Analiese’s* stomach churned at the daunting thought of revealing her secret to Jon*.
Years earlier, she had an abortion. She had managed to keep it secret throughout her dating relationship with Jon thus far. She worried that if he found out, it might be a deal breaker.
Jon was a trained counselor and over time suspected that Analiese experienced trauma in her past.
One day, though the fear of becoming unlovable to Jon crippled her, Analiese finally shared her story with him. To her astonishment, Jon responded with compassion and understanding.
Since then, they’ve walked through a journey of healing and have learned how to talk about the experience in a healthy way.
Here are some ways to deal with a past abortion in marriage:
Bring it into the light
First and foremost, if you’ve been through an abortion and your spouse doesn’t know, tell him or her. Yes — it’s frightening. It’s uncomfortable. The fear of rejection and judgment can easily creep into your heart and make you hesitant to share your story. But to cultivate true intimacy in your relationship, bring that secret into the open.
First John 1:7 reminds us, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Though it’s difficult and painful, if you’ve experienced an abortion, withholding information from your spouse can cause that wound to fester. Analiese agrees: “If you are married and your spouse does not know you were involved in an abortion, you need to talk about it. Whether you know it or not, it’s impacting your marriage.”
Approach the topic with kindness and sensitivity
If your spouse reveals a past abortion, listen first with love and empathy and do not give a critical response. Remember Paul’s words in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Analiese shares that when she decided to open up to Jon, he viewed her as a person, not a sinner. And that stimulated the healing process.
Remember that your spouse needs your grace. Listen closely to their pain, grief and story. “To share your heart and the pain of this experience with a spouse who then responds with judgment and condemnation would be crushing,” Analiese says, “and would severely damage the marital trust between the two.”
Grieve the loss as a couple
Grieving as a couple is imperative when dealing with a past abortion in marriage — even if the other spouse wasn’t part of the decision. “A child lost to abortion is a part of the family, and that ideally should be recognized for the health of the family unit,” Jon explains.
The grieving process may include “periodic grief talks” about the experience or even creating a place of remembrance for the child. Seeing a counselor together would also help. Pretending grief doesn’t exist is one of the worst things a couple could do. Avoiding the topic altogether will create shame.
If the abortion was a mutual decision by the married couple, seeking counseling would help them heal from the loss as well.
Commit to healing together
Shame and depression are common after an abortion, so if the experience is not addressed, long-term damage may occur. A study by Cambridge University showed that, “Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems.”
Analiese’s story shows that there’s hope for healing. The key to receiving healing, she says, is to know that you’re loved no matter what.
Her husband, Jon, has been a therapeutic part of her story. “The unconditional love, acceptance and connection has done much to heal me from my past abortion,” she says. Analiese’s husband has added to the healing process by keeping in mind the approximate time of year when the abortion occurred, as well as the approximate birthday of the baby. “Spiritually, I feel like the adopted father of the baby because Analiese is my wife,” he explains.
Consider taking a post-abortion class together at a local community pregnancy center or attending a small group with people who’ve been through the same experience. Volunteering in the pro-life movement can also be beneficial when dealing with a past abortion in your marriage.
Women need to know they are not alone. Many of us in the church have made an abortion decision when we felt we had no other choice. There is forgiveness and healing in Jesus Christ — I am a witness to His power to bring wholeness to even the deepest hurt. Abortion is not an unforgivable sin; God wants to hold you while you grieve and breathe new life into you and into your marriage.
*Names have been changed.