Dear Mom, What If I Want to Quit My Marriage?

Dear Mom,

What if I want out? Okay…don’t freak out. I am planning on staying, because on our wedding day, I promised I’d stick our marriage out. But what if I don’t WANT to anymore?


Dear Daughters,

I’ve wanted to quit before too.

Somewhere in our third year of marriage, I went from a cheerful, confident I can do this. To a sobered, This is harder than I thought. To one day, a desperate, I can’t do this anymore! I want to quit! The thought shook me to the core. I remember feeling trapped and desperate and frightened.

We lived in smog-blanketed Southern California—our fourth home in two and a half years—and once again I was in a place with no friends. Not that I would have called anyone. I didn’t know how to ask for help. I didn’t even know what the problem was.

One thing was clear though: I needed to get away.

Desperate for space, I went into our very tiny master bathroom and locked the door behind me, leaving my husband and baby to fend for themselves. I didn’t have any thought for what they might need, I was so caught in my own spiral. All I knew was that I was done!

Agitated and panicked, I sat on the edge of the bathtub, then switched to the toilet, then back to the bathtub. My emotions were jumbled. I was annoyed that I was angry and confused, lonely and scared, and I didn’t know why.

I needed my husband to help me figure it out. But I didn’t want to come out and admit I was being childish or silly hiding in the bathroom…and wasn’t he part of my problem? I was stuck.

After an hour or so, the need for something softer than porcelain seating and some fresh air drove me to sheepishly unlock the door and return to my world. My husband didn’t laugh at me or criticize me or condemn me. He surely could have. But he sensed that I desperately needed his patience and gentleness.

We spent lots of time talking that night, working to resolve the issue, whatever it was.  And in the end I resolved, I can do this!, once again.

That doorway conversation, and the hundreds that followed, allowed me to explore my identity as mother and wife and woman over the next two decades, while drawing closer to Dennis as we did this marriage and parenting and life together.

I was learning how to be me, in relation to him.

Each conversation was like the work of adding stones to an arched opening. Sometimes the capstone fit and new understanding seemed complete. Ahh, I get it! Or, Finally, he gets it! Other times, it all collapsed in on us and we had to start building again.

We needed to create those doorways to allow movement in the room of each other’s lives—so he could understand me, my limits, my needs, my struggles, fears, hope, and dreams. And so I could understand his in return.

There were certainly times I thought of quitting again. Fast forward five years, after two more moves and three more kids, all under the age of six. I remember standing in the kitchen of our adorable yellow bungalow with six-month-old Rebecca on my hip, the older three in various locations of our 1,800 square feet. Once again, I panicked, I can’t do this!

This time I didn’t want to literally quit, but I felt confused and absolutely lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Somewhere in the diapers, Cheerios, toys, and unexpected hurts—physical and emotional—I felt as if I had disappeared. What happened to the old me??

I was the most exhausted 30-year-old I knew. I wanted to run away just long enough to figure out who I was, and how I was to cope with my life. My husband tried to understand and was learning, but I was speaking female, in which he was not fluent.

All the recent dilemmas we’d faced seemed surmountable.  With the right medical care, the right advisers, the right help, I had believed that we could do it together.

That afternoon in our kitchen felt entirely different, harder than any of those previous crisis moments. I knew of no expert, no book, no mentor who could diagnose what I was feeling and offer a solution.


The irony is that God was totally okay with me finally saying, “I can’t do this.” In fact, I think He had been waiting for me to make this discovery for many years.

What He wanted was for me to add a short prayer, “But will You show me how?”

He wanted me to see that I couldn’t do it all. Because that was my problem: I felt I should be able to do it all. I thought I was a failure if I couldn’t.

My circumstances were part of His training process to show me, a firstborn achiever, my need for Him, His strength, His power.

Gradually, I realized the ongoing solution was to remain teachable, to never stop being willing to accept what the Master Architect wanted to build in me and in our marriage, and to trust that He was building what I could not.

Over the next two decades I encountered more I can’t do this situations:

-How can I manage the fear of my child’s potentially tragic choice?

-How can I endure the pain of my prodigal’s wanderings?

-How can I possibly change anymore in my marriage?

Every I can’t do this moment, led to another surrender and another and another. Through each one I was maturing and becoming more real, more the woman God wanted me to be.

Every marriage is rife with impossibilities. But in those times we can experience the wonder of repentance, restoration, and renewal as we risk building doorways to the hidden corners of our souls. Married couples who love genuinely, willingly, and persistently come to see their beloved in a wholly different way.


“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” was Paul’s secret for remaining steady in seasons of “plenty and hunger,” when the provision of his next meal seemed impossible (Philippians 4:12-13).  So in my marriage and in my life I have learned He is sufficient when I face another I can’t do this. 

