Surviving in Difficult Marriage: Car Wash

Today’s post is from author Elisabeth K. Corcoran. Give it a read, and be sure to check out Elisabeth’s new book!

I don’t know why I remember so vividly sitting in the car that cold, sad January morning, while my then-husband washed our car, and my kids sat in the backseat.  They were tired and whiney, pre-teens who just wanted lunch and to be done with the day.

It was one month prior to being threatened for the first time with the cruelest words anyone had ever spoken to me.

And it was two months prior to me breaking the news to our little world of the abuse that had been going on for fifteen years.

But I didn’t know any of that then.

What I knew that morning was that my aunt had just died and we were on our way home from her funeral.  And that my husband had just taken us to Wendy’s where the kids were only allowed to get hamburgers and water, no fries, and I couldn’t decide what to get if anything because my husband wasn’t getting anything at all, choosing instead to wait until we got home to eat, and I always gauged what I would get based on how much he spent on his order.  So I remember struggling with this guilt and resentment and restriction that felt so disrespectful and intrusive on the grief that was supposed to have top billing that day.

I remember a few days before when I told him that my aunt had died and he hugged me, and I felt emptier in that hug than if he hadn’t hugged me at all.  I didn’t know then that that would be one of our last hugs.

And we sat in the car, and I watched him walk around with the hose, his breath coming out in vapor because it was so cold, thinking he was crazy for not just paying the extra two or three dollars – two or three dollars that we totally had – to get a regular carwash on such a freezing day.  And I was spent.  And I just wanted to go home. And I remember how the sadness I was feeling about my aunt dying completely paled in comparison to the sadness I felt about my marriage’s constant dying, but I wouldn’t have said that to anyone then, because I was ashamed.

I didn’t know then that was our last carwash as a family.  I didn’t know then that was the last fast food run we’d make as a foursome.  I didn’t know then that was the last family death we would walk through together.  I didn’t know a lot of what I know now.

But something in me must’ve known something was coming or shifting, because why else would I remember every detail of a carwash four years later?  Because within months, every single thing would be different.  My marriage would be on its way to being beyond repair and then, within a year, the time of death would be called on it.

So everything changed and something died, and now, new life is springing up.  Slowly.  Painfully at times.  In fits and starts.  But it’s coming.  And now instead of recounting all of our “lasts”, I’m celebrating as many firsts and new things as I possibly can.

EKC photo2Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage and Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, along with several other books. She speaks several times a month to women’s groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. She has been featured on Moody’s In the Market with Janet Parshall, This is the Day with Nancy Turner, and Midday Connection with Anita Lustrea.She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at or  She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at if interested in joining.

If you’d like to support Elisabeth’s work, go here:


Week Links #16

Could it be true that I haven’t posted a Week Links since August? Why yes, I think it could be.

August…. getting the oldest off to college, Christmas planning starts in September, birthdays in October, November, and December, plus all the holidays…. I’ve noticed over the years that September to February tends to be… off. But here we are in March, so perhaps things can stay “on” for the next 5 or so months. We’ll see, anyway.

I haven’t had much time to peruse articles online, but I did manage to come up with a handful of must-reads.

Recline! Why “Leaning In” is Killing Us, by Rosa Brooks  Interestingly, I posted a link to one of my blog posts in the comment section of this article, and received hundreds of views from all over the world. Who knew that people 1) actually read through comments, and 2) actually click links in comments. What if I had posted spam?!? But I hadn’t. Instead, I had posted this. I actually feel much differently now that when I wrote that post a year ago, in the throes of RSVnewbornery, but, you know. The internet is forever, so there you go.

Andy had a great post up this week that ran at a few different places (he’s in demand!). It isn’t “sexy” stuff, so to speak, but his article addresses what could be the most important little-discussed issue of our time when it comes to eradicating poverty. If you want to sound smart at parties, on your next playdate, or in line at the liquor store, take a minute to read his post, Stealing Debt Relief.

My Redbud friend Margot Starbuck (who has a new book coming out in a few days!) had a great interview at RLC with Jonathan Chan, a man of many hats with Haiti Partners. Super catchy title, too: Why Facebook Posts and Free Food Giveaways Aren’t Transforming Lives. By the way, if after reading the interview you want to know more about how you CAN transform lives, go back up one link to Andy’s article. Click the link. Read the post. Bam! Now you know.

True story: A guy once invited me to be on his radio show to do an interview about a woman-focused article I had written. I can’t remember which article. Anyway, I researched him a bit and found out his was not a show I wanted to be on. Also, I had family in town. The same guy recently asked a Redbud friend of mine, Dorothy Greco, for an interview. She researched him, too, but he gave her a list of interview questions and things seemed fairly straight up. So, she did the interview. I won’t ruin the ending, but I will say that, alas, it did not go well (to put it mildly). Read Dorothy’s article, Misogyny is Alive and Kicking, to find out what happened. Take your blood pressure pill first, though.

