Last week I began sharing a story with you of a pastor’s wife whose marriage ended in divorce. If you missed last week’s email/blog, please go on our website and read the beginning of this journey. We will share it in three parts and I believe it will minister to you no matter where you are in your marriage.
For a long time, I brushed off his bad behavior by telling myself he was suffering from depression from all he’d been through in his first marriage and subsequent divorce. When we met, he explained how his first wife left him, took all that they owned including the house and turned their children against him. It pained me to hear how she “tried to destroy the church”, that she was “emotionally unstable” and that he feared for his safety. I empathized with him and his frustration about having to start over with nothing. When we were married, I convinced myself that if I prayed more, loved him more, and focused on taking care of the needs of our household he would eventually snap out of this depression, stop drinking, and begin to walk in the kindness and love he so eloquently relayed in his weekly sermons.
In fairness, he made it clear from the beginning that he would have an occasional glass of wine. During our brief courtship, he told me that he drank wine and had no plans to stop. Because of my past relationships and the history of abuse at the hands of an alcoholic, it was a potential deal-breaker for me. He assured me that drinking was not a problem for him, that he didn’t drink regularly and that he would never hurt me. I decided to get married after all, not realizing that the occasional glass of wine would turn into a daily glass, and then two to three glasses and eventually turn into two bottles a night, sometimes more.
Over the years, I began to vocalize my concerns with him and communication between us broke down severely. Whenever I stood up to him, he became angry, resentful, withdrawn and bitter toward me. When he drank he was obnoxious, loud, sloppy and even cruel. Name calling was a technique he favored when he wanted to hurt me, once kicking me out of the house while shouting profanities. Worse yet, he wouldn’t always remember the things he said or did. So when I would confront him the next day, he’d accuse me of over exaggerating or making things up.
He went to work every day and since he didn’t drink before noon, he reasoned that he didn’t have a drinking problem. And I covered for him. I kept our personal life secret. I didn’t want to hurt him or the wonderful people I’d come to know and love in our congregation.
At one point I gave him an ultimatum, something he advised me never to do. I told him if he didn’t stop drinking I would leave. He said he would stop but after three days he began drinking again. I was heartbroken, but I didn’t leave. With no money, no job, and no way I was going to tell anyone that my pastor/husband had a drinking problem, I had nowhere to go. It was a turning point and from that time on I tried to encourage him to take a sabbatical. By his own admission he was, “self-medicating” because of depression. I pleaded with him, telling him we needed to do something different. I even used his sermon fodder to drive home my point. “If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten,” I said.
He finally relented and told me he would pray about it and consider moving to be closer to his family in California. For the first time in years I was hopeful. I began looking for jobs near my in-laws. If he were to take a sabbatical we would need additional income, and I was happy to go back to work if it could save our family. I was offered a job within a few months but he said he didn’t feel God calling him to leave yet so I turned it down. In the meantime, he continued drinking and things worsened at home. He threatened divorce several times and even left once. Our daughter, just four or five years old at the time was being subjected to the abusive language, arguing and overall turmoil in the house so when I got another job offer in California I began making plans to visit the area and meet with potential staff. He said he’d support me and help me move but he didn’t. He never intended to take a sabbatical, he never intended to join me in California nor did he intend to go to marriage counseling. I would later learn that he’d been planning to divorce me for several months prior to my accepting the job.
When I moved to California, he told church members that I was on sabbatical and completely cut me off. He stopped taking my calls, drained our joint bank account, removed me from our insurance policies, filed for divorce and started seeing other women. I was devastated.
“All rise.” The clerk’s voice shook me to attention. Everyone in the courtroom stood. I slowly rose to my feet, feeling dizzy. I took hold of the bench in front of me to steady myself.
“The honorable Judge Brown presiding.” The judge emerged from chambers. Oh no, I worried. It’s a man, he’s never going to believe me.
“You may be seated,” the judge said taking his seat. We heeded his words. Opening a file in front of him, the judge asked, “Are the parties for Mosley vs. Mosley present in the courtroom?” My husband and his attorney stood.
“Yes your Honor,” he said. My attorney stood.
“Yes your honor,” she replied.
“Please come forward,” said the Judge.
In a dreamlike state, I followed my attorney to the front of the courtroom and stood next to her at the bench. My husband stood on the other side of the courtroom with his attorney. I glanced at him. The expression on his face was unsettling. He looked directly at me, hardened his mouth, rolled his eyes and looked away. I felt like he was looking through me and I was afraid.
