Congratulations to those of you who have been reading all year and to those who started somewhere along the way. I hope you’re looking forward to starting again in the coming year.
As we read in Malachi today, let’s purpose in our hearts to give God our best in 2017 … to offer Him the firstfruits of our time in the morning … to be faithful with our tithes and offerings … to use our talents and resources to further His kingdom, to bring Him glory in all we do, and to honor Him in our marriages or our singleness or whatever our situation!
Our final passage in Proverbs pictures “the virtuous wife.” How do the characteristics of this ancient model speak to us today?
Finally, as you read the final 2 chapters of Revelation, allow John’s vision of the glories to come excite your heart!
As is all of God’s Word, this little book is rich with His truth. In chapter 1 we see the importance of giving God our best, not what is left over, whether that means finances, time, talent or some other resource.
God rebuked the people because, instead of giving the best of their flocks as a sacrifice, they offered the stolen, the lame and the sick animals.
Many times, instead of giving God our best we give Him what’s left over, if anything. We can’t tithe or give to the work of God because we are too strapped with huge mortgages and car payments. Perhaps we need to drive that older vehicle a little longer or adjust our budgets in other ways.
Instead of spending time with Him first thing in the morning, we rush off to work or get busy with our day, promising to read His Word before we go to sleep. At night, we’re too exhausted to read more than a few verses before we fall asleep without giving it serious thought or attention.
I don’t want to sound legalistic, because the Bible does not say we must spend time with God first thing in the morning. There may be some who are at their best at night. I also understand that some of you have young children who, as someone said, “Wake up at the first crack of the Bible.” But for most of us, morning is the time when we are most rested and when spending time with God is the most profitable.
In chapter 2 God rebukes the priests because, among other things, they took the covenant relationship of marriage lightly. And remember as new covenant believers we are all priests to the Lord (1 Pet. 2.5).
First, they knowingly disobeyed God by marrying unbelievers (2.11). Then those who were married were divorcing their wives: Continue reading →
It’s been a tough election year for most of us. Many feel it’s nearly impossible to whole-heartedly support either candidate. Personally, I’ve run the gamut of thoughts during and after the primaries, including, “I may not vote at all.” And as the process has gone on, I’m not any happier about the choices we have.
The question I’ve pondered is, “What is the right thing to do?”
Lord of All
I don’t believe our lives as a believers should look like a pie chart with a “business slice,” a “civic slice,” a “family slice,” a “social slice,” and maybe a “religious slice” where we keep God. God is God of all of life and He rightfully expects to be ruler over the whole pie.
Our faith and the principles of God should inform how we do business, how we love and raise our families, how we conduct our social lives and every other area, including how we carry out our civic duties.
Jesus taught that we were to be good citizens:
… “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Lk. 20.25).
Paul added to that idea in Romans 13:
¹ Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority (NLT).
And Proverbs 29.2 tells us:
When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.
So, in a nation like ours where we choose our political leaders, we should do all that we can to see that godly people are in authority.
I’ve written often about “the goal of life” Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 5.9:
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
So what would be pleasing to God?
The Sovereignty of God
While I believe as Christians we should do our part to elect godly leaders, God is not limited by anything we do. He’s not limited by who wins the election or the kind of political system under which we live.
He has cared for His people through the centuries under even the most oppressive governments. In the first century alone, believers “turned the world upside down” (Act 17.5-6) under one of the most wicked and oppressive governments in history.
We also must remember that government is not our savior. It’s not the answer to the moral and spiritual problems our nation faces. We are the light of the world (Matt. 5.16). It’s our job to make disciples and teach others about God and His Word (Matt. 28.19-20).
Our culture will never change unless hearts are first changed.
We must remember, too, that it’s God Himself who raises one up and removes another from positions of authority (Dan. 2.21). But when the nation of Israel demanded a king like the other nations, He gave them one (1 Sam. 8.5). So we shouldn’t take our responsibility lightly, beginning with prayer.
My Voting Decision
So how did I decide?
I’ve always based my voting decisions on moral, biblical issues, so with all due respect to her supporters, I knew I could never vote for Hillary Clinton because of her stand on abortion and gay marriage, among other things. Not because I hate women who have had an abortion or people living a gay lifestyle, but because God forbids those things (Ex. 20.13; Rom. 1.26-27).
Our nation rightfully deserves God’s harshest judgment for the blood of the million plus babies who are murdered each year in the name of women’s rights and now we are trying to redefine the institution of marriage, an institution that was ordained by God Himself (Gen. 2.22-25).
