Why Some Spouses Give Up

Give up Pixabay ball-841176_640The following story is a parable meant to be used as an imaging tool. It’s not meant to give a spouse, who is ready to give up on a marriage. It is not an excuse to do so. It can however, give the abandoned spouse a better understanding as to why their spouse may have decided to leave their marriage when they did.

More importantly however, this parable is meant to be used as a “wake-up call” to those spouses who are asleep to the fact that they’ve been neglecting their family. And if they don’t come to that realization and do something to drastically reverse their neglectful behavior immediately —they may wake up one morning to find themselves alone without a family to care for and spend time with.

Read the following edited story with an open mind and heart as to what the author Andy Stanley is trying to tell those who think their family should keep understanding why they spend so much time away from them.

Pastor Stanley writes:

Use your imagination for just a moment. Imagine that your best friend walks up to you in your front yard one Saturday and asks you to do him a favor. You have some free time, and so you agree to do it. He walks over to his car, opens the trunk, and produces a thirty-pound rock.

Now here’s where you’re really going to have to use your imagination. At this point he hands you the rock and says, “I really need you to stand here with this rock until I return.” He explains why it’s important that you stand in that one spot with the rock and promises to return shortly to retrieve it. It’s a strange request, and his explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this is someone you trust, so you agree. At this point he thanks you with extreme gratitude and then gets into his car and drives away.

Time Passes

An hour goes by. And what started out as a reasonable favor is beginning to get a little hard. But after all, this is your best friend, so you resign yourself to continue on and stand there. Another hour goes by and your arms are starting to ache. Everything in you wants to sit down, but you made a promise. Then suddenly, to your relief, your friend pulls in the driveway, jumps out of the car, and runs in your direction. You’re so relieved. If you weren’t holding the rock, you’d hug him.

But your joy is quickly crushed. Instead of relieving you of your burden he says, “I told you I was coming right back. But I need to run one more quick errand. If you’ll keep holding the rock, I’ll make it up to you when I return.” Once again, you trust that what you’re told is true. If your friend needs to run one more errand before relieving you that is just the way it is. So you agree. As he turns to go you can’t help but yell out, “Please hurry.” Off your friend goes and there you stand.

More Time Passes

Another hour goes by. The sun begins to set. Your muscles are aching to be able to drop the rock. But you refuse to give in. You’re committed to holding up your part of what you promised. Besides, your friend said he’d make it up to you. You aren’t sure what that means, but it must be something good. Thirty minutes later a car pulls up in the driveway. Someone you don’t know is driving. This person walks over and informs you that your friend has been delayed. “Would you mind holding the rock for just a little while longer?” he asks.

You experience a mixture of pain and anger. You manage to mutter, “Just tell him to hurry.”

Away the person goes and there you stand. It’s dark now. The streets are empty. The neighbors are at their windows watching you stand there, wondering why you’d put up with being treated like that by a “friend.”

Another hour goes by. You begin to lose your grip. Your arms begin to fall. You tell yourself to hold on, but your body just won’t respond. Down goes the rock. And just as it hits the pavement and breaks into a hundred pieces, your friend pulls up in the driveway. He jumps out of the car, runs over with a look of panic on his face, and says, “What happened? Did it slip? Did somebody knock it out of your hands? Or did you change your mind?” And as he looks for an explanation as to why you suddenly dropped the rock, you know that it was a long time coming.


Now let me explain what happened in terms that will help us later on. Your mental willingness was overcome by your physical exhaustion. You wanted to do what you were asked to do, but after awhile you just couldn’t do it anymore. Add to that the frustration of being misled about how long you’d have to stand there. But even if the aggravation is put aside, at some point you just weren’t going to be able to keep holding on. No amount of love, dedication, commitment, or selflessness was going to be able to make up for the fact that your arms were worn out.

Now, let’s add another element to that story: You’re about to pass out from exhaustion. And finally a car pulls up in the driveway. You’re so angry and in so much pain you know you’ll have to choose your words carefully. Sure enough, it’s your friend. He walks over slowly with one hand behind his back. He forces a smile and says, “I brought you something.”

Suddenly he brings out from behind his back a bouquet of flowers. At that point you don’t just drop the rock. You find within yourself just enough strength to throw it at him! As he ducks, he exclaims, “What was that all about? I bought you flowers, didn’t I?”

Specific Explanation

Now, I probably don’t need to apply my little parable. The meaning is pretty obvious. So at the risk of insulting your intelligence, let me be painfully specific:

• When we ask our husbands and wives to carry their load as well as ours, it’s like handing them a rock.

• When we’re absent at critical junctures in family life, they’re left holding the rock.

