I’m a middle aged Christian woman married for 30 years. I found out in April 2012 that my husband was unhappy in our marriage. We were in counseling within 2 weeks at a Christian counselling centre. It was good, especially for me because I was in shock and needed someone to help me navigate that. I needed someone to help me see this through my husbands eyes. The unfortunate thing is that this counselor didn’t diagnose things quite right, didn’t maybe see the signs of a severe crisis unfolding. She was going on an extended vacation after 8 sessions, and it seemed to her that we’d be fine – individual counselling was recommended, but she found us respectful, with a solid marriage history to build on. Both my husband and I went to see an individual counselor in the fall. He was told by his counsellor that we would likely need some time apart. I learned this much later . . . after the fact.
What? You’re just going to say that to him and leave it ‘out there’ and assume he’ll handle it well? Are you serious?!!! You think it’s okay to leave me out of that?
My husband said frequently that he was confused and needed a break. I gave him LOTS of space. It wasn’t helping. He was angry, mean, distant, uncaring, rude, condescending, arrogant, and even cruel to me emotionally. The intensity with which he did everything was unbelievable. All that intensity made me look even more lame in his eyes. He kept busy ALL THE TIME – like a gerbil on the wheel. Not his normal characteristics. Okay, I’ll say this out loud too; he seemed emotionally unavailable, to others and himself. I had known him to be a lovely, emotional man, our kids are proof of that, but now he was saying he wasn’t emotional. Huh? I would never have married a brick!
Somewhere along the line he’d made a choice to harden up and he was scary.
Anything church and seemingly even God related went out with the evening tide and in came all kinds of ‘advice’ from books, radio, and TED Talks with the morning tide. My husband would tell me all the great stuff he was reading and hearing . . . all of it related to breaking apart the marriage you’re in so you can then build into your future happiness. I listened. My heart broke. Where was my husband? He would wonder out loud repeatedly, “how can I discard you after all these years?”. That particular question still hunts me down from time to time.
I don’t even want to write these things. I write them because it’s important for you to know that this is what can happen. You’re not imagining things.
He left. (Shudder, tummy flip flop, feel faint . . . . just in writing those words. It’s AWFUL, let noone dispute that!!) First for 2 weeks, then for 5 months. Both times he handled it very poorly. There were times I didn’t think I could physically or emotionally survive the pain.
Little Did I Know (Over the Rhine – Linford Detweiler & Karin Bergquist)
Little did I know
That I almost let you go
Until I caught a glimpse of life without you
Little did I know
How deep these roots had grown
Until I felt the earth quake here without you.
And this ache is gonna break me love
Until you come back home
Right or wrong
There is no home without you
And these eyes are never gonna dry
I never knew how I could cry
Until I thought I’d really lost you
Little did I know that I almost let you go
Until I caught a glimpse of life without you.
Being left is very, very hurtful and damaging. I wish I could prevent it from happening to anyone else. I wish counsellors would all recognize the need to guide clients through a time apart if they feel that is necessary for the health of the marriage, ESPECIALLY if one spouse is not, nor would ever be in agreement with it. A time apart is not something to trifle with. I can now fully understand why so many marriages don’t make it through this type of separation. All the unanswered questions that continually swirl around your mind are enough to put you under the bus, let alone all the emotional pain.
If you are thinking that you need a time apart from your spouse or you were left by your spouse I hope you will find some wisdom here. Please start with the first post in June 2013. Also, I want to get this helpful resource out there for anyone contemplating leaving or senses that their spouse is wanting a break: When One Spouse Wants a Separation. Ours was what this author calls a ‘willy nilly separation’, and they’re so correct to point out that it is difficult for a marriage to survive this type of separation. To be perfectly honest, it’s traumatic, and I ain’t no drama queen! I am finding it very hard to heal, but I will continue the healing process because I have set my face in that direction. Something else you need to know right off the bat, your spouse will eventually come out the other side of this and they will not remember a lot of what they are presently doing. Please keep this in mind, it’s very important!
You can survive this. God has not nor will He ever leave you or forsake you. I listened to this song most every night. Please find a song that you can go to when you feel devoid of any strength.
Addendum October 2014: Those above lyrics from Over the Rhine . . . . we went on a weekend away last fall with their concert as our ‘destination weekend’. Music has been a fresh new piece of enjoyment for us. Karen and Linford sang that song that night. I didn’t cry!
It was an amazing weekend for us and we leaned fully into the joy of it!