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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Real People, Real Stories

Patsy Rae Dawson

In those early years of teaching marriage classes, I quickly recognized three groups of marriages: The good, the bad, and the ugly. I told my students, “If your husband works hard and displays a strong sexual drive, go home and hug his neck. If you learn your role, he will respond.” Over and over, I witnessed the power of God’s word in the hands of a loving wife, whether those marriages started out as the good or the bad.

But the ugly, why did they fail to respond to God’s word? Mature couple in love

Ten years later, I asked those original students to fill out a survey on what happened to their marriages over the years to help me understand. Some of those first students shocked me as they revealed they lived with spouse abuse while they took the classes. Others confided about hiding alcohol abuse and sexual neglect. Not surprisingly, these ugly marriages failed to thrive on God’s word as the wives covered up sin in their homes.

One of those first students revealed she had struggled with spouse abuse for nearly twenty years. She wrote:

There needs to be lots of practical how-to examples. A woman whose husband is sinful is not in control. Even a woman who works hard to maintain mental health and Christianity cannot see clearly her situation. She needs specifics. The daily judgments of "Is he going too far right now?" and "How can I be submissive but refuse to participate in his sin?" are exhausting and time consuming. A woman becomes convinced she is in the wrong.

She lamented:

I cannot describe how it is to be under the control of a "godless" person, but it is a real, incapacitating situation. A woman will become incapable, as true as if she were chained, of making healthy decisions in order to remove herself from the situation.

Those surveys, plus students urging me to teach about marriages that don't respond, provoked me to go through training at two womens' shelters. This resulted in my studying and teaching Challenges in Marriage: What to Do When Sin Inhibits Love.

As I look back over the last forty years at those first marriage classes and the questionnaires my original students filled out, plus all the one-on-ones with people seeking help, I see three kinds of marriages with almost three predictable outcomes for the good, the bad and the ugly.

Many of the real people who gave permission to share their stories said their prayer was that the sharing of the details of their pain and joy might help men and women to think more clearly and reap the great marital joys God reserves for those who dare to follow his divine rules for getting along with others.

The Good
Turn into the Best

  1. Both the husband and wife work hard.
  2. Both the husband and wife have a healthy sexual appetite.
  3. Both grew up in healthy homes or have sought help for dysfunctional upbringing or experiences.
  4. At least one of them loves God and seeks to serve him in all ways. Often the mate responds to this if he or she enters marriage as an unbeliever.
  5. They start marriage on a high plane. When they learn God’s plan for their life, or if just one learns and applies the lessons, the marriage soars to indescribable joy.
  6. The children grow up as loving individuals ready to enjoy all marriage promises.

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The Bad
Turn into Good

  1. Both the husband and wife work hard
  2. Both the husband and wife have a healthy sexual appetite.
  3. Some sin in the marriage, but more a slip than habitual—more ignorance than deliberate.
  4. One or both grew up in dysfunctional homes and brings those problems into the marriage.
  5. At least one of them loves God and seeks to serve him in all ways. Often the mate responds to this if he or she enters marriage as an unbeliever.
  6. They start marriage rocky or it becomes difficult after a few years. When they learn God’s plan for their life together, or if just one learns and applies the lessons, the marriage soars to indescribable joy, but never reaches the full height of the good marriages because of the memories and wasted years.
  7. The children may grow up with some dysfunction from the earlier years, but generally healthy with good problem-solving skills.

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The Ugly
Become Desperate

  1. The work ethics of one or both spouses may be lacking.
  2. One mate covers up some major sin in the other that often goes back to his or her childhood:
    1. Sexual duds with inhibited sexual desire and pleasure who are unable to receive and express true sexual love to speak a beautiful language of love that transcends spoken words.
    2. Adulterers, sexual addicts, and homosexuals or lesbians married to straights who do not grasp the emotional part of lovemaking and seek only their own pleasure at the expense of the mate.
    3. Spouse abusers who intimidate with outbursts of anger, which eventually leads to threats or acts of physical violence. The abuse may occur in many areas: financial, spiritual, emotional, and physical.
  3. The sinful mate shows no motivation to make lasting changes. He or she only feigns change to control the other’s anger or to prevent divorce.
  4. The sin grows over time, perhaps so slowly and so secretively, the other mate does not realize the marriage is getting worse.
  5. The innocent mate at some point will begin fighting for emotional survival. At that time, the couple often divorces emotionally, and perhaps even legally.
  6. One or both partners may turn their back on God and blame him for the unhappiness in the marriage.
  7. The children grow up scarred, either to perpetuate the sin or become codependent with a similar sinner.

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When a Husband Is Sexually Inhibited

As Jane and Pete prepare to leave, Jack teases, “You behave yourself now, Pete, when you get home.”

“Oh, he will,” Jane answers harshly.

Jack chuckles, “That's the way, Janie girl! Maybe you can get a headache on the way home.”

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For the abused and those who help them for both husband and wife abuse

We decry the abuse of women in third world countries all in the name of religion. Yet the same degradation of women goes on in this country among many Christians, who verbally, physically, and financially abuse their wives. In addition, verbal and physical abuse of men is increasing rapidly. The shame is on our heads, because God gives Christians the tools to stamp out spouse abuse among us. More ~