– Also, when we find ourselves pointing to the future to somehow make up for the past and the present, they’re holding the rock.

• When we assure our families that things are going to change and they don’t, they’re holding the rock.

Love That Trusts

The interesting thing is that they always accept it. And why not? They love us. They trust us. Besides, we always reassure them that they’ll only have to hold it for a short time.

Everybody is willing to be “understanding” when a loved one needs to neglect the family as a top priority for a reasonable period of time. And in real life, taking time away from the family because of job responsibilities is sometimes unavoidable. But when they’re left to carry a load of neglect they were never created to carry in the first place—it’s just a matter of time before things will begin to unravel.

When It Takes Too Long

There’s a point at which that mental willingness isn’t enough to hang on. With a literal rock, mental willingness is eventually overcome by physical exhaustion. With an imaginary rock, mental willingness is eventually overtaken by emotional exhaustion. And when that happens, the rocks come tumbling down.

There’s always a final straw: a comment, a phone call, a tired explanation, a no-show, a forgotten birthday, or a missed game. Some little thing that pushes those we love past their ability to hold on. And to the uniformed, unsuspecting spouse —to the husband or wife who has lived with the fantasy that everything is just fine —it seems like a huge overreaction. They think: “All I said was.” “All I did was.”

But it wasn’t the moment, nor was it the phone call. It wasn’t the fact that the big hand on the clock was on the six instead of the twelve. It was weeks, months, or possibly years of waiting for things to change. The rock finally slipped out of their calloused hands.

It All Breaks Apart

When the rock drops, you’ll do everything in your power to pick it up and piece it back together. You’ll find the time to devote to fixing the problem. But in my experience, when the rock drops, there is always some permanent damage. Most rocks can’t be put back together again.

Do you know what your family wants from you more than anything else? They want to feel accepted. In practical terms, they want to feel like they are your priority.

“But they are my priority,” you might argue. That may be true. They may be your priority in your heart, but that’s not the point. They want to feel like your priority. It’s not enough for them to be your priority. They must feel like it.

I’ll never forget discussing this point with a very busy corporate vice president. He kept assuring me of how much he loved his wife and kids. Finally I interrupted him and said, “The problem is, you love your family in your heart, but you don’t love them in your schedule. They can’t see your heart —they only know your schedule.”

Too Much Time

Keep in mind that the chief indicator to your family of where you place your loyalty is time. It’s what you put on our calendar. Where you spend your time is an indication of where your loyalties lie. In effect, you pledge your allegiance to the person or thing that receives your time.

Are there time-consuming bridges you need to burn? Are there accounts at work you need to hand off? And are there some out-of-town meetings that need to be handled on the phone? Is there an offer you need to refuse? A promotion you need to give back? Once you’ve made up your mind to make your family more of a priority, it will become all too clear what stands in the way of your being able to focus on your commitment to re-prioritize.

Needed Changes

So what is your non-negotiable? What does it look like? Does it mean leaving the office everyday at 5:30, regardless? Does it mean never missing one of your children’s performances or ball games? What does the commitment look like in your world?

Again promising to do “better” won’t get it. You’ve already done that. That terminology doesn’t even register with your family. They’ve heard that before.

This article came from the book, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family written by Andy Stanley, published by Multnomah Publishers. As Dr John Maxwell says about this book (which we agree): “This is a life-changing book and extremely relevant to our modern way of life. Author Andy Stanley confronts us with truth and transparency. Just as he had made a commitment in his own life to balance his family time with his work, he encourages us to make similar commitments. One of the main reasons it is life changing is because a godly man who makes choices in his own life to never sacrifice his family for success has written it. If he wins the world but loses his family, what has he gained?

Every couple, every parent, and every leader needs to read this book and consider the question: Who wins when my family and work collide?” This book presents a strategic plan for resolving the tension between work and home. You’ll find ways to deal with the busyness that wreaks havoc with the relationships you consider most important.”

Print Post

Filed under: Save My Marriage Separation and Divorce

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


87 responses to “Why Some Spouses Give Up

  1. I have been married for about 6 years now. I am pregnant with our first child. I left my friends and career to marry my husband. Initially we had jobs in different states. We keep moving for his job. Luckily I can work from home but I feel like I am losing so much visibility by not being in the office. It has been 6 years and he is still in settling in” phase. I earn decent money but feel like I cannot even buy a vase because he is not interested in home decoration. I know he loves me and would do anything for me, but he does not express it. He is always worried about something. He does not have a lot of confidence. He is never in the moment and is always thinking about something else.