Yet another Redbud friend (who I’m lucky enough to actually see in person on a fairly regular basis!), Bronwyn Lea, had a much anticipated post up at CT’s Her.meneutics exploring how God really feels about divorce: What God Teaches Us About Broken Marriage Vows. Bronwyn’s a deep thinker and a smarty pants to boot, so it’s well worth your time to check out her first CT piece.

And finally, my most read of the week, which I just so happened to write almost a year ago: 50 Years After the Feminine Mystique, I Just Can’t Do it All.

If you like what you read here, won’t you take a moment to “like” my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter? Or perhaps get automatic updates when I post by entering your email address in the little box that says “follow this blog”?

Guest Post: Things I Couldn’t Do

EKC photoI am happy to have a guest post today from author/speaker Elisabeth Klein Corcoran.

Elisabeth’s new book, Unraveling: Holding on to Your Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage (Abingdon), was released earlier this month.

Things I Couldn’t Do

Someone recently emailed me to say that she is in a difficult marriage and is in ministry and doesn’t know if she’ll be divorcing but she was encouraged to see on my speaking page that I have a full schedule, so people must not have dropped me like a hot potato just because I was divorced.

She doesn’t know the backstory, which is this.  (But before I say what I’m about to say, I need to first say this: I was treated 95% well by Christians through my divorce, and I will be forever grateful for those who stuck by my side. However…)

When I announced my separation, I was oozing shame.  I was beyond embarrassed.  I was full of guilt.  I would write an email to another round of people telling them the news, hit send, and then go run and hide in another room so I wouldn’t have to see the responses as they came in.  And if I had thought that the hardest part of telling people would be the occasional inappropriate comment, I was mistaken.

I soon realized that some people thought there were certain things that a divorcing woman should no longer do, until further notice.

I lost speaking engagements almost immediately, even one for a Christmas talk, because apparently divorcing women are either not allowed to celebrate the birth of Christ or wouldn’t know how to give a Christmas talk without bashing their soon-to-be-ex-husband while ruminating on the wise men. (“And while we’re on the subject, let me tell you about a man who wasn’t wise…” Really?!)

I couldn’t host teenagers in my home. Which made me doubt my mothering. Because I had two teenagers.  If my home is not fit for other teenagers – just to hang out in – is my home not fit for my own children now that I am divorcing? I cried.

And I needed to steer clear of a couple women in precarious marriages so as not to guide them down the wrong path with my counsel.  (My counsel being things like, keep reading the Bible, and keep working the steps, and stay in counseling, and don’t be disrespectful.  Controversial, marriage-hating stuff like that.)

Not one of these things that I was told I could not do was under the guise of, “We think you need time to heal.”  Had that been the case, I would’ve embraced the kind support and leaned into it and felt taken care of and looked out for.

No.  Instead, these rules implied one thing: people needed to be protected from me because I was sinning (I guess) and my divorce was apparently potentially contagious.

Women in my audiences might learn a quiet time tip only to find out that I was divorcing which would make it completely invalid.

Teenagers might get the impression that my situation was “okay”, something they could replicate in their future. God forbid someone get served with divorce papers in fifteen years; we can’t send the message that they’d make it through.

And those gals in hurting marriages might leave because I was left.

I guess.  I mean, I don’t really know.  Because it was never fully explained to me.  Except that it was clear – it wasn’t about protecting me; it was about protecting everyone else from me, the sinner.

I’m sounding bitter.  I am.  No, I’m not.  I have gotten over these specific things.  But I’m not over the message that was sent to me.  And I’m actually okay now with learning it because what this taught me was that Christians don’t always know what to do with those of us who are hurting, grieving, maybe sinning, maybe bouncing back from the effects of someone else’s sinning against us.  I know this to be true, because I used to be a staunch, rule-keeping women’s ministry director who didn’t have time in her schedule for messes like this or room in her heart for the grace to cover it over.

But now I’ve been through the fire.

I doubt I’ll ever lead a ministry at a church again…but if I do, I know I will handle the hurting ones much differently than I was handled, much differently than I used to handle.  I will ask what they need.  I will ask if they need rest, protection, a covering.  If they do, great.  I will give it as long as they need it.  But if they don’t – if what they need is to keep serving so they can get out of their own heads for ten minutes or to keep plugging away so they can pour out some of the comfort they’re receiving from God – and it truly doesn’t seem like it will hurt anyone, then I would let them.  God, I would let them.  I wouldn’t add to their shame.  Because I know they’re already carrying around a lifetime’s worth and even one more drop could send them over the edge.  Because I know that what she would really need more than anything else is support and love and grace. And that’s what I would give her.

Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, along with several other books, who speaks several times a month to women’s groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. During her time at Christ Community Church’s Blackberry Creek Campus in Aurora, Illinois she began and led their women’s ministry for ten years prior to moving to the city’s Orchard Community Church. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at or  She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at if interested in joining.
Unraveling can be purchased at Amazon:

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Unraveling book cover