical. There is also a section below, that is sometimes included in Jewish wedding vows. It reads:

Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you, For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord do with me and more if anything but death parts you from me.

I highly doubt, that in this quote from the book of Ruth, anyone would mean that they would follow someone into abuse and destruction or stay with them and die with them in that abuse and destruction. That of course, would not be what God would have us do, even with a spouse. We are called as Christians to follow Christ and when a spouse takes us down a godless path of destruction, we are told often in Proverbs, not to follow them. So this quote is taken to indicate that in the faithfulness of a spouse, the other will follow and stay, live and die and be buried alongside them, with joy and steadfastness. That’s all good and what God expects from a godly marriage.

We here at A Cry For Justice have most likely taken the above vows or something very similar, and we have typically endured years of abuse at the hands of our spouses. With that in mind, I would like to just go through these vows and ask the all important question, exactly what are we vowing before God to do in our marriages by taking these vows, and then see if these vows make any allowance for abuse in marriage. Many people accuse the victims of abuse, who decide to divorce their abuser, of not upholding their vows to the marriage. So let’s pull it apart. Let’s define some of the aspects of the basic vows taken at the marriage altar.

1) I, (name), take you, (name), to be my lawfully wedded (husband / wife). This means that by law, you are marrying the other person. It is lawful and governed by civil laws, as well as biblical law.

2) My constant friend. We are assuming that the person we are marrying will remain a constant “friend” to us. So ask yourself what kind of friends you would keep around you. Friend defined means a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations, companion, intimate, confidante, second-self, playmate, ally, kindred spirit, bosom buddy, pal, chum, side-kick.

3) My faithful partner (husband / wife). This means that the individual will be faithful in all areas of life, not just the bedroom. Faithful means to be loyal, constant, steadfast, true, devoted, dedicated, committed, unswerving, trustworthy, dependable, reliable; strict or thorough in the performance of a duty; true to one’s word, promises or vows; steady in allegiance or affection; reliable, trusted or believed. There is more that could be added, but for the sake of this post, this is enough.

4) My love. To define love, as Christians, we need to use our Bible and God’s standards for love and what it means for a husband to love his wife and a wife to love or respect her husband. But for starters, we will use a basic definition. Love means to have an intense feeling of deep affection; fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment, devotion, adoration, doting, passion, desire, yearning, compassion, care, regard, solicitude, concern, friendliness, friendship, kindness, charity, goodwill, sympathy, humanity. Therefore, love is not dependence or control that sucks the life out of the other spouse. Real love is selfless. There of course is more, but again for this post, this shall suffice.

5) From this day forward. From this very second that you hear my voice, until you hear it no more and with the same friendship, faithfulness and love, you bury me in the ground.

6) In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow. This means that I am publicly making a profession of my love and commitment and vows to all present and also God.

7) To be your faithful partner (husband / wife). See definition of faithful above. Partner defined means, a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; a spouse.

8) In sickness and in health. This would mean that if your spouse becomes ill, whether with a short or long-term illness that affects any part of the body, soul or mind, that you will remain faithful to them, as defined above. To be in health, means exactly that, in body, soul and mind. Although abusers can be mentally ill, the vast majority of them are not. Abuse is not a sickness.

9) In good times and in bad. Remember what the basic reflection of the vow is. Good times would mean when there are good things happening in the marriage and bad times are when bad things are happening. Let’s talk about that. Most people would define “good times” as happy non-problematic times, consisting of a variety of things. Again most people would define “bad times” as things such as arguments, communications issues, money problems, sickness, problems with children, job loss, bereavement, external persecution, etc. Most people would not define “bad times” as abuse or persecution by the other spouse. Why would you ever make a vow to allow someone to abuse you?

10) And in joy as well as in sorrow. Again, happy and sad times. No real defining needs to take place here. Joy is happiness, things going well, and sorrow is sad times, things are not going well. However again, I do not think anyone is consciously taking a vow here, meaning that joy is when there is a day with no abuse and sorrow is that the counseling bill for the abuse is sky-high and climbing.

11) I promise to love you unconditionally. Love is noted above. Unconditional means not subject to any conditions; wholehearted, unqualified, unreserved, unlimited, unrestricted, unmitigated, unquestioning, total, entire, full, absolute. Promising to love unconditionally is potentially dangerous in this fallen world where sin can be so injurious.  It would be wiser to say “I promise to love you wholeheartedly.” One can wholeheartedly love an abusive spouse by calling out their sin for what it is, by resisting their attempts to intimidate and control you in ungodly ways, and by putting in place appropriate consequences for their sins. These are some of the most important ways we show love to wicked people. Unconditional love is not even something that God gives. God has abundant love for sinners, but He requires sinners to repent and believe in Christ as offered in the gospel.

