Dear Divorce Minister,
I moved to Africa 8 years ago to join my African husband (married 6 yrs, no children). There was no way he would have moved in my direction as he was passionate about his job in Africa. I accepted that and gave up my job, house & country with friends and family nearby.
My husband wanted to be married by a minister and although I was an atheist I agreed. I started reading and learning more and more about Christianity since then.
One year into the marriage he had an EA with one of his students in my presence (he was an instructor, the OW stayed in our camp for a month). His response: “we’re just friends but yes, we have an emotional connection. But I’m not going to pursue it because I’m married”. It was probably the most horrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. The whole group was talking about it, as their ‘emotional connection’ was so obvious. He denied having an affair, since he ‘didn’t have sex with her’.
When she left I asked him not to contact her again and he said he wouldn’t. About 2 hours later I saw a text message from her on his phone replying that she was looking forward to seeing him again soon and would be waiting for his call. I felt devasted and confronted him. He said he thought I would be over it some time soon and by that time he and the girl could have a coffee. In my presence he wrote her back to never contact him again and that her text message might cost him his marriage. A few weeks later our employer received a complaint letter from one of the other students, that my H had been putting all his time and energy in this one particular woman compared to the rest of the group. My H denied everything and said the other (male) student was just jealous.
There were often other female students that he was flirting with. But he said it was just me being insecure. We had huge arguments about this and the fact that he was living his life as if I wasn’t there. He said that if I wanted to spend more time with him I needed to come on activities with him and the students.
During our arguments I often felt so cornered by his blameshifting that I would often lash out at him and erupt my frustrations like a vulcano. Everything was my fault. He never took account for his behaviour, nor did he ever apologize. According to him his wrong behaviour was “just a reaction to my behaviour”. And the effort he put into the marriage was to quote “tolerate me”.
My H started using physical violence more and more: throwing me against the wall, dragging me outside by my hair, bruising my hands and wrists etc. He said I was crazy and needed medical help. The marriage deteriorated further when I found a file on his laptop with pictures of all the female students I had asked him about along with pictures of the chest of a vet-assistant, busy with her work. His answer: “sorry you have to see this but it doesn’t mean anything”. Meanwhile I went to several doctors thinking my H (and his mother…) might be right in that there was something mentally wrong with me. At least that was something I had control over. They said I was suffering from depression.
The fights continued until he gave me a black eye (H said it wasn’t his fault, that it was an accident). It resulted in us both leaving our job. I went back to Europe for 4 months to recover.
After 4 months I came back: my H said he missed me and that we could work this through, my life was in Africa and I had hope/hopium for my marriage. Just before my arrival my H had a job interview with our soon-to-be employer. He told her I had gone home to get treatment for “emotionally abusing him”. I only heard this months later.
For a while everything seemed fine. After a year the problems came back: the blameshifting, lack of accountability, me lashing out and him becoming physical again. I told him to leave our house. He got another bungalow on the property in april 2013 and we have been seperated since. We have tried to mend things until I received a letter from his lawyer January 2014 requesting a settlement agreement.
I have got a permanent visa which becomes null and void when the marriage is dissolved within 2 years after issuing the visa. In my case that would mean we’d have to stay married for another year. Divorce means no visa means and work permit so then I’d have to go back to my home country.
Initially H agreed with delaying for the sake of my visa and he has done so for the last year. Now he says his new relationship (we’re still married!) is getting more serious and he no longer wants to stall. My lawyer says we could probably stretch the process for a year.
The thing is: In 8 years I have build up a life here, it’s my home, I like my job, my friends here so I’d like to stay where I am. In all honesty though: I still have a shred of hope which plays a part in this. Not that he gives me any reason to have hope, he checked out a long time ago. I just can’t believe that the Christian of us two wants a divorce! Besides, he was the one that cheated! It does not make sense to me. He says that I damaged his ‘temple’ with my angry outbursts and for that, God takes him away from me, to protect him. It makes me feel like an awful villain while he pretends to be the poor victim.
Working for the same company and living on the same property makes it extremely hard sometimes but I presume that will get better when I start trusting that he is not right for me (head is there, heart is not, not by far). He performs like nothing ever happened while I struggle to even get to work every day, devastated as I still am.
Apart from that: going back to Europe now with an 8 year work experience gap…in these times..is going to be a tough one. My H’s response: “sorry your visa didn’t work out. You can go back to your country now”.
So, it’s either divorce (which I resent) and leave my home base again or stay and delay.