But I don’t agree with many of Donald Trump’s choices and attitudes either. So the real question for me was, “Would I vote at all?”
Then one day, as I went through the mail, a copy of Decision, a magazine put out by Billy Graham’s Ministry, found its way into my hands. On the cover was a picture of the two candidates and the headline, “Two Visions. Two Americas.” But it wasn’t the headline that caught my attention. As I thumbed through the pages, I came to an article comparing the two party platforms.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you’ve probably seen similar comparisons. I know I’ve seen many of them, but reading the stands from each platform made me realize what I needed to do.
The article stated, “Many decisions are made at the president’s desk, but the major political party to which he or she belongs wields significant power over which domestic and international policies are advanced and what becomes law.”
I’m not naive enough to think that because any political party says they stand for something, that our elected officials will necessarily do what’s right or that laws will automatically be changed. But given the choices, I realized my responsibility was to vote for the one whose platform most aligned with God’s principles and pray for those who are tasked with carrying out those goals. Whether or not they do is ultimately in God’s hands and the candidates are accountable to Him.
Here are some excerpts on various issues:
Sanctity of Life
Democratic: “Democrats seek to repeal the 1976 Hyde Amendment so that federal funds can be used to pay for abortions. The platform says, ‘We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.’ Democrats support ratification of UN efforts that affirm ‘the reproductive rights of women’ globally.”
Republican: “The GOP asserts the sanctity of human life and affirms, ‘The unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.’ The party supports a Human Life Amendment making clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth, and it salutes states that require informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods and clinic regulation.”
Democratic: “‘Democrats applaud last year’s Supreme Court ruling that ‘LGBT people–like other Americans–have the right to marry the person they love.'”
Republican: “The GOP platform condemns the Supreme Court’s rulings that removed the ability of Congress and the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The GOP urges the reversal of those decisions, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment.”
Democratic: “The Democratic platform says, ‘We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.’ The party opposes a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the country.”
Republican: “Republicans affirm that religious freedom in the Bill of Rights protects the right of the people to practice their faith in their everyday lives. The platform endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, which would protect faith-based institutions and individuals from government discrimination.”
Democratic: “The platform says: ‘We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, and will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion.”
Republican: “The GOP platform states: ‘A critical threat to our country’s constitutional order is an activist judiciary that usurps powers properly reserved to the people through other branches of government.’ The GOP supports the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states.
Internet Safety and Decency
Democratic: “The platform supports ‘a free and open internet at home and abroad.’ The party would seek to strengthen cybersecurity while ‘protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.”
Republican: “The platform states: ‘The internet must not become a safe haven for predators. Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.'”
The article also covers each party’s position on:
Human Rights (the Democratic stand has mostly to do with LGBT rights, even forcing policies on other nations)
Law and Order
Israel and Jerusalem
So while I don’t have a high view of the candidate, because of his party’s stand on biblical, moral issues, I’ll be voting for Donald Trump in November. And I’ll trust God to do in our nation what only He can do.
I also know I need to recommit myself to praying more faithfully for our nation, its people, all the candidates, and whoever will become our next president.
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Who captivates your attention? What do you spend your time reading? On what kind of game show would you want to compete? What do the answers to those questions have to do with where you have put your treasure? Before you answer … you might want to read today’s post!
Verse 1, “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them.”
Perhaps your first thought was like mine, “I don’t hang out with evil people.” I go to church and hang out with my Christian friends. I don’t go out drinking. I try to avoid gossip. In fact, the list of ways I obey God might be long in my mind.
But just as we learn and grow from the good influence of mature believers, even those who have already gone to be with the Lord, by reading their books and watching or listening to them through all kinds of media … so we can be influenced by ungodly people.
Who captivates your attention? Is it Hollywood celebrities or committed Christians? Do you spend more time reading your Bible, Christian biographies and other Christian books … or People magazine and the hottest new novel? Would you do better at The American Bible Challenge or a pop culture version? Do you know more about Kate Middleton, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Katy Perry … or the Apostle Paul, Susanna Wesley and Charles Spurgeon?
Jesus said, “… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6.21).
What do your answers say about where your treasure is?
Finding Satisfaction in the Daily Activities of Life
Solomon most likely wrote this book during the later years of his life after he had squandered much of his energy on earthly pursuits. He wrote this book to others, especially young people, to warn them about the futility of trying to find happiness in the things of this world. As he points out the “vanity” of such pursuits, he shares many nuggets of wisdom.
