Forever, Forever Ever? (Part II) – Stay or Let it Go

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Thought For The Day:

“True love is always unconditional.  Healthy, loving relationships are never unconditional.”

Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt

Question For The Day:

Do you confuse staying committed with accepting abuse?

First of all, my bad for taking this long to post again.  If there was someone actually waiting on the next part of this marital series, I have a laundry list of reasons I could give you as to why the last few weeks have been hectic and the blog ended up being the casualty.  Since I’ve spoke with you last, I’ve had a birthday, celebrated Mother’s Day, and got through several work issues that tested my resolve to remain a social worker.  My children are in the last few weeks of school and I’ve been knuckling down with them, trying to give them the support they need to pass their end of the year tests.  Though all of these may seem like valid reasons to put the blog on the backburner, I recognize that at the end of the day, they are still excuses.  The truth is, I could have found the time despite all of this but was frankly tired many days and felt a lot more like chillin’ after a long day than writing.  Therefore, the only righteous thing to do would be to own it and do better.   I told you I was working on getting lifted myself, so bear with your girl.  I’m a work in progress too.

Speaking of owning it and doing better, let’s get back to this discussion of marriage that I started in the last post. As you may recall, I started trying to analyze the state of marriage and why so many couples seem to be headed for divorce court in part one of this series. (See previous post: Forever, Forever Ever? – Part I)  Like I said, I believe it’s largely because people are not taking the weight of the vow seriously to begin with.  It’s as if marriage is embarked upon like one of those free trial offers you get in the mail.  Try it for free and if you’re not satisfied, just take it back for a full refund.  The only problem with the marital return policy is that there’s no way to really get your investment back.  Years of struggle, compromise, children, shared debts and mutual responsibilities make exercising the return policy extremely complicated and emotionally expensive.  If you’ve spent any significant amount of time building a marriage then you know that it’s never as simple as they make it seem on television and in the movies.  We love to boast about “moving on” as if there is a handsome, godly, perfectly sensitive and infallibly supportive soul mate waiting in the wings, ready to step into the role of husband once our current partner has exited stage left.  Every breakup we witness in the media, seems to move someone from “calling it quits” to “stepping out with their new man” at warped speed.  This fantasy, I think, has confused many of us into believing that there is always someone better just waiting for us to drop our loser husband so they can step in and make our lives better.  Yet, if it’s true that all of us need time to grow, mature, change, and develop into the best version of ourselves, then why do we expect perfection from our men out the gate?  Think about it.  If you can say that you are nowhere near as crazy, irresponsible, or scattered at forty-five as you were at twenty-five, isn’t it fair to assume that the emotionally-inept, unfocused, or chauvinist man you are so fed up with might also be a different person in twenty years?  Why are we allowed to grow and get better, but we are intolerant of this process in our men?  This is why I believe that commitment is really the heart of a solid marriage, not perpetual happiness.  What good will it do us if we divorce our man while he’s still a wreck and then watch another woman reap the benefits of his maturity and growth down the line?  Perhaps if we could just bear with the growth process, the hard years might just be worth it in the end.  I know personally, if I’m going to endure my spouse’s growing pains, then I have earned the good man I’m getting when all is said and done.  So if it comes down to the issue of divorce, are you positive that it is worth it and if so, how do you know?

I’ve had this discussion before with friends and family members, and I do believe that every woman has to have her deal breakers when entering a marriage.  This takes a good amount of self-awareness to be able to say with certainty what things you do not feel able to overlook in a marriage.  For me, it is infidelity and physical violence.  These are two things that I just can’t see myself dealing with well and I believe they would require too much of me and my children, so I know I would have to step away if these occur.  Part of being prepared to marry in the first place requires that you know your deal breakers and express them to your partner in no uncertain terms before you walk down the aisle.  This is boundary setting and a marriage with no boundaries to start with is certain to go off the rails quickly.  It should never be that “anything goes” in a marriage and that a man should be free to run amuck and treat you however he wants to.  I fear that this is what women may assume I’m saying when I urge commitment in marriage.  To make matters more confusing, you’ll frequently hear how women are supposed to “submit” to their husbands “in everything” at church, which I’ll discuss more in the next post.  Though I respect and accept the concept of  submission, it should not be confused with accepting abuse.

If you are being controlled and forced to behave a certain way, that is not submission.  If you are ducking punches, being constantly accused of infidelity, demeaned, ridiculed, berated, called out of your name, or kept from living the life you desire, then you are not honoring marriage, but dishonoring yourself.  The commitment that I describe as necessary in marriage is committing to a person despite their flaws and character defects if those defects don’t stunt your own growth process.  I don’t have to necessarily leave an unmotivated, depressed, or emotionally unavailable man especially if my continued progress and the application of my own faith could be an inspiration to him.  However, if I cannot progress or am not allowed to progress because I am in danger or prohibited, then I must accept that I am being abused and need to take necessary steps to protect myself and my children.  Too many women have it twisted though and leave when they might should stay, and stay when they should leave.  Here are some points to consider if you are confused about what move to make concerning your troubled marriage.

Are you safe?

If you are literally living in fear for your safety or your life, then this is not a situation to commit to.  Although it can still be your prayer that your husband get the help he needs, you should not risk your own well-being, growth, and peace of mind to facilitate this for him.  Your priority is to get yourself and your children to a safe place.  You may still decide to remain committed to your husband by praying for him or even supporting him in counseling if he’s decided to work on himself and actively pursue treatment.  Even abuse doesn’t have to mean divorce, but it should always mean that change is in order and a requirement before continuation of the marriage can even be considered.

Are you put down?

If being in your marriage leaves you void of self-respect and self-worth then you may need to step away and regain proper perspective.  If you feel incapable of pursuing your God-given gifts and talents and are constantly being made to feel inferior or less than what you know yourself to be, then committing to this type of degradation does not make good sense.  You should demand due respect and if your partner is unwilling to give it, then you must protect yourself and insist on it if the marriage is to survive.

 Is it only about what you want?

If your desire to leave your marriage is solely based on what you want and your desire for continual happiness and satisfaction, then it may be time to check your expectations.  Are you giving your husband the grace that your vow requires?  Are you supporting him, praying for him, and encouraging him in areas that still have a chance to improve?  If not, then consider how you will feel if God answers your prayers and your husband does become a better man after you’ve divorced him and his next wife is enjoying the happiness you prayed for.

The bottom line is this, if your husband’s ways, though irritating and seemingly intolerable, are not doing more than making you unhappy sometimes, perhaps you can choose to be patient and wait on him to grow up.  You might also want to spend more time fulfilling your dreams and meeting your own needs, remembering that God is your source.    Choosing to wait on God to move in your marriage is the mark of a mature woman who ultimately has faith in God’s ability to do all things.  However, if staying the course means  sacrificing your dignity, self-respect, dreams, growth and development, safety, and possibly your life for the sake of “standing by your man,”  then you have no choice but to do what you must to protect yourself.  Now again, it may not necessarily mean divorce is your only option. You can separate yourself from an unhealthy situation while new ground rules are being established. At minimum, boundaries have to be set and your husband would have to demonstrate an ability to respect them if you both desire to work it out. If he is not willing to respect your boundaries, then you may need to let it go or love him from a safe distance until he can. Married or not, as a woman you have an obligation to always honor and cherish who should be your first and ultimate true love… you.

So, if you decide to hold on and keep the faith, how can you “submit” to a man when he can’t get right?  Stay tuned for the conclusion in Forever, Forever Ever? – Part III.  Thoughts anyone?

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