12) To support you in your goals. Support defined is, bear all or part of the weight, hold up, carry, prop up, brace, reinforce, undergird, to give assistance to, enable to function or act. Our goals can be a variety of things. As Christians, our goals are to have a life that glorifies God and that we enjoy Him, forever.

13) To honor and respect you. Honor means to hold in high respect and esteem, distinction, recognition, privilege, glory, pride and joy. Respect means to have a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements, to esteem, regard, admire, reverence, deference.

14) To obey you. This is not the same as submit, but I will define it here for purposes of those who have had this in their vows. Obey means to comply with the command, direction or request of (a person or a law); submit to the authority of, to bow to, give in to, yield to, comply with, abide by, conform to, respect and follow. Biblical submission is simply acknowledging that God has made the husband the head of the home and the wife is to submit to him, IN THE LORD. This qualifies the submission to be only that which brings one to and glorifies God. I do not think here that God was inferring that because the husband demands a certain color of carpeting, that the woman has to just submit to it, but at the end of the day, why would Christian couples argue for very long over the color of the carpeting. The point is that the husband is to lovingly lay down his life and lead and his wife is to lovingly appreciate, respect and follow her godly man.

15) To laugh with you and cry with you. I personally do not remember taking a vow that said this, but in essence, I think it fits in with good times and bad times above, and is qualifying that when something good or bad happens to one spouse individually, the other spouse makes a vow here to, do as the Word says, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. The spouse is to have empathy and share in the joy with their spouse in joyous times, and not leave the other spouse alone in their sorrow, during times of sorrow.

16) To cherish you. Cherish means to protect and care for someone lovingly, adore, hold dear, love, dote on, be devoted to, revere, esteem, admire, think the world of, care for, tend to, look after, protect, preserve, keep safe.

17) For as long as we both shall “live”. To live means to remain alive, to have life, be capable of vital functions, to continue in existence, operation, memory, to maintain or support one’s existence. To be alive means to be full of life, alert, active, energetic, vigorous, spirited, etc.

There are a couple of arguments to be made here. One is that when God tells husbands in His Word how they are to love their wives, that is what He means and becomes our highest definition. Love defined does not state the laying down of one’s life, although it is implied, but the Word does use these exact words. Wives are told to respect, and the wording in the Bible is “see to it”, and it is not qualified, although there is room for argument here as well. How does a wife who is battered by a spouse continue to respect him, except in her tone and style toward him. Does God command that a woman continue to “feel” respect for her abuser?

Also, to most of us, the term “live” means as long as we are alive on the earth, not necessarily the aspect of the definition of what it means to be “alive”. We make vows and we are serious about keeping them and cannot say, because I do not feel alive with my spouse anymore, I will just be on my way. That is not what God would have us do – but I think we all get that. We here know and remember, that there are three biblical grounds for divorce — abuse, abandonment and sexual immorality.

The point is, what is in our hearts when we make these vows before God. What are we actually vowing to do or not do? I do not believe that God expects us to vow for allowing someone to abuse us or commit adultery against us, or abandon us, and that if they do any of those things we will stay true to our side of the vows. People tend to term that under “for better and for worse” but we must also remember here that the vows we are making as Christians imply that we trust the person we are marrying. We believe that they have their own covenant before God, and would not abuse us. What happens when we make vows with someone who has duped us at the altar? Are we bound to their duping? Perhaps we should re-write the vows to include a sentence on abuse, or re-write them to read something like this:

I promise to you, that I am a redeemed sinner, and I vow to you, to behave and live as Christ has commanded me to and not return to a lifestyle of sin. I promise never to abuse, harm or hurt you in an ongoing way of abusive behavior, where I resist admonishments, refuse to tell the truth and acknowledge my behavior as abuse and refuse to repent and be sanctified. I promise to remain sexually faithful to you in all ways, and as a Christian, to keep from any and all forms of sexual immorality. I promise to work through disagreements quickly and respectfully and to resolve and tenderly love you, even in the midst of life’s problems and circumstances that would cause disagreement or discourse between us. If I fail in any of my vows that I make to you today, and refuse to turn from my sin against God and you by repenting and showing forth the fruits of that repentance, then I promise to allow you a biblical divorce from me, for the causes of abuse, abandonment or sexual immorality, so that you may be free to pursue Christ and His will for you.

And now I, (name) take you (name) to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), my friend with whom I have had a mutual bond and affection not based on sexual intimacy, but sheer friendship; my confidante; my playmate, bosom buddy, my friend; my true-to-your-word, loyal, steadfast, dependable partner (husband/wife); my one who has an intense feeling of deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, endearment, devotion, adoration, desire, compassion, care, kindness, goodwill, sympathy and humanity toward me; who is dependent on God, for life, not me; and who is selfless in their love, from this day forward.

