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What does the Bible say about Toxic Marriages? Well, nothing too concrete from what I found.
This is Part 6, and the final installment of the How to Get Out Series. You can also read:
Part 1, Why She Stays
Part 2, How to Hustle for Independent Money
Part 3, How to Combat Broken Family Guilt
Part 4, How to Break Free from Gaslighting Manipulation
Part 5, How to Overcome CoDependency.
Heavy Disclaimer: I’m not a Faith Writer. It is not my niche and decidedly so. But I love helping women and I know this question gets asked often. So I went to an expert on the subject.
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Edit in April 2022: I have realized now how MANY Christian women are struggling inside an abusive marriage, and done much work on learning more about why so many of us gravitate to abusive and toxic relationships, how God views them, and how to truly respond to the question “What does the Bible say about Toxic and abusive marriages?” I’ve started writing about this topic again, with my first post about ADHD & Toxic Relationships. Please subscribe at the bottom of this post to get updates as I also answer the question of Biblical view of Toxic and Abusive marriages in more depth and with more scripture. In the meantime, I encourage you to read from a sister in Christ, Sarah, at her site aplacenomancanfollow.com, or reach out for her coaching program if you need more help. God Bless Sister.
Dr. Steve Anthony is the Senior Adults pastor at Central Church of the Nazarene in Flint Michigan. He’s counseled many couples, as well as married many couples and has been married for 50 years himself.
In fact, he was the officiant at my marriage.
And he was the pastor who called me after I told my then-husband I wanted a divorce.
The day after I left my husband two years ago I got a call.
When my phone rang that day, reading the name across my screen came as no surprise. I knew that my husband was going to pull out all the stops to convince me to stay, including asking our pastor to talk to me.
“Hello.” I answered.
“Hey there Lacy, this is Doctor Anthony. How are you?”
“I’m doing ok. How are you?”
“Well, I’m ok. Do you know why I’m calling?”
“I have a feeling.”
“Well, I’m hoping to save your marriage.”
I have always considered myself a woman of faith, until just after my divorce.
I truly questioned what I understood about church, marriage and vows. I had a lot of burning questions, and if I’m being honest I still do.
Questions you might ask yourself:
- Does God hate divorce?
- What if I’m unhappy?
- What if I’m miserable?
- If I leave my husband, what will the church think?
- How come the church doesn’t talk about toxic marriages?
- What does the bible say about toxic marriages?
I really needed answers and I didn’t go to the bible for them. These were questions I needed to pray about more than anything, and also get some real life perspective.
I’m happy to report that two years after my divorce I now have that perspective. But I know women still want to know:
What does the Bible Say about Toxic Marriages?
So guess who I called? Dr. Steve Anthony.
I told Dr. Anthony, I get asked, from women who are struggling in their violent marriages “What does the bible say about toxic marriages?”
His response came mostly like this: The Bible talks about in Ephesians [Ephesians 5] that women are to submit themselves to their husbands, but what many women fail to realize is that the husband is also to love his wife as he loves himself. Many women don’t speak up enough about what’s honestly going on in their home, and it’s difficult then for us to know how best to help them.
I went on to also ask him about the guilt and shame that comes from wanting to leave your marriage.
That women who have often relied heavily on God for their self-worth may feel like they’ve failed him.
Dr. Anthony reminded me that we ought to remember that after Christ, our relationship with God went from being Rule Centric [think, Old Testament] to being Relational.
As in a relationship with God.
He also reminded me that God loves us, as his children and just as we would never want our children to live in fear inside their own home. God would not want that for us as well.
From the conversation I had with Dr. Anthony, I can understand now that with sin we will always fail. We also discussed that many women who stay because they feel they would be breaking their vows to God if they leave, fail to realize that their spouse is already breaking their vows to love and to cherish their wives.
Two wrongs do not make a right, but holding yourself accountable to a standard higher than you are keeping your spouse is unfair. Not to mention, toxic in itself.
Boundaries are an integral part of all healthy marriages.
But boundaries are made up of mutual respect. Basically what Ephesians talks about is just that. That because women are required by biblical practice to submit to their husbands it is then the husbands responsibility to love selflessly.
No woman can submit to a man who takes advantage of their compliance to Gods law.
If they have strong faith, they may try, but beneath the surface, they will grow more and more resentful towards their spouse.
That’s precisely what happened to me.