    I feel like he is never with me. I also feel like that I have no control over finances. His family obviously expects me to work from home so I can cook and take care of our new baby. I feel so used. I expected a better pregnancy – relaxed. I’m educated with an engineering degree. I have good experience, earn well and like sports. At times I feel like my life quality just suffers because of him. He has a job where he works 14+ hours. His job does not even pay him well. Now he has started an online degree. He has no time for me. Yet, I keep moving from one state to another to support him. But I feel like he just takes me for granted and does not appreciate what I do for him.

    He is always busy thinking about him, his job, his problems and make it sound like that whatever he does, it is because of me. Once he even said that he never asked to be married and would have been happy if we were staying alone. We would not be able to pay our bills if it wasn’t for me. I feel so unappreciative and used. Now we have a baby on its way. I feel like I am a full-time maid, who brings a lot of money and has to work twice as hard and does not get the quality of life that I studied and worked for. These days we are in an apartment with one air bed and bar stool. I have no one to talk to because every time I say anything to my husband, he just turns it all around me. I also feel like that he never stands up for me in front of his family. I feel used. Just wanted vent away so writing on this blog :) …

    1. Dear Nancy, your words express the fight within your heart and mind. On one side you wrote “he loves me and would do anything for me…”. And on the other side you said for three times “I feel used.” This seems to be your predominant feeling. But feelings direct your words, your actions. How can you be able to create a conversation with a positive attitude?

      I understand that you’re facing an overwhelming tobuwhabohu in your life that makes you feel out of control. I’m with you in my heart, believe me. But it’s the small things that start shifting circumstances. Instead ask yourself what you’re IN CONTROL OF. Focus on one thing instead of everything. Set small goals that you can achieve easily. Don’t make yourself dependent of other’s recognition. Honor your achievements yourself! Also keep in mind your husband’s situation: “He does not have a lot of confidence. He has a job where he works 14+ hours. His job does not even pay him well.” How frustrated must he feel to not be able to assure his family’s living.

  2. That is such a lame story. Perhaps the person holding the rock should have COMMUNICATED with the friend the first time he came back and come to an understanding that the friend wouldn’t behave in such an inconsiderate way. The story assumes there is no chance for communication or improvement in how we treat or consider our spouse’s feelings. In my opinion the biggest sin in the parable is by the person holding the rock who did nothing but let the anger and hurt feelings build to the point of striking back and wanting to hurt the other person. And finally there is no mention of forgiveness or grace in the story. That is why it really carries no value at all.

    1. Steve, I think you’re reading too much into the parable and missing the point. Often times we voice what we feel expecting our spouses to understand. In situations like these, they rarely make any changes until it’s too late. The sad part is, they know exactly what they’ve been doing the whole time. It’s just that they figure that because you love them you won’t give up.

      I got into a heated argument with my husband last night after months of nicely telling my husband how I feel. Let him tell it, I’m the crazy one or I never said anything, but I’m not crazy. I’ve decided that I can’t have compassion for someone knowingly hurting me nor grace. Men, especially, refuse to admit that women often give months on top of years of compassion and grace before they lose all hope. I hope that if the world comes to an end and God decides to start again that he make women more like men, maybe then relationships will actually last. This whole women and men balance each other out thing is false. It isn’t working. Never have, never will.

    2. A parable isn’t meant to be taken so literally but a story to reveal deeper meaning. As someone who is “done” and held the rock, I can tell you I did speak up. However, it’s often easy to recognize “faithful rock holders” and use them up until they are DONE. 22 years of marriage and 14 years of on and off again counseling… stick a a fork in it, I’m done. I thought this story was a great way to illustrate how you can push kind, supportive and Christian spouses past their breaking point.

    3. I am where the rock carrier in the story is. I am at the point where the rock has been dropped.

      I have spoken with my husband many, many, many times in different ways. He won’t believe me or listen. Everything wrong is my fault. I point out a concern with one of the children, he ignores me, then it blows up, and it is all my fault and I have to “fix” it. This happens over and over again.

      I stood between him and the children when he’d go off on one of his wild hares and decide to pick on one of the kids for some perceived slight or a difference of desires. I took the guff time and time again, so that they wouldn’t. His favorite thing to do is “snipe” them – corner them late at night and harangue them for hours. I always stepped in to let them get out of there, and then he’d turn the anger on me. My husband has never raised a hand to anyone, but his behaviour has done more harm.

      We were in therapy years ago, he played the game very well, so much so that I stopped it as I saw it as a waste of money. I have done all the therapist said, and much more. Nothing changes- I continue to carry all the family problems whilst also doing all the housework, bills, errands, planning, and schooling.

