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Torn Between Two Men

Dr. David Hawkins
The Relationship Doctor

CBN.comWhile we may have fantasies of getting out of a dysfunctional marriage, leaving our troubles behind, things are not always that simple. The grass often looks greener; others’ lives appear more appealing, while our problems seem overwhelming.

I receive hundreds of emails from men and women who long for a healthier marriage. Feeling neglected, hurt and intensely frustrated, they begin considering drastic possibilities. There is nothing wrong with wanting a richer, healthier marriage—God ordained marriage where husbands love and respect their wives, and wives love and honor their husbands. God even likens the covenant of marriage to his relationship to the church.

I have often recommended that men and women take tougher stands on abuse and neglect in marriage, and have suggested that by doing so, by setting firmer boundaries, they send a strong message---that abuse and neglect are intolerable within the confines of a sacred marriage. Taking a stand can bring powerfully positive results, but also complications. The following e-mail reinforces the point:

Hello Dr. Hawkins. My husband and I have been separated for two years. We were married for14 years .I left after years of financial problems, neglect, being taken for granted and being treated very badly. We have a close relationship because of our daughter. He is now being nice and I feel he regrets the things he has done. We are not divorced and I'm not sure I want to be.
I have been seeing a very nice guy who truly loves and respects me. He wants to marry me and he is very good to my daughter. I just don't understand what is holding me back. I can't bring myself to divorce my husband even after all the hurt. I pray everyday that God will show me what to do. I am torn between two men. How do I handle this?

It is easy to see why you might be confused. You have experienced the best and worst from your husband—years of neglect, and chaos resulting from financial instability, and now being treated kindly. Yet, you must wonder if these changes will last. This is a reasonable concern, especially if he has had no counseling or taken accountability for his actions.

The close relationship you two share as parents of your daughter along with the 14 years of marriage have created a powerful bond. It is no surprise you have difficulty walking away from the marriage, since God tells us that marriage is a knitting together of two people—“bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2: 23). You are also undoubtedly aware that God hates divorce (Malachi  2:16). Divorce is rarely a simple solution to our problems.

To further complicate matters, you’ve met a wonderful man who treats you and your daughter well. It is no wonder that you feel torn. Should you return to a marriage that may still have significant problems, or move forward with a man who treats you with kindness?

While this is obviously not a simple decision, I believe there are actions you can take to help you make a wise decision.

This is a time to prepare yourself for your future. Since you are not emotionally, spiritually, or even legally divorced, this is not a time to be involved with the other man. It’s a time to clarify with the other man that you still have feelings for your husband and want to consider restoring your marriage. You cannot do this while still involved with him. It’s also a time to let your husband know that you have feelings for him, but that you need significant changes to even consider working on your marriage.  

How can you determine if your husband is really willing to change? This can be accomplished by insisting he seek counsel for his behavior. Let your husband know that your interest in reconciliation is contingent upon him being accountable to a counselor or pastor who understands your specific issues. If he is willing to take responsibility for his actions, you’ll soon see changes to substantiate an inner heart change. This may well lead to increased trust and renewed feelings of warmth, love and attachment for him. The possibility of restoring your marriage will come through working together. Remember to maintain firm boundaries for yourself as you make decisions for your future.

About the author: He is known as The Relationship Doctor. With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, Ph.D., has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You and When Trying to Change Him Is Hurting You, have more than 300,000 copies in print.

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