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Considering Divorce or Separation If you're considering divorce or separation, this is the place to talk.

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Old 05-25-2012, 05:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Haven't Done It Yet

I know that for those of you who have followed my story here, I must seem awfully indecisive. I guess I still struggle to determine whether all of what's happened in the last 18-24 months is justifiable grounds for leaving. Actually, I saw some signs of disordered thinking in my wife as long as we've been together, but it's gotten severely worse over the last 18-24 months. Many of you who have followed me here (and under the much longer thread "She Doesn't Trust Me") know the ups and downs of everything I've tried. Right now, we are in a state of "cold war." She hasn't made any new, weird allegations toward me. Some days, she seems to be really trying.

But she hasn't allowed me to touch her, or move back into the room with her (heaven forbid we actually think about sex! Which quite honestly right now is the LAST thing I'd want to do...both because we have so little trust between us and I'd be afraid that she'd later claim marital rape or something). She hasn't said "I love you" to me since that damn ill-fated camping trip last July.

This is a situation that just cannot continue.

And yet, I still struggle so hard to make the break. Partly because I was raised in a faith tradition that says divorce is absolutely forbidden except for unfaithfulness. (Well, sometimes exceptions are made for abuse, too)

I've been reading a book called "Not Under Bondage," by a woman named Barbara Roberts. She teamed up with a lot of Christian theologians to explore the cultural context and the original language of a lot of the Biblical verses about divorce. In essence, her conclusion is this: God has always recognized that there are basically two types of divorce; treacherous divorce and disciplinary divorce.

An example of a treacherous divorce would be a guy who meets and falls in love with a younger woman, and then finds some excuse to divorce his wife for a "newer model." This is the kind of divorce that God condemns.

A disciplinary divorce is a divorce that is entered into because a spouse has had an affair, or been abusive, or has abandoned the family. Roberts makes a very compelling case that abandonment is not just limited to physical leaving; a spouse can "abandon" his or her family emotionally, and can also mistreat the other spouse so badly as to drive them away. Even though the innocent person is the one who actually leaves, the abusive partner who made life so miserable that the other one actually left could really be regarded as the "abandoner" because of the unreasonableness of his or her actions.

Roberts relies on a lot of theological scholarship and her book has page after page of footnotes, including a historical review of Christian literature through the centuries on this difficult subject.

She has made a very compelling case for me.

So, I want to ask those of you who know my story.....if I were to leave my wife, would I be engaging in a "treacherous divorce?" I don't believe I would, but I also know that denial is very strong in people who are seeking their own seflish ways.

I want to submit a few facts for your consideration:

Even though my wife was the first one to mention the idea of divorce out loud, I have sometimes secretly wished for one. Perhaps it was in the midst of some of her more unreasonable behavior. But up until my wife voiced the idea herself, I never even permitted myself to think beyond a "what if?"

But once my wife voiced that she herself had also considered this, the idea began to grow in my own head. I'm ashamed to say it, but I started wondering "So if my wife does leave me, what would my life look like then......?"

When we were in counseling, I tried to do what the counselor told us to do. However, it seemed as if every week my efforts were being short-circuited because before I could apply the techniques or principles we learned in the last session, it seemed as if some new outrageous thing would happen at home. So we would spend the next counseling session digesting the new development instead of trying to make progress on our old stuff.

I'll admit that I am part of our marital problems. I'm not always as sensitive as I'd like to be. When I am tired and stressed, I sometimes forget to be as empathetic as I should be. I have a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. I'm a bit of a klutz. I'm doing better at getting organized, but I spent a lot of my life as a "messy." I'm doing better in all those areas, but I'll admit that at times my wife's anger was not without cause (perhaps her anger was overblown considering the magnitude of my "offense," but there was still at least a kernel of truth in her complaint against me).

Last July, on our ill-fated camping trip, on the night that the accusations started, my wife told me at one point, "I'm trying to work with you in counseling, but I'm afraid that we're not going to make it......." Then to cap the weekend off, she quit saying "I love you" and agreed with her mom and dad when they forbid me to ever come see them again.

So during all this time, when I was feeling so much rejection from her and her family, and when I was receiving almost daily messages that "I don't think we're going to make it....," I started imagining myself free of this daily pain.

Don't get me wrong. I've never cheated on her (been tempted to a time or two, but never took the bait). But I have started playing the "what if" scenes in my head. I've wondered if maybe there might be someone out there who could love me without having all the personality disorder baggage. These thoughts make it confusing to discern my own true motives.

My best friend is a Christian psychologist...I admitted all this to him the other day. He said there's an important distinction: My desire to be free of the pain and to start my life over again is a RESULT of the loss of a relationship with my wife. It's not the CAUSE of it.

