Standing For Something

By Kenda-Ruth Stumpf

In 2005, my husband left me for another woman and filed for divorce.  Everyone kept telling me I was so lucky that at least we didn’t have kids. Though I agreed that divorce wouldn’t be good for children, being childless did not make me feel lucky.  For me the possibility of divorce was devastating.

It is now almost eight years from the day my husband told me he wanted out of our marriage. I had told him “no” and contested the divorce. I chose to be a Stander.

A Stander is someone who seeks to remain married while his or her spouse is seeking to escape the marriage; legal actions may or may not have been initiated or finalized. Some are Standers by action, with a goal of reconciliation, while others are strict Standers in philosophy, believing divorce is an immoral action.  Standing usually provides an option of conditional return to a functional marriage for the spouse who is leaving, but some Standers simply stand by, refusing to seek or recognize legal divorce and refusing other relationships in honor to their vows.

Today, my husband and I are still married.  We reconciled and are now trying to adopt. And I have a new career. I’ve always been a writer, but my focus is now on writing to help abandoned spouses who are dealing with their spouses’ midlife crisis and infidelity.

Standing makes no guarantee. A lot of marriages still end, but it helps left behind spouses set aside their anger and resentment and focus instead on what they want — to love their spouse in their marriage as a loved spouse. I loved my husband even when he cheated and left, even though hatred was a tempting emotion. The divorce process creates conflict not comrades; it enables hatred, anger and resentment. Fortunately he stopped our divorce quickly; unfortunately that did not stop his affair and midlife crisis. From the beginning I made a deliberate choice to remember that he was Sweetheart (even though he was playing the role of someone not so sweet) and that this was just one of those for worse and in sickness times mentioned in our vows. Standing is about building relationships rather than building enemies; that means it can enable reconciliation or a cordial rather than confrontational after-marriage relationship.

One of the common phrases Standers hear is that they deserve better. I agree. Infidelity is a form of abuse and we do deserve better! But if spouses come through their midlife crisis, will being divorced be the better option? I did not deserve divorce. I deserved the opportunity to heal rather than have my wounds opened and added to in the boxing ring of divorce court. And most of all, I deserved a choice. Eighty percent of divorces are unilateral—only one person wants out.[1] Many Standers eventually choose to stand down, but they make that decision on their own and it becomes empowering.  Having the choice made for them is disempowering.

In the beginning, Standing is a grace period, a buffer zone between abandonment and betrayal and whatever comes next. It enables a return to wellness so that a person can make life-changing decisions with a healthy balance of emotion and reason by guiding them through the initial days and months of shock and anxiety. Since cheating spouses refuse to participate in marital problem-solving, Standing guides the Stander to focus on themselves and their healing rather than focusing on the problems in their marriage.

Standing can become a continuing decision to Stand after using it as a grace period, or a person may choose to no longer Stand. During the interlude, there may be an opportunity for reconciliation and Standers don’t want to destroy that chance —just in case. When a person turns their focus inward toward self-healing and discovery, they prepare themselves for a new and healthier relationship with a willing spouse or with someone else. Without healing they risk repetition of the pain when in new relationships.  And we know the high statistics for the failure of second and third marriages.

Standing can also serve as a grace period for the abandoning spouse. It gave my husband time to go through his midlife crisis without worrying about fixing us or having me pressure him. It’s triage; fix the greatest threat first—in my case, my husband’s internal strife and confusion.

Let me emphasize that Standing is not working together to fix a marriage. It’s not a solution to marriage problems. It’s not pressuring and it’s not an ultimatum. When a spouse is gone or they change their mind from love to hate ever few days like my husband did, the saving part isn’t possible. Reconciliation will eventually take the deliberate effort and desire of both partners. But Standing keeps options open by setting the marriage aside in a place of protection to be worked on later if possible.