      My husband thinks that everything is just fine – he can’t figure out why I am so upset. HE sees no problem with whatever is bothering me, or he laughs, or he asks me if it is “…THAT time of the month” (Something I haven’t had in 6 years!) My concerns are silly. Now, every once in a while he’ll actually listen and help, but those times are few and very far between.

      I have never had any parable explain my life better than the one above. It explains exactly how I feel and what life has been like. Because I love my family and want them to be protected, I have held that stone longer than anyone else could. Today I dropped it. It actually feels like a great relief, which scares me, because that means that I am starting to withdraw, which means that I may even leave the marriage…

      I want to keep my vows. I am tired and want things to be different, but I can’t change my spouse or my kids. I can change myself, and leaving looks better and better to me. I am even considering a legal separation – I won’t divorce. To be honest, the only thing keeping me from doing just that is that I truly don’t think that anyone would care. They’d miss the meals, the errands, the help when needed, but they wouldn’t miss me.

  3. I was asked to leave, and separated from my loving wife just over three months ago. I have come face to face with the demons, that led to my less than acceptable behavior, which caused our break up. All the same she is not letting me see her, and she does not want to talk. Any suggestions on how I might get her to see me, so that she can experience the changes that I have made?

    P.S. Ignore the name of my email address, it was done that way as it is for my personal material, not work related, hence; the fun part. ;)

  4. I have been married for a long time. I am a community volunteer and out of that and volunteering for years I receive awards for all the work. My husband never wanted to help grumbling around not to help. But when it comes to my awards he gets in front of me and tries to receive them, pushing me back. Once we got hit by a car and because his license was expired he crawled over me falling out of the door and said you tell them you were driving. This one act pretty much painted a picture of how to me I was not valued. I am thinking about divorce now. My kids are all grown up now also. Help! What do I do?

  5. Look, we have tried everything from going to church, me praying for my wife daily – everything, counselors. I am very tried of this relationship; we have three girls and I am concerned about their mental well being if a separation or divorce occurs. We are both miserable. At the moment we have been Married 16 years and moved alot because of the military. I am tired of arguing over the same things all of the time – children finances, intimacy. We could both say we are not each other’s priority. She would blame my work or something else I am doing. I can point to her being on the phone or just watching t.v. (mindless). We share the household duties; but she does not work being a homemaker.

    Look, I have talked to the pastor, I have romantic dinners or quiet time arranged. We lost a child to cancer about 6 years ago and that has greatly affected the family dynamic. I read these countless websites about families and divorce and praying to God blah, blah. We are currently seeing a military counselor, we have several spiritual counselors. Currently it is 1238 a.m EST and she has already gone to bed without saying good night. I always say good night by leaving kiss or something but she gets to do the same thing and I will be screamed at not returning the favor. I actually think she is becoming more selfish as she gets older.

    I hate the blame, blame me for this or that or that. I could do the same thing to her but does not get anywhere I am completely fed up at this point. But it seems like we go through this same drill every six months or less with no future resolution in sight. We have been sexless at least 12 months. She says there is no intimacy. How can you be intimate with someone who tries to belittle you in front of your children or become disrespectful. What about all the hateful things she has said to me over the years and expect me to like yes, I respect you also. The only time my wife is respectful is during a counseling session, otherwise we will get into some argument or fight. The situation is walking on eggshells each time, when is the next time she is going to snap. I can’t really be in the same room without being uncomfortable and just enjoying her company.

    I know forgiveness is powerful thing but this has been happening more frequent since our daughter’s death. I could go on and on but you see my point. She is also very ungrateful for what I have helped her with going to school and actually doing her work so she could graduate. What did I receive a thank you that is it. That is not speaking my love language or trying to meet my emotional needs. She is very caring and loving with everyone else. I have my doubt about her faithfulness since twice she went to Missouri by herself but I can’t know for sure. I check her phone for texts or other indications she is having an affair but I can see nothing. Anyway, I just ranted and ranted. Thanks for your time.

    1. JC, First, I’m glad you decided to come to our web site to “rant.” We’re a safe place to do that. I can sense the tone from your post the extreme level of frustration and almost hopelessness that your are experiencing. I am glad that you have been so pro-active in trying to find answers to the relationship problems you and your wife have been going through. We’re not counselors so please don’t take what I suggest as counseling. What I’ll share comes from years of observing many marriage relationships and what I’ve seen help so many others.