And that is true. Until the past December, I was really trying hard. After my wife completely blew off our anniversary (a week before Christmas), I just mentally and emotionally quit trying. And I feel guilty about that, too. But to try so hard for so long and to not only see no progress, but to actually be blamed for things and accused of things I didn't do, was just a bridge too far.

So here's where I am: I believe that in a truly abusive relationship, the innocent spouse has a right to divorce. Even if the two partners are Christians (because if there's true abuse that is unrepented of, one of the partners isn't really living as a Christian should). I don't believe God calls His children to endure abuse (and that includes psychological abuse).

So I have now confessed some of my darker, innermost thoughts. I sometimes feel as if I have mixed motives. Her behavior toward me at times is definitely emotionally abusive. But in my desire to be free of my pain, I've also unintentionally started looking forward to starting a new life. And I feel guilty about that, as if I've given up too soon.

Is my desire to have a "new life" a sign that I am dealing "treacherously" with my wife? Or is it the end result of enduring years of emotional abuse and outrageous, BPD-like behavior?

I am asking those of you on this board who know my story best to be scathingly honest with me....if I leave my wife, will I be engaging in a treacherous divorce, or a disciplinary divorce? Am I justified to be thinking about leaving my wife over all that's happened?

Please be brutal with me. I want to know if you think I'm off base here. Because I truly believe I need to leave. But I also know that the human heart can be very deceptive and that it's possible to even deceive yourself.
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Old 05-25-2012, 07:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hurt:
Your wife has been abusive to you, so the divorce would be disciplinary. Can you really imagine spending the rest of your life with her? What else does she have to do to make you see that you and your son will be better off without her? I don't think that you have a marriage now; you are just roommates, and bad ones at that.

What do people who know you two say? Does anyone close to you think that your marriage has a chance of surviving? Have you asked yourself what you would advise your best friend or brother to do in your situation?

Limbo is hell, so you should stay married with all your heart, or take that last off ramp and start a new life.
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Old 05-25-2012, 08:03 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hurt:
Your wife has been abusive to you, so the divorce would be disciplinary. Can you really imagine spending the rest of your life with her? What else does she have to do to make you see that you and your son will be better off without her? I don't think that you have a marriage now; you are just roommates, and bad ones at that.

What do people who know you two say? Does anyone close to you think that your marriage has a chance of surviving? Have you asked yourself what you would advise your best friend or brother to do in your situation?

Limbo is hell, so you should stay married with all your heart, or take that last off ramp and start a new life.
Well, her parents have been telling her to leave me for a while (I suspect they also have BPD...among other things, they think I'm a horrible provider because I didn't agree to move to Idaho with them last year to start a survivalist compound).

We don't have many close friends in common. She has some very close friends who are acquaintances of mine. They see things from her point of view, and have actually offered her to come stay with them if needed.

On the other hand, nearly all of my close friends (who are acquaintances of hers) see my point of view and tell me they don't see how things will get much better as they now stand.

The one person who worked closely with both of us was our marriage counselor. When I asked the counselor back in February if she saw things that seemed consistent with BPD, she avoided the question (she's too good a counselor to make a diagnosis like that!). She just smiled very grimly at me and said, "I've worked with you for a year now and you have very good instincts....I think you need to trust your instincts on this...."

Some of our subsequent conversations seem to confirm what I'm thinking. The counselor will start conversations by saying things like, "If we're dealing with BPD, then expect your wife to go answer shopping and looking for a new counselor...." or "If your wife has BPD, expect her to make ever more bizarre accusations that could eventually threaten your job or your very freedom...." So the counselor - who up until October was working with both of us - has told me that I'm probably justified in leaving. Of course, she also does what is so maddening in this situation (but it's what makes her a good counselor), by ending every conversation with, "Don't make a move unless you are absolutely sure within your own mind that it's the right move. I can give you opinions, but ultimately this decision is between you and God." And she's right of course. But I just need to double-check my motives to make sure I'm not doing this for the wrong reasons.

But to answer your question, no I can't imagine living like this forever. And I certainly don't want my son growing up thinking this is what marriage looks like. He already accepts "Your bedroom..." and "Momma's bedroom....." as being a perfectly acceptable arrangement. He's used to that by now and it's a part of his normal vocabulary.
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Old 05-25-2012, 10:41 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Haven't Done It Yet

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I don't believe God calls His children to endure abuse (and that includes psychological abuse).
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Her behavior toward me at times is definitely emotionally abusive.
Don't let your self-doubt turn you into a martyr. In your last thread, it sounded like you had a real epiphany and came to a decision. Upon seeing the hint of a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, any normal person is going to start getting a little excited in anticipation.

