Well, my front yard IS looking better. Change is taking place and I like what’s happening. Perhaps that’s a good picture for your life. You took a good hard look at what you saw and didn’t like what was staring back at you. It was time to remove the deadwood, the diseased and even the areas that were functioning too well (like my huge front bushes) but disrupting the overall balance and beauty of your life. Yes, it looks messy for a while, mud keeps getting on your shoes, poison ivy might catch you unaware, but the results are worth it.
Here is my interview with M. My question are in bold, her answers are in regular text.
After many months of being separated you decided to return to your home. Tell me a bit about how you made that decision and how it’s been for you.
When I first separated I knew I wasn't staying well at all. I was scared to speak up. I owned all his negative responses. Somehow it was always my fault and I believed him. I was the bad guy, blamed for everything that was wrong with our family. We had gone to numerous counselors but nothing was working. I was feeling more and more depressed and defeated. I knew I had to separate for my sake and to get myself in a different space mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
When you separated, what did you do to help yourself get stronger?
I had two goals when I separated. One was to get stronger and healthier for myself. The second was I hoped my husband would wake up to his part and want to work on the things he needed to face. I told him I needed to do personal coaching and asked him to do the same since marital counseling had not worked for us.
Before I left I talked with my pastor asking for his support letting him know I was working with Leslie and hoping my husband would be willing to work with him. My pastor tried, but my husband disagreed with his approach and did not continue and left our church.
I asked several women from the church to pray for me and hold me accountable for the work I needed to do. I shared with my children what I was doing and they were unsupportive. They didn’t understand my decision to leave and it was tough to hear that they supported their father.
During that time I worked with Leslie to build my CORE strength and deal with my own attitudes and behaviors that contributed to our destructive dance. I learned that I wasn’t a great listener, sometimes (unknowingly) would say things that shamed my spouse. I also learned that his reactions were his, not mine to own and I could control the way I said things, but I could not control the way he heard them or responded to them.
I learned how to take better care of myself, how to find my voice and speak up, (not only with my husband but with my adult children), to set better boundaries and stop over-functioning all the time. (tweet this)
My relationship with God deepened tremendously. I kept asking him to change my husband but he was working to change me.
What happened that you decided to return home? Did your husband “get it”? Were things different between you now?
I returned home solely because felt that’s what the Lord wanted me to do even though nothing had changed in my husband or marriage. I went home with the understanding that I could have no expectations for a good marriage, no demands on my spouse to change and communicated such to my husband. I also told him my boundaries. I would not “pretend” we had a good marriage publically by going to friend’s houses together or dinner parties. We had separate bedrooms.
At first I cried every night to sleep. I wanted so much for my marriage to work. I had to pray for God to lift that terrible sorrow. I knew I couldn’t stay well that way very long.
Thankfully God answered that prayer. I don’t cry anymore at night. My coaching and support people have been a great help, but I have two faithful friends who have stuck through this whole process with me and continue to be a big support even now.
Right now I’m in a different church than I was before I left. When my husband left our previous church – I ended up following him, hoping that would help but he quit going there. He hasn’t gone there for a year and half.
In order to continue on my path to wholeness and accountability, I joined a 24 week Faith Walk Class. It built on a lot of the CORE values that Leslie helped me with. I had the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning.
Two things that helped me the most – we talked about learning where I ended and my husband started, owning how much I let him define me. I couldn’t quite get it even though Leslie talked about that in our coaching I was still fuzzy. How do I walk this out?
A book was recommended to me to read, Scary Close by Donald Miller, and it was very helpful. One particular illustration really resonated with me – the three pillows illustration. The counselor placed 3 pillows on the floor, one for the husband, one for the wife and one pillow placed between them. The pillows that each of them stood on represented them – their thoughts, their beliefs, their feelings, convictions, likes and dislikes.
The wife could not step on her husband’s pillow nor could he step on her pillow, however the pillow between them they could both step for it represented what they shared together. This really helped me understand more clearly that I can be me and not feel bad about myself. I have thoughts, dreams and likes and that’s who I am and no one can take that from me.
The other thing that really helped me was to learn to listen better and hear someone’s heart. To ask questions and reflect what you’ve heard until they know you’ve heard what they said. At the end when they feel you’ve understood, you have opportunity to share your thoughts. Even though this process doesn’t seem to make a difference in my marriage learning this has helped me. That’s been huge.
Two years ago I used to own everything he said about me and it would devastate me. How could I be so awful? But God is helping me to not own his anger or his hurtful remarks.
This has been a big change in me and it’s taken a while. I’m holding myself accountable to walk closely with Christ and I am trying to keep my life on the right path. I have also had to learn to keep a clean slate and forgive my husband again and again, even though he never asks. He seems to feel no guilt.
Sometimes I have doubts and condemnation starts to rear its ugly head, but I’ve learned how to deal with it so it doesn’t take over my soul or spirit.
So what I hear you say is that you’re staying well but your marriage is still bad.
Yes, but I have learned how to be authentic, I don’t pretend anymore.
In a lot of ways, I see myself living with a little boy in a man’s body. I have learned to accept that. I have come to accept that things may never be different. I can’t say it’s easy and I still have lots of hard and lonely times and I’m making it day by day by God’s grace.
However, what’s different is now I’m able to stand up and hold my head up and I’m becoming more of who Christ is calling me to be despite the circumstances of my marriage.
How have your adult children responded to your return home?
Kids are fine. They don’t say anything. I would welcome a discussion, but I don’t bring it up.
The kids are good with me but I feel that they are more partial to their dad. I can’t change that. But I’m grateful that they aren’t isolating me as I felt during the separation.
I enjoy our family times and the grandchildren are very precious to me.
What else are you doing for you?
I’m working part time. My friend opened a shop and invited me to work with her a few days a week. I love it. It gives me something to focus on.
For a while I stopped praying about my marriage but God put it on my heart to continue to pray for my husband. He said, “Who is going to pray for him if not you?”
This class I took has taught me that I do matter. That God says I have value. And, that I can be in ministry and speak into the lives of other women even while still having a bad marriage. That surprised me but God is good and I want to glorify him in my life.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy to stay well. Some days are harder than others but these days I’m feeling good about me. I have hope for a future ministry with other women, and for that I’m very thankful.
Friends, what are some of the things you have learned from the three past blogs that you will need to do for yourself if you want to stay well or leave well?