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Domestic Violence/I think my husband has really changed, but I still don't want to reconcile


I have been married for over 15 years.  Throughout the marriage, my husband has struggled with pornography, alcoholism, depression and emotional abuse.  During those years, I had unwittingly slid into that codependent/enabling role that happens to so many of us, thinking I was doing the right thing and standing by my husband.  I did not recognize that I was the victim of emotional abuse.
His drinking escalated over the last five years.  I had approached him several times, expressing my concern that he had a problem and asking him to get help.  Every time he made excuses and told me he didn't need/want help.  The last time I gave him an ultimatum was 2 years ago.  I laid out for him in very explicit but in the most loving way I could, how his drinking was affecting me, how it was affecting our child and how it was affecting our marriage.  I told him if it didn't stop completely and he didn't get help, our marriage was over.  He was remorseful, humble, didn't blame me for anything (which was often the case) admitted to the error in his ways and stopped drinking.  Over the following few months, I noticed the drinking beginning to subtly creep back in, as well as the passive-aggressive abusive behavior.  Six months after that ultimatum, I told him I was considering divorce and felt we needed to attend couple counseling as a last resort.  He told me he didn't want to go, but would to make me happy.  I waited another three months for him to take the initiative to find a counselor (duh!) and when he didn't I found one and made the appointment.  We attended a few sessions together.  He participated marginally and after a few sessions told me it was a waste of money because the counselor was telling us things we already knew and that we could fix things on our own.  Meanwhile, the drinking was still sneaking it's way back in.
I realized that he was not going to change and I would have to stand by my ultimatum and leave him.
I spent the next several months quietly preparing for a divorce.  I also began seeing my own therapist.
Six months ago I told him I wanted a divorce.  He of course went through that cycle of rage, disbelief, devastation, bargaining, etc.  He begged me for another change.  I told him I would think about it.  A few days later I told him this was his LAST chance, but that things would continue under my terms, and even if he complied, it didn't guarantee I'd take him back.  My terms in a nutshell were: separate but stay under the same roof for now, no husband privileges sexually/physically, he MUST attend a support group, see a doc to be evaluated for depression, absolutely not a drop of alcohol ever, and we would attend couples therapy and I wanted him to find the therapist.  He agreed and we carried on.  I could see him trying, although there were times he would get angry, resentful, blame me for not speaking up about my feelings sooner, pop off out of anger and cut into me, etc.  After a months he quit couples counseling and going to his support group because "he didn't need it anymore."
Two weeks ago I asked him to move out for a temporary separation period of three months.  I needed space and time to heal, and quite honestly I wanted to know if he really meant business.  He reluctantly agreed.  Since then, he has been seeing a therapist on his own, he began going to his support group again, and he just celebrated six months of sobriety.
Having said all of this, I think for the first time he is genuine about changing.  I don't believe it is to placate me or manipulate me.  I also believe that at the time I asked for the divorce, I had the biblical grounds to do so.  I covered that decision in prayer and was at complete peace with it.
Here is where my confusion lies...despite the fact that I believe he is genuinely working towards positive change and it is not the typical abuser's power play like before, I still do not want to reconcile the marriage.  I still want a divorce.  I want him to live well and be happy and healthy, but I have no desire to remain married.  I have so much peace when he is not around, I feel whole and complete.  I don't feel like I have to put on an act or behave a certain way.  I feel free and authentic.  And I am not afraid anymore of starting over on my own. (I worked and prayed through that).
But now that it seems he is making genuine effort, I feel obligated to stay.  Can you offer any insight?

Hi Jennifer, You ask a good question.  Staying in a marriage out of obligation is very different than staying in a marriage out of love.  From what you are describing, you have gone through the detachment process and there is nothing left emotionally in the relationship for you.  The co-dependency caused you to cave in on your decisions or you would have been out of the relationship awhile ago, from what it sounds.  

If you have asked the Lord to show you what you are to do and you have peace with your decision to leave, then why would you reconsider?  If God said yes then, His answer is still yes.  Again, as I said before, obligation will only take you so far and then you will be staying out of duty.  That doesn't make a happy marriage.  Because you have been around the cycle of abuse so many times, you need to see years of sobriety and years of authentic heart change....not just behavioral changes.  You said, "it seems he is making genuine effort"...why would you make a decision based on something you aren't sure of?  

My insight is simple...go where the peace is.  God is in peace and that is how He directs us.  It doesn't matter if the circumstances change.  You had and still have peace about your decision and you probably feel confused and unpeaceful about a decision to stay.  That should tell you what you need to do.  God doesn't give you one answer and then turn around and give you another answer....He knows the end from the beginning and if He is telling you to leave, then He knows best.

I wish you all the best as you move forward with your life.  If there is anything further I can help you with, please contact me again.

Domestic Violence

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Kriss Mitchell, M.Ed, CRC, CNHP


I am able to answer questions with regard to problems that result from emotional abuse or physical abuse in both dating and marriage relationships. Having been in an abusive relationship for many years, I know first hand the feelings, the questions and the doubts we go through as we try to make decisions about our lives. Often victims of abuse have deep faith based concerns regarding staying in these kinds of relationships which I am able to address as well.


My background started as a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship as well as having family members who were victims of violence and physical abuse. I have gone on to become a professional counselor and I work with abused women.

American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Association of Christian Counselors, International Association of Prayer Counselors

I currently maintain a blog at I also have links and currently written articles on my website at You can also follow me on TWITTER @livingwellcc, or on facebook at Living Well Counseling and Consulting. My writings have appeared in The Good News Northwest and the North Idaho Business Journal

Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Certified Natural Health Professional

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