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Are You Even Thinking About Walking Out?
“I’m at the point where I don’t think it is worth the effort anymore.”
“The only reason I’m staying is because of the children.”
“Surely God doesn’t want me to be this unhappy.”
Every woman longs to be appreciated, valued, and cared for. When these needs go unmet, she may be tempted to leave the husband she once loved—but walking out is seldom the path to happiness.
Like trusted friends, Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray offer wise and gentle advice to restore hope to your marriage. You’ll discover proven methods for how you can move toward each other rather than away, build up instead of tear down, and find love rather than lose it.
Story Behind the Book
Although a growing number of women are walking away from their marriages, there are no books to help them realize that this is not the path to happiness. A woman’s discontentment settles like dust on furniture, and although she tries, she fails to make her husband understand. His responses seem too little and too late. Many women mistakenly believe it is easier emotionally to leave the marriage than try to restore it. We want a woman to realize that even when her heart seems closed to her husband, there is a way to open it and become one again. Loss of love does not equal loss of marriage. Loss of hope does not mean the relationship should be abandoned.
|A Note to Our Readers||10|
|A Special Thank You||11|
|Prologue: White Linen and Candlelight||13|
|Chapter 1.||What's Going On?||23|
|Chapter 2.||Lost Dreams||37|
|Chapter 3.||He Doesn't Get It||49|
|Chapter 4.||What Happened to the Good Times?||61|
|Chapter 5.||Keeping Score||71|
|Chapter 6.||The Downside of Divorce||81|
|Chapter 7.||It Hurts So Much||91|
|Chapter 8.||I'm So Mad I Could||107|
|Chapter 9.||This Lady Has the Blues||117|
|Chapter 10.||Different Walls||131|
|Chapter 11.||Let's Talk||145|
|Chapter 13.||Take Care of Yourself||173|
|Chapter 14.||The Fantasy of Something Better||189|
|Chapter 15.||Doesn't God Want Me to Be Happy?||203|
|Chapter 16.||The What If Game||213|
|Chapter 17.||Dreaming New Dreams||225|
|Coming Alongside: A Guide for Meeting Together||233|
You are the other part of me I am the other part of you. We'll work through With never a thought of walking out. Ruth Harms Calkin
It was obvious that Erica was uncomfortable. She usually liked curling her feet underneath her while leaning back in a chair and savoring the rich taste of a mocha. But that day Erica sat stiffly with her arms crossed, her beverage ignored, looking sullenly out the window as she thought about my question.
Finally she turned to me with a deep sigh. "Okay, so you want to know what's going on with Jack and me. Well, here it is. Every time I look at him-every time I think about him-I feel sick inside. He's dull and boring and never wants to do anything but go to work, hang out with his friends, or watch television. I have to beg him to do anything around the house, and we constantly fight about the kids. The only time he talks to me is when he wants sex, and then he expects me to be ready the minute he wants to jump in bed."
Erica reached for the familiar comfort of her mocha before continuing. "I don't know how we got this way, but I'm lonely. Oh, God, I am so lonely." And then her voice brokeand the tears came.
I (Alice) had known Erica for a long time. We were casual friends, and we occasionally did a few things together as couples. But until she called and asked for help, I had no idea that Erica's marriage was in trouble. We spent most of the rest of that afternoon together discussing the tough questions that were haunting her: "Do you think we ever really loved each other? Who is at fault-me or him? What happened to the good times? Even though I feel like walking out, is there any hope for our marriage?"
Facing the Truth
Questions like these are painful and, if you are like most women, you do all you can to avoid asking them. You wanted a wonderful marriage, filled with deep and enduring love. So instead of being completely honest, for a long time you probably tried to ignore the problems, pretending everything was okay. Perhaps you thought, I just can't deal with that right now, with everything else that's going on. Perhaps you rationalized that if you minimized your feelings of hurt and disappointment, they would go away.
But the truth is, it is very rare for relationship problems to take care of themselves. Usually the longer you defer acknowledging what is really happening, the more discontentment grows and the more the pain you wanted to avoid deepens. Not tending to marital problems is like not tending to weeds in your garden. When ignored, they can choke out much that is beautiful and good and leave you asking, like Erica, "Is there any hope?"
You probably know that it is important for a husband and wife to talk regularly about the vitality of their marriage and to find out what each one is doing (or not doing) that causes hurt or disappointment to the other. But you may well be at a point that you don't even know how to start such a discussion-or you may feel certain that your partner would never participate. Lack of such communication, in fact, may be part of your pain and frustration in marriage. So we suggest you start somewhere else-with an honest self-evaluation.
As important as it is for a couple to honestly discuss their relationship together, it is equally important for you as a woman to individually look at your own feelings and thoughts. You need to know if you are moving toward your husband, away from him, or against him.