In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your constant, steadfast, true, loyal and devoted (husband/wife) whether you are sick or whether you are healthy, no matter how long or how short the duration of your illness; in good times, when things are going well for both of us, and in bad times, when things are not going well, but we are still upholding the previous vows of love, compassion, friendship and not turning to abuse or neglect; and in joyous times and in sorrowful times, times when we are blissfully happy and times when we sorrow over loss of life, or loss of income, sorrow over failed plans or a disagreement; I promise to love you wholeheartedly, [husbands:] to lay down my life for you, my fondness, tenderness, warmth and intimacy given to you, in spite of your weaknesses and given regardless of how I may feel that day; to support you, bear you up, to brace, hold you up and carry you, either in whole or in part as you need me to; to honor you, to hold you in the highest respect and esteem, to take pride and joy in you; to respect you, to cultivate a feeling of deep admiration for you, to admire you; [wives:] to submit (in place of obey), yield to you, conform and follow you, as long as your leading leads me to the Lord and His will for you and for me without abusing me or asking me to sin for you, or lording your headship over me; to laugh and to cry with you – not to make fun of your pain, not to leave you alone in your sadness, problems or grief, to rejoice when you rejoice and be happy for you in your successes in life and not to be jealous or overtaken with my own selfish needs; and to cherish you – to protect you, to care for you with love, to dote on you and hold you dear, to revere, admire and esteem you, to think the world of you; to tend to you, look after you, preserve you and keep you safe always, for as long as we both shall live. I promise not to take life from you, but to give life to you through nurturing you in Christ, so that you may truly live while you are alive, and not be alive, yet dead.

Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you, For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord do with me and more if anything but death parts you from me.”

The vows may end up lengthy, but they would have real, true and lasting meaning. I hate weddings where the most important part of your life, after accepting Christ, is wrapped up in under two minutes and is just a recitation of what the pastor has had everyone else say in the past thousand weddings he has performed. At this moment, people are giving their lives to each other. Let’s take a little time and cover these vows well.

So, you can see, that the vows we presently take, in no way allow for abuse in the marriage, as defined by the words we say when we take those vows. We are not making a covenant to allow someone to do whatever they wish to us and just stay and endure. We are taking vows and receiving vows, that promise to love, honor, cherish and support each other. God hears these vows as well and knows what we are vowing to do, both verbally and in our hearts. This does not mean that bad times won’t come or that wars won’t break out. But it does mean, that we have not vowed to allow our spouse to abuse us during those times or at any other time. If people wish to make allowance for abuse as part of the marriage vows, then they need to add this to the vows:

I promise to allow you to do to me whatever you wish, even if it means you abuse me emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically, financially or otherwise and even if you desire or attempt to kill me and/or our children, if we have any. I just stupidly love you that much.

57 Comments

  1. Cheryl S

    Not that I support these beliefs but I have been reading some of this page trying to deal with some of this pain. These vows go really deep and I think if anyone getting married could honestly grasp they may. think twice. I didn’t anywhere grasp this commitment when I married but I grieve for Judith because she so much more deeply did! Maybe you follow what I’m trying to say?

    • Hi Cheryl, welcome to the blog. 🙂

      For safety’s sake I modified your screen name a bit.

  2. MeganC

    This is so well-written. Yes . . . Why do we only include the “positive” aspects of the future in vows? Why couldn’t we say, alongside the “I wills” and “I promise’s” a few “I will NOT” or “I promise NOT TO”. Things would be a lot more clear.

    Jim Wilson told me that, even though my ex broke his vows, I made mine before GOD and I was to keep them, regardless. He gave me such an ill view of a God who insisted I suffer through since I made the decision in the first place. I remember, so often, saying to myself, “Well, this is what I get . . . ” or “This is the price I pay for my foolishness . . . ” THAT God lacks mercy. 😦

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Interesting, Megan. It makes me wonder, seeing as how God divorced Israel for her unfaithfulness in the covenant, if Jim Wilson would tell God, He was wrong in making that decision. Again, marriage is not about seeing who can endure the longest in a battle between the abuser and the believer living together. Marriage is about glorifying God and representing His love for us, to the lost world. What a misrepresentation of Christ, abuse in marriage makes.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Just for our readers’ info – remember that Jim Wilson is none other than Douglas Wilson’s father.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Yes. Need say no more.

    • Anonymous

      Oh my, this post is excellent. More pastors should ‘spend the quality time’ it takes to define what the vows truly mean. Many of us who had doubts about our partner’s love entered marriage naively thinking it will get better if I just keep on loving him. This is not so …
      Megan you stated it very well and I too, had convinced myself that I was suffering due to my foolish decision to marry a controlling man. The teaching from many pulpits also enforced that.

    • 10areFree

      That is exactly what I thought. My vows were made to my husband, but even more so to God. How could I break my vow to God? What kind of God would keep me here in this situation? I didn’t even realize how my view of God was being affected. I used to say, “How long will I pay for a mistake I made over 20 years ago?” I couldn’t understand why I was being punished (by God) when I married in good faith? So glad I see clearly now.