Indeed, my husband came and left our home multiple times over three-and-a-half years as his affair continued. After he ended it for good, we lived apart for a period as part of a reconciliatory-transition from infidelity to monogamy. We have now lived together again for three-and-a-half years.

We are doing well! The only sort of bliss is the imperfect sort. Imperfection is realistic, but this new imperfection is more stable. When we are placed with children, they will be coming to a home that respects relationships and that understands that fragility is a key to strengthening because now we will no longer take each other for granted.

_________________

[1] Furstenberg, Frank and Andrew Cherlin, Divided Families. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991, p. 22.

Post By beverlyw (86 Posts)

Connect

Comments

  1. Catherine says:

    So how do you be a stander if your spouse seeks and continues down a path towards divorce? I know that one can choose to live out their vows no matter what, but in a system with no-fault divorce, I’ve never heard of any way to contest a divorce that does anymore than delay its finality by more than a month or two.

    • Catherine,
      You are correct. Standing is separate from the legal process because with no-fault divorce contesting only delays and to drag it out for the purpose of delaying is not permitted. I have found that a lot of people think they can’t be a Stander either because they are already divorced or they are going through a divorce. But Standing is simply about what you want. If you want to reconcile your marriage and for that reason you are not seeking other romantic relationships, then you can call yourself a Stander.
      Unfortunately there is no way to stop a divorce unless both parties agree to stop it—and I got lucky because my husband did just that very early in the process. He stopped the divorce, but continued his affair and admittedly that made a part of it easier. Dealing with the affair and his constant moving in and out—ending the affair and resuming or not really ending it—was emotionally draining, but at least for most of the time I did not also have the legal process to deal with as well.

    • beverlyw says:

      I agree with Kenda-Ruth. No matter what the laws are though I think it’s important to stand for what you believe in. I also think it’s important that we change our divorce laws so it can be important to take a stand for that reason as well in order to shine a light on the harm and injustices of our no-fault divorce system. Taking a “legal” stand, unfortunately, can cost you financially and emotionally. Sanctions could be imposed against you legally, too. In my view, our no-fault divorce system has helped to cripple marriage and it has done grave damage to children and spouses. The Coalition for Divorce Reform has developed model legislation through the help of experts called the Parental Divorce Reduction Act. You can read more about it on this website. Although no-fault would be maintained under this legislation, marriages will be saved and it will serve to protect children.

  2. i am a stander even tho i signed the papers. Would it be a good idea to ask attorneys to hold back the signed papers

    • That would be a question to ask the attorneys, though I imagine they may say ‘no.’
      Standing is separate from the law and legal divorce. It’s sad and I don’t know if there is a psychological barrier that makes reconciliation even just a tiny bit harder after a legal divorce, but with the law of the land and they way our society treats divorce, those are the things we are dealing with–and trying to change.
      I’m so sorry you are going through this.

  3. I am a Stander. My husband left me a year ago. I am his fourth wife and when we got married, he told me divorce wasn’t an option. When he left, he said it was just a temporary separation but he never came back. He asked me to sign divorce papers and I refused. He asked me for information to fill out the divorce papers and I kindly told him that I do not want a divorce so please don’t ask me to sign papers, help you fill out papers or look up information so you can fill out papers. Then he text me to tell me he had committed adultery. I still didn’t seek a divorce. He filed anyway and in the state of Montana, there is nothing I can do about the divorce becoming final. There is a place on the court response to say I do not want a divorce and I filled that out. As a Christian, I feel I’ve done all I can do to stop the divorce and I have peace with being faithful to God’s word however I wish no fault divorce was not an option.

    • beverlyw says:

      Wow, you sound brave on two fronts, taking a chance on a man who had failed marriages and then standing by your decision. Unfortunately, legally, there isn’t really anything that can be done when one spouse wants out of a marriage. We hope with the move to have our model legislation adopted that we can give marriages more options. In the meantime, being at peace with yourself and your decision is tremendous.