Check Your Symptoms
The checklist on the next page contains twenty thoughts, feelings, and actions that will help you assess whether or not you are in danger of becoming a walk-out woman. We encourage you to answer as honestly as you can, checking the symptoms you have experienced during the last few months. If the symptom occurs frequently, put in two checks.
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms may be caused by circumstances other than your marriage relationship-the death of a family member, moving to a new town, financial reversals, loss of a close friend, career changes, health problems, an empty nest, new goals, or something else. Obviously, if this is true, you should adjust your answers. But be careful of the tendency to rationalize or explain away your unhappiness. If you really think that a symptom is due to your marriage relationship, check it.
Are You in Danger of Walking Away?
Check each symptom that you have routinely experienced over the past few months.
Irritation with your husband over trivial matters.
Feeling bored, or craving something new and exciting.
A strong desire to escape and get away from it all.
Loss of energy; feeling tired and worn out.
Acting moody and withdrawn around home.
Complaining that your husband spends too much time working or watching television.
Wanting to begin a career, change jobs, go to school, or move into a new house.
Feeling that most conversations with your husband are shallow, angry, or empty.
Loss of sexual desire for your husband or feeling that he has lost his desire for you.
Desire to change your image (trendy clothes, change in hair color, weight loss, breast augmentation or other cosmetic surgery).
Discovering new friends and avoiding old friends with spiritual values.
General dissatisfaction with and growing resentment toward your husband.
Feeling misunderstood and lonely.
Feeling drawn to men who show any form of attention.
Imagining what it would be like if you were not married.
Tempted by addictive behavior (alcohol, drugs, excess spending, overeating, overexercising, Internet chat rooms, gambling).
Sadness about unfulfilled dreams, goals, and expectations.
Feeling distant from God and bored or dissatisfied with church.
Being nicer, kinder, and more patient to others than to your husband.
Spontaneous tearfulness for no apparent reason.
Count the number of boxes you have checked. (If you have double-checked an item, count it only once here, but pay special attention to that item.)
If you checked ... Your marriage risk is probably ...
1-6 Mild to moderate-be careful.
7-12 Serious-need to make some changes.
13-20 Severe-get help now!
When you've finished the checklist, look at your answers. A few check marks are probably no cause for alarm, although they could be an early warning of problems to be solved. But the more items you checked, the more danger there is for your marriage.
Remember that relationship problems, if left unattended, usually continue to grow. Pain and frustration in your marriage can cause you to close your heart tighter and tighter. Your husband may not know this is happening, and you may not even be completely aware of it.
When couples come to me (Steve) for counseling, I sometimes demonstrate this closing of the heart and emotions by standing up and opening my office door. Then I begin closing the door slowly. Just before it shuts, I pause a moment and then slam it shut completely. The couples jump, but they usually get the message-that it's better to do something before the door slams shut.
The Door Is Still Open
I often ask women who come to me for counseling to read the twenty symptoms and tell me how the list relates to how they feel about their marriage. After one client finished, she had tears spilling out her eyes, running down her cheeks, and dropping off her chin like soft beads. "This is my life," she sobbed. "Every one of your warning signs belongs to me."
As bad as it seemed for the moment, I had good news for her. Because she still cared enough to seek help, it was not too late for her marriage. The same is true for you, whether you checked one or all twenty of the symptoms. The simple fact that you are reading this book tells us that you still care about your marriage, that your heart has not yet slammed shut. We believe that if there is even a tiny flicker of caring-no matter how dim or distant-there is still hope.
You may think it will take a miracle. And that may be true. But we serve a God of miracles. As the prophet Isaiah once wrote, "He has sent Me to ... comfort all who mourn ... to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
That is what God can do for your marriage. He can bring beauty out of the ashes of your own pain and disillusionment. But you have to participate in the process.
How do you participate? We are going to ask you to do two simple things for the next three months. Two things only. And for just three months.
First, we'd like you to commit to pray for your husband for fifteen minutes every day.
Second, with the help of a trusted friend or mentor, we'd like you to commit yourself wholeheartedly to work on your marriage by thoroughly digesting this book. In that time, we'd like you to refrain from any discussion or consideration of either divorce or separation.
We are well aware that you might feel reluctant or incapable of managing even these two steps. If so, we ask you to at least read chapter 3, which will help you understand why your husband isn't responding to your needs, and chapter 6, which talks about the heartbreak of divorce. After reading those chapters, you may agree that these are reasonable, even minimal, requests.
If you're worried that you can't pray for just your husband for fifteen minutes every day, there are resources available to help you. Some of our favorites are listed in the back of this book. (We strongly recommend Stormie Omartian's book The Power of a Praying Wife.) Some women like to use their favorite books on prayer and adapt the prayers for marriage. Another idea is to take your favorite promises from Scripture and rewrite them in your journal as prayers for your marriage. Even the simple process of putting your prayers down on paper can help you focus enough to keep your prayer commitment.