  3. Brenda R

    Bravo!!! I love the new wedding vows. It would be worth the extra time to say all of that. They should be read and meditated on before the actual wedding to make sure there is no delusion over what is expected. Unfortunately, the ending promise is what many Christians here and think. You stay and do your part no matter what the other person does to you. It is ridiculous, but that is what they think. I can’t even imagine Jesus saying, “Oh, is that all he did to you. He said he’s sorry. Now, you go home and take it some more.”

  4. Just Me

    Does anyone else cringe when they read/hear wedding vows? They’re supposed to be beautiful, yet I get panicky reading them because I just want to go back in time and tell my young, naive, trapped self to run away. When the limo driver was driving me and the bridesmaids to the ceremony he said (jokingly). “Are you sure you want to go to the church? I can take you somewhere else.” I remember thinking “if I were smart, I’d take him up on it.”

    • Brenda R

      I cringe, Just Me. The minister was 2 hours late–that should have tipped me off that God was trying to intervene, but Nooooo, I went ahead anyways. I didn’t like the vows the way they were put and X now states that he never took vows, I didn’t really want to get married again and told X that several times before giving in. There were reasons for that. Everyone of them came to life. I could kick myself, but it wouldn’t do any good and I like the path I’m on now without him.

      My oldest daughter is getting married in October. The newest thing is some kind of sand ceremony. Mixing sand together to represent the families joining together. I am sure the vows will be the usual, but I am sending her a copy of these anyways. The man she is marrying treats her like a queen. Even after he works outside 10 hours in the FL heat he will ask her if she wants him to cook, so I am not real worried but you just never know. Changes are made big time after the I Do’s and signing on the dotted line.

    • 10areFree

      I do…because my husband would routinely throw them in my face. I was never allowed to address his own marriage vows, because that was just me deflecting from my own sin.

  5. joepote01

    An excellent post!

    Thinking about this, as well as Megan’s comments…

    If two nations enter into an alliance…a treaty…a covenant agreement, both parties swear, in writing, to uphold the terms of the agreement.

    It goes without saying, that if one nation attacks its sworn ally in direct contradiction of the signed agreement, that the other nation is free to defend itself and to retaliate. The treaty only stands so long as both nations continue to abide by it. If one nation violates the terms of the covenant, then the treaty has been broken and no longer applies.

    IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING! It is so obvious that it doesn’t require inclusion in the written agreement.

    Why would a covenant agreement between two individuals be any different?

    • Not Too Late

      Joe, I think the church is fixated on the idea that the marriage covenant is a permanent, un-breakable covenant where you pledge to give 100% to your spouse, regardless of how much the spouse contributes. They base this on Christ’ covenant with the church. I have a hard time explaining to church folk that the Jewish understanding of covenant is not that. I doubt that they really want to hear it anyway!

      • IamMyBeloved's

        I agree, Not Too Late – it is ridiculous.

        Joe, I think if these vows were implemented, we would probably start seeing individuals leaving at the altar, after considering what they are actually making a vow to do. But, that would be good, because maybe then, we would see more godly marriages. For the abusers who would just take these vows anyway – they are just words to them, after all – it would certainly be a short lived nightmare for the victim, as he/she would have instant proof of the breaking of the vows and thereby the fracturing of the “covenant”.

      • Brenda R

        Yes. IAMB. X says he didn’t take vows, so he would have said anything. He was paying no attention to what he was committing to. If I had had these vows to read ahead of time, I may have been more inclined to run like I felt I should anyways. I felt it, I just kept telling myself it was cold feet. It wasn’t, it was my God given instinct telling me not to do it. I wasn’t listening to God.

      • Brenda R

        NTL. I agree. The church doesn’t want to hear the Jewish version, but God gave us the Old and New Testaments. He told us about his chosen nation because they were the closest to his heart. The church uses the OT when it suits their opinion and only the New if it doesn’t. The church wants to avoid treaties among nations altogether and focus on The Great Commission. There are people who think blogs like this are a waste of time and that our only mission is reaching the lost in a foreign tribe or translating the Bible in foreign tongues. I would have to ask them what you are going to tell these people when they get into the meat of the Word. If we are warring within ourselves as to what is good, how can we tell someone else. Divorce in a loving Christian home where one or the other is just bored is very wrong and the marriage needs work; divorce for the 3 A’s is for our benefit physically, mentally, spiritually. The list goes on. I think the Jews had it right and Jesus approves. If people just read these vows before taking their own, maybe they might rethink what they were doing and not fall into the same trap. I don’t think taking these vows in what could be a loving life long marriage would be the right way to start, but should give them pause to think on what they are doing and look deeply into the commitment.

      • the church is fixated on the idea that the marriage covenant is a permanent, un-breakable covenant where you pledge to give 100% to your spouse, regardless of how much the spouse contributes. They base this on Christ’ covenant with the church.