Looking forward to a new life is a positive thing, not a negative one. So you're feeling like it's inappropriate to be feeling happy at the prospect of ending your marriage (it's not). What are you going to do? Punish yourself for feeling hopeful by ducking back into the dark tunnel for another few years? That guilt is unnecessary, useless, and probably a symptom of how beaten down your self-esteem has become in this marriage. You deserve to be happy. Let go of the guilt.
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Old 05-26-2012, 04:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Don't let your self-doubt turn you into a martyr. In your last thread, it sounded like you had a real epiphany and came to a decision. Upon seeing the hint of a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, any normal person is going to start getting a little excited in anticipation.

Looking forward to a new life is a positive thing, not a negative one. So you're feeling like it's inappropriate to be feeling happy at the prospect of ending your marriage (it's not). What are you going to do? Punish yourself for feeling hopeful by ducking back into the dark tunnel for another few years? That guilt is unnecessary, useless, and probably a symptom of how beaten down your self-esteem has become in this marriage. You deserve to be happy. Let go of the guilt.
I did have an epiphany. Now I need to embrace it and make it my own.

You're right, of course. The only thing that's reasonable here is for the situation to improve or for us to divorce. To continue on the current path is idiocy.

I'm just using you guys to keep me honest here. I want to know the brutal truth if my earlier epiphany is off-base!
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Old 05-26-2012, 04:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I don't know why you stay. This is a horrible situation and you keep letting it happen.
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Old 05-26-2012, 06:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I don't know why you stay. This is a horrible situation and you keep letting it happen.
TG...coming from you, this is strong advice. Number one because I have grown to really respect and appreciate your perspective. And number two, I joined this forum about the time you and your hubby separated. So I know you don't take advice like this lightly! (Not that the others do, but I hope you know what I mean)

I think I'm slowly circling around to knowing the right decision to make for me. I'm in a highly technical field, and the best analogy I can come up with is that you never give up on a piece of equipment if it's at all possible to save it. However, a prudent purveyor of my particular expertise also knows that there's a time to give up on it and do the best you can to save what's left.

In my case, I've been reluctant to give up on the machine (my marriage) until and unless I'm absolutely convinced it's beyond saving. Then and only then will I make the decision to salvage what I can (my relationship with my son).

Hope that makes sense in some weird sort of way. I guess the rest of you on the board have given up on my "machine" long ago, but it's taken me a while to get there. But unless something spectacular happens in the next month or so - something spectacular along the lines of her voluntarily agreeing to pursue her own counseling and to also make amends for all the smear campaigns she's engaged in with friends and family - I think I know what decision I need to make.

I've often said, this would be so much easier if she were to physically threaten me (she has a gun and knows how to use it!) or to cheat on me. Then my decision would be very clear-cut. But this psychological stuff seems so fuzzy to me. Maybe because I have such a weak sense of boundaries myself.

TG, I just wanted you to know you've got me thinking!
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Old 05-26-2012, 09:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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HurtnOhio: I'm new to this forum and to your story, but your post yesterday seemed to sum up your situation pretty well. I do not have a firm opinion about whether you have biblical grounds for divorce, because I have not been able to reach a firm conclusion about what the Bible actually teaches on the subject. For the last several years, I was convinced that Jesus' teaching regarding marriage authorized divorce for neglect, and your description of your circumstances sounds like it would qualify. The last marriage counselor my wife and I saw shared this view, and advised us that I had grounds for divorce and she did not. Even then, however, the counselor challenged me to stick with the marriage even if nothing ever changed, as a service to my wife and to God and as a reflection of Christ's love for His Church. More recently, I have read some persuasive theological arguments that there is no biblical ground for divorce (other than sexual immorality during the betrothal period, which we don't observe any more anyway). I empathize with your situation, because I was there for many years and I too gave serious consideration to divorce, even going so far as to deliver an ultimatum that involved a 6-month separation as the consequence if she rejected the ultimatum (which I later withdrew). But I can tell you this for sure, from personal experience (because, despite the marriage counselor's conclusion, my Christian wife divorced me last year): whatever amount of pain and disruption you think you can expect from the divorce itself, you are grossly underestimating it. Having been through the full legal process now, having lived separately for almost 2 years, having seen the effect on our 4 kids (ages 15-22), having felt all the effects on me personally, having experienced a number of holidays and other occasions (birthdays, graduations, etc.) that should have been family celebrations but now cannot be and never again will be, having experienced my wife already seeking a new relationship and seen the additional stress that puts on our kids, etc. -- I now know that I could have and should have endured a lot more neglect and even abuse before I ever contemplated divorce or did or said anything that prompted my wife to pull the trigger. IT IS HORRIBLE. It is not clean, it is not surgical, it is not temporary. It is messy and it is forever. And so my conclusion is that, as a practical matter and even if it's permitted biblically, it is almost never going to be an improvement over whatever mess the marriage is in, at least when children are involved. Despite what I thought and imagined, being divorced is NOT a relief compared to the suffering during the marriage. So if there is any way you can stick it out, if there is anything left for you to work on in your own life and character, if there is any avenue left to pursue to get your wife to join you in working on the marriage -- DO THAT INSTEAD.
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Old 05-27-2012, 04:51 AM   #9 (permalink)
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jd4jc:

