Is It Time to Leave?

There are times when I am reminded of something from the bad years in our marriage. When I look at those things now, from the vantage point of having worked to rebuild our marriage into a source of joy and peace, I am ashamed of those feelings and actions—yet I remember the emotions and justification I felt at the time.

I am sad for the woman I see in my past. She created illusions that allowed her to believe she was in the right all the time. She had a husband who offered his heart, and she shut it out. Seeing the woman who I was. I want to reach out to her as a sister in Christ and open her eyes, hold her while she cries out her sadness and loneliness, and show her that she can change everything by taking a first step, and help her get her start.

My husband tells me that he never wanted a divorce, but there were several times when he asked me if it was what I wanted. At one point, while I didn’t say the word “yes,” I do remember thinking it. One time, I said, “Maybe.” He tells me that he sometimes wondered what I would do when our kids left the house.

This morning, I experienced a reminder that my refusing and gate-keeping were tangled up in my attitude toward our marriage. The reminder came in the form of a video that tugged at my heart: Luke Bryan’s “Do I.”

This song echoes many of the words and concerns my husband used to express to me:

  • We’re going through the motions.
  • You don’t seem to care one way or the other about me or our marriage.
  • We used to have so much passion; why did it change, and how do we get it back?
  • Do you still love me?
  • I’m walking on eggshells around you.
  • If I gave you everything you wanted, would that even be enough?
  • I’m lonely.
  • Do you want me to just leave so we both can get on with our lives?

I realize now that my husband had a lonely life. I think now about what this must’ve been like for him. He felt unloved, never knew how I would respond to anything, puzzled over what horrible thing he must have done to push me away, yearned to have our marriage back, wondered if there was anything he could possibly do to get “us” back, and even opened the door to ending things so I could be happy.

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Meanwhile, I used to imagine what it would be like to live without my husband. When I would feel particularly stressed by marriage and family life, I would even go so far as to look at how much it would cost to rent a small place just for me or for me and the kids, something I could afford on my salary. As soon as I confirmed that I could afford to live on my own, I would feel settled. While I never seriously considered leaving, I frequently fantasized about what it would be like to have my husband gone from my life. The thought of going through a divorce overwhelmed me, but my husband had several health issues and I figured he might die—and then I could get on with my life.

While I didn’t actively want him to die, I felt like our marriage was a mistake; death sounded like an easier way out of the marriage than divorce. After all, a divorce might require me to acknowledge that I had failed in some way; if I were a widow, I could retain my belief that I was good and hadn’t contributed to the end of our marriage. Plus, people would sympathize with me. Yet even then, I knew how lonely I already felt. I wanted to not want to be without him.

And although I wouldn’t allow myself to admit to any ways I had contributed to the sad state of our marriage, underneath all my illusions and loneliness, I knew that if our marriage had any chance of working, I would have to put some effort into it, too. I had no idea how.

Our pastor’s sermon this morning included the story of twins, a brother and sister who had been placed on an orphan train. They were taken by different families, separated with no knowledge of what happened to the other. Even late in his life, the brother wanted to know that he was forgiven for not having protected his sister by finding a way to keep them together. They finally reunited—after more than seventy years apart. I left church wondering about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christian marriages. How can we comfort them and find a way to keep them together? Sometimes, leaving sounds so much easier. While it might be more work, sticking it out and making it work is better. How can we provide tools, be supportive, and encourage spouses who have made a decision to work on their marriages but see only a long road ahead of them?

I wondered about all my Christian brothers who feel stuck in their marriages, unsure what to do and if it’s time to give up. I wondered about all my sisters who feel stuck in their marriages, wanting something they don’t understand, with no idea how to get there. When I returned home from church, I saw posts on several different marriage websites from men asking how they would know when it’s time to just give up on their marriages and move on. How much longer would it have been before my husband had truly asked that? Or would he have stayed with me simply because he had promised to, living a very sad and lonely life in marriage to me?

Far too many people are lonely in their marriages. If you are one of them, chances are pretty good that your spouse is, too. So what are you going to do about it?

