October 23, 2019

She Married Him Anyway

Gary Thomas — 

A recent news article caught my eye: a would-be bride caught her soon-to-be husband sexually assaulting an inebriated bridesmaid the day before the wedding. What astonished me even more was the last sentence of the article: friends of the couple “confirmed” that the ceremony went on as planned…

My heart rejoices at the healing and mutual support that a wise marriage brings. I love officiating at weddings and attending weddings of young people and those who are getting a new chance at love later in life. But when I hear that a would-be bride sees such monstrous behavior and still walks down the aisle, I can only imagine what a lifetime of horror lies ahead.

Admittedly, this couple’s case is extreme, but I recently received another email that began (paraphrasing), “I wrote to you several years ago and you warned me of several red flags in my relationship. Against your advice, I went ahead and got married and now I need your help as to what to do next.”

These news reports and these kinds of emails makes me want to re-post a past article this week, just to keep it fresh.


Please Don’t Marry Him

My heart is grieving.

I’ve received several Facebook messages from women who asked my advice about a dysfunctional dating relationship when The Sacred Search first came out several years ago. Each one noticed several “red flags” in their dating relationship and asked me if I thought they should be concerned.

In every case, the answer was a clear “YES!”

“Thank you so much,” was the typical reply, and then they went silent.

Now I’m getting a second round of Facebook messages, and since Facebook brings up the previous correspondence, I’m reminded of prior conversations.

It breaks my heart. Let me paraphrase a few:

“He said he was sorry, we ended up getting married, and now I’m the only one who seems to care about our relationship.”

“I’m doing everything I can to save my marriage, but he refuses to see a counselor.”

“You were right. He’s a sex addict.”

“I guess now I should have listened. Turns out he’s gay.”

Let me state this as clearly and as forcefully as I can: A dysfunctional dating relationship sealed by marriage doesn’t make any problems go away; it simply cements you in a dysfunctional marriage.

Marriage won’t improve your man. Marriage won’t change your man. (The same is true of a woman, of course.) Marriage simply weds you to your partner’s problems.

When you raise a significant issue in dating and the man or woman responds by crying and saying they’re sorry, nothing has changed. They’ve been caught, they don’t want to lose you, but it doesn’t mean they will repent. It doesn’t mean their character will improve. It just means they cried.

That’s it.

Give them a Kleenex, but don’t give them a ring—at least not until you see substantive, long-term change.

If you don’t witness character transformation before marriage, you’re foolish to expect it after marriage. A mature person—the kind you want to marry—is always growing and always open to biblically based conviction. He or she walks in grace, so they humbly realize they’re not perfect and will not be overly defensive when a loved one points something out with gentleness and understanding.

If this dynamic isn’t true in dating, it won’t be true in marriage.

Never marry someone hoping they will change. Marry someone because they already have changed.

One woman told me she couldn’t bear to “just give up on four years of my life.” Now she may be headed for divorce and will have to give up seven years of her life. (I don’t look at it that way, but she does.)

Another woman thought marriage would “solve” the sexual issues her potential husband struggled with. Sadly, it didn’t. It almost never does. It just exposed them for what they really were.

I take no pleasure in saying, “I told you so.” None. And I’d never put it like that anyway. This post is for single men and women who, deep down, know there are serious issues with the person they are dating, but who are too afraid to admit it or act on it.

Your fear of breaking off the relationship should be obliterated by the fear of making a foolish marital choice, which is far, far worse.

Trust in God. “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)

He can help you have the difficult conversation. He can soothe the heartache. He can lead you into the “green pastures” of a mature, healthy relationship—but not if you stay stuck in the barren desert of a dysfunctional relationship.

My wife and I have a single friend who is a godly, strong, and gifted woman. She’s overheard some of the conversations (without identifying details, of course) and recently told us, “Hearing these stories makes me feel a whole lot better about my situation.”

