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My ex-husband convinced me that the Holy Spirit told him we needed to get married, but he was wrong

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

“We will be stepping outside of God’s blessing if we don’t get engaged.”

Was it a threat? Spiritual abuse? Or the Holy Spirit speaking through my supposed-to-be-future husband? If the latter, I was supposed to listen, submit, and obey, even though I disagreed...right?

I was 24 years old and 5 months into a serious dating relationship (which we called “courting”) when my boyfriend Peter* proposed to me. When he knelt down next to a mountain creek where he had brought me, and started taking off my shoes and socks, I knew what was happening and I froze.

I didn’t freeze because he was going to wash and anoint my feet with oil (though I should have, and I shudder to think of it now). I didn’t freeze because the letter he read to me was overly spiritualized and sentimental. I didn’t freeze because the ring he offered wasn’t really my style.

I froze because he was proposing, and I was supposed to say yes.

And I didn’t want to.

But I said yes anyway.

I knew what was expected of me, and as the good Christian girl and people-pleaser I was raised to be, I accepted a proposal for marriage even though I felt sick inside. The sickness grew until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and at a gas station on our way down from the mountain, I told him I didn’t think our engagement timing was right. He was furious, especially about what he was supposed to tell his parents. They were waiting for us at their house, where we were supposed to celebrate our engagement that night.

I gave him the ring back and the ride back to his condo was awkward. After I left his place, I called my sister, bawling.

“I don’t understand. God told me Peter would be my husband. Why don’t I feel peace about saying yes?”

About 5 months prior, I was on my way home after a date with Peter, who at the time was this new guy who had waltzed into my life. I was talking to God about a potential future with him, when a “voice” interrupted my thoughts. The voice in my mind spoke a sudden and forceful “yes” in response to the question I was beginning to ask: “Is Peter my future—?”

I was elated. My dream had come true: God had told me who I would marry. Everything was clear, and our courtship would be a powerful testament to God, because God had ordained that we would be married. No doubt. No question. Let’s do this.

Back to the present, 5 months after hearing that voice, and after having semi-rejected a marriage proposal, I was confused. Truth be told, I had expected to be engaged over a month ago. Peter and I had discussed it, and I was frustrated that he hadn’t gotten his act together yet. We had already talked about getting married in October, to fulfill my dream of having a fall color wedding, and now that it was the end of August, I had resigned myself to getting married next year.

But now that he had proposed, it felt all wrong. I had come to terms with a longer dating period that I had originally anticipated, and now that this season was being asked to come to an end, I wasn’t sure engagement was the right step, right now.

The next day, Peter and I talked in depth about what had happened. Emotions were high and at one point, a nail clipper flew across the room in anger (Peter had a nervous habit of clipping his nails and trimming his cuticles when frustrated). After 3 hours of circular arguments, we came to an impasse.

Peter was convinced that if we did not get engaged now, we were stepping outside of God’s will. The Holy Spirit had impressed it very clearly upon him that we were to get engaged. I did not sense the same thing. I did not hear a voice from God saying we shouldn’t get engaged, but I did not want to get engaged right now, and I thought it would be wise to take more time to date.

To Peter, it was now or never. If we weren’t going to get engaged now, then the relationship would be over.

I took a walk. While my feet moved, my brain processed.

I felt an internal struggle pulling me in two different directions. On one hand, I did not feel peace about getting engaged. Nothing about the engagement felt right: he had proposed at the end of a long day, when I had a headache, was tired, sweaty, and wearing a gross T-shirt. We had been riding around in the mountains on his motorcycle for hours. I had already asked to go home a few times; I just wanted to go home and watch a movie to relax. But he was adamant about staying out, and the day dragged on (I learned later that he was looking for a specific place to propose, which he never found).

By the time he finally proposed, at a creek on the side of the road, I froze: my mind was racing, my heart felt nothing, and I asked God in that moment as Peter was reading his sentimental letter, if I should say “yes”.

I didn’t hear anything.

...But I knew that “yes” would elicit a more pleasant response than “no”, so that’s what I said.

That wasn’t how it was supposed to be, right?

On the other hand, I believed that God had spoken to me clearly about who Peter was to be in my life: my future husband. And if he was to be my husband, then I should submit to him. I should trust him. This was a test, and to be a good future wife, I needed to practice listening to and trusting my husband. We were going to get married anyways, so why did the timing matter after all? Peter was so much more in tune with the Holy Spirit—that is what had attracted me to him in the first place. I didn’t know why I wasn’t “hearing” anything, but I felt I should trust my future husband’s spiritual ear.

So I decided that Peter knew better than I did, and that I should trust him. I thought that perhaps it was just the way the engagement happened that had made me unhappy, for all those superficial reasons of being tired, not feeling pretty, not finding the romantic creek, etc. If I was showered and cute and prepared and we found the special spot, then it would be a good engagement and it would feel right, and this would be the love story I had wanted.

Additionally, if it happened before Monday, I could show off my ring to all the girls at work, who would be wildly jealous and excited.

Immediately, the struggle stopped. The internal conflict was gone. I was relieved. I called it peace.

What had really happened was that I had given up. I had decided to marry a man I had only dated for 5 months, despite the red flags that had presented themselves (throwing something across the room during an argument was just the tip of the iceberg).

Guess how this super spiritual “ordained-by-God” love story ended?