        Yes. What these people forget is that the difference between Christ’s covenant with the church, and a marriage covenant between a husband and wife, is that the first is unilateral and the second is bilateral.

        Christ’s covenant with the church is a one-sided covenant (unilateral). God poured out His wrath for sin on Jesus Christ, His Son, and by dying on the cross Jesus paid the price for all sin. Those who trust in Jesus for their salvation are set free from the penalty their sins would deserve because Jesus has already paid that penalty.

        Christ gave 100%; we sinners give zero %. It’s one sided. We can do to nothing purchase our salvation; Christ did it all.

        In contrast, marriage can not be 100% giving from one spouse and 0% giving from the other. Marriage is bilateral, both parties are to give to each other.

        There IS a degree of semblance between the Christ’s relationship with the church, and a marriage relationship, but the semblance is that husbands are told to love their wives with self-sacrificing hearts. Husbands are exhorted to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph 5).

        I suspect it says that because God knows that many men need to be firmly exhorted (told in no uncertain terms!) that they should treat their wives lovingly and tenderly as Christ does the church — otherwise they will just carry on in their own world of self-centeredness without giving much thought to how their wives are traveling.

      • Brenda R

        Barb, This was the gift I am speaking of. You said that in simple, useful terms that anyone can understand and comforting at the same time.

      • 🙂

    • MeganC

      That’s good, Joe. It goes without saying. I think that, sometimes, people like Jim Wilson want to keep people together at all costs — even to the point of reaching . . . .

  6. Katy

    I feel really panicky reading wedding vows. Especially the “til death do you part” stuff. :/
    Like my heart rate actually speeds up. Could we put a trigger warning at the top? haaha (kidding)

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Katy, I think others feel that way too, knowing that we have all taken marriage vows where we ended up abused and most of us stuck. But these vows, are meant to make one aware of what they are actually promising/vowing to do – which includes not to abuse in any fashion, the husband/wife they are taking in marriage. That in turn, leaves an open “out” for leaving the abusing spouse. Does that make sense? Sorry if this has triggered you. It was meant to help those of us who have been so deeply harmed by being forced to uphold our end of the vows, with an abuser on the other end, who has not upheld theirs at all.

      The point is, that the vows you took at the altar the day you married, in no way, allowed for your husband to abuse you in the marriage. That is the good news! Once the abuse started, the vows were broken. You are free my sister – so be free!.

  7. If marriage vows were to be changed to this long version, imagine how much more focused and USEFUL pre-marriage counseling would be! The pastor could take the engaged couple through this wording sentence by sentence, pointing out that marriage is neither a licence to abuse nor a promise that commits one to endure abuse without any possibility of escape.

    This would make the pastor’s work much easier.

  8. caroline

    Yes, I love that you mention pre-marriage counseling Barbara. Think what kind of pain might be avoided if pastors made very clear in pre-marital counseling what abuse looked like, and that the church would not put up with it! Just the sheer education value alone would be wonderful for the potential victim. But the fact of the pastor taking a stand IN ADVANCE would be even better.

    • I’ve added the tag ‘premarriage counseling’ to this post, so it’s easy to find if you are searching for it later wanting to use these vows in premarriage counseling.

      • Anonymous

        Excellent idea, Barb!

      • caroline

        Great, thanks! I also posted it on my book’s Facebook page for future reference : )

  9. Peg

    I just signed divorce papers this week to allow my spouse to be free from his supposed state of “torment” which he states is a result of my separating from him because of his abuse. My efforts to try to make him understand that breaking my marriage vows doesn’t come easy and it certainly does hurt! For him, it seems like it’s no different from deciding to trade in a vehicle to buy another. But this post really helps me as I have felt so forlorn over the fact that my spouse is so cold and unconcerned about what God expects of him. He professes to be a Christian and is a church goer and a church doer. However, he wouldn’t even look up the marriage scriptures when our pastor requested him to study them. He has no clue what the Bible states about his role as my husband. I wish I had known his shallowness and his abusive side existed before I chose to marry him. So, even though I am sad that I have vowed before God and now find myself basically breaking those vows, I realize that after doing all that I could and should have done to reconcile, God is merciful and loving and forgives as I have repented. I am encouraged by this post. Thank you!

    • joepote01

      Peg, I would encourage you that, based on your above comment, you have not broken any vows. Rather you have remained faithful to your vows thru an extended period of intense torment.

      In such a case, signing divorce papers is not a violation of the vows, but an honoring of them.

      First, by acknowledging the marriage is over as a consequence of your husband’s continual abuse, you are confirming that the sacred marriage vows actually do have meaning, actually are intended to be kept, and that there are consequences to repeated unrepentant violation of the sacred vows to love, honor and cherish.

      Second, by your husband’s repeated unrepentant abuse he has made it clear that he does not want to be married to you…he does not want to be bound by the sacred vows he swore to uphold. Yes, he may want you to be bound by them, but he refuses to be bound them, himself. Therefore, the most loving thing you can do is to release him from those vows by dissolving the marriage.