      The most obvious question I have is from you mentioning that you, your wife, and family have gone through the very traumatic death of your daughter 6 years ago. Not only did you experience her death but you also went through the trauma of her cancer. So, my question is, have you and your wife gone through grief counseling? A lot of the relationship issues you mentioned jumped out to me as interpersonal tension due to unresolved grief and anger over the death of your daughter. Everyone experiences and expresses grief differently and there can be a lot of misunderstanding if it’s not dealt with properly. You are probably aware that the divorce rate for couples who have gone through the death of a child is extremely high. We have an article on our web site that talks about this: A Child’s Death Changes Everything that may be helpful to you. Now, your marital issues may not be related to the loss of your child, but I encourage you to pursue grief counseling IF either of you feel there are things still unresolved.

      The next “flag” that came up to me was when you said you were military. (By the way, Cindy and I thank you for your service.) I know there are thousands of positions in the military where you would never see any combat or traumatic events, but if you have, then there is a very good chance that some of your problems could be related to any unresolved PTSD you may have experienced. I’m hoping that your counselors would have picked up on that and addressed it if needed.

      JC, I’m proud of you for the “extra-miles” you have gone to try and reach your wife’s heart. I’m guessing she is so wounded from past hurts that she has shut down. You mentioned your concern that she may be cheating. The fact that you have no hard evidence makes me think that she went to Missouri just to try to escape some of her pain. When she realized the pain just followed her there, she decided to come back – maybe because of your daughters.

      I would also like to suggest you consider looking into a Retrouvaille (pronounced RETRO-VY) weekend retreat. I know there’s one coming up in October in your area. If you go to http://www.retrouvaille.org and put in your state you’ll see what I’m talking about. A Retrouvaille weekend is led by lay couples who, like you, have had really bad marriage problems – even been close to divorce; but through the process of the weekend found healing in their marriages. They have an 80%+ success rate. It’s not counseling. You can read more about them on their web site. Cindy and I endorse them and have personally seen what they can do for a couple like you guys.

      Something else I feel compelled to tell you is that God can…and does…want to help you. You said you “tried” church and praying but didn’t see any results. Please understand God is not a genie in a bottle where if you pray three times or go to church three times He will grant you your wish. But if you are broken and tired of trying on your own to “fix” your marriage God can help you…your wife…and your daughters. 99% of the time it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process of surrender and trust. I encourage you to seek out either a chaplain or a pastor close by who can walk you through what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or you can call 1-800-NEED-HIM to talk with someone.

      JC, believe me, I wish more than anything I could reach into your lives and take the pain away and bring restoration and love back into your marriage – not only for your sake, but the sake of your daughters. They have been traumatized so much and for them to watch what’s happening to the two of you has to be tearing them apart. And don’t think a divorce would bring relief to them; it would be just the opposite.

      If you and your wife are going to fight, then fight FOR your marriage. Get on your faces before God and ask for His forgiveness and then ask each other for forgiveness and be resolved that YOU WILL find the path of healing so you can be an example to your girls – and to the world around you…no matter what it takes.

  6. This so speaks to me! No job or schedule has kept me from my family. I am disabled… was near death about 3 yrs. ago. I got better physically, although I’ll never be quite the same, but I’ve been using my disability as an excuse to rely too much on family and not even try to do the things that I’m able to do. Well, that has to stop. It’s one thing to be slower than I used to be and quite another to be a lazy bump on a log! Time to get up and act like a human again. I pray my husband can forgive me and rekindle the love we once had!

  7. Seems like no matter where I go with my husband for counseling, he or she will take sides with my husband or simply give flip comments. For example, my husband was checking out a beautiful young lady one day and denied every ounce of it. We went to a counselor (female) only for her to say “I have known your husband for only ten minutes and he seems crazy about you.” My complaint was totally not taken seriously. On another occasion, we went to a male counselor. After hearing about our issues, he said the usual stuff, then added “There’s bigger problems in Washington.” A Christian Minister stated “Men Look at Women”. So true, so true. Perhaps this is his way to justify his moments of wandering eye syndrome.

    1. Sorry Maria, men are visual creatures. They look at things, cars, motorcycles, guitars, and an occasional woman. This does not mean he wants it, just looks at it. Denies it? He may do it without thinking. If that is all he does wrong & is faithful to you, cut him some slack. Remember the old song, “I am a girl watcher… watching girls go by.” The key word is WATCHER not toucher or luster.

  8. First of all I’ve read Enemies of the Heart and I am constantly purchasing everyone I can think of a copy of this book. Its a God send. My husband abandoned our marriage of at the time 28yrs, and 3 adult sons. He has been gone for 1 year and 8 months. His mistress is younger and divorced with 2 sons.

    We were blessed with our first biological grandson 4 months ago; our oldest is married with a 4 year old stepson. We have two beautiful grandsons and these were suppose to be the beginning of our golden years. We are both in our early 50’s. I have since met a wonderful God fearing man who is literally every thing I asked God for to fill the void of companionship . My husband can file for divorce at anytime, but he won’t. He called and asked me if I was going to file. I informed him that I told him once and it hasn’t changed. No, because I am not the one who wanted this. I am financially struggling working part time and he will not help me with my part of the mortgage I was paying when I was working full time.