Please help me to create some clarity in this mess.
Thanks so much.
First, are you physically safe? From what you have described, it sounds like your husband has not taken full responsibility for his physical abuse of you. As such, I am concerned that it could happen again. Please make sure you are safe.
Now, what you have described of your husband’s behavior suggests to me that he is a Christian in name only (see I John 3:9-10). He has lied, beaten his wife (you), and cheated (emotionally and likely sexually with the current girlfriend minimally). In other words, he has demonstrated contempt for his wife (who he is instructed to love like Christ did the Church–i.e. Ephesians 5:25) and contempt for God by acting out such physical violence towards you who bear God’s image (and it matters not whether you are a Christian or an atheist). These are incompatible with a life submitted to Christ as Lord. Plus, from what you wrote, he makes excuses for his sins or flat out lies as opposed to repenting. That does not bode well for his soul either. God ultimately knows for sure as He is the ultimate Judge. That said, your husbands actions and responses compared with Scripture suggest that the true lord of his life is not Jesus.
I write this for two reasons:
1) I hope you do not judge Christians or Christ as people like your husband. Personally, I am very angry with how your husband treated you! That is NOT okay!! It does not matter what you said to him. You do not punch a woman or drag her by her hair. Besides my anger, I suspect Jesus is angry at him as well for such things and using God’s name to justify his sin (i.e. it is sinful for him to divorce you being the cheating party). You are very precious to God, Karen. Very.
2) You asked how a Christian could want divorce. My short replay to that is I don’t know if your husband actually is a Christian. Him saying he is does not make it so. His actions say he is not. Words are cheap. Not everyone who says Jesus is their Lord will enter Heaven (see Mt 7:21-23). And even if he is a Christian, his actions say he is not in submission to Christ and Scripture in this area.
As to practical advice:
It does sounds like all your options will result in considerable loss to you regardless of what you choose. You have a buffet of bad options. Given the two options: 1) divorce and leave or 2) delay divorce and stay, you seem to want to take option 2.
The choice is ultimately up to you. However, I suggest the first choice is the better of the bad options. You cannot fix your marriage while your husband continues cheating on you. It is like trying to fix the rigging of a ship while your husband continues to blast holes in the bottom of your marriage with a canon called cheating. Trust his actions in this. He has decided and has been deciding for a while against the marriage as your narrative has revealed. You do not have to put up with such contempt and abuse.
Also, I understand how it feels to want it to work despite the obvious evidence otherwise. Been there. Done that. I was holding out hope until the very end in my marriage as well thinking my now former wife would not be able to actually divorce me. She did. And I now see that as a mercy from God. It was a ending–yes, painful–that created a way for some really awesome new beginnings. Today, I am so thankful as it made it possible for me to marry Mrs. DM and become a father to munchkin. Also, I struggled with depression during my first marriage (never clinically diagnosed). Recently, I commented to Mrs. DM how life is so much less stressful today with her even though I became an instant father to a three year old daughter by marrying Mrs. DM. My point in saying that is getting out an environment of abuse and contempt can do wonders to for your mental health. Yes, it is an ending, and you will loose dreams among other things with that ending. However, the death of those dreams can create a fertile ground from even more beautiful dreams to grow. And you deserve better than to be humiliated and abused by your husband. Better men exist out there.
I suspect you still have friends and family back in Europe. Reach out to them. I am glad I was not shy to ask for my parents’ help in my dark season. Without their financial help in that season (not to mention emotional and spiritual support), I would not be a professional chaplain today. You may be surprised who is there to support you if you are willing to humbly ask. Take the help. We all help those we truly love when we see them in need.
Finally, I suggest that your work prospects in Europe might not be as bad considering you still are working even if it is not in a European country these past eight years. Don’t sell yourself short. It is a loss to leave Africa, but it is better to be free of an abusive situation with your sanity than rich and going crazy in my opinion.
My heart goes out to you, Karen. Know that you are not alone. Many of us have navigated or are navigating these waters known as infidelity and divorce. You are very precious, and you do not have to accept his contempt or abuse anymore.
Blessings and hugs,
PS If you haven’t already done this, please get a good individual therapist. Look for a “no nonsense” type who will tell you the truth even if it is difficult to hear. It is important you find someone to help you understand yourself so that you can protect yourself from falling back into the cycles of abuse. Also, if you haven’t already done so, please get tested for STDs, just in case, as your husband has already demonstrated that he is a liar.