    • Hi Trish,

      I am so sorry you are and have gone through this. This is why I don’t like no-fault divorce as well. There really is nothing we can do on the legal side–other than seeking to change it of course! But as it is now, Standing and the legal system are two separate things.
      What I am glad about is that there was a place for you to check that you are not in agreement with divorcing.

  4. Hi, Kenda. Thanks so much for your blog. I, too, have been standing since 2005, and for the past 2 years my husband has been trying to divorce me. I, too, am fairly certain after some education that he started into a mid-life crisis in 2004. I have steadfastly believed all my life that divorce is man-made and is an abomination before God, whose only design for divorce is called D-E-A-T-H – Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2, 1 Cor. 7:10-11, Malachi 2:16. (The Almighty spells noncovenant remarriage A-D-U-L-T-E-R-Y). I am deeply concerned that the no-fault divorce law not only shreds families, but the rapidly increasing trend toward people in their 50’s breaking their marriage vows, combined with laws that wrongly decree marital misconduct, such as adultery, can’t be considered in property division – this puts some financially and morally responsible spouses in great economic peril right before they would otherwise retire (especially if they are longterm standers like me and have biblical reaons not to remarry while their spouse is alive). I also believe that the marital example of righteous grandparents is every bit as necessary to well-raised children as their married-for-life parents! I am presently in a deeply contested, lengthy property division trial because my husband, who took a job overseas, has dissipated between $300,000 and $500,000 over at least 9 years, and is now seeking $200,000 of my retirement funds. God gave me the money to fight in court years ago, just as the affair was starting. My husband now employs our son-in-law, and has our grandchildren living in that country while the OW was barred 2-1/2 years ago due to breaking immigration laws. My daughter is pleading with me to do everything I can to keep that woman away from the little girls fpr as long as possible until our son-in-law can find another job elsewhere. Of course, all of this is devastating my relationship with my husband, which had been remarkably good until the girlfriend was deported and I contested the divorce those circumstances triggered. When a man is forcibly pulled from the MLC “tunnel”, it is STILL his evil wife’s fault even if she had nothing to do with it (other than prayer).
    I say all this because I’m prayerfully considering a 1st & 14th amendment challenge to the property division aspect of the no-fault divorce law, hoping that if the courts were to find that aspect (with regard to the nonconsideration of marital misconduct) unconstitutional, the whole no-fault law could potentially be rendered uneforceable and have to be re-written – this time with the public more keenly aware of the stakes involved and hopefully better-engaged. From my perspective, the law often confiscates property from the more responsible spouse in an unconstitutional manner because the grounds finding is always a foregone conclusion adverse to the non-offending spouse. The judge in our case has made several rulings that appear to be curtailing my right to due process based on my faith and my stand, though he has amazingly allowed me to quote scripture from the witness stand that was allowed into the trial transcript. Though we still have a long way to go before there’s a verdict in the present trial, I will be speaking to some Christian legal defense councils this week to get their input so that I’m ready if or when an appeal (technical & constitutional) must be filed. Before embarking and putting immeasurable further strain on my relationship with my husband, I’d also love to get some feedback from the CDR, since I know there are attorneys on the team. I’m 58 years old and our 40th anniversary is 10 days after our trial resumes in June.