    So I could be homeless. This home was a gift from my parents. Actually the mortgage is in my mothers name; my dad is since deceased. But we signed a letter of financial responsibility. I can’t afford an attorney to file for alimony, etc. or sue her but I’m working on it. So, is it okay for me to date this person I have met? Especially since I don’t believe I could ever trust my husband again after all the lies and disrespectful things he has done not just to me but his father, family/sons and me. Our 30th anniversary was 12/11/17. I yelled at him for 2 hours about how he treats me like the whore and his mistress like his wife.

    He tells his sons he wants his family back, but I need to change my attitude, but he has not mentioned that to me nor showing any signs of reconciling. So I am ready to move forward. I’ve dropped the rock many and asked God to put the pieces back together then I get upset and I try to put the pieces back together. I’m tired. I adore this gentleman I’ve met and my friends say he adores me but I just want a companion, learn to live on my own, my children to stop thinking I’m a stranger because they aren’t used to seeing mom angry and upset. I could see myself married to this gentleman but not right now. Any comments?

  9. I read this article and my husband gave up after years of fighting. He feels burned out, broken, and hasn’t changed his mind about divorce since summer time. He hasn’t filed for divorce, just checked out. I’ve been fighting for our marriage, which leads to more fights when he rejects me. He said he lost hope and can never come back because I expect too much of him. Maybe he is right, I don’t know why I cannot lose hope too and move on; it just seems too painful.

    We were getting along for about a month after months of fighting and not talking, which made me think things would get better, but we are back to the same pattern; he has shut down and I said some things in anger and now he won’t talk to me at all. When a relationship reaches this point, should the other just move on? Especially when he hasn’t filed and we are still living in the same house? I financially can’t afford my own place and don’t qualify for support, certainly not enough to live off of (I have met with 3 different lawyers). I have been told by many people if I want to make it work, don’t be the one to leave or to file for divorce but now I am in a state of limbo and just when I thought things were getting close to better it ended with a bad fight.

    He gave up; he is hurt and broken and I feel bad our fighting led to that. I guess I need to know if someone has reached that point, should the other let go and move on too, especially when things temporarily had looked up? I don’t want to lose my marriage, but I’m afraid the truth is I already have and I have to move on now. Please help.

    1. J, I don’t know the reasons why your husband gave up on trying to save your marriage. But there’s no doubt that “years of fighting” can definitely wear a person out. I’m not sure what you are fighting about, but if it’s because you want more of his attention, you sure won’t get it by guilting him about it or by “saying some things in anger” when the marriage is still on a fragile footing. Please know that I don’t want to point the finger at you and say it’s all your fault, because it may be that it’s more your husband’s fault than yours, or it could be equal or the other way around… I don’t know. All I know is what you have said here. You also ask for suggestions that could help. That’s what I’ll give to you. There is no guarantee but I’ve seen them work time after time after time after time again.

      You said that you can’t afford to live on your own. So why are you talking about moving on? Just accept things at face value in what you have. Work on what you have in front of you. Why look to borrow more problems that you can’t afford to take on anyway? If he hasn’t forced the divorce on you, be thankful and look at it as an open (but shaky) door to still work on the marriage. You ask how long you should be in limbo. How long did you vow to be a part of your marriage on your wedding day? Please don’t put a timeframe on it. We can often learn a lot of good things when we’re in the uncomfortable place of being in limbo. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back; other times it’s the reverse, and other times it’s inch-by-inch forward. You say that you want to save your marriage. If so, then you are going to have to do things differently than you did them in the past, and pretty much alone (human-wise, in the beginning… but you never know what can happen in time). And when you do them, do them very carefully and aware that your husband has about given up and is on the edge of quitting altogether.

      When a marriage is in a fragile state, you need to treat it as such. Use softer approaches when you’re addressing wants and needs. And go at it one baby step at a time… appreciating little things seems to work better at those types of times (rather than depreciating things). It’s the “soft answer turns away wrath” concept. When you’re building a marriage back to a good place, there is a season of walking on eggshells. Sometimes it’s a long season. But it is what it is. Trust is built one little step at a time. Stay away from big issues for a while, on your part, if at all possible. Just look for and appreciate little moments of connection whenever you can have them.