In addition to praying daily, it is vital that you meet at least once a week during the next three months with a trusted friend or mentor who will support you and hold you accountable as you work through this book. Be sure this person is not predisposed to judgment, is full of grace and forgiveness, able and willing to keep your situation confidential, and willing to speak the truth in love. Even though you will probably read this book through more quickly, during your weekly meetings you can use it to focus on solutions that you relate to the most. The section called "Something to Try" at the end of each chapter and the section at the end of the book titled "Coming Alongside" might be helpful for launching conversation.
No matter how busy your schedule, make these times a top priority. If you have young children, you know how distracting they can be, so try to meet while they are in school or make arrangements for someone to watch them for an hour or so.
Do I Need to See a Professional?
If you have a great number of the symptoms, if you cannot find a friend you trust, or if you can't even bring yourself at this point to commit three months to your marriage, you may well want to consider seeking perspective from a trained marriage counselor. There are also some specific difficult situations that require immediate help and careful guidance. We call them the "four As":
* Abandonment * Addictions
* Abuse * Adultery
If you or your husband is struggling with any of these four circumstances, our hearts go out to you. We know there are no easy solutions for these situations, which are not only agonizing, but also complicated. Addictions, for example, are not limited just to drugs and alcohol, but include other obsessions like overspending, gambling, and pornography. With adultery, most people think of a physical affair, but adultery can also mean getting involved at a deep and intimate emotional level. Certainly in our electronic age, Internet affairs can be a real problem. Abandonment is obvious when one of you actually packs his bags, but what about when a spouse is there but not there? It is also difficult to define a constant pattern of abuse. You and your children may not be in actual physical danger, but frequent threats or intimidation can put you in a constant state of fear.
We will address the four As again in chapter 7 and talk specifically about affairs in chapter 14. But because these situations are so complex, we believe they call for the help of a trained professional. We encourage you and pray that you will seek such help even if your husband refuses to go with you. Please don't let fear, pride, embarrassment, or worry about finances keep you from it. (Many agencies and offices offer sliding-scale fees to help cover what you cannot afford.)
To find a professional counselor, we suggest you ask for recommendations from your pastor or from other women who have had successful counseling experiences. If you are not satisfied with a particular counselor or are having trouble "connecting" with him or her, don't give up on the process altogether. Try someone else, just as you might do if you didn't have confidence in a medical doctor. At the bottom of this page we have included a list of questions you might use to interview a counselor before your first appointment. Their purpose is to give you a general sense of who the counselor is and whether or not the two of you are a good fit. Feel free to ask your own questions as well. It is important that you feel that the person giving you counsel is trustworthy and confident and embraces the same values that God has placed deep within your heart.
Questions to Ask Your Counselor * What is your educational background?
* What are your specialty areas?
* How much experience do you have in these areas?
* What is your success rate?
* What is your general approach in working with problems?
* What makes you a good counselor?
* How are you involved in your church?
* How does your faith affect your counseling?
* If married, how would you describe your relationship?
* What is your fee schedule?
* What kind of payment arrangements are available?
Just yesterday, I (Steve) talked to one of my clients who had walked away from her marriage. She and her husband have been back together now for about a month. She said, "I have made some changes, and he has made some changes.
Excerpted from the walk out woman by Steve Stephens Alice Gray Copyright © 2004 by Alice Gray and Dr. Steve Stephens. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 25, 2012
If you're thinking about walking out but also thinking you might stay, then this book can probably help. I guess I've already made up my mind because I was not swayed by the arguments the authors put forth for staying. I kept thinking, "Yeah, but what about HIM?" If my husband doesn't change, what's the point? Eighteen years is a long time to wait, and I'm tired of doing all the work.
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Posted March 11, 2008
This book was like reading my own life story. I bought it for my husband to read but decided to read it first. Now if I could only get him to read it, things would be great!!! )
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Posted February 4, 2014
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Posted June 21, 2013
More and more women at mid-life choose to walk away from their family, marriage and life when they truly may not need to throw everything out or burn bridges. Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray take a look at this recent phenomena occurring in our fast paced, social media inundated world through a Christian perspective. Though the book is written from a Christian viewpoint much of the guidance and information is usable by a secular audience. This book is the first book I recommend to all my new members and MUST READ at my website and forum called WINMLC: Women in MId-life Crisis. I also, interviewed Dr. Steve Stephens on my BlogTalk Radio Show called Postcards From Oz: Midlife on the Yellow Brick Road a few years ago and the powerful message he gave to the MEN, as well as the women was life changing. I highly recommend this book for women and men, who secretly are thinking of walking out...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2012
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