  5. Hi. Thanks for this blog. My husband and I are on the early stages of divorce. Just yesterday we agreed on the pendent lite though he was really upset about it. I have 3 children and together we have 2 twin boys under the age of 3 all boys. My 11y/o looks up to him as his father. We are married 4 years. He abandoned us over 2 months ago to pursue this woman demanded divorce. He left me no other choice because he divided the bills already and has closed the joint account where those bills are drawn from. I have a job but my income is very little compared to his. He basically takes care of everything because of his income. Now, I don’t have anything. I texted him the other night for some help but refused to do so. I filed for he divorce first which I didn’t want and regretted but if I didn’t he would have filed also anyway. Of course my lawyer cited adultery and sometime later he filed a counterclaim denying the allegations and that I have to produce evidence. I have some but not too revealing but my lawyer said they are enough. He even cited in his counterclaim absolute divorce from me. I to this moment am still trying to reconcile with him and been telling him over the phone I want to save our marriage and even reaching out to his friends for help which only irked him. We haven’t seen him anymore over two months now and of course the little ones are missing him and asking about him. Our situation is made worse because he works out of state. He’s schedule is supposed to be 2 weeks on/off. I do want to save our marriage because I love him and would want to work for th betterment of our relationship as well as provide stability and security to our children. This is my first marriage and twice for him. The 1st one he did the same to her. He heated on her with he best friend. And also he doesn’t have any relationship with his 14 y/o son anymore. Am so shocked that he could do this to us. He’s 41 and I don’t know if he’s going through midlife crisis. This woman works with him in the same company but not in the same area but they definitely have the same schedule which is really very convenient to him and according to him they share the same values – MONEY!!! He always accused me of spending too much when I just spend all my income to the household needs. He didn’t want me to get a lawyer and would like to sit down so we could divide the bills and if I want to stay in the house he would charge me rent?!? I was just so shocked and hurt! I can’t believe I married a greedy monster. Now please tell me if I should still work hard to save this marriage. He hasn’t given me any support at all since he left the house in August not even asking about the kids (rarely though and just told me that he knows that they are well taken care of since my mother stays with us too to help us it the kids. We’re basically saving thousands of dollars for child care expenses and he’s not eve thinking about it and we’re not even paying my mother). He put me in so much emotional, mental, physical distress esp in the first 2 months and now he’s telling me he doesn’t have an affair? And he kept on urging me to move to Houston where this woman lives and now he’s not having an affair? Please help me see the light. Please. Thanks.

  6. Hi Sheila,
    I am so sorry this is happening to you. Though your husband is the right age for a midlife crisis, his history along with your short marriage means that this might not be MLC and this may be a different sort of infidelity along with other root issues he brought into the marriage.

    Should You Stand/Try to Save Your Marriage?
    That is not something I will ever answer for someone because it is a personal choice. You need to weigh a lot of factors—and perhaps only one factor will wind up being important, but look at everything.
    You need to determine what it is you want and where your threshold is. You also need to consider what is he can and what he will do—what do you think he will choose and if he chooses marriage with you, will he keep his promises; will he be willing to be monogamous and go to counseling to heal from this current trauma. And then think of your children; what is best for them—an intact family or a co-parenting family?
    Some of his behaviours are common to MLC, but they are not isolated to MLC. Wanting to share lawyers are do it together without a lawyer is not uncommon. Being greedy is also not uncommon, not is infidelity, selfishness or even the abandonment. His personal history are probably more telling about these actions than an MLC generalization. Though MLCers often have family of origin—childhood—issues, they often do not have a history of the sort of actions you are describing within their own marriage or intimate relationships (unless those are recent MLC relationships).

    Threshold
    What are and where are your boundaries? If he cheated once on you and once on his previous wife, but with no other cheating in the pattern, is that acceptable—supposing he will be willing to end an affair and remain faithful? What if he was a serial cheater instead—with a long pattern of cheating on multiple women? How does that fit into your boundaries? Does it not at all, or would it make a difference if he is willing to acknowledge his history and get help?

    What Will He Do?
    What is within your control and what is not? Sure, he may eventually want to reconcile, but if he does that will he also be willing to repair and heal? Will he remain faithful? He can, but will he? Whether he will or not is not within your control.
    How can you know what he will be? History, but people can overcome their negative history, so what else? The ability to empathize and show insight—be self-reflective. Please don’t be fooled by guilt; it can be faked, but also it can be felt without self-reflection or empathy. Remorse is a lot more in depth, requiring both empathy and insight. A willingness to go to counseling is a start, but some use it as a way to get back into your good graces and continue to avoid self-reflecting and connecting emotionally.