      Obviously your husband does not trust that you both can get to the place of being friends again. So start with that. Look for ways in which you can bless him as his friend. Look for ways in which you can show him that you care about him, beyond what you can get out of it. Love unselfishly, as God does. I like how Ephesians 5:1-2 is worded in The Message: “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” You’ll find that the Bible is filled with different ways we can show love to others. Pray and look around. Also, we have a lot of it on this web site.

      Find little ways of showing your husband that you are a friend to him, like you were when you first started falling in love. At first he will be suspicious. That’s okay. Just do what you can when you can. Find ways to bless him with little things you do and say (words of affirmation and appreciation). Ask God to give you the strength to keep doing those things even when you don’t see that they are helping at first. It will take a while for him to trust that you are his friend again.

      In the meantime, as you are blessing your husband with random (and purposeful) acts of kindness, take your eyes off of what he needs to improve upon, and work on your own issues. I love what Ruth Graham said about her husband Billy Graham, “It’s my job to love Billy; it’s God’s job to make him good.” Does that mean that he can do whatever he wants and get away with it? No. But ease off a bit and work on your own issues. Trust God that He will work on your husband and that eventually you can get back to being marriage partners and work on some of the bigger stuff. For right now however, be as selfless as it is possible. Look to bless rather than be blessed.

      That’s what I did when we came close to divorcing a number of years ago. God showed me to learn of God’s love, embrace it, and give to Steve the love that God gives to me. I decided to work on my own issues (there were plenty and still are some here and there that I am working on), and see what God does. In my marriage mess, I started applying myself to working on my stuff in being a better wife and partner and it’s amazing what happened. Eventually Steve started working on his issues. It all came back to me even though that wasn’t my motivation.

      I suggest you go into the “Communication and Conflict” topic and one by one read what we have posted there. Apply what you feel God is telling you about your own communication stuff. Be brutal in your honesty with yourself. Become a student of marriage and learn how to be the best marriage partner you can be. Here are a few great books that can help you: The 5 Love Languages written by Gary Chapman, Love & Respect written by Emerson Eggerichs, For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men written by Shaunti Feldhahn… These are just a few. I can recommend more if you want them.

      J… You asked for help. I recommend you look around this web site. We have A LOT of articles that can help you. Pray, read, pray, read, pray, apply… read some more, and apply some more. None of this will go to waste. You will become a better person through this journey of persevering during trials. Look at it that way rather than looking at what you are doing compared to what he is doing. Take score keeping off the table, proceed very carefully and prayerfully, and lean towards growing to be the person, and spouse you promised your husband you would be in your wedding vows. I could go on and on, but I hope this is a good starting place. I pray God helps you as you look to Him for wisdom, strength, and little open doors that can lead to a better place within your marriage.

  10. I wish that I had been able to read this sooner. I don’t know if I can put the rock back together. But I would give up everything just to keep my family together.

  11. I was with a woman that that in the end I had no clue who she was…All I ever did was treat her correctly and right…She had been in abusive relationships and she had never gotten over the death of a child. I didn’t know the depth nor the extent of the hurt and the pain. She shut me completely out after a certain period never let me back in, didn’t want to discuss the issues we were facing, didn’t make any investments into me or our marriage; didn’t want to fight for me or our marriage. I made all the investments all the away around and she made none! In the end I was left heart broken/devestated/in pain. 6 times in 8 months I love you I want a divorce….

    It took me months to get over everything. I loved her with all my heart soul and mind. It has left a scar on me that will never completely heal.

    1. I’m so sad for you that you find yourself in this place. Too often victims of abuse end up so crippled emotionally that they carry the hurt they received and end up making the next person or people that they are with, victims too. The original abuse just keeps tallying up more and more victims.

      I came to realize this in my marriage. I was abused and even though I never saw it that way, I ended up pushing that abuse onto my husband by denying him, and being suspicious of him that he viewed women (and me) the same way (even though he never showed that he was that way). Eventually God opened my eyes to see that as a victim, I was then passing that onto my husband and was further victimizing him. I needed, and got help to deal with the abuse I suffered. I then went to my husband, asked for his forgiveness, and asked for his help to stop projecting abusive behavior onto him. He graciously forgave me, and worked with me, and now we have a WONDERFUL marriage. But I still have to straighten out my thinking when it goes in directions that it shouldn’t.

      Some victims of abuse never get to that place. They just keep carrying the past with them and live in unhealthy ways with anyone who gets close to them and triggers their memories. I pray that eventually your wife gets it. But I’m not sure she will. But I urge you to pray for her. She has pushed you away. And now you need to heal too. Ask God to show you how to live a healthy life, given the circumstances that you were subjected to. Pray, find ways to forgive, and seek a healthier way of approaching life. God will lead the way as you put your hand into His along the journey.

