A Non-Divorce Alternative to Misery
Dear Dr. Bill,
I’ve been reading your columns and have just one question. What planet do you live on? I can’t believe your Pollyannaish advice is very helpful in the real world. In my world, my husband is cold and distant and often blaming me for everything from our finances to not being interested in sex. The only peace I have is dreaming of the day I can be free. You don’t seem to believe in divorce, but does your God want me to live in this misery? Be realistic.
My heart goes out to you. You are not the first person to ask me about my home planet. I am certain that you have a lot of company: Marriages trudging along in silent misery. There is nothing worse than the pain that comes from living in an affectionless relationship for so long that there is no hope of things ever changing. To be honest, I live in a profession where I see many apparently hopeless marriages. These marriages are locked in a spiral. The wife is convinced she is married to a controlling jerk, and her husband is just as convinced his wife is a critical disrespecting wench. They are locked in a feud that rivals the Hatfields and the McCoys, both profoundly convinced the other makes it impossible to be nice, both waiting for the other to change.
Obviously, many marriages never get better. I hope yours is not one of them. I have come to believe that God is bigger than the problems in marriage. I am convinced God still performs miracles. I have seen marriages heal which had to include a miracle. What I don’t know is why the miracles don’t always happen. Someday I hope to ask God that very question. People do change and they change when we least expect it.
Here’s some more pollyannaish advice that has worked. I think sowing and reaping is a law of the universe. It is part of the natural order of things. Sow hate and you will not reap love, only hate. I once lived in a neighborhood with a 12 year old boy who was known as a rude troublemaker. I personally didn’t like him. For some reason, my wife decided to treat this little boy with great warmth and affection. Every time she saw him, she called him by name and enthusiastically asked him how he was doing and wished him a great day. In a very short period of time, this boy began to melt. His eyes would light up when he saw my wife’s warm smile. She graciously had decided to treat him not as his behavior warranted. Amazingly he changed into the way he was treated. And yes, I think there is a little boy inside of your husband. You have very likely been treating him just like he deserves. And he has been doing the same to you. Consider doing something very unreasonable and certainly not fair. Treat him the way you want him to be. Sow seeds of love and respect, even while he doesn’t deserve it. And if you do, on the planet I come from, we believe you will receive a harvest of love and respect.
What I don’t ever know, is when the harvest will come or where it will come from. If you do this, it will be hard, and many will say you are a sucker. Waiting for the harvest won’t be easy. And I have more bad news. Your husband may never change. But this one thing is very clear to me. What you are doing now is not working, and if you are in a classic marriage feud, one side will need to change and go first. I believe you can find joy in doing the right thing. God knew it would be easy to love the
lovable. That’s why he commanded us to forgive and love our enemies. Pray to God to give you the strength to find hope and peace in the midst of these trials and you will be blessed in some way.