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Joined: May 2000
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This is from Dr. Dobson's monthly newsletter...a bit long...but worth reading.

June 2000

Dear Friends,

Have you noticed that June is bustin' out all over? Not only has the world turned into green buds and yellow roses, but this is the month when our thoughts turn naturally to romantic love songs and silver wedding bells. New families are coming off the assembly line every day. Nothing is more inspirational than the uniting of two unique and divergent personalities in a marital commitment that will last for a lifetime, with God's help.

Who can comprehend this mysterious bonding that enables a man and woman to withstand the many storms of life and remain best friends to the end of their lives together? This phenomenon is so remarkable that the Apostle Paul, under divine inspiration, chose it to symbolize the unfathomable bond of love between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. We could spend a month or two just thinking about the implications of that wonderful analogy.

Unfortunately, a depressing number of today's marriages end on a less inspirational note. Indeed, Western nations are witnessing a continuing epidemic of dysfunctional relationships. A recent study done by sociologists at Rutgers University concluded that the institution of marriage itself appears to be dying.1 I shudder to contemplate what life will be like (and how children will suffer) if the researchers prove to be right!

The agony inflicted by divorce cannot be overstated. It was this tragic situation that led me to write Love Must Be Tough, which continues to be one of my most popular books. It addresses not only marriages in distress, but concepts that will strengthen less troubled relationships. Let me focus my comments this month on the most important among them.

The standard approach to marriage counseling is to teach husbands and wives how to revitalize unhealthy relationships and help them work through their conflicts. Unfortunately, such advice assumes that both parties are equally motivated to work on their problems. That is rarely the case. Typically, when a marriage is unraveling, there is one partner who is less concerned about the prospect of divorce, while the other is terrified by it. At its worse, as in cases of infidelity, the drifting member often has little desire to engage in counseling, except perhaps as a pretense to lessen guilt or criticism. He or she may have decided already that the relationship is over. It has been my observation that the way the committed partner responds at that vital juncture will determine whether the marriage will survive or succumb. I'll explain why in a moment.

Only those who have been rejected by a beloved spouse can fully comprehend the tidal wave of pain that crashes into one's life when a relationship ends. Nothing else matters. There are no consoling thoughts. The future is without interest or hope. Emotions swing wildly from despair to acceptance and back again. Nothing in human experience can compare with the agony of knowing that the person to whom you pledged eternal devotion has betrayed your trust and is now involved in sexual intimacies with a "stranger". . . a competitor . . . a more beautiful or handsome playmate. Death itself would be easier to tolerate than being tossed aside like an old shoe.

If one word must be selected to describe the entire experience, it would be something equivalent to panic. Just as a drowning person exhausts himself or herself in a desperate attempt to grasp anything that floats, a rejected partner typically tries to grab and hold the one who is leaving. This panic then leads to appeasement, which destroys what is left of the marriage.

Let's look for a moment at the other half of the relationship—focusing on the individual who wants out of the marriage. What secrets lie deep within the mind of the woman who has an affair with her boss, or the man who chases the office flirt? Surprising to some, the desire for sex is not the primary motivator in such situations. Something much more basic is operating below the surface.

Long before any decision is made to "fool around" or walk out on a partner, a fundamental change has begun to occur in the relationship. Many books on this subject lay the blame on the failure to communicate, but I disagree. The inability to talk to one another is a symptom of a deeper problem, but it is not the cause itself. The critical element is the way a husband or wife begins to devalue the other and their lives together. It is a subtle thing at first, often occurring without either partner being aware of the slippage. But as time passes, one individual begins to feel trapped in a relationship with someone he or she no longer respects.

Now we begin to see why groveling, crying and pleading by a panic-stricken partner tend to drive the claustrophobic partner even farther away. The more he or she struggles to gain a measure of freedom (or even secure a little breathing room), the more desperately the rejected spouse attempts to hang on.

Perhaps it is now apparent where the present line of reasoning is leading us. If there is hope for dying marriages, and I certainly believe there is, then it is likely to be found in the reconstruction of respect between warring husbands and wives. That requires the vulnerable spouse to open the cage door and let the trapped partner out! All the techniques of containment must end immediately, including manipulative grief, anger, guilt and appeasement. Begging, pleading, crying, hand-wringing and playing the role of the doormat are equally destructive. There may be a time and place for strong feelings to be expressed, and there may be an occasion for quiet tolerance. But these responses must not be used as persuasive devices to hold the drifting partner against his or her will.

