Episode 50: Fearing Divorce, Stressful Separation Point, and Love Language Trepidation

by | Last updated: Dec 4, 2023 | Podcast

Want to move forward with decisions in your life and marriage? That’s what my monthly Q&As are designed to help you do! And today, it’s time to answer questions from three more listeners for November.

Sherry is on the verge of going to a divorce lawyer and is afraid. Amanda has a stressful situation that has caused her husband to separate from her and use her as an emotional punching bag. Tamara has a husband seeking affirmation, which she feels she can’t give him.

In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll learn about how to handle any fear you have about divorcing, separation-causing situations that have you feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place, and unrealized fears from a previous relationship that can give you a sense of deja vu. I’ll also reveal why being asked to do what doesn’t come naturally to you doesn’t have to derail your relationship.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

1:01 – Why you should see multiple attorneys if you’re moving toward divorce

6:13 – Helping Sherry navigate through her fear (and how I did it after the breakup of my first marriage)

12:21 – Why Amanda’s husband decided to separate from her

16:30 – Should Amanda completely close the book on her relationship?

18:51 – How Tamara’s unhealed wound from her first marriage is affecting her current relationship

22:30 – How I got through a similar situation and the opportunity Tamara has in front of her right now

26:21 – What’s really behind Tamara’s reluctance to speak her husband’s love language and how she can resolve it

Featured On Different Types of Trust You Need to Consider in Your Marriage

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?

Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert, and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

Sharon Pope: Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope. This is The Loving Truth. This is also our time of the month where we do our Q&A calls, where you call in with your questions and I try to give you my very best answers and explanations so that you feel like you are moving forward in your life, in your marriage, and in your decision.

Now, if you would like to send me a question for next month's call, please do that. Send me whatever your question is. Call 727-537-0359. Just leave me a short message as to what your question is and maybe you'll be one of the people that I choose to answer that question on next month's Q&A call. Let's first hear from Sherry.

Sherry: Hi, this is Sherry. My question is my husband after 41 years had decided to separate. He wants to live separately. We have children, married children, and grandchildren, and he says it was brewing in him. We were talking about being separated or divorced a few times in our lives. But I think he just planned it. Now, I'm on the verge of going to a divorce lawyer, I’m scared and I don't know what to do. Is there a way that you could help me out? I would appreciate it.

Sharon Pope: Sherry, first of all, I just want to say I'm genuinely really sorry. This is really, really difficult stuff when your husband comes home and tells you that he's ready to separate. It sounds like you were kind of blindsided by it. Like yes, you had discussed it occasionally over the years, I guess when things got tough. But I do believe that when it comes time to actually say those words and make that decision, and make your partner aware of that decision, your partner shouldn't really be surprised.

Sometimes you've been saying that things aren't good, and we need to change and you've been trying and things haven't been working and you've been openly communicating. Your partner is just in denial and kind of has their head in the sand. That doesn't sound like this was the case here so I'm going to assume it wasn't but in general, we should be communicating so often to the point where this is not a huge surprise to our partners. For that, I'm also sorry.

Now you asked one question and then you said something else that I want to address. You said, “Should I be contacting an attorney?” but you're scared to do that. First of all, I would suggest that you contact two or three attorneys. Because here's the thing, you're going to want to interview two or three different people to see who you think if you hire them, they're going to represent you the best, they have the best understanding of the situation, and really there's also a certain degree of rapport and trust that has to be there between you and your attorney in this regard.

Most of them have complimentary introductory sessions, just a 30 or 40-minute conversation with them. That's time well spent. That's time well invested. Sometimes lawyers charge for that and I still think that it's worthwhile. The real reason, not that that wasn't a real reason, but the other reason that it's important is I want you to know the facts.

Every country and every state has different laws that govern divorce. I want you to know what the laws are where you live. Now, you and your husband may come to the agreement that you don't want to hire lawyers, and you want to do as much as you can between the two of you. Then anything that you can't agree to, maybe you hire a mediator for that remaining 20% that you can't agree to.

A lot of couples are able to do that now if they plan for that in advance. But if there's something where you feel like your husband has been, I don't know, hiding money or not telling you the full picture, if you don't have a full picture of your financial assets, liabilities, and things like that, then I do think having an attorney to represent you is going to serve you really well.

But there are many couples that are able to come to agreements on much of their assets and liabilities and how to divide things that a lawyer isn't as necessary because lawyers are great when you need to go to battle. Not every divorce has to be a battle and this may not have to be a battle, but you do have to protect yourself.

I want you to know, going into that conversation with your spouse, I want you to know what the laws are. For instance, if the laws in your state are 50/50, well then, this becomes a math equation. These are your assets, these are your liabilities, we split it up 50/50. You can not like that. He can think he deserves 70% or you think you deserve 70% but the law is the law.