Is it time to leave? Is it time to give up? Or is it time to roll up your sleeves and get to work?

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8 Comments on “Is It Time to Leave?”

  1. My wife was where you were, and I was where your husband was. I tried everything I could think of, without success. I wondered many times if it was time to leave, but could never get past the impact on our 4 kids. Unfortunately, in year 29 of our marriage, she filed for divorce. The Christian marriage counselor’s and a pastor’s advice to the contrary didn’t matter; her belief that her life would be better/easier without me trumped everything. However, by the time the divorce was final (it took 16 months), I think she had figured out that she couldn’t make it on her own, economically or emotionally. (And, though maybe this is a self-serving fantasy on my part, I wonder if she feared that if she stayed single she might think about reconciling with me.) She started dating online immediately and was married a year later to a twice-divorced man who lives 400 miles away. In the process, she took our daughter with her, separating her from everything and everyone who was familiar, left our youngest son (from whom she is now estranged) with me, and moved several hours further away from our two boys who were already out of the house. It will be a surprise, I think, if she’s not divorced again within a few years, if not sooner. At that point, I don’t know what she’ll do because she quit her job to move and will not be working there. I’m thankful that you made the opposite choice. How I wish — for everyone’s sake — that she had followed the course you have been following.

  2. What has happened in our society (and in our Churches) that has caused people to think that the most important thing in their life is happiness? I have been through good times and bad times in my marriage. I have to admit that I like the good times a lot more, but during the bad times, I think about, “How do I change this to a good time again?”

    I know that each spouse can only be responsible for his or her own actions. I know cases like David J.’s and I feel for him. I really do. I am sure he did all he could do to make things work, I would never question someone in his circumstance. I want to know how we can stop people from giving us? How can the church help to change this notion that my happiness is what is the most important? What happened to fulfilling the vows “for better or for worse…”?

    I am afraid that if we cannot change this trend that as a nation, we are going to go down a road that will hurt us tremendously. The breakdown of the family is a crucial issue. We need to keep families intact. (Sorry, I know I am probably rambling at this point.)

  3. I am the wife of a refusing/gatekeeping husband. As I was shedding my codependency on him, I wanted to leave the marriage. After all, I was doing everything (literally) except earning an income….and I wasn’t even getting (much) sex out of it and certainly very very little sex to pleasure for me. I looked for and even daydreamed of my own place. I convinced myself that he didn’t really love me anyway. After all, he didn’t want to have sex with me and he watched provocative videos on the internet (not outright porn, but videos with sexy, half-dressed women in them). I figured, at least I’d be able to do what I want, dress how I want, be who I want to be without being tied down to him, this house, and stuck tripping over and caring for his stuff. With joint custody, he’d be forced to have the kids sometimes and I’d finally be free to have some time to myself. It just sounded better and better, but I knew it was wrong. I knew single motherhood stinks! I knew I wanted to be married, I just didn’t want to be stuck in the status quo. I had made vows before God. I knew how much the children adore him. I knew how much it would kill him to have me leave. I knew deep down how much we really love each other.

    So I prayed to see my husband the way God does. I prayed for what I needed to change. I prayed for God’s wisdom and strength to endure, and for His healing hand upon our marriage.

    Literally, the next day, I woke up and realized something. I realizes that now that I shed my codependency, I knew I could leave. I could live without him. I was free to say NO MORE. But even better than that, I was FREE TO CHOOSE TO LOVE MY HUSBAND!! I didn’t HAVE to love him because I depended on him and marriage to complete me. God was finally in His rightful spot in my life.

    Now, I am very much in love with my husband, again. Things have changed for the better, though still not nearly as much as I would like, but the Lord reigns in my heart and life.

    If you are at that point in your marriage where you think leaving is an option, then go back to your first love (Christ).

    1. So I prayed to see my husband the way God does. I prayed for what I needed to change. I prayed for God’s wisdom and strength to endure, and for His healing hand upon our marriage.

      We all need to pray this prayer. Thanks for sharing.

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