On a Saturday night Sharon told me she wanted me out of our home by Tuesday. Monday she went to our pastor, and as I understand, laid out why she felt she couldn’t live with me. She came back and reaffirmed that she wanted me out by Tuesday.
When I called the pastor and talked to him, as I was trying to decide whether to stay or go, he told me that in his observations of many years as a pastor, approximately seven out of 10 times if the man moved out and wanted to get back together, they got it worked out. But, if the wife and kids picked up and left, then it was rare for the couple to get back together. Later in our separation I happened to share that with a pastor in another church, and he got on me that I shouldn’t have left home because there is no example in the Bible of couples living separately to resolve their problems.
I have had people who have been neck deep in these situations who have gotten legal advice and been told, “Whatever you do, don’t move out until you have a legal agreement.” I also had a friend who came home and his stuff was piled in the front yard. By God’s grace they had some long phone conversations and got things worked out. This whole idea of living separately is very emotionally upsetting no matter which side of it you are on.
If you or your children are on the receiving end of physical or sexual abuse, then I strongly urge you to seek help. Start with your church first, if you are a Christian, or from women’s shelters, counselors, or the court system, if necessary. There is help out there, and with prayer, God can show you what to do. Do not automatically assume that all of this means divorce. I know people whose marriages have recovered and are thriving in spite of domestic violence or sexual abuse.
If you are just frustrated with your spouse or don’t have solid grounds regarding abuse, don’t use the court system to make threats or manipulate. That is just a dead-end street for everyone involved.
If your spouse asks you to leave then I suggest you do a couple of things. Examine your own heart and if your spouse truly does have a reason to fear you physically or sexually, please get help immediately from pastors or counselors. If your spouse has gotten to the point of asking you to leave now is the time to get help because the next step is probably going to be legal action and your life is going to get to be a whole lot messier in a hurry. The legal system in general, does not mess around with these issues, so if you do have a problem far better to get help voluntarily than have it forced on you. You could be on the verge of losing a lot of things important to you – your spouse, kids and home.
Now, if your spouse doesn’t truly have a legitimate reason to fear you, but is saying they do, you need to really slow down and think. Be aware that even unfounded accusations can sometimes be taken to court and that your spouse may perceive your behavior differently than you do.
I recommend seeking spiritual guidance from pastors or marriage-friendly Christian counselors. Don’t give up and assume your marriage is over, but wake up and realize something is seriously wrong regardless of whether you stay or go. Pray for wisdom and guidance.
Personally, I went ahead and left, but at times since then I have wondered if it was the best move or not. Sharon was pretty firm that if I didn’t she was, so part of me thought the most loving thing to do was to disrupt my kids lives as little as possible. I was thankful that she continued to stay in our home rather than moving, but it was very hard not to feel welcome there. I also realized that even though I had never hit her that my anger was starting to surface and I was afraid of what I might do. In my heart of hearts I didn’t want to compound problems, even though sometimes I did.
My encouragement regardless of what you do about staying or going is not to give up on your marriage. It is time to get more serious about your marriage than ever before, and that you will find hope and practical help. There is plenty on this blog to start with.