  12. This is a illuminating and convicting parable. Without detracting from the leaving spouse’s viewpoint, I want to add that Jesus has the power to put the rock back together. A lot of us are asking Him to do precisely that. For a long time now, my rock continues to fall apart. It has been swept up, put in the rubbish, and emptied into the garbage truck. It looks like the garbage truck is about to drive away and there is no hope. But God has a plan. I don’t know what it is, I can’t see it, He doesn’t share the blueprint with me. I have to trust Him. God is not a man that He should lie. He must be doing something for our good.

    It is also God who encourages us to keep hanging on to the rock, or to work on repairing it if it gets smashed. If He says we have to keep at it, then it must be possible. There must be a reserve of strength and will He hides inside us to find, or that He supplies. He can’t say ‘whatever rock God has made, let no one leave it smashed to bits’ if we can’t do it.

    Please Lord, help my wife forgive me for leaving her holding the rock. Please put our rock back together. I’ve got nothing I can give you, you already own me. You are the only rock-glue I’ve got. So many hurting people here Lord, please glue all our rocks back together, better than they were before. You are the Rock. Amen.

  13. What happens when someone goes thru trauma and the other spouse doesn’t want to stick around? Is that the trauma survivors fault because they couldn’t come take the rock back?

    1. Elysia, You can’t control what your spouse does or doesn’t do. Sometimes you can influence them. But ultimately they can do what they want to do regardless of what you want. I don’t know what “trauma” you went through that your spouse doesn’t want to stick around to help you through. But it sure shows that there is a character issue going on here. Your spouse cares more about his or her comfort than being your marriage partner in helping you get through this traumatic experience. It also shows that a lot of prayer is needed here. God wants us to “bear with one another” and share each other’s burdens and pray for each other. There is a whole lot lacking concerning relationship issues, as well as spiritually.

      Elysia, I’m so sorry you went through any type of trauma. Obviously, you are hurting in a lot of ways and need a shoulder to cry upon. I encourage you to cry out to the Lord. I also pray that you find a safe person to cry to. We need the Lord and we need each other. I also hope for your spouse–that their compassion comes to the forefront and that they deal with all of this in more loving ways. I pray God speaks to their heart.

      Also, I encourage you to post this issue as a prayer request upon the Marriage Missions Prayer Wall. More people will pray for you there. You can find it at: https://marriagemissions.com/submit-your-prayer-request/. Again, my heart goes out to you and my prayers go up to God for you and for your spouse. I’m sending love and compassion your way.

  14. Great analogy! A good way to explain to a spouse the cost of putting off tomorrow what can be done today. Thank you for your insight and sharing it to help others.

    After reading responses, having been married almost 40 years, and having read a good number of books, I have come to realize that marriage is not a one way street. It does take 2 committed to a “marriage” as much as they are their spouse, and our own often self directed motives. The dance, if you will, is a two way street, our responses contributing as much. Crazy? Doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results.

    Few people understand a promise or covenant anymore. Few people take the time to develop character ethics or take the time to truly get to know the other person they are dating (seeing them in different situations and how they cope). Few of us know how to delay our desire for immediate gratification for long term goals.

    Marriage is not easy and if anyone tells you it is, they have not been married long. You will fall in love over and over again with your spouse. Yes you can find love with someone else but after 2 years with them? You will be exactly where you are now. Why? You are still there.

    Here are some good reads to help:
    How to Defeat Harmful Habits (June Hunt)
    Love Must be Tough (James Dobson)
    CrazyMakers (Meier and Wise)
    Living Successfully with Screwed Up People (Brown)
    Nasty People (Carter)
    When Anger Hurts (McKay Rogers)
    People Can’t Drive You Crazy if You Don’t Give Them The Keys (Bedhtle)
    When You Love Them More then They Love You (Ells)
    How to Win Friends abs Influence People (Carnegie)
    The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done (Guilford)
    A Marriage Made in Heaven or Too Tired for an Affair (Bombeck)
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)
    His Needs, Her Needs (Harley)
    How to be an Adult in Relationships (Shambhala)
    The Road Less Traveled (The original version by Scott Peck)
    The program by Mort Fertel, MarriageMax.com

  15. Why?? My thoughts (not necessarily yours). The other spouse is the family slave. Trying to help everybody’s problems, cook all the food at holidays, watch the dog, listen to everyone’s problems, on & on & on. Willing to help is one thing, letting EVERYONE dump their problems, tasks, cooking at holidays, expects you to help at EVERY birthday, paint walls, clean carpets, solve medical problems, while your spouse gives up or starts seeing another person who gives them attention. PUT YOUR SPOUSE FIRST IN YOUR LIFE.