      You are not an oath breaker…your abusive husband is.

      Blessings to you! May our God of all comfort wrap you in His loving embrace and carry you through the trials ahead.

      • Peg

        Joe,
        Thank you a million times a million for your kind words! I wept as I read them. For some reason, I needed to read what you wrote today. I suppose the grief will subside in time. I have learned so much from this entire experience. So, I do rejoice that God has brought me through the anger and the bitterness from suffering the abuse and I feel valued as a child of God. Thank you for being there to respond to my post! It means so much!!! God bless you as you serve so well in your ministry.

      • joepote01

        Peg – You are so very welcome! Many of us who frequent this blog have been there, ourselves.

        Yes, the grief does lessen with time and healing. It’s not a fast process and has stages, not unlike grieving the loss of a loved one.

        Lean into God and He will faithfully lead you and strengthen you through the days ahead. It is not an easy path…but it is a wise and healthy path.

        Blessings to you!

      • Peg

        I certainly am thankful for God’s strong direction in my life. I have sought to stay close to Christ throughout this painful time and I know my relationship with Him has deepened so much!

        Thanks again! I will definitely lean into God and simply trust and obey!

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Sorry I am late in replying. This is EXCELLENT, Joe!! Superb advice!

      • joepote01

        IAMB – 🙂

    • Dear Peg, I agree with everything Joe has said to you (thanks Joe, you are a champion!) and I just want to add my own ‘welcome to the blog’ 🙂
      Let the tears flow, it is a safe place to cry here. 🙂
      You are not to blame. It is not your fault the marriage ended. It sounds like he pretty cleverly concealed his real nature till after the wedding, so try not to blame yourself for having married him. The best thing to do now is to learn from it all, so you are less likely to be sucked in by another abuser. 🙂
      Repeat after me: “It is not my fault. I am not to blame.” 🙂 🙂 🙂
      You will recover, it does get easier, gradually, especially when we keep supporting each other on this journey.

      • Peg

        O! Barbara! Thank you so much for your response! It sure does help to have your input and encouraging words. I did repeat what you wrote for me to repeat and I will repeat it each day. It helps so much to have contact with people who KNOW what I am experiencing. I think the main shock is that he concealed his true self so well and then became such a different man from the man I thought I was marrying. Such a deep betrayal! Yes, I experienced grieving today but then got busy with my tasks here at my house and so I feel comfort and peace tonight. Thank you for being faithful to respond to our posts! It means sooooo much to me! Just touches my heart deeply! God bless you for all the good that you bring to others and to me!

  10. 10areFree

    What a wonderful article. I must admit the marriage vow issue is a big trigger for me. For so long it is what was used by my husband as well as marriage counselors to keep me trapped. In the early years of your marriage my husband would repeatedly play our wedding video during this part to remind me that I promised to obey. It was routine for him to use those vows to manipulate me or make clear to me that I could not leave.
    That fact that he was not keeping his vows was irrelevant and was not allowed to be part of any discussion. He would say I was just trying to deflect from my own sin. Since our separation over 1 1/2 years ago, he still tries to use the vows as a weapon. Telling me that he won’t divorce me because he meant his vows, trying to make me feel guilty because apparently my vows meant nothing, reminding me that I promised for better or for worse, and til death do us part. It goes on and on.
    There were many fights where I tried to explain to him that I know what I meant when I said my vows. When I vowed, “for better or for worse”, I meant the worst that life would bring us. I did not mean the worst that he could do to me. I refuse to live by his interpretation of what my vows meant any longer!
    Those vows have been used as a weapon for so long that I dread hearing them, reading them, or even going to a wedding. I can’t help but sit there and wonder if that couple really has any idea what they are promising, and what the true motives of their hearts really are.

    • joepote01

      10areFree –

      If the only part of the vows that counts is “…till death do us part…” then it’s not a marriage. It’s slavery.

      For His children trapped in covenants of abusive bondage, God provides redemption.

      Joseph entered into covenant with Pharaoh in the covenant ceremony descirbed in Genesis 41:38-45. Later, Joseph’s family was welcomed into Egypt under the protection of Joseph’s covenant with Pharaoh.

      Then, in Exodus 1:8 we’re told, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”

      The new king did not honor the covenant with Joseph. Rather than treating the Israelites like the blood-brothers they were, by covenant, he chose to treat them as slaves. He forced them to do hard labor and ordered the midwives to kill their male children.

      Because of the abusive king who did not honor his covenant with Joseph, the Israelites were enslaved in a covenant of abusive bondage.

      Did God leave them in that covenant of slavery?

      No! He redeemed and delivered them! (Exodus 6:6)

      • Joe, I am going to slightly disagree with you here, I hope you don’t mind and we can still be friends, because I really appreciate your support of our readers on this blog.

