But Sometimes, You Have to Know When to Fold Them

BY: - 18 Dec '12 | Marriage

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We receive a lot of emails from people, asking for relationship advice.  And common questions that we get asked are: “Should I leave?”  or “How do you know when enough is enough.”

And those are questions that I just can’t answer for a person. (But, of course if there is abuse…I would say to leave and get to a safe place.)  I don’t know how to answer that question for another person, especially when I’ve only read a paragraph or a few sentences about their situation.  For the most part, that’s an answer that each person has to come up with on their own.

Even a counselor is not going to out right tell you to leave.  I went to “couples” counseling a few times when I was in a relationship ( we were not married.)  The guy I was dating was not good to me and I was extremely unhappy.  And that counselor never once said: “that fool is dragging you down…cut that zero.”   But she did help me to focus on what I needed in order to be happy.  And she helped think things through so that I could come to my own conclusion and so that I could see how to do things differently.

Once I asked our friend and relationship expert, Aiyze Ma’at, from BlackLoveandMarriage.com, how long would you stay in a bad relationship.  Would you stick around and tough it out for  20, 30, or 40 years with a person?  And what he said stuck with me.  He said:

“Sometimes, you have to know when to fold them.”

That answer is so simple…but deep. To me, the two most important words in that answer are YOU and KNOW.

So this is what I tell people (which is my opinion because I am no counselor.)  You have to make sure that you have done all that you can do before leaving your marriage….and when you’ve done that..then do some more.  Because, next to your relationship with God, your marriage is the most important relationship that you will have on this earth.

I personally know couples that were going through tough times in their relationships…and the only thing they could think about was separating..and getting a divorce.  But when I asked them if they went to counseling or if they sought help…they said: “no.”   It was like they were stuck…stuck in the misery and could not see their way out.  They could not fathom being in a happy and loving relationship with their spouse.  They could only see one option…that was to get out.  Sadly, I’ve seen people get out…only to want to get back in after it was too late.

I’ve been reading a great book by Dr. Gary Chapman called Desperate Marriages – Moving Toward Hope and Healing in your relationship And on page 23, Dr. Chapman says the following about divorce:

“Through the years I have counseled enough divorced persons to know that while divorce removes some pressures, it creates a host of others.  I am not naive enough to suggest that divorce can be eliminated from the human landscape. I am saying, however, that divorce should be the last possible alternative.  It should be preceded by every effort at reconciling differences, dealing with issues, and solving problems.”

Dr. Chapman asks people to reject certain myths that they believe about marriage and to take positive actions towards change in their relationships.  In the book, Dr. Chapman will help you to realize that:  people can change, that staying and being miserable OR getting a divorce are not the only two options that you have in your marriage, and that your situation is not hopeless. Yes, even if your are dealing with an irresponsible spouse, a spouse that is a workaholic, an unfaithful spouse, or a depressed spouse, you can find solutions that can save your marriage.

I’ve seen it myself with the couples that appear in our latest movie, Still Standing.  Those couples were able to overcome dire financial issues, communication difficulties, and yes….even infidelity.  But it took work…and some times that work starts with you taking positive actions towards changing your situation.

BMWK – Do you think that couples are throwing in the towel and getting divorces before exhausting all of their options? Do you believe that couples can survive and be happy…even after going through major adversities?


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  • Tiffani

    In my opinion, marital issues feel like such a exhausting burden because it’s such lonely process to combat. After all, it’s the only facet of life where we are constantly conditioned that “outside opinions and assistance should be the absolute last resort; and even then, you should still take caution to any input”. I’m not saying this is erroneous, I’m just saying I totally understand how people end up giving up. For me, it has been imperative to have a healthy support group. For those who don’t, I shutter to think.

    As I’ve seen friends separate and/or divorce – and as I’ve even navigated through my own issues – it’s hard to admit you need help, only to be told “you have to make that decision on your own”. Why I agree this staple sentiment is the RIGHT thing to say and the RIGHT stance to take concerning providing input into others’ relationships, this is where and why GOD is such an imperative source of help. It makes sense once you feel like you’ve hit the bottom as to why He should be in the midst of everything because ultimately, you will absolutely get to a point where there will be no one to turn to but Him – literally.

    Good post Ronnie! :-)

    • http://www.blackandmarriedwithkids.com Ronnie Tyler

      Thanks Tiffani….and you make a very good point..it’s like you have to be so careful about seeking assistance…some times you can’t do it on your own…but it’s like ..who do I trust. So it is very important to have a great support group. And, turning to God ..is great advice.