I'm under no illusions that this is going to be easy, or pain-free. Since we have a son between us, I will be connected to her through him for the rest of my life.

I've already been cut out of a lot of family gatherings, at least when her family is present. I'm not saying I'm looking forward to Christmas as a divorced dad, but I'm in a job that requires frequent travel (even on holidays), so I'm making my peace with that. And also, our holidays are already stress-filled and anything but joyous occasions. Her family did relent last Christmas and "permit" me to join them for a few hours. Nobody talked to me and I sat on the corner of the couch most of the day and was treated as if I had the plague. I've had Christmases stuck in an airplane in a snowdrift on a taxiway that were more fun (literally!).

I can't wrap my head around adultery only being an "out" in cases of unfaithfulness during the betrothal period. Adultery is an attack on the very fabric of the marital bond. God is not neutral on such things. It is evil, and God permits divorce in response to such evil.

But I also believe my wife's non-adulterous behavior is an attack on our very marital bond. Because at its core, marriage is about trust. When your wife stands in front of you and screams at you that she'll take your son and run away and hide someplace where you'll never find them just because you want to take him around the block on a bike ride, that's an attack on the very fabric of the trust that is marriage.

I could go on and on and on. I don't think in this direction lightly. It's taken me years to reach this point. Years of dealing with ups and downs, and irrational and unreasonable behavior. I even had the cops show up at my door in October over my wife's belief that I was bugging our home phones to spy on her.

I am so sorry you're struggling with your divorce. And I do value your insight. And if I'm off-base on anything I've said, I do hope you'll push back and challenge me. That's what I asked for!
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Old 05-27-2012, 11:47 AM   #10 (permalink)
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My husband has the same occupation that you do, so I have taken a special interest in your story. You have done everything that you can possibly do to save your marriage, so you should not feel guilty about leaving it.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:02 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by hurtnohio View Post
TG...coming from you, this is strong advice. Number one because I have grown to really respect and appreciate your perspective. And number two, I joined this forum about the time you and your hubby separated. So I know you don't take advice like this lightly! (Not that the others do, but I hope you know what I mean)

I think I'm slowly circling around to knowing the right decision to make for me. I'm in a highly technical field, and the best analogy I can come up with is that you never give up on a piece of equipment if it's at all possible to save it. However, a prudent purveyor of my particular expertise also knows that there's a time to give up on it and do the best you can to save what's left.

In my case, I've been reluctant to give up on the machine (my marriage) until and unless I'm absolutely convinced it's beyond saving. Then and only then will I make the decision to salvage what I can (my relationship with my son).

Hope that makes sense in some weird sort of way. I guess the rest of you on the board have given up on my "machine" long ago, but it's taken me a while to get there. But unless something spectacular happens in the next month or so - something spectacular along the lines of her voluntarily agreeing to pursue her own counseling and to also make amends for all the smear campaigns she's engaged in with friends and family - I think I know what decision I need to make.

I've often said, this would be so much easier if she were to physically threaten me (she has a gun and knows how to use it!) or to cheat on me. Then my decision would be very clear-cut. But this psychological stuff seems so fuzzy to me. Maybe because I have such a weak sense of boundaries myself.

TG, I just wanted you to know you've got me thinking!
If you wait too long you may not be able to salvage a relationship with your son. Sit and wait is not your answer, save yourself and your son and step out on that limb for both your sakes.
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Old 05-27-2012, 05:49 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Hurtnohio:

I hope I did not give the impression that I thought you had rushed into the decision you seem to be leaning toward. I have no doubt that you have waited longer than many/most men would, and beyond the point that you might have expected to be your own breaking point.