    What’s Best for Your Children?
    Children from low-conflict marriages are better off if their parents remain married, but children in high-conflict marriages benefit from divorce. Approximately two-thirds of divorces in the United States are among low-conflict spouses. (Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, 2001. “Parental Predivorce Relations and Offspring Postdivorce Well-Being,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 63(1): 197ff.)
    So consider the conflict level of your marriage—do not take into consideration whether you think your children notice since so many think the kids just don’t notice. But that doesn’t account for something else. Some people and couples avoid conflict and just let the tension build. Maybe kids notice and maybe they don’t and maybe they are better off that way than in a divided family, or maybe they aren’t; I don’t know. But you do need to consider your ability to handle a situation without becoming a depressed victim or co-dependent enabler—because how can that be good for your children?
    If your husband is willing to (eventually) reconcile as well as go through what is necessary to help you heal as well as the family unit heal and continue to be a faithful husband, then remaining married would be best for your children. Right now in the midst of this crisis—even though it may not be a midlife crisis, is not an appropriate time for assessing whether he is going to do this because he is firm in one direction—this is one reason I love Standing so much; it gives Time and a Grace Period for healing as well as for the leaving spouse to cycle through and change their mind.

    What to Do as a Stander
    Stop telling him you want to reconcile—basic ally stop having relationship talks with him.
    Stop talking to his friends and trying to get them to help you or convince him for you. To him this shows that you are not giving importance to what he wants and he sees that as disrespectful—as well as your being in denial or even delusional.
    You say that you love him. Why or what is it about him that you love? A lot of people may be asking you why with a rude or sarcastic tone and they may even add that he is a jerk and not worth your love; that is not what I am doing. You need to answer the question for yourself—rather than as a defense given to others.
    The most important thing you need to work on is detaching—this is true whether you choose to Stand or not. You need to take back your power and take back control of your emotions. When attached your emotions react to his emotions and actions; when detached you will be able to respond without his outbursts or other antics inciting you.
    You need to become an Attractive Power. What is attractive? I’m not talking vanity, rather what sort of forces attract?
    Confidence
    Self-Reliance
    Self-Love
    Self-Assurance
    Grace
    Empathy
    Inner Strength

    Basically what it means is that Standing is about working on you while your spouse is out there doing whatever. Focus on you! That means focus in the sense of take care of yourself, but also by doing your own Mirror-Work—being self-reflective. You aren’t perfect either, and this is your opportunity to work on some self-improvement without your spouse around to interfere.
    This is also what you need to do if you choose not to Stand! That means that whether you choose to Stand for your marriage or not, what you need to do is the same.

  7. Hi kenda after seven years with alienator, he came back home, but after four months with all the drama, I asked him to leave and our sons will be open to him once he cut all ties with her. His psychologist told him that he is an atm to her and her children. They sucked him dry. He is suffering from severe depression and has black outs. He is seeing a psychiatrist soon to help with anxiety attacks. Even though he has seen dark side of alienator he still wants to go back. They are on weekend away as I talk to you.

  8. RE: When a person turns their focus inward toward self-healing and discovery, they prepare themselves for a new and healthier relationship with a willing spouse or with someone else. Without healing they risk repetition of the pain when in new relationships. And we know the high statistics for the failure of second and third marriages.

    Not only is the divorce (a one-time act which God calls treachery and violence) immoral, but entering into another “marriage” by either partners is far more immoral because Jesus said it was an ongoing state of adultery, in fact, He said this on at least 3 separate occasions. (Matt. 5:32b; Matt. 19:9b and Luke 16:18b). To miss this truth is to miss the very essence of standing. We stand not so much to prioritize the healing of our marriage, but because our one-flesh spouse can wind up in hell if they die estranged from us.

    Congratulations on successfully navigating your husband’s midlife-crisis and all the best for your covenant marriage.

Comment Policy:This website will not share or publish your email address. Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. Basic HTML code is allowed.

Leave a Comment

*