And, yes my daughter, He is sufficient for you too.

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8 thoughts on “Dear Mom, What If I Want to Quit My Marriage?”

  1. Pingback: Perfect strength in desperate weakness | FaithfulDailyRead

  2. This is exactly where I am, I just haven’t been able to pin point why… I know it’s because I’m trying to handle everything alone. God, help me accept that life will not always be picturesque and pretty. Help me accept the ugly with the good and overlook the rain so I can see the rainbows!

  3. Thank you for this beautiful article – so timely for me right now, for us. My husband and I have been separated for 9 months, and I pray daily for his return to our family, to me and to our home. He is an amazing man, father and husband and I love him dearly. I am trusting God and leaning on Him to refine, renew and redeem myself and my husband and draw us each closer to Him. God’s grace is with us. To Him be all the glory!

  4. Wow! I so needed this today! How you described yourself with the six month old on your hip in your yellow bungalow is exactly where I found myself this morning. Well, no yellow bungalow, but my first son turned 13 yesterday, and my second son is 6 months; and I am an exhausted 40yr old momprenuer who is trying my best but feeling like it is never enough and I will never catch up on my to do list. To say nothing of my ‘want to do’ list! So grateful for your ministry and for my husband forwarding me the link to this article!

  5. Wow, I remember the first “God, I can’t do this”. We were in the hospital with our third child, and the Doctor said quietly, don’t plan on bringing your baby home. There’s a good chance she will not make it through the night, and if she does she may be blind, or virtually a vegetable. How could I process those thoughts, I came here to have a baby! Not this! I cried out to God. God, I can’t do this, I need your help came from the depths of my soul. I had not ‘done well’ when my beloved Grandfather died, or when my parents had divorced, or when our church took a left turn, and I did not do well at all when our first baby died at five months pregnant. But by God’s grace…I had become a true believer, having received Christ as my Savior, and entered into a personal relationship with the Lord through that crisis. As I learned to walk with God, I too had put my dreams on a shelf as I left my MD program to become a wife and mother. I knew God was good, and faithful, He had proven Himself in many ways, but I still couldn’t handle this. I walked back in grief to my room, but surrendered to God’s will, I told God, “I can’t do this on my own, I NEED YOUR HELP! As I walked into my room at 3AM, I found a card there with psalm 121 on it. “I will look to the hills from whence comes my HELP”. My heart was flooded with a Peace that is beyond words or explanation. In my heart of hearts I knew God was going to take me through this, whatever happened. It’s His Presence that matters, Emmanuel, ‘God with us’ that calms the storm. That was so many years ago, but I have never forgotten my Abba Father’s help when I needed him. This past Christmas before we had a chance to put our adornments on the tree, that little baby girl, now 20 years old, sang first soprano at Benaroya Hall, just hours after my Daddy was ushered into the presence of our Lord. His timing… always perfect, His ways not our ways. His faithfulness… beyond anything we can think or imagine. And, Barbara, you and Dennis have been such a huge part of our lives, with your beauty and art, with the weekends to remember over the years. I loved that as a young wife adornaments were affordable, as were Thanks living Treasures, and Resurrection eggs. You have been like our big brother and sister, always 10 years ahead of us with marriage and parenting. I can’t tell you what a blessing it has been to us, and those we have discipled. Thank you for sharing your lives. It’s made such a difference, for eternity. Where it really matters. He is sufficient. ps. I love your art. It reminds me of Jesus’ art when I look at a sunset, where He has painted the sky. It reflects that same Glory, Wonder and Majesty. Thank you for becoming the you He created you to be. It inspires me.

  6. Barbara, thank you for taking time to share this segment. I really needed to see this. We serve such a wonderful Heavenly Father that wants his daughters whole. Although married for close to 36 years and under the impression that things would get better when we hit our 25th mark. I see now that God loves me more than just having a picture perfect marriage he wants me to be whole & healed in my heart as his daughter. From the beginning months of our marriage I saw a glimpse of temper in my husband it grew over the years I didn’t know what it was called “verbal abuse” but now I see how God is wanting to make me whole so I can be a stronger helpmate for my husband. It is not my character to be confrontational so it has been difficult per say to ‘stand my ground’ in a Godly manner to get my point across I would usually just shut down and not say a word. God is showing me that he never created me to allow others to crush my spirit and break my heart he has given me a voice. I take one day at a time and I find when I have spent time in the Lords presence that those days I can say, “I can still do this”. I am not sure where the Lord is taking me on this journey called marriage and healing of my heart but one thing I know I will never be alone in this journey he has placed before me his promise is”he will never leave me nor forsake me”
    May the Lord continue blessing you and this precious ministry.
    Love Sister Becky

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