        Here are my thoughts.
        In Genesis 41:38-45 there is no mention of the word covenant. Pharaoh was simply appointing Joseph to a job (a senior administration role) in his kingdom. In verse 46 it uses the word ‘service’: Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Yes, in appointing him to that job, the Pharaoh said he would to look after Joseph and gave him certain privileges along with the job, but that does not make it a covenant. Joseph pretty much had no choice in the matter, he did not formally agree or ‘sign up’ as we say in modern parlance to covenant terms with Pharaoh whereby promises were made and agreed to by both sides and terms were stated about what would happen if either party broke the covenant. Joseph was merely given a job by that particular Pharaoh.

        There was nothing in what that Pharaoh said to Joseph which represented a promise that Egypt and future Pharoahs would continue to give privileges or protection to Joseph and his descendants. And although that Pharoah gave Joseph a high-ranking Egyptian woman in marriage, the marriage did not make a blood brother relationship between Joseph and any Egyptians. Joseph was merely a husband to his wife, and an in-law to her relatives. And it’s even harder to extrapolate and say that during the next 400 years there was a ‘blood brother’ relation between the Hebrews and the Egyptians.

        Yes, when the famine was on and Joseph’s family came to reside in Egypt under that Pharaoh’s blessing and protection, the Pharaoh gave the Hebrews the land of Goshen and he guaranteed that they would not suffer hardship though the rest of the famine. But he made no promise (no covenant) regarding the generations of Hebrews after them. Nor did he say anything about them having a blood brother relationship with Egyptians.

        And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’” Gen 45:17-20

        The absence of any notion of blood brotherhood is further apparent from the story of Moses. The narrative of Moses’ infancy shows that the Egyptians considered the Hebrews as a different ethnic group from themselves, and had no ‘blood brother’ ideas going there at all.

        So I have trouble going along with your idea that the Hebrews during Moses’ day were in a so-called ‘covenant of bondage’ in Egypt. I prefer to call it what it was: slavery.

        However, I do think your appeal to the Exodus as a metaphor for being freed from the slavery and bondage of an abusive marriage is a very helpful thing, and it gives a lot of encouragement to victims of abuse. So in that we agree; I think we just disagree about the application of the word ‘covenant’ to theJoseph/Hebrews/Pharaoh/Egypt narrative. And I’m happy to respectfully disagree with you on this and still be friends. 🙂

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Hmm. Yes, I don’t see “obey” in the vows. I know lots of us said that in our vows, but it is not Scriptural. There is only One to Whom we owe obedience – Christ. We are called as wives to submit, but there is a big difference between submission and obedience!

      It has been hard for me too, to listen to vows at a wedding, wondering the same thing. Is she promising to allow him to abuser her and not let it affect the marriage? No, absolutely not. No one promises that in even the most basic vows, so let that be your relief. I would suggest scrolling up and reading Joe’s portions above.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        For clarity – I mean Joe’s portions further up in the comments pertaining to Peg.

  11. I have been told by so many people to keep praying for my marriage but they don’t seem to be hearing or understanding the words…”It’s abusive…it’s been this way for years.”

    Another person told me “It’s always 50-50 fault” and another “well my husband and I decided our marriage vows are forever no matter what.” All three conversations were very triggering and I’m left with a feeling of anger. Many people believe we can save our spouses and do the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction. For most of my marriage, I felt the same. Now I’m left with PTSD, emotionally wounded children, hyper vigilance and a strong discomfort around men. Please pray for me.

    • When people say about marriage “It’s always 50-50 fault” I tell them “We didn’t say that Hitler and the Allies were 50-50 at fault in causing the Second World War. So why do people say it about marriage?”

      • Brenda R

        I love that comparison, Barb. I am adding it to my quote list.

    • Brenda R

      H&H, Praying for you and your children. People who say these things have no understanding of what they are talking about. They go home to loving homes and work together on what life brings them. I have been uncomfortable around men my entire life and still am with most having been abused since being quite small. So I know how you are feeling. Last week in Bible study the man facilitating the class said that the Word says that there will be abusers in the last days while he was looking straight at me. He has never said anything to me about leaving X, but he is quite cool (like an iceberg) when I walk in the room. I know he is one that does not agree with my decision, but I am determined not to let him get to me even though I want to run from that room. I am praying that Ladies Bible Study will start back up again in the fall and I will make it through this class. I will continue to pray for your healing and that of your children.

      • Peg Gentle

        Brenda,
        The man who teaches your Bible study should be ashamed of his attitude! In fact, a man who has an attitude of judgement toward you should NOT be teaching a Bible study. It’s amazing to me how many “professing” Christians in my former church (I left the church where my abusive spouse still serves as an usher.) gloss over sinfulness. A good number of them knew why I had to separate from my husband but no one sought to use church discipline to try to help my soon-to-be ex-spouse. Matthew 18 is a perfect scripture to use to approach someone who is abusing a spouse. Brenda, I am sorry that you have to endure that wrong treatment in your church of all places! God bless you!

