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Standing: Clarifying the Concept - Part II

By Kenda-Ruth Stumpf

In Why Stand?, I provided the following list as reasons to Stand. But questions remain.

  • Love
  • Moral opposition to divorce
  • For better or for worse
  • In sickness and in health
  • The dis-ease theory of MLC
  • Marriage is a covenant
  • For the kids
  • Faith he will come through...better
  • You know you are supposed to be together
  • To learn and grow by not giving up, but by improving yourself and learning about relationships
  • The person you loved and married is still in there somewhere
  • You understand what part you played in this and you've grown from it
  • You are being true to yourself and your heart

But why Stand for a marriage when your spouse has decided it is over? I don't see the point.
Then choose not to Stand. Why do others Stand when it seems to you (and possibly them) that their spouse has decided it is over? Why is your friend, aunt, cousin, sister, daughter Standing? The list above still applies. Not everyone expects or believes they will ever be in a marital relationship with their spouse again--most people do not believe it soon after Bomb Drop when the pain is raw and the MLCer seems adamant. For some frightened LBSs whose spouse said I love you but I'm not in-love with you a week ago or a month or even a year ago, the pain is still raw. Maybe they are Standing because they are not yet ready to take back the option of remaining married. They may have no expectations; often in the midst of fear and raw pain they believe the worst--he will never come home and will remain hateful forever--but they are reserving the just in case option while they focus on themselves to find who they are in this new context and build their strength.

Some LBSs recognize the MLCer's arguments and behavior as so absurd that they believe this cannot be real--it won't last forever even if it lasts for a few years. Some Stand because when a spouse says it is over it may not seem as though it is over--he may not seem as though he means it, or he may seem to mean it at that moment, but his behaviors has been changing and the messages are mixed.

MLCers decide that it is their turn to call the shots. They feel that you have been making the decisions up until now--or they have been living for others whether it is you, work, their family of origin or society in general. But they are now doing what they accuse you or society of doing--making all the decisions. The MLCer is making a unilateral decision to end your relationship. Don't you have a say in the matter? Shouldn't you?

Sweetheart decided that our relationship was over and I decided it wasn't. I got a say too. That does not mean I blocked his way and prevented him from physically exiting. But I did Stand for what I felt was best by legally contesting a divorce. I did not attempt to force him home. Standing and contesting showed him that I cared--even before his physical affair he was shocked that I wanted to remain married to him; he thought I would want out if he did. Standing was not only about my beliefs, it sent a message that I was continuing to choose to be married.

But I don't understand why anyone would wait for their spouse to stop fooling around and then lovingly open their arms to someone who has disrespected them.
Standing and waiting are not the same things. To imply a Stander is waiting is not only to misunderstand but to insult--though perhaps unintentionally. I understand that there are LBSs who are pining away waiting, but that is not what Standing is about and it is not a Standing Action. Single people lead happy and full lives. People do not generally accuse them as a group of waiting for a mate. Standers lead a single life without the option of searching for a new mate--so do many widows and widowers. They can choose to close the option they have left for their spouse at any point and stop Standing.

As for lovingly opening their arms later, it is not as simple as that. The Stander needs to work on forgiveness and the reformed partner needs to rebuild trust (among other things). It's not Hi Honey I'm home. Some try that and it fails--often such attempts are premature returns when the MLCer is still deep in crisis and the LBS is still fresh within her raw pain and desperate to have her spouse home. If either the LBS or MLCer is desperate for the relationship, they are not ready to rebuild. It is not opening arms to the MLC Monster, but to the recovering person who he or she is becoming.

I Stood for six months, but had to stop because he was destroying me, destroying the loving and trusting person I was and want to be. By being loving and supportive I was giving him more power to destroy me. I stepped down because I was concerned that I was setting a poor example for my children. Did I not Stand long enough?
It sounds as though you were Standing too close. You assumed Standing was about having a relationship during the crisis and thus you were trying to maintain that relationship. By doing this you were not allowing yourself to detach sufficiently--even if you thought you were detaching. If you want your marriage, you did not Stand long enough. If you wanted or expected Standing to fix your marriage within six months, you did not Stand long enough. If you have decided that you do not want to be married to the same person in the future, then you do not need to continue Standing. But your MLCer will not be the same person in a few years when he comes through his MLC. It sounds to me that the problem is how you were Standing. What contact limitations--if any--did you put between you and your MLCer? Try Standing from a distance.

A few years ago my friend dated a man for a couple of years who hurt her terribly. After reading about MLC we both now recognize he was in MLC. At that time I advised her to get out and save her heart Now, how could I give her that advice and not take it myself?
You are viewing the situations with more similarity than they deserve. Your friend had a boyfriend, they did not have vows, children, possessions or a history of years together and that makes all the difference. I would have advised her the same as you did. Choosing to Stand can be risky; there is no guarantee your MLCer will choose to return to you. Standing is about being gracious, holding your head high with dignity as somebody blames you for everything wrong in their life. What will you face internally if you step down and walk away without putting in an effort to Stand? Midlife Crisis is dis-ease, not disease, but even so, where is your guilt? I am not saying you should have guilt, but if you would rather remain married and step down without giving Standing a chance, you may feel guilty as though you are also abandoning the MLCer who is abandoning you. Standing is a healing process that will help you in future relationships or in rebuilding your marriage.

I'm Kenda-Ruth and I believe in marriage.
Are you tired of hearing...
  • Once a cheater always a cheater?
  • You're better off without him?
  • She doesn't deserve you?
  • I guess it just wasn't meant to last?
  • Divorce is no big deal?
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