The first 10 turning points were all about waking up from a fog and realizing your spouse is behaving in such destructive ways, it's no longer safe to stay with them. For Turning Point #10, we'll talk about the ultimate shock: Your spouse leaves you.
When this happens, it is incredibly painful, especially if you were trying to hold the relationship together and were a faithful, caring spouse.
It is not only a heartbreaking betrayal of the marriage; it is also personal rejection. You feel discarded, worthless, and kicked to the curb. You need time to repair your sense of self-respect and worthiness as a human being.
The only benefit to being the rejected spouse is that you often get more support and care from the church. (And sadly, due to the stigma against the person who files for divorce in many churches, some people actually wish their spouse would divorce them so they aren't ostracized.)
In today's post, we'll hear about a missionary who really loved her spouse. She thought he loved her too.
One day, a woman’s husband disappeared while their family of seven was living and serving as missionaries overseas in an Asian country. At first she wasn't worried. But soon she checked with friends, and checked the hospitals, and couldn’t find him. Utterly mystified, she went online for clues and tracked his credit card use in an attempt to locate him. Finally, she looked at their bank balance and realized he had emptied their life savings. He had bought an airline ticket and fled back to the United States. She didn’t find him for years.
She received a lot of emotional support from her pastor, the missionary sending agency, and her church.
When asked about her anger toward her ex-husband (who had also been a Southern Baptist pastor), she said—
He took all of our savings and left me and our five minor kids in a third-world country with $700 to our name. [I had to stay alone in that country for two more years waiting for our adopted kids to get visas to enter to the U.S.]
I have stared into the abyss. My nine-year-old son had died. My husband of more than twenty-five years walked away from our marriage, from God, and our kids… My kids were devastated when their dad left. They did not know the bad things about him.
All of our lives, his words and actions never matched. He told me he loved me fifty times a day… that all he lived for was me and the kids. It was enough to keep me in the marriage. The day he walked out and left me with no money—even though I was upset and cried—it all fell into place. Finally, his words and actions matched.
He refused to pay child support, and I had to have him arrested.
Looking back now, I should have left him, but I am just glad it is over!
It took six years for U.S. law enforcement to find her ex-husband. He was arrested and finally gave her a few thousand dollars in unpaid child support, then stopped paying again.
I forgive him. I teased my therapist I would write him a thank-you note for leaving me. I am so glad it is over. I’d rather have no-one, than,to spend another day with him. He has not changed at all, from what I hear. It’s really sad.
And how is she now?
Joy is my target. I can get to joy. Joy is soul-nourishing. Happiness is a moving target. Some of the richest most famous people in the world are the most miserable. Joy comes from pouring your life out in service to others. Doing unto others. Living for Him. I am [in my 50s]. I am planning to leave the U.S. and spend the next 10 years in [the same Asian country where my husband abandoned me] serving the people there. I will work with a group that provides schooling and therapy for kids with brain injury. I’ll be mentoring young people and sharing the gospel. I speak the language and love the people and the culture!
One of the leading researchers on divorce, Dr. Mavis Hetherington, wrote, “In the early period, the ‘left’ spouses were the most unhappy and resentful, but by the end of the second year, there were few differences between those left and the ‘leavers’… [In] the second year there was an upsurge in emotional wellbeing as people began to adapt to their new life situation.”
So if you got left, you may feel worse than the “leavers” for the first two years, but you too will find your stride.
1 Hetherington and Kelly, For Better or For Worse, 50-51.
For more on this and the Ten Turning Points, read Chapter 5, pages 173-197.
Examples of 150 examples of types of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and neglect) and explaining the term "gaslighting," along with many first-person stories, read Chapter 4 in the Life-Saving Divorce.
For a diagram of the Duluth Wheel of Power and Control and The Abuse Cycle, read Chapter 4.