To the reader who is desperately in need of this advice, please pay close attention at this point: I'm sure you would not have dreamed of using these coercive methods to convince your husband or wife to marry you during your dating days. You had to lure, attract, charm and encourage him or her. This subtle game of courtship had to take place one delicate step at a time. Obviously, it would not have been successful if you had wept violently and hung on the neck of your lover saying, "I think I'll die if you don't marry me! My entire life amounts to nothing without you. Please! Oh, please, don't turn me down," etc.

Coercing and manipulating a potential marriage partner is like high-pressure tactics by a used car salesman. What do you think he would accomplish by telling a potential customer through his tears, "Oh, please, buy this car! I need the money so badly and I've only had two sales so far this week. If you turn me down, I think I'll go straight out and kill myself!"

This is a ridiculous analogy, of course, but there is applicability to it. When one has fallen in love with an eligible partner, he attempts to "sell himself" to the other. But like the salesman, he must not deprive the buyer of free choice in the matter. Instead, he must convince the customer that the purchase is in his own interest. If a person would not buy an automobile to ease the pain of a salesman, how much more unlikely is he to devote his entire being to someone he doesn't love, simply for benevolent reasons? None of us is that unselfish. Ideally, we are permitted by God to select only one person in the course of a lifetime, and few are willing to squander that one shot on someone we merely pity! In fact, it is very difficult to love another person romantically and pity him or her at the same time.

If begging and pleading are ineffective methods of attracting a member of the opposite sex during the dating days, why do victims of bad marriages use the same groveling techniques to hold a drifting spouse? They only increase the depth of disrespect by the one who is escaping. Instead, they should convey their own version of the following message when the time is right: "John [or Diane], I've been through some very tough moments since you decided to leave, as you know. My love for you is so profound that I just couldn't face the possibility of life without you. To a person like me, who expected to marry only once and to remain committed for life, it is a severe shock to see our relationship begin to unravel. Nevertheless, I have done some intense soul-searching, and I now realize that I have been attempting to hold you against your will. That simply can't be done. As I reflect on our courtship and early years together, I'm reminded that you married me of your own free choice. I did not blackmail you or twist your arm or offer you a bribe. It was a decision you made without pressure from me. Now you say you want out of the marriage, and obviously, I have to let you go. I'm aware that I can no more force you to stay today than I could have made you marry me in 1989 [or whenever]. You are free to go. If you never call me again, then I will accept your decision. I admit that this entire experience has been painful, but I'm going to make it. The Lord has been with me thus far and He'll go with me in the future. You and I had some wonderful times together, John. You were my first real love and I'll never forget the memories that we shared. I will pray for you and trust that God will guide you in the years ahead."

Slowly, unbelievably, the trapped spouse witnesses the cage door vibrate just a bit, and then start to rise. He can't believe it. This person to whom he has felt bound hand and foot for years has now set him free! It isn't necessary to fight off her advances—her grasping hands—any more.

"But there must be a catch," he thinks. "It's too good to be true. Talk is cheap. This is just another trick to win me back. In a week or two she'll be crying on the phone again, begging me to come home. She's really weak, you know, and she'll crack under pressure."

It is my strongest recommendation that you, the rejected person, prove your partner wrong in this expectation. Let him marvel at your self-control in coming weeks. Only the passage of time will convince him that you are serious—that he is actually free. He may even test you during this period by expressions of great hostility or insult, or by flirtation with others. But one thing is certain: He will be watching for signs of weakness or strength. The vestiges of respect hang in the balance.

If the more vulnerable spouse passes the initial test and convinces the partner that his freedom is secure, some interesting changes begin to occur in their relationship. Please understand that every situation is unique and I am merely describing typical reactions, but these developments are extremely common in families I have seen. Most of the exceptions represent variations on the same theme. Three distinct consequences can be anticipated when a previously "grabby" lover begins to let go of the cool spouse:


The trapped partner no longer feels it necessary to fight off the other, and their relationship improves. It is not that the love affair is rekindled, necessarily, but the strain between the two partners is often eased.

As the cool spouse begins to feel free again, the question he has been asking himself changes. After wondering for weeks or months, "How can I get out of this mess?" he now asks, "Do I really want to go?" Just knowing that he can have his way often makes him less anxious to achieve it. Sometimes it turns him around 180 degrees and brings him back home!

The third change occurs not in the mind of the cool spouse but in the mind of the vulnerable one. Incredibly, he or she feels better—somehow more in control of the situation. There is no greater agony than journeying through a vale of tears, waiting in vain for the phone to ring or for a miracle to occur. Instead, the person has begun to respect himself or herself and to receive small evidences of respect in return. Even though it is difficult to let go once and for all, there are ample rewards for doing so. One of those advantages involves the feeling that he or she has a plan—a program—a definite course of action to follow. That is infinitely more comfortable than experiencing the utter despair of powerlessness that the victim felt before. And little by little, the healing process begins.
This recommendation is consistent with the Apostle Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians 7:15: "But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances. God has called us to live in peace" (NIV). Paul is not authorizing the rejected spouse to initiate a divorce in these instances. He is, rather, instructing a man or woman to release the marital partner when he or she is determined to depart. The advice I have offered today is an expression of that scripture.

Well, that represents my attempt to summarize a basic theme of Love Must Be Tough, which is 212 pages in length. I hope it will be helpful to those who have been struggling to keep a troubled marriage alive. In a broader sense, the principles I have described are not only relevant to husbands and wives in a time of crisis; they are applicable to healthier marriages, too. Indeed, I wish they could be taught to every engaged or newlywed couple in the morning of their lives together. There would be fewer bitter divorces if young husbands and wives knew how to draw their drifting partners toward them, rather than relentlessly driving them away. Respect, you see, is not only vital to rebuilding broken marriages, but to preserving healthy relationships day by day.

Now isn't that just like an author to promise the moon to his readers? All writers have this tendency to overestimate the significance of their views. Books being published today offer everything from 30 more years of life for men or ageless skin for women. Unfortunately, these authors rarely deliver on their promises; they remind me of "Professor Miraculous" in the Old West who sold his Elixir of Life from the back of his covered wagon and then left town ... fast.

Hoping not to fall into the same "cure-all" trap, let me tell you candidly how I feel about the various concepts described in Love Must Be Tough—only one of which is addressed in this letter. Genuine insights into human behavior are not everyday occurrences—at least not for me. Indeed, if one stumbles onto two or three fundamental principles in the course of a lifetime, he or she has done well. The concepts I expressed in this book focus on one of my allotted few. Do they always preserve dysfunctional marriages? Of course not. No one can make that promise. But even in cases where the spark of love has died, the principle of self-respect in the face of rejection holds true. The alternative is usually despair.

Though I haven't emphasized the role of prayer in the preservation of a troubled family, I'm sure you know that it is the key to everything. The institution of marriage was God's design, and He has promised to answer those who ask for His healing touch. Still, it helps to understand your spouse as you seek to restore what God has "joined together". If you would like to read a more detailed presentation of these issues, you can request Love Must Be Tough from Focus on the Family. I have waived all royalty on copies distributed through the ministry, as always, so your request will help us make it financially through the summer months. We could sure use the assistance. Either way, thanks for reading along with me this month.

Have a great summer. I'll drop you another line in July.

Sincerely in Christ,


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Hi Lighthouse,

Dr. Dobson did a great job summarizing his "Love Must Be Tough" book. I read the book and loved it, but it seemed to be a little abrupt. It seems like it's almost going into an immediate Plan B.

He hits the nail on the head describing the feelings of a wayward spouse. I kind of went back and forth between MB and Dobson at the beginning, and must say the reason I decided on a seperation had a lot to do with reading Dobson. I must say I sort of regret that now. I don't see how we could have done anything but seperate when it happened, but now I wonder if things wouldn't be moving faster if I'd managed to keep my husband at home. (BTW, he is WS, not me)

Thanks for re-typing the article. Dobson knows his stuff, that's for sure. I just had to go with one or the other, and MB seems a little more loving to me.

allison


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Oddly enough, my coworker e-mailed me the link to the URL this morning at work. I have already read the book.

I think that both MB and Dobson can be integrated quite well. I'm not entirely sure that Dobson wants people to separate. I believe that if you can stay together and practice Plan A there is a better chance of the marriage surviving and Dobson probably does recognize that. He idea is that if you can show the confidence and allow the freedom, the spouse will be confused and will stay with you allowing you time to put Plan A into practice.

You do have to have the attitude that your spouse is free to go, and you have to have the confidence in yourself. Dobson is correct in that the pleading and begging will not keep your spouse who already does not want the marriage. I did that for one month and got nowhere. I am trying to stop that and things are getting better. It is so much easier to say than to do though. When you really love someone, you don't want them to leave, and it is hard to see all of the dreams and beliefs that you had about marriage shattered over such a hurtful choice as a partners infidelity.

Anyway, that is just my $0.02 on the issue. May God walk with all of us during these times.


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Being the betrayer I can tell you that he hit the nail right on the head. An affair is not about sex and lack of respect for your spouse is exactly what starts the process. I also agree with him in regards to how the betrayed reacts. Threats and guilt pushes the betrayer away. The begging and crying also does. I am one that also married the om. In thinking back to the time when his ex wife first found out about his affair she did exactly what Dobson said NOT to do. First it was the crying and begging and then it turned to threats and guilt. Now, I have a neighbor who found out about a year ago that her husband was having an affair. I told her that if he wanted to leave then let him. I told her that when she hurts and feels weak to lean on her friends and family but NOT him. When he stopped by the house to visit the kids make it clear that he's visiting, he no longer lives there. So, she told him to leave and he did. Stayed at his parents home. He had to call before coming over to see the kids and many times she was off doing things without telling him. He got curious as to what she was doing. She got a new hair style and bumped her part-time job up to full-time, a promotion and he admired that. She never questioned him as to what he did with his spare time. Within a few weeks you began to wonder who left who. When he asked to come back it was her that had the stipulations, not her trying to bend over backwards keeping him happy for fear he'd leave again. If you never did kiss up to every need of that spouse and you start it does look like a desperate act. The last time I talked to her she said things were moving along great. He was working on being the type of husband she deserved and she felt more confident knowing that she could make it on her own. Having that confidence in herself made her very attractive to him. Anynow, I do agree with a lot that was said here.

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BonnieSept,

This is where I get really confused as to whether I am doing the right thing.

Doesn't what you are saying about your neighbor go against MB principles? Yeah, I am a slow learner, but integrating MB and Dobson is where I start yo-yoing back and forth. I understand about becoming a stronger, more independent person. I am doing that, for myself, and it feels great...but I still get pretty mooshy around my H and he knows it. So, do I act like I give a damn around him, or do I act aloof?

The last thing we (BS) want is to look desperate. But, I guess what I'm not getting, is when we are together, which is pretty often though he has moved out, what do I do. I think he really does want me to move on with my life, and if I show him that I don't need him he'll be happy for me. I just don't know if that will come across as a threat to him because his feelings for me are so ambivilent right now.

Yeah, each of us has to find our own way. As much as they have in common, each WS have very different personalities and time lines. I know my H reacts well to me when I kind of ignore him. At our kids softball games I make a point to leave him alone and go visit with people I know and he seems to admire that. I guess I'm just having one of those days when I am losing patience and trying to find my way.

ARGHHHHHHH....ok, I feel better now

allison


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Allison I can imagine your confusion. Your right, what works for one couple might not work for another. However, I do have a really good friend that is a divorce attorney and he told me that his comment to his clients that are in the process of a divorce and DO NOT want it is to force the divorcing spouse to live the divorced life. He said "Let them see what paying child support would be like through a temporary hearing, only allow them the minimium visitation so that they feel the real impact of only seeing their kids every other weekend and missing them." He said that when one spouse is very determined to divorce sometimes giving them a taste is the only thing that turns them around. But, what if you have a spouse that wants the divorce so bad that they are happy with this arrangement? I have no answers there. Some may be running from the family obligation and only having the kids for a limited amount of time might be appealing to them. I'm not saying you should tell your spouse that your done with him and that you want a divorce. That might kill any chance you have if they are still sitting on the fence. Maybe tell him you love him, you want a family but that you know that you can survive without him, after all what other choice has he given you? Tell him that you hope that if he has regrets some day that it isn't to late for him. You'll always love him and you wish that you could be a family but that you can't and won't wait for ever. I think there is a fine line. You can let him know that you love him by being kind when you see him but also show him how independent you can be.

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quote:
Originally posted by az allison:
Hi Lighthouse,

Dr. Dobson did a great job summarizing his "Love Must Be Tough" book. I read the book and loved it, but it seemed to be a little abrupt. It seems like it's almost going into an immediate Plan B. ....

....Thanks for re-typing the article. Dobson knows his stuff, that's for sure. I just had to go with one or the other, and MB seems a little more loving to me.


"Plan A? We don't need no stinkin' Plan A!"

As much as I respect Dr. Dobson, I couldn't help thinking when I read LMBT, that this was a really good way to drive away a spouse who was sitting on the fencepost. Or a spouse who was feeling desparate, and in their own warped way, trying to get their spouse's attention.

While the decision to stray is solely the strayer's, the condition of the marriage at that point is the result of the actions and inactions of 2 people. The non-straying spouse in Dr. Dobson's scenario is assumed to be a blameless victim of the straying spouse's selfishness. I doubt that is often, or ever, the case.


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Doug???

Did I just have a Doug Sighting?


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I read Dobson after MB and, although it probably is most easily combined with Plan B, I thought that it was the ATTITUDE toward the betrayer that was so powerful and that can be attached to Plan A. You can Plan A & still be "tough", and I think that is the key ingredient I missed at first in Plan A & ended up at times being a Dormat. I think the combination is the mind-set "I love you. I will not be treated badly." Or "I love you, you are free to be a bum, but not in my house or when you are with me."

Of course, it is still the day-to-day living and where you set your limits that makes it workable or unworkable.


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Anyone who thinks spanking your kids makes them respect you is not someone to whom I would turn for marital advice.

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I actually used Dobson's plan from LMBT and it worked quite effectively. My H did end up leaving, but is coming back home tomorrow after being gone for only a week. I do believe that once they feel like they are not trapped any longer, that they see the light and realize what they have was not as bad as they thought!

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quote:
Originally posted by suse:
Doug???

Did I just have a Doug Sighting?


NO! You did NOT see a Doug. What you thought was a Doug was actually a top secret experimental NASA weather balloon, and it was full of hot air!

Do not tell anyone about this sighting. Do not tell anyone we spoke to you. We know what web sites you frequent.

Trust us. We're from the government.

Really. No s**t.


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Thanks Lighthouse for posting this..it is great stuff!

-Dawnn


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I love the Dobson article...I bought the book after MB...and have read them all.

My H used the exact phrase "trapped by the marraige" "trapped by the kids" "trapped by the situation"

I told my H that I was not stopping him from doing what he wanted to do..

I openned the door and also did plan A when he was here....but my H....regrouped and began to say the he didn't want a "relationship" with OP...they just enjoyed working together and shared some sort of bond.... He still wants to defend his relationship with her and not work on this one.....(even though now he will say the problems have been only in the past 2 years and not the whole marraige...plus he admits stress at work!!!)

I backed away or detached to regroup myself. I needed to have emotional distance from OP who has singlehandedly told much of this small town about "our" longstanding marital problems and impending divorce....(this to my kids teachers)

She left her H and kids part time to accomodate my H's fantasy, but is keeping her H on a leash just in case it doesn't work out with my H...Now their 11 year old son knows what is going on (EA)

I kindof like the loving toughness aspect. In fact in reading the WHeat book, even he says to respect yourself.....while you are loving your husband.

I guess I needed to get to the point of being able to KNOW that I love my H unconditionally.....I love him, am willing to work on the marraige, am willing to meet his needs, but it just isn't going to work while he and she maintain this relationship.

In the meantime, I will do whatever I can to improve myself and keep the kind of life that I think is important for me and the kids.

He is mad at me because I am not talking to him right now...He told his mom "she's not talking to me,,,what can I do" His mom's reply was, "what do you expect her to do...you told her you "can't talk to her" How can she meet you half way???

My plan A is via my kids...he is spending lots of time with them, taking them on trips...he has them call me all of the time when he is with him......(his way of checking up on me)... Plan B is my way to get strong enough to stand firm.....for both of us!!!!!!! I guess it's my version of MB and LMBT!!!!!



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