In chapters 1 and 2 he warns that even wisdom for wisdom’s sake is vanity, as are seeking after pleasure, building projects, and accumulating possessions. He tried and failed to find satisfaction in power, great wealth, and fame. Work for work sake didn’t bring satisfaction either. In fact, he came to realize that all his accomplishments meant nothing in light of eternity. Everything he accumulated here on earth would someday be left to others.
In the midst of all this we read this nugget:
“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God” (2.24).
Instead of seeking satisfaction in success, wealth, power, and other pursuits, we should learn to find satisfaction in the daily activities of life.
What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce? What about remarriage, singleness, and sex, both inside and outside of marriage? Does the Bible really address those subjects and, if so, does it have any relevance for today?
Also read about some of the amazing animals God has created: the horse with all his strength and fearlessness, the hawk, and the eagle. Then our reading in Job goes on to talk about a creature called behemoth and a huge sea creature called leviathan.
Finally, our Proverbs passage talks about the drunkard and how, even after the a hangover, he runs to look for his next drink. The world wants us to believe they can’t help it, that it’s a disease called alcoholism. What does the Bible say?
Paul has a great deal to say about marriage, divorce, and singleness in this chapter. In verses 1-9 he explains that sex within marriage is God’s only provision for sexual fulfillment. That has not changed in spite of what our culture tells us.
I know this is a huge challenge for some of you who are single and desire to be married. I want to encourage you that God has not forgotten you, that He is good, and that He will give you the grace to respond biblically to this challenge.
And to the married, verse 5 says:
5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
For those who are married, sex is to be continual. It is never to be withheld from one’s partner except by mutual agreement and then only for the purpose of prayer and fasting and only temporarily. In the past, this passage was most often applied to women, but as my husband and I counsel, more and more I hear of women whose husbands are not interested in sex.
It’s ironic that in a culture where sex is everywhere—on billboards, on TV, on movie screens, and on the street—this has not freed people to enjoy God’s gift of sexuality. Instead, it has done serious harm. The reasons are numerous, and if you’re struggling with this situation, I would encourage you to seek counseling for both you and your spouse if he or she is willing, or for yourself, if not.
So … what is wrong with living together? Everyone is doing it! Sadly, even couples who consider themselves Christians.
Is a marriage license just a piece of paper and marriage something people created? What if we’re really committed to each other or are planning to get married eventually?
In 37 easily readable pages, Jeffrey Miller presents the loving biblical answer to those questions and many more. And he does so without being judgmental or condemning.
In chapter 2 he says:
The Bible does not explicitly say “Living together is a sin.” Despite a popular misconception, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, containing endless lists of everything God says is okay and everything God says is not okay. Though we do see passages of clear “do’s and don’ts” (like the Ten Commandments in Exodus chapter 20), the Bible often gives principles concerning our conduct.
He goes on:
Throughout the Bible, God gives clear principles on His design and intentions for sexuality and marriage. We could list all the things God is against when it comes to sexual relationships, such as homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, etc. (and in fact the Bible does mention God’s feelings toward such things).
But, as the author points out, we love loopholes.
And when we come to the Bible, we have a tendency to do the same. Have you ever said (or thought):
“I know what the Bible says, but technically …”
“The Bible may say that, but what that really means is …”
“I know ________ is wrong, but the Bible doesn’t say anything about _________.”
When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden, he started by questioning God’s Word. Nothing much has changed.
… in God’s infinite wisdom, He did something better (and easier) for us. Instead of giving us list after list of what He doesn’t want for us concerning sexuality and marriage, God instead gives us His blueprint for how he intended sexuality and marriage to be in the first place.
Mr. Miller goes on to explain God’s plan for marriage beginning in Genesis 2 and how He intends for it to be an “exclusive, inseparable relationship between the man and the woman.” He goes on:
We must also notice that God didn’t create one man, take twelve of his ribs to make twelve women, telling Adam, “Hey, try them out, sow your oats, see which one you like, or maybe you’ll decide on more than one.” Nor did God create twelve men for Eve to “play the field” until she decided which man would make her the happiest. God made one man–for one woman–for one lifetime. At creation, God deliberately set this pattern for marriage commitment with the very first couple.
The author then goes on to talk about Jesus’ teaching on marriage, beginning with his condemnation of the Pharisees and their low view of marriage (Matt. 19.3-9) and then walking us through His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn. 4.5-26).
… Jesus was reaching out to her and offering her the better way, the first thing He pointed out to her was the fact that her life was caught up in one bad relationship after another, husband after husband, and the man she was currently living with was not her husband.
… we discover in the Bible that Jesus Christ Himself actually encountered someone who was living in that situation. And … He didn’t affirm it as a good alternative to marriage.