That was my experience as well -- about 15 years of unfairness and ongoing, unrepentant failure as to at least one aspect of our marriage vows, followed by another 15 years of outright contempt and open refusal to fulfill that vow and other vows, despite multiple counselors (most of whom she picked and all of whom she eventually fired) and thousands of dollars paid. As of early 2008, I used the "d word," saying that if things stayed the way they were then that we were clearly headed for a divorce, though hopefully not until our then 13-year old was out of high school. Her response was to ambush me with a divorce filing. After much pleading, she agreed to withdraw the filing if I agreed to a lengthy, one-sided to-do list. Not entirely certain whether I was doing the wise thing, I agreed because I did not want to put the kids through a divorce. After nearly 18 months of a lot of effort on all the to-do items (though admittedly not perfection), she surprised me with an announcement about an intended course of action that was actually a big step in the wrong direction. It was at that point, with guidance from my personal counselor (also picked by her) that I gave my ultimatum at our next session with our marriage counselor. The marriage counselor told her that my ultimatum was not unfair and challenged her to agree to it. She refused. Then she attempted to negotiate it. Then she purported to agree to it but never actually changed anything. Our house was already up for sale because we couldn't afford it, so I eventually made arrangements for an apartment for myself and our 3 boys for the 6-month separation I had proposed. Her response was another ambush divorce filing, and this time I did not attempt to talk her out of it. There had been many times when I had considered the possibility of divorce, and after much study I had concluded that I had biblical grounds for divorce, along the same lines that you have described. (And, as I mentioned in my first reply, the marriage counselor agreed that I had biblical grounds and she did not.) But I had always backed away from that ledge for the sake of the kids, largely because I have always been very skeptical of the claim that kids do better with a divorce than with a contentious marriage.

So I think I have been at least approximately where you are, including even what appears to be at least mental instability if not a classifiable mental illness in my wife. And I cannot and do not judge you for leaning the way you're leaning, and couldn't and wouldn't judge you if you end up filing for divorce. But what I can tell you is that my experience, and my observation of my kids' experience, is that I was right to be skeptical about the supposed benefit of divorce vs. contentious marriage. Simply put, despite additional mistreatment, unfairness, and even viciousness from my wife since she filed for divorce the second time, I wish I had stuck it out even further and never issued my ultimatum or otherwise contributed to her decision to file for divorce again and to follow through on it.

If your son is in physical danger in the home, that's a different story from mine and likely a completely different analysis. But if he is not, based on my experience and the experiences I have heard described in the 13-week DivorceCare program I recently attended, I just have to say that the damage from a divorce -- emotionally, relationally, spiritually, mentally, physically, financially, etc. -- is worse than the damage I was experiencing in the marriage. I would not have believed it before the divorce, and I didn't believe it before the divorce. But I now know it to be true. It is indescribable and unimaginable. Hence my feeling of obligation to wave at least a yellow flag for you, if not a red flag.
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:07 AM   #13 (permalink)
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jd4jc:

I'm not sure who I feel worse for...you or me. I will say that it sounds as if you really didn't have a marriage based on a real and abiding relationship. As much pain as you're in right now, it might still be best in the long run that things worked out as they did. Having not been through divorce, I don't want to discount or invalidate the pain you're feeling now. And I do truly feel badly to hear you in so much pain.

But having said that, it sounds to me like there was absolute zero trust in your marriage. Your wife's continual "ambush" divorce filings seem to indicate someone with whom it's impossible to have true emotional intimacy. I don't know the whole story, of course, but what you presented here sounds as if what you had wasn't really a marriage at all.

I appreciate your feedback. What's interesting is that I've had several Christian friends who were in similar marriages and they also divorced. They tell me in retrospect that it's the best thing they could have done. Yes, there's a lot of pain. And yes, they still feel guilty sometimes. But they also look forward to God helping them build a new future, free of the chains of abuse and fear that bound them for so long.

My prayers are with you. I hope God will heal your heart. I'm so sorry that what you thought was a bad situation has become even worse. I feel for you, man.
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Old 05-28-2012, 06:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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hurtnohio, I've also been reading your posts for a while. I have watched you recount the ways in which you've tried to save your marriage. You've tried so hard, and all you've gotten is a series of letdowns. I know it's scary - boy, do I - but it's time to let go and take that off-ramp.

For you. And for your son. Good luck.
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Old 05-28-2012, 07:30 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Hurtn: As you might of read in my situation, abandonment and adultery are the two acceptable Biblical reasons that my pastor said that a divorce was permissable. Yours has abandonment written all over it!

You have fought the good fight, and it was not successful. The fact of the matter is that you tried, whereas a lot of people in similar situations would not have. And for that, you should be richly commended.

It is time to move on, because there is so much more in life that God wants you to experience, more especially in being able to witness for Him in the world. Get with an attorney and protect your rights. You deserve so much more out of life! You'll remain in my prayers!
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