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When a Mate Wants OutSecrets for Saving a Marriage
By Sally Conway Jim Conway
ZondervanCopyright © 2000 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDon't Panic
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Cheryl watched as Ron jammed some of his clothes into a bag and stuffed his deodorant, hair dryer, and shaver in with them. He wouldn't look at Cheryl. Her eyes saw his every move, but she couldn't get her mouth to say a word. She had run out of things to say. All her pleading had proven useless, and now an awkward stillness hung in the air. Although she was outwardly quiet, a million clamoring noises were pounding inside.
He's leaving! she thought. Going-I don't know where. He's taking the older car and leaving the better one for the kids and me. It looks as if he's planning to leave forever.
Ron had been warning Cheryl for weeks that he was going to leave, but she never took his threats seriously. Even though they argued a lot and there was tension between them, she always believed they could work out their problems. But now he was actually leaving! She was devastated.
A Common Problem
Unlike many women, Cheryl actually saw her spouse drive away. Many unsuspecting wives come home to find their husbands have moved out without so much as a bitter good-bye. Other husbands, instead of leaving physically, vacate emotionally. They become overly involved with their work, the guys, or another woman in an effort to shed themselves of their marriage relationship.
Women do it, too. Larry finally woke up when Joan demanded, "Just get out! I need some space." Larry would have seen the signs along the way if he'd been paying attention, but he was so wrapped up in his career that he had taken Joan and their marriage for granted.
Joan had been happy to mother their three children and keep up with all their activities while they were growing up, but when they became teenagers they were seldom home. Larry didn't realize how alone Joan felt now that the kids no longer needed her as much.
When the new associate pastor asked Joan to be his part-time assistant, Larry thought the experience would be good for her. He was unaware, however, of how many evenings she worked because he himself worked late nearly every night.
Larry also was unaware that Joan's boss made her feel like a new woman. He always complimented her on the work she did and took time to talk to her; in fact, he really seemed to understand her inner feelings. He sensed her loneliness and lack of fulfillment, so he encouraged her to take some college courses and consider a career of her own. Joan liked having a cheerleader.
Before long, Joan and the associate pastor were enjoying each other more than was appropriate. Larry should have sensed that something was wrong when Joan turned colder and colder toward him-but he didn't.
Then Joan announced she was going back to school. This didn't set well with Larry, and he wouldn't hear of it. "You've got enough to do around here without trotting off to college," he argued.
That did it for Joan. With hands on her hips, she yelled, "You're smothering me! It's time for you to get out!"
So What Are You Going to Do Now?
Whether you are a Cheryl whose husband is leaving or a Larry whose wife wants you out of the house, you are in a crisis situation. And whether your spouse is having an affair, threatening to leave, or has already left, beware of how you respond. Actions that are most natural in this type of situation usually make matters worse instead of better.
In the first hours and days after learning that your mate is leaving, you will be in a state of shock, and people have been known to do very foolish things during this critical period.
You may be tempted to shout and stomp and make unreasonable demands. You might feel like crying for hours on end or going on a shopping spree or drinking binge. Maybe you're a quiet tooth-grinder who vows to get revenge. Or perhaps you're the kind of person who withdraws into a shell, fooling yourself into believing that you don't care.
When the Unbelievable Is True
We know about these reactions because we ourselves have faced devastating crises and have often been surprised at how we behaved under stress-sometimes good; sometimes bad.
From those we have counseled over the years, we've learned how shattered they felt when they first learned their mate wanted out. Some of these people have expressed themselves very poignantly, such as in this letter:
Please help me! I'm devastated. My husband tells me he doesn't love me like a wife anymore.... He has moved out. My pastor, friends, and family all tell me that he's preparing me for divorce, but he says he just wants time to himself to figure out who he is.
Yet he has a friendship with a woman that I find questionable. He is attending public functions with her but denies that anything is going on. The whole thing is driving me nuts....
I love him, but he says he doesn't love me. I'm so confused. I'm ready to throw in the towel, but I really do love him and miss him so much. We've had a far from perfect marriage-but where is my husband? Please, if there is anything you can do, please help me.
Tom's story carries a similar theme of hurt. He and Dorrie had been married fewer than five years when she announced that she wanted a divorce. She despised him and wanted him out of the house right now!
She expected to get custody of their little girl, Amy, and was planning to take a promotion out of state. This meant Tom would have little time with their daughter. As all of these facts hit Tom, he thought he would die! He loved Dorrie very much and couldn't believe that her earlier wild passion for him had turned to such a cold, calculating hatred. And he dearly loved Amy. He had been home with her certain days of every week, and the extra hours of parenting had caused his heart to be deeply entwined with her life. It was unbearable to think of seeing her only once or twice a year for a few days!
Tom moved in with a bachelor friend and lived for the times Dorrie would let him care for Amy. Dorrie usually arranged for a third party to deliver Amy so she wouldn't have to face Tom.
Each new phase of the divorce proceedings smashed Tom into yet smaller pieces. But whenever Dorrie spoke civilly to him over the phone, Tom felt as if a few of the fragments had been glued together again. Maybe this means she is changing her mind and won't go through with the divorce, he dared to hope. But then she would strike another blow to his already fragmented life.
Excerpted from When a Mate Wants Out by Sally Conway Jim Conway Copyright © 2000 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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