Jesus is proclaiming that people are missing God’s plan (and blessing) for marriage when they don’t view divorce, relationships, and cohabitation as God Himself does.
In chapter 5 the author addresses the common responses to criticism of living together:
“But we love each other…”
“We will end up getting married eventually anyways …”
“We are committed to each other …”
“We are married in God’s eyes, why does it matter if we have the license? It’s just a piece of paper! And why do we have to have a ceremony?”
“We have to do it for financial reasons …”
“Everybody is doing it these days …”
“You wouldn’t buy a care without test driving it, would you? Isn’t living together before you get married like test driving a car? You know, try it out, make sure it works …”
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is one that has helped many women get a more biblically balanced view of our role, our responsibilities, and our blessings.
There are many books available today on marriage and on how to be the husband or wife that God has called you to be. I’ve read a number of them and, perhaps, so have you.
But Martha’s book is different from many of them. First of all, it’s not new. In fact, in my opinion, it’s a classic when it comes to biblical books on the wife’s role in marriage. It was first published in 1995. Martha wrote it because, as a biblical counselor seeking to help other women, she needed solid material to use in her counseling and, at that time, there was little available.
In the years since, it has been used by countless women and countless counselors, including myself. I have read and re-read it. I’ve taught it in the classroom and I’ve used it over and over in my counseling ministry. I’ve shared it with young women and with seasoned veterans to marriage. I’ve found it to be the most comprehensive, biblical book there is. My copy is highlighted, dog-eared, and full of notes on every blank space.
Just Another Book about Submission?
Someone out there is thinking … “Oh no, another book about submission!”
Submission is in there, because it’s part of how God has called us to live, but so is how to make a biblical appeal and how to lovingly confront your husband when he’s sinning, along with when to go to your church, and when to call the authorities because of abuse.
But the bulk of the book is about how to live out biblical womanhood on a practical, day by day basis, bringing glory to God in the process.
In the first section, Martha covers God’s protective authority, His provision for wives, His pattern for relationships, His purpose for marriage, and the wife’s role.
In the second section, she covers the heart and how it can be focused on false gods instead of Christ, also, the home, the God-kind of love, respect, intimacy and submission.
In the third section, she explains how submission is the basis for God’s protection and lists His resources for a woman’s protection. She, also, talks about the key to our motivation, the control of the tongue, and the importance of a quiet and gentle spirit.
And in the last section, Martha talks about some of our struggles: impatience, anxiety, and a lack of oneness. Continue reading →
How is your marriage? Is it good? Is it great? Could it use some work or, at least, some fine tuning? Marriages, even good ones, need regular maintenance.
Genesis 2.24 says:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
This is much more than the obvious physical union between a man and a woman. This is a unity of hearts and goals that requires good communication and a laying down of our own selfish agendas to follow God’s agenda.
Amos 3.3 says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”
As Christians our goals should be in line with God’s goals for marriage, but that won’t happen unless we know and understand God’s blueprint.
Dr. Wayne Mack’s book, Strengthening Your Marriage, can be a great tool for helping any couple do just that. The book is made up of 8 Units to study together as a couple or as part of a small group:
God’s Purpose for Marriage
The Wife’s Responsibilities
The Husband’s Responsibilities
Each unit begins with a teaching section in the form of an amplified outline. Key points are noted and all points are accompanied by Scripture references. The teaching section is followed by study questions and practical exercises to work through as a couple. Dr. Mack says: Continue reading →
I’ve often heard that the rate of divorce in the US is about 50%, but I’ve discovered that statistics are hard to pin down. Some say the rate of divorce has dropped in the last decade and that as high as 70% of marriages make it to their 15th year. While that’s good, what about the 30% who don’t? And is it possible that the divorce rate is going down because many couples simply live together without marrying?
What does the Bible say about divorce? Is it allowable to divorce because we’re not happy or no longer in love? Is it OK if we’re unequally yoked? Are there even any biblical grounds for divorce?
59 years had passed since the completion of the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. In these passages, the second group of former captives have returned led by Ezra. He has learned that the Jews who were already there, including many of the leaders, have taken pagan wives. This was strictly forbidden by the Law, had repeatedly led the people into idolatry, and had caused the nation to be taken into captivity. Yet, they had gone back to the same practices!
John MacArthur points out in his Daily Bible notes that even though there was a decision made that these wives as a whole were to be “put away”—that is divorced—each marriage was examined individually, probably to learn whether the wives had become believers. He also notes that other gentile women like Ruth and Rahab who had embraced faith in God were accepted and even included in the lineage of Christ.