It truly is better to be a little frustrated in your singleness (if, in fact, you are frustrated at all) than to think a dysfunctional marriage to a dysfunctional man or woman would be better because at least you’d be married.

Legions of men and women, miserable in their brand new dysfunctional marriages, would disagree with you.

Please, please, please: marry an emotionally aware, relationally gifted believer who is humble, spiritually alive, and sexually whole. If you compromise on any of these, you will have a long time to regret it.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to disable messages on my author page because I just can’t keep up—and the advice wasn’t often heeded, anyway. It was used for singles to vent their frustrations, but all that did was make them feel momentarily better so they could continue in an unhealthy relationship.

Anything I’d say to these people, I’ve poured into The Sacred Search, so I’ll point you there. A good marriage is a wonderful, beautiful experience—the gift that keeps on giving. But marriage to a toxic person can rip you up emotionally and spiritually. Please don’t run through the red lights and ignore the red flags—turn around and walk away from a destructive dating relationship.

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27 responses to She Married Him Anyway

  1. This worries me. And I think I have mentioned this before, but if my husband and I were still dating, he would be the one getting the warnings about marrying me. We are all damaged in some way and we all need God as our saviour, and I would be mortified if someone counselled my husband as such and he chose not to marry me. God has this planned and it has been for my salvation that things have worked out as they have; and then to his (my husband) as well. This feels like putting God in a box, because He is so much bigger than we could imagine. God does not live in boxes. And no matter what decision we make in life, there will be heartache to follow… because we live in a fallen world, but God is always with us. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. And while we should always look at the red flags and take heed, I am very grateful my husband didn’t take heed. There is always salvation and redemption because that is the kind of God we serve.

  2. great first line/title. much falls in between. A dear friend has a son who is into Star Wars and reads a lot of Darth Vadar books and thinks he can raise his two children (under 5) as Jedi’s. Laei and Luke Skywalker. I think those books are dangerous for young minds. it brings children into the dark world and normalizes evil. bible says lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil. What is your opinion of these children’ books on Darth Vadar as hero?

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I was in a dysfunctional dating relationship. My parents and sisters saw all the red flags and were against the relationship, even my mentor saw them, but I turned a blind eye to them. I explained them away, I defended him to everyone who spoke against us, I let fear and feelings be my guide. It tore a rift in my relationship with my sisters especially, and my parents too. We never officially got engaged, but talked of marriage many times. In the end I did break up with Him. God actually told me “The answer is no,” in a vision before I finally broke up with him. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. We dated for 3 1/2 years. Like the woman he mentions in the article I didn’t want to “lose” those years. However, as I look back, I don’t regret it. I learned and grew in spite of it all and those experiences shaped me into who I am today. Now it has been almost two years, no new relationship, but I’ve gotten my joy back, God has restored the relationships with my parents and sisters, and I am so thankful I made the hard decision to let go and run away while I still had the chance.

    Like so many others who hear and don’t heed, I had lots of folks tell me to get out, but I didn’t want to take their advice. Now I know that even though I didn’t want to hear it at the time, they were right. Listen, it’s hard, it hurts, it takes time to heal, but it’s worth it in the end.

  4. THANK YOU! Sharing with ALL!

  5. Heartbreaking indeed!

    But I want to thank you for this book, because it helped my son and daughter-in-law see potential issues and resolve them before marriage. Their willingness to work on themselves and the relationship cemented their desire to be together and commitment to one another, and we couldn’t be happier with the result!

  6. I was married 31 years at the time of my divorce. I have analyzed my 3-year dating period searching for the red flags that I should have seen. If any, they were so subtle that even my father (a pastor) and other trusted family and friends missed them as well. Everyone I knew thought I was getting a great guy. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. So, I encourage those women who sought wise counsel, tried to “do everything right,” and ended up with a selfish, abusive husband, it’s not your fault.

    • Agreed. And it could work the other way too. Red flags don’t mean that things can’t be redeemed or restored or that they won’t work out.