  • Sha’

    I enjoyed the article but I absolutely loved your input Tiffani!!

  • http://www.blackandmarriedwithkids.com Ronnie Tyler

    Thanks Sha’

  • Heather

    Great article, and very timely for me. But what do you do when only one spouse is willing to keep working at the marriage?

    • Okiram

      Good question.

    • http://www.blackandmarriedwithkids.com Ronnie Tyler

      Personally, Heather…I would take positive steps on my own…pray, counseling, and self reflection…so that I can find clarity about what my steps should be. Continue to communicate with your spouse in the process. I don’t believe in being miserable for 20, 30, 40 years. In my case, I was not married …but I had kids…and so I was trying to hold on…but when I came to realization that this person is not going to change…I had to ask myself….is this the life for me..and I left.

      I really like Dr. Chapman’s book on Desperate Marriages..because it will open you eyes to different solutions.

  • Shelly

    As a divorcee, I agree that life after divorce comes with its own set of issues. This is especially true when children are involved. I tried everything to refocus our marriage on the right track (counseling, talking the issues out, patience, prayer, reading good books on marriage, etc.), but it became more and more evident that it was a one-sided effort. I stayed for 8 years, and cried most of those years. The marriage ended after 9.5 years.

    Although the issues I faced in marriage are no longer a concern for me, the challenges that come with single parenting, etc. has me telling others: “Divorce is NOT highly recommended.” Do all you can to make it work, and only choose that path if there’s no other way around it.

  • Okiram

    How long should someone take the one-sided effort?

  • Kim

    Awesome article! I too have read Desperate Marriages by Gary Chapman and it was a true ah-ha! book for me. Another great read is Sacred Marriages by Gary Thomas. Both books help to paint a picture of marriage that allows an individual to put all things in proper perspective personally and biblically. After 15 years of marriage I have experienced my share of trial but my marriage is SO WORTH IT ALL!!! As the elders have all the great marriage stories to tell, I too plan to have great stories to share with my grandchildren.

  • Val Fleming

    @ Shelly. Thank you for your response. I understand exactly what it is like to end a relationship where there are kids involved, only to feel like did I make the right choice and even though you know it was for your own safety, you still question whether you could have done more to save it. Single parenting is the most difficult thing to go through. At the same time, I feel like sometimes because of our situation, we tend to move too fast into the next relationship instead of taking our time and weighing our options. What I am saying is, as a single parent, date and do not settle just because you are a single mom. Set your standards even higher next time, so that you don’t have to worry about being single again. Evaluate everything about the person. In my opinion, the relationships that I’ve seen last a long time were the ones where dating lasted at least two years or more because you get more time with the person and the questions you need answered, usually get answered, whether the person tells you or not based on their actions. If you believe that sex before marriage is not an option, yet, you can’t wait on God’s timing, you may end up disappointed if you do marry fast because you wanted sexual companionship versus friendship.

  • Lili

    It’s kinda ironic to stumble upon this article the day of my appointment with a divorce attorney. I don’t have one scratch on my body, but my soul and spirit are bloody and bruised to a freaking pulp! I’m sitting here wishing I was as smart as you, Ronnie…I’m in the over 20 club, part of me wishing I hadn’t took these years of verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse…but the other part of me knows good and well – I had to develop a stronger mind, grow in self-esteem, and love myself more (or at all?) – perhaps this marriage was my lesson. After decades of trying to be the perfect, imperfect mate, forgiving offenses, showing “strong love” by taking his abuse and 262,818th apology, being the sole breadwinner of the house, failed counseling — I’ve reached my enough, and if he can’t/won’t release me from prison, I have to break out! Crazy how bondage can feel so comfortable, and freedom seems so scary. I’m challenged with the truth that I had a hand in this. I contributed to this misery by taking this bull for so long! How many times did I hear, “If it’s so bad, why are you still here?!” Man does that suck! But I’ll learn to take my responsibility, I’ll learn to forgive myself, I’ll hold fast to the belief that I’m worthy of (real) love, and I’ll grow on…somehow. Praying that God heals this enormous pain, keeps the kids through this, heals him, and redeems the (perceived) loss of time, resources, life I feel right now…I’m out.

    • http://www.blackandmarriedwithkids.com Ronnie Tyler

      Lili – i feel for you …freedom is scary because it’s a change..but it sounds like you gave it your all. You never know what the next chapter in your life will be. But I pray that you find happiness.