So what about today? Can we divorce an unbelieving spouse? Matthew Henry in his commentary says, “As to being unequally yoked with unbelievers, such marriages, it is certain, are sinful, and ought not to be made; but now they are not null, as they were before the gospel did away the separation between Jews and Gentiles.”
2 Corinthians 6.14 says:
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
So while it is wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian, if a believer is already married to a non-believer, divorce is not an option in most circumstances.
Biblical Grounds for Divorce
So what does the Bible say about divorce? Is it ever allowable? Jay Adams, in his book Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, says, “Contrary to some opinions, the concept of divorce is biblical. The Bible recognizes and regulates divorce.”
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, “being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly (Matt. 1.19). He was going to divorce her until an angel convinced him that she had not committed adultery. Continue reading →
Have you ever found yourself praying, “Dear God, please change my husband!”
You’ve tried it all: nagging, encouraging, keeping quiet … praying. You know there’s a right way to impact your marriage, but you’re too frustrated to try.
Maybe the following sounds familiar?
You’re efficient, smart, organized, and make sure everything that needs to get done, gets done. You’re physically tired, yes, but mostly just tired of being the responsible one. Your husband is a decent guy who helps when asked—but you still have to ask, which means it’s still your responsibility. Sometimes you joke that having a husband is like having another child.
Then, there’s the marriage itself. Things look fine on the outside, but they’re not really. In public, your husband is charming and cheerful. At home, he’s distant or grouchy—apparently more interested in anything else than spending quality time together. Faith, instead of being something that defines your marriage, is a private, individual matter.
You’ve bought books on how to improve a marriage, but they all require at least some degree of cooperation from your husband. You can’t make him read something he’s not interested in; and learning how to be more romantic, helpful, and communicative isn’t exactly high on his list.
On good days, being married is like having a roommate; on bad days it’s like being in prison. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s a far cry from what you dreamt it would be like. With a few adjustments you could support yourself financially, and it’s tempting to think life might be easier alone. The question, “Who needs a husband, anyway?” has crossed your mind more than once.
He’s frustrated, too. Somewhere along the way, being married became more of a burden than a joy. The way you always “help” him drives him crazy and makes him feel inadequate. “I don’t need another mother,” he says to himself.
You have the “right” answer for everything—at least you think you do—and he’s tired of being corrected, criticized, and contradicted in what he says or does. It’s easier to bury himself in television, hobbies, or work than fit into your world—a world where he’s never quite good enough. He may not have said it out loud, but he’s probably thought it: “What does she need me for a husband, anyway?”
Or maybe you just want to understand your husband better, why he does what he does, and how you can help him grow in the area of leading his family and growing as a believer in Christ.
If you’re married, you have an imperfect marriage. You have a spouse who sometimes acts wrong and so does he or she.
Marriages are imperfect, because people are imperfect. If we have accepted Christ and begun that redemptive journey, hopefully, we are on the road to becoming more like Him, but none of us has arrived!
It may be that both you and your spouse are seeking to be the husband and wife God wants you to be, but even then we fail at times. It may be that your spouse is sinning in much larger and more damaging ways.
Sin is in all of us (). Attitudes and behaviors that come out of a self-centered, selfish, prideful, deceived, and/ or rebellious heart often express themselves in big, bad ways such as infidelity, lying, addictions, or abuse. The same sinful heart can also produce more benign but chronically irritating behaviors such as nagging and criticism, forgetting important occasions, failing to put dirty laundry in the hamper, not listening well, or staying glued to the television when our spouse is attempting to have a conversation with us. It can be just as difficult and discouraging to believe God and live by faith with a spouse who sins in subtle, less blatant ways as it can when a spouse commits the more grievous wrongs.
Most of us acknowledge that there are no perfect marriages or perfect spouses. We know that having a good marriage requires effort and hard work. At times, however, in the midst of that pain and struggle we can lose sight of what marriage is all about. We forget that we have made a covenant promise to love for better or worse. In the better times, love is usually easy. When worse comes, we often don’t know how to continue to love when we are angry, hurt, scared, or don’t feel very loving. We also aren’t exactly sure what that kind of love is supposed to look like. Do we just forbear? Forgive and forget? How and when do we apply the bolder forms of love?
Sadly, many just give up. The rate of divorce among believers isn’t much different than with couples outside the church, even though most of them know that God wants them to stay and work out their differences.
Others stay but become cold toward their spouses and toward God, believing He has commanded them to stay in an unhappy marriage. Others simply resign themselves and go about living two separate lives in one house. Continue reading →