        Healing & Hurting,
        We cannot do the job of the Holy Spirit! Conviction is His job and I have prayed for that to happen in my situation with my spouse. Even though he claims to be a Christian, the fruits of his actions do not show that he is saved in my opinion. So, I have to wonder whether the Holy Spirit even dwells within him. If so, my spouse sure has grieved Him with his sinful behavior and unrepentant heart! I finally have “let go” and will leave his spiritual state up to God. Sometimes, God leaves an unrepentant believer to his own devices and then Satan moves in and the believer can become hard-hearted such that he is in total denial of his condition before God. I think that is what has happened in my spouse’s case. People speak out many times without thinking or without knowledge of what they are talking about. I know it hurts and makes you angry. I try to steer clear of those kinds if I can. I’m sorry that you now have PTSD and that your children are emotionally wounded. I hope that you all are in counseling to help you heal from being abused. God bless you all!

    • joepote01

      Yes, that “50-50 fault” thing is a bunch of malarky with absolutely no scriptural basis. Although a very commonly believed myth, I’ve never heard anyone even attempt a scriptural defense of this position.

      Here’s a post I did on this myth a while back: http://josephjpote.com/2012/08/the-it-takes-two-lie-2/

      Blessings to you!

      • Peg Gentle

        Joe,
        I read the post about “it-takes-two lie” and it’s excellent! I’m learning that the folks who make use of these myths in defense of their positions are people that really don’t think rationally anyway. They are self-deceived and it’s a waste to even try to reason with them. Even using scripture doesn’t phase them.

      • joepote01

        Peg – Yes, those beliefs are often clung to simply because they were learned at an early age and assumed true. You’re right in saying it doesn’t have a lot to do with logic.

        I’ve started calling it the Divorce Mythology that is commonly believed in our church culture. In my book, “So You are a Believer Who has been through Divorce,” http://www.amazon.com/You-Believer-been-through-Divorce/dp/1463767161/ I use a myth-buster approach to address the various myths supporting the unbiblical Divorce Mythology.

        Have a blessed day and a wonderful weekend!

      • And the idea that ‘God hates divorce’ is a bunch of malarky based on a mistranslation of Malachi.
        (try saying Malachi with the emphasis on the second syllable, and you’ll get the pun)

      • joepote01

        Barbara – spoken with a Boston accent, of course… 🙂

      • naturally! 🙂

  12. joepote01

    Barbara – although I very strongly disagree, you are certainly entitled to your own perspective.

    God bless!

  13. Betrayed & Neglected

    This article makes me so sad. Why? because the man that I have chosen in my life has not truly committed himself to me from the very beginning.

    I have always ask my husband to take part in things that me and the children are doing. But for some unknown reason my own husband had so many excuses as to why he did not want to be apart of things. What hurts me the most about my own husband, is the fact that my husband was not there for myself in my time of needs. When I was really ill my own husband would not drive me to the doctors. I drove myself to doctors. The doctors called the ambulance and my husband. The doctors could not get a hold of my own husband when I was in the hospital and died countless times. Then once I was out of the hospital my own husband would not drive the car or even pick our child up from school. So when our child’s school was dismissing the children, I went down to the school. I was still in so much pain and weak but I did what I had to do for my child. I was always there for my own family and their times of needs. Even when I physically couldn’t.

    My own husband who I have called numerous times a cheater. Why? because a wife is not to be treated so cruelly as my own husband has done to myself. You are to be there in sickness and health. My own husband has broken our marriage vows and does not believe that he has, even to this day. Marriage is like a chain when you have broken one you have broken all. The only way that you can repair a marriage is for the person that has broken the marriage vows to tell the other person the truth as to what it is that they have done and never repeat it again. A marriage is when two people dedicate each other with their heart and soul to each other. But my own husband can’t and won’t do this for our family of ours.

    I am sick of making excuses for my own husband. I am sick of what my own husband has done not just to myself but the children as well. I pray each and every day to God about my own husband. Now it is only up to my own husband to change from his ways and I will always be there. This is what I believe a marriage should and should not be like.

    • Hi dear sister, welcome to the blog 🙂

      I believe you. I encourage you to consider leaving this man. He is DEFINITELY abusing you and we know that men like him seldom change. For your wellbeing and that of your children, I encourage you to consider ending the marriage. You will not be to blame in ANY way for separating from or divorcing this man. He is the one who has (repeatedly, egregiously) broken the covenant. You are the innocent party. No matter what ‘c’hristians may tell you or how they may admonish you, we know you are not to blame. And we will support you whether you stay with him or whether you leave.

      You might like to check out our FAQ page as it has topics that I think will interest you.

      Also, we always encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      I changed your screen name to ‘Betrayed & Neglected’ as a precaution. If you want us to change it to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂

      And I airbrushed a few details in your comment, to protect you from being identified.

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