Once you know the facts, then you can get out of the emotion. I will often tell my clients, “Look, there are facts and there's drama.” A lot of people, when they're going through divorce, separating things, and figuring out how to divide assets and things, they get into the drama of it. They get into their feelings of it, of how they think it should be.

I want you to stay in the facts. But first, you got to get the facts, and having these initial conversations with an attorney will help you get the facts about how this is probably going to shake out. Then you interview two or three of them so that then you can get a good idea for who you can establish that rapport and trust with. I would say yes, you should do that.

Now, the other thing you said is that you're scared. Of course, you're scared. It's completely normal that you are scared. Navigating divorce, particularly after a very long-term marriage, this is one of the top five stressors that you will experience in your entire lifetime.

I think fear right now is a normal reaction, it’s a normal response. I think sadness is also a rational emotion to feel because this is a loss. Even when you're the one that initiates it, and I know in this case, that wasn't your decision to make, but you don't get to escape the grief. You will mourn this and grieve this in a similar way that you would a death. You're going to go through all the different five stages of grief, your partner probably will too and you won't be in the same stage at the same time.

This is a loss of a marriage, a loss of potentially a friendship. It's certainly the death of a dream that maybe you once had. Maybe you gave up on it in the last 10 years or so but at one point, you had that dream so allow yourself to feel that range of emotions, allow yourself to process that range of emotions.

There's a woman named Elizabeth Gilbert, she wrote the book, Eat, Pray, Love. She once said, “There's no such thing as one-way liberation. Liberation always works both ways.” Here's what I want you to know, if the marriage isn't working for one of you, then the marriage isn't working. You don't want to remain in a marriage where it's not working for your partner. You want to be in a relationship where your partner is choosing you, actively choosing you every single day.

It doesn't mean it's easy, it doesn't mean it's all fun but it means there's nowhere else I'd rather be but right here with you. That's the kind of relationship that's worth fighting for and sticking it out for. I just want to offer that maybe you get to choose how you feel about this. You get to choose how you think about this. You get to choose what meaning you give to this.

I remember when someone that I love deeply decided to end the relationship with me, and I very much had a “woe is me,” “poor me,” “I'm so sad” victim sort of mentality, and of course, that felt horrible but the thing that I made it mean, the thought that I consciously chose, and it still felt absolutely true, just as true as poor me because I was heartbroken from that relationship ending, but I could make it mean that you know what, sometimes people will do for us the things that we're not strong enough to do for ourselves.

When I look back on that relationship, it was not a good relationship. That doesn't mean I didn't love him, but it wasn't a good, healthy relationship for me. He did the hard thing that I wasn't able or willing to do. That felt true, it still feels true today. You get to choose what meaning you give to this and what meaning you give to it will derive how you feel.

When I was in “woe is me,” “poor me,” “this is horrible,” I couldn't stop crying. But when I was in “he did the hard thing that I couldn't do for myself,” there was an element of peace that I was able to feel. It didn't mean I wanted it, it didn't mean I felt good about it, but I can make peace with it.

The last thing that I want to say is that what if it works out? What if it works out beautifully? What if this step of unwinding the marriage, kind of closing this chapter and opening a new chapter for both of you in different ways, what if it works out beautifully?

I promise you, when I ended my first marriage, my husband did not want it. He did not think it was going to work out beautifully. But here's what I can tell you, it was not long after that that he met someone that he ultimately ended up marrying. As far as I can tell, as far as I've heard, they're amazingly happy. He found someone to love him just as he is.

Guess what? So did I. We're both better off on the other side of it. Was it scary? Hell yes, it was scary. Was it sad? Of course. We had to go through all the things. But on the other side of it, ultimately, it was the right decision. We both were able to make peace with it, move our lives forward, and find something that felt like it fit a little better and it wasn't so hard.

So what if it all works out? Your mind is going to tell you lots of doomsday scenarios. It's going to fill you with fear, “What if this happens? What if this happens? What if you're alone forever? What if no one ever loves you again?” All this stuff that is just stuff, it's just thoughts. It's not even real. What if it all works out? What if it's at least 50% likely that this could be a positive thing ultimately, as opposed to a negative thing?

You get to choose. You get to choose where you focus. You get to choose the story you tell about this and what you choose will dictate how you feel. I hope you choose wisely and I wish you all the best, Sherry.

Now I want to go on to Amanda. Now Amanda wrote in her question, as opposed to calling in, which yeah, I suppose that's okay, too, so I'm not going to read it to you. Unfortunately, you can't listen to it. Here it is.

“My husband has left me to care for his very ill son. He was sick back in April of 2022, recovered after months of treatment, but now he's been diagnosed with lung cancer that's very aggressive. I was on holiday at the time. Come back straightaway to him being cold and in shock. He told me he was moving out to be with just his son without distraction. I said, ‘Yes, do what you have to do.’