Understand that marriage is not black and white.
We wish it were. As humans, we’d like for something that is done out of love to be comfortable and uncomplicated. Especially for those of us who grew up in the Church.
As wives we might hope that if we stay pure, pray often, and submit ourselves to our husbands that eventually we will find happiness. That didn’t happen for me but thats not to say it might not for others.
The phrase “I’m unhappy in my marriage.” is not the same as “my marriage is toxic.” You may need outside counseling, therapy and help to determine the difference. Unhappiness comes with anything in life, you can persevere through that with much difficulty. Toxic relationships happen when the relationship lacks mutual respect. Cheating, manipulating, gas lighting, financial infidelity may all be signs your marriage is lacking mutual respect. Seek outside help to find out if you can mend the damage.
Dr. Anthony did tell me a story of one woman.
Perhaps if you are in what feels like a failing marriage or you are realizing your spouse is abusive but you want to stay. It might give you hope.
I’d like to first say, that if you are in Danger in your home or If you have any of the following please seek an advocacy center:
- Your Spouse has hit you in the Past
- You are scared for your safety or the safety of your children in your spouses presence
- Your spouse has threatened you, your life (even if they claimed to be Joking, please still seek an advocacy center)
- Your spouse has threatened to harm himself in your presence, or your childrens presence
- You are scared to go home and you aren’t certain why.
Dr. Anthony described to me that in his formative years of pastorship, he knew of a lady who had one child & a husband. She diligently attended service every week and she also came often after service complaining about her rotten husband.
Every week or so, Pastor Anthony would consult with her and listen to her complain about him.
At once he finally said to her “Every week you come in here and tell me all about what he’s done, and how he’s so awful. But I have yet to hear you tell me you are praying for him everyday, or fasting for him, or reading scripture over your marriage? Why don’t you commit to 30 days of doing that, and get back to me after on how it goes?”
He then told me, that on the 30th day she came back in.
He asked, “Well, how are things in your marriage?” To which she replied, “My marriage isn’t better, it’s WORSE!” Pastor Anthony attempted to go to their home, to counsel them both. Her husband angrily put him out and told him to “go away!“
He left, knowing the woman felt defeated.
He went on to tell me that on the 31st day, her husband called Pastor Anthony to apologize and asked to meet with him. Upon their
“To this day…” he tells me, “they are still together.”
This story is wonderful, and I expressed that to him but I said “But what would have happened had that not taken place?” He honestly responded “I don’t know.”
After finishing mine and Dr. Anthony’s conversation I concluded my answer to the question: What does the Bible say about Toxic Marriages?
Here is my answer: Ephesians 5 tells us the rules on how to lay the foundation for a healthy marriage (mutual respect), but it doesn’t talk about what to do inside a toxic marriage. Ultimately staying or leaving a toxic marriage for a Christian persons is between them and God. No one can make that decision for you. The bible does say sin is forgiven for those that ask, and accept Christ as their savior. Beyond that the lines are blurry, and that is ok.
Accepting that because of the sinful nature of man, and free will that things such as divorce, impurity, infidelity, and dishonesty are going to exist.
Including in marriages no matter how hard we try or how long we suffer.
Your fulfillment of your marriage isn’t tied directly to God’s love for you.
God doesn’t stop loving us when we fail, and if you want to argue with me about that you can do so in the comments but I stay steaddfast to that truth.
You will not lose God’s love if you feel it is in your best interest, your childrens best interest and the safety of your well being to seek divorce.
In fact, you may find it could be the thing that leads your spouse to
I can speak from experience when I say leaving a toxic marriage could put you on a path to change other’s lives and direct them to greater Faith in God than they previously had. I’m living proof.
I’m also living proof that God works in mysterious but beautiful ways.
My ex-husband and I have a fair co-parent relationship and he says he is thankful for the years we shared even though they ended. For him, it was a significant turning point in his life. I honestly, believe me, he and our children are better people as we are now than we could have ever been together.
ible will give you refuge and strength to carry on.
It may not give you a direct answer but it will remind you of Gods wonderful, unwavering grace.
If you are unsure if you can save your marriage I highly recommend the book by Lundy Bancroft, Should I stay or Should I go?
Need the start of a Prayer Challenge? Check out Mike and Carlie Kercheval’s (of fulfillingyourvows.com) 5 week free Prayer Challenge below: