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Joined: Aug 2000
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The following is a post that I often put here for "newcomers" and "oldtimers" alike. I only wish that I was able to put these words into action when I had the chance... It may be too late for my marriage, but maybe it isn't for yours.....

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The following is an excerpt from a book by Dr. Dobson called Tough Love. I highly suggest you invest a couple dollars and go out to get it - it is worth the money. I wish I could have done what he suggests when my life left. Anyway take a read and think about it....

[following is an exerpt]
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The standard approach to marriage counselling is to teach husbands and wives how to revitalise 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 unravelling, 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 counselling, except perhaps as a pretence 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 grovelling, 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 grovelling 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 realise 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.

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What great words. If I could have only put those words into action in my own marriage at the time when it needed them the most. I'm not saying I regret how I acted - for I did the best I could at the time. I only post this here hoping that maybe you can "live" these words now and not have to look back down the road and wonder.

And by the way, the second paragraph of this excerpt that talks about "the tidal wave of pain" is one of the truest paragraphs I have ever read...

God Bless,
Mike

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God always waits for the right time to do the right thing in the right way.


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great book. great excerpt. thanks, ST2000.

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Faith1

"Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.'"
Matt 15:28


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Great excerpt!! It echoes another book I read called "Divorce Busters." The idea that the tighter we hold on the faster they want to go is soooooo true. When I stepped back, went shopping with my H and helped him pick out a laundry basket and a shower curtain for his new apartment, he stopped me right in the middle of Target and said "you are amazing" and smiled. He had a smile on his face the whole time. I felt him soften so many times when I released him. In the long run, his issues ran deeper than any PLAN A could fix, but I learned thta you can't control people. A lesson long overdue.

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Yeah, I loved the "tidal wave" paragraph. So apt!

I loved what Dr. Dobson was saying, yet I feel nothing could have saved my marriage. That his words and advice might help those less ravaged by deceit and addiction is a comfort to struggling families. I hope that one day I get another chance to do a better job.

Love,
Nell


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Hi Mike... as part of my counseling, I was asked to read this as well. I did write a letter to my H "releasing" him and letting him know he was of his own free will. His response...?

I know I'm free to go, why do you think I need your decision to "free" me. He thought it arrogant of me to say that. He is still leaving...

I like the part that the strain on the relationship eases... because that's what does happen. My question is how long does it take for them to realize that maybe there is something they want? He is dead set on divorce. So, I just Plan A to make a better me. What can I do otherwise? It says not to do anything with manipulation in your heart... I wouldn't want to!

So, though it's good, I think that it also can be perceived as being arrogant.

Cheers!

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As iron sharpens iron, so does one wo/man sharpen another... Prov 27:17


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I just read this book two days ago. It was the most sensible thing I have read yet - tho I'm not sure exactly how to apply it in my case.

I HAVE stopped calling W much. (even before I read this book.) Now, she calls me. Yesterday, evening she called and said "did you call?" "No", I replied. "Oh, I was out for a walk and I thought you might have called. You didn't call at all today." Today she called and said "since you didn't see the baby yesterday, I thought I'd bring her over" - and came, then wanted to go shopping with me and ate dinner here.

I don't think the formal "release" letter is essential - just stopping the chase gets the message across pretty well.

One of the key things in this book is the idea of "forcing a crisis". In my case, I don't know exactly what form this might take. There is a natural crisis coming up - but it seems to harsh to use it - and my counselor at first said "let the chips fall where they may" and then changed his mind. Anyway, my W is an immigrant - and wants to live in this country. At the end of the month we are supposed to go to a "marriage interview" with the INS - which will be video-taped. They will ask (since I am sponsoring her for immigration (she originally came here as a student - and filed a "change of status")) "Are you living as man and wife". They WILL ask. My current thinking is that I will answer truthfully "no". That will be a crisis. I can't imagine 4 hours in the car comming back from there with her! My Counselor, on the other hand, on second thought, gave the opinion that this would be entrapping her - and counterproductive. I don't want to trap her - but I've crossed too many boundaries already to come to the point of lying under oath on video tape for her.

What do you think?


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great excerpt Mike.

How true. I'll use it for my next relationship - not that I'm planning another divorce, or a bad relationship, and I'm not even a clingy type of person.

I guess it's just good to reinforce things sometimes. I know I certainly had moments of wanting to cling, and more than likely he perceived them as clinging. Maybe they were, who knows now.

anyway, thanks for that

Jo


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Mike,

I haven't read the book, but I have heard it's wonderful..
I know that it's recommended for ppl who love alcoholics
and drug addicts, and parents of teenagers who do drugs..
allowing them to face the natural consequences of their actions..letting them go..not continually bailing them
out of trouble..and crisis after crisis...


It's one I know that I should probably read not just for
this situation but also as a parent..I know I could learn
alot about being a better "tough love" parent...


and you quote him as saying that " 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"

As I read that...I really have to disagree here..because living with someone who choses "work, or drinking, or drugs" over their spouse is "JUST" as devasting..to the person going through it..because there isn't "someone" else..they just choose these other methods of staying away from you..
you still feel like your not lovable because if they loved you..they wouldn't "do this" they wouldn't stay away..so it has to be me that is making them NOT want to be here..it's my fault that they drink..do drugs..work all the time...if I just loved them more..if I just did this more..if I just..then they would want to be here...

I have felt that death would be better..than this..and it's harder "I" think when it's not another person..because then
there really seems to be no explaination as to WHY they don't want to be here..why they don't want to spend time with you..and would rather be away..and not be apart of the family..at least w/ another person there seems to be some explaination..they "met someone else who makes them happier"
and that "I" would find easier to except..



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