My ex-husband presents well. He’s charismatic and charming in front of others. I was certain he’d have the judge wrapped around his finger in no time. He’d convinced many people that I was to blame for the demise of our marriage. I had always been silent about our personal life and hadn’t been to the church in over a year so that wasn’t a difficult feat. He told me not to speak to anyone at church because they didn’t care about me and since no one had reached out to me since I left, I believed him. I later found out he asked the congregation not to contact me but to “pray for me.”
Even before taking the job in California, I had “left” the church; I had stopped participating in church activities and settled into the position he asked me to fill. He asked me to be like his former pastor’s wife.
“Just sit in church and be quiet. Smile at people and don’t engage, don’t get involved,” he had said.
Because of this, I truly believed no one missed me or even cared. I now realize that many did care, but they were just doing what they were told.
Standing in front of this judge, I reasoned that there was no way he would be able to see my husband’s lies for what they were. That his accusations of my abandoning the marriage and leaving with our child in the middle of the night to go to California were completely unfounded. I knew that my husband was going to deny that he had a drinking problem and deny any abusive behavior on his part.
Worst of all, he was seeking full custody of our daughter on the grounds that I was mentally unstable! I listened intently as my husband spoke to the judge. He and his attorney told lie after lie. I was shocked and angry at first, then so sad and finally embarrassed. As my attorney began speaking in my defense, I wondered if the story I’d just heard my husband tell the judge was the same one he’d told his family members and many of our friends who had forsaken me. “I’d be upset with me too if those things he was telling the judge were true,” I thought. But they weren’t true.
As the judge questioned my husband, I remembered how utterly betrayed and foolish I felt after arriving in California. I had nowhere to live and hadn’t truly secured my job. When he cut off contact with me, I reached out to my mother-in-law, desperate to understand what was going on and to figure out what to do next. She had been my confidant for years, my safe place to turn.
As a pastor’s wife I really couldn’t speak about what was happening in my personal life for fear that it would affect my husband’s career. But I felt safe talking to his mother because I knew she loved him and I thought she loved me. Speaking to her about our problems was helpful because I knew she would never use anything I told her against him. I shared with her about the drinking and the abusive behaviors. She would advise me and comfort me during those trouble times. As the wife of a pastor herself for many years, she understood the pressures of ministry and marriage. She confided that her mother was an alcoholic too and she often gave me advice on how to deal with my husband. I needed to hear her voice; once I spoke to her, I just knew she would help make all of this right. I never heard from her. Instead, I received a text from my husband. Sitting in the parking lot at my new job, I read the words that would send me into one of the darkest, loneliest times of my life. “My mother has asked me to tell you not to contact her or my father anymore…they would prefer if you didn’t visit them.”
I was flabbergasted and full of despair as I read those hurtful words. The heart wrenching pain of betrayal is still with me to this day. I’d come to love my husband’s parents and indeed, I had come to love his entire family. His mother had counseled me not to mention my husband’s drinking to any of his brothers or sisters. I heeded her advice and kept the drinking secret. Although she and my father-in-law had spoken to my husband about it, he never stopped drinking and in fact seemed to become more defiant. Having moved to be closer to his family only to learn via text message that they no longer wished to speak to me was crushing. I couldn’t have known it at the time, but I now realize that the betrayal signified a new beginning in my soul.
I was alone. Betrayed. “God, give me wisdom, give me strength” was my prayer at the time. I had no time to feel sorry for myself, I had my daughter to care for and I had a job. I would need to start work very soon. Over the next few weeks, I found a place to live, began attending a local church, enrolled my daughter in all day kindergarten, and went to work. During those first few weeks my daughter and I experienced such peace and tranquility in our new place. We no longer had to walk on eggshells, we could laugh, play games, dance, listen to music as loud as we wanted and come and go whenever we pleased. With this newfound freedom and the stark contrast to the dysfunctional home life I’d experienced over the past several years, I came to understand just how toxic and abusive my marriage had become and the traumatic effect it must have had on me and our precious daughter.
Although she felt betrayed she was not forsaken. God has been with her and her sweet daughter every step of the way.
If you are going through troubling times in your marriage please reach out for help. Don’t let it end up like Angelique’s.