“I was shocked but appreciate the stress of the last 18 months on everyone, and especially my husband trying to be all things and failing. Once he moved out, he told me he wanted to separate and not have distraction. I'm in shock, heartbroken, and really feel it because he really feel that it's because he can't cope.

“He has treated me poorly but tried the last 18 months so said he doesn't want to let me down anymore. No amount of reasoning or flexibility will change his mind. He said if I wait for him, could be six months, could be three years, whatever the timeframe until his son either passes away or gets well enough that he does not need to be consumed, he will see how he feels because he loves me so very much. I can't do that.

“But he has also been very nasty to me just in the last couple of weeks verbally. He's very stressed and I seem to be his punching bag, not literally. How is it possible that he can gap me so completely instead of allowing me to support him? It feels like a massive trauma response with little care for our marriage. Please do a podcast so I know how to deal. Amanda.”

So, Amanda, first of all, I cannot imagine, literally, I cannot wrap my mind around what it would feel like to lose a child or to watch your child suffer through an aggressive lung cancer diagnosis. I can't pretend to know what that must be like because you are family. I know that's his son but you’re family. I'm sorry that this is happening. I'm sorry for your stepson, and I'm sorry for your family. I can't imagine what that's like.

But based upon what you've shared here, I think that if the marriage had been on solid ground before, he would have turned to you for support. I think it's very unusual that when someone is in crisis, they push all the people who love them away. I think that it's a result of, it sounds like, you two were struggling in your marriage and he was trying to be who you needed him to be for the last 18 months and he didn't feel like he was being successful at it.

There's only so much some of us can do. Dealing with my son's diagnosis and trying to resuscitate what might feel like a dying marriage where I'm not being terribly successful, because I keep letting my wife down, and by the way, men don't play games they can't win, if he feels like he can't win, he will tap out and not play, that's kind of what he's doing.

There's only so much he can do. There's only so much he can focus on. You can't focus on two different things. His son's diagnosis is an area that he has no control over. He may not win that battle. No matter how much he tries and focuses and loves on him, he may not win that battle, and he can't take on two battles at the same time.

It sounds like, from what you shared, he doesn't feel like he can win in his marriage with you, at least not today. He doesn't have the energy, time, focus, attention, resources to be able to keep trying. I think we can all understand that. Even though you may not like that answer, I think it's understandable and I also think you're right that you should not wait for him. Whatever it is, six months, three years, or five years, whatever it is.

When this is done on the other side of it, your husband is going to be a different person. I don't know who that person is going to be but life changes us. Big things like this, losing a child or watching your child struggle, suffer, and come through something like this, there's no way it cannot change you as a human being, there's no way.

We don't know who he’s going to change into. We don't know how he's going to be different. That will be new information that you can react to and respond to if, on the other side of this, you too want to try again. But it sounds like if you try again, you need to create a new relationship. It needs to be something different and it certainly needs to feel different than it did before. This isn't about going back to what it was.

I think you should close the books on this particular relationship. I think you should close this chapter. If the two of you decide to open a new chapter in the future, lovely, you can explore that. If you move on with your life and you meet someone new and you're remarried and whatever, that's okay, too. It's all okay. But for sure, I don't think that you should wait around and certainly not be his emotional punching bag.

There are lots of ways to deal with circumstances that we would never choose. There are lots of support that he can get around him. But it sounds like he can't look to you for that support right now. He could look to you to, like you said, be his punching bag, but that's not fair. I do think that it's time to close the chapter on this one.

Next, we're going to go to Tamara. Tamara also wrote in, so I'm going to read her question to you as well. She says, “Hello, Sharon. Help. I have a question for your podcast that perhaps you can answer. My husband straight up told me this morning that his love language is words of affirmation, and that I should do that more. Yikes. Feeling angry and like an ass for not wanting to or knowing how to reciprocate.

“First, I wasn't raised in a family that expressed feelings so it's always a bit uncomfortable for me to do so. More importantly, though, is that I'm dealing with strong feelings of resentment and thoughts of divorce. To say anything would feel like I'm lying and misleading him. Long story short, we've been married for two and a half years and he hasn't worked for the last three. He is 66 now and took early retirement when his business failed.

“At the time that we discussed this, he was going to pick up side jobs to help out financially. Then we moved to a rural area and COVID hit, etc, etc. Last year he was seriously hurt. For a short time, we didn't know if he was going to walk. Thankfully, he has since recovered and appears fine, but has been left with some chronic neuropathic pain in his legs, which sometimes limits his ability to do things.

“I feel like I've been had. I didn't sign up for this. To add insult to injury, I supported my ex for 10 years of a 30-year marriage through a chronic illness before the marriage dissolved. I'm kicking myself for being dumb enough to find myself in what feels like the same situation again and trusting that things would be different this time. Also feeling like I'm the ass for not being more sympathetic. I do care for him and love him. I think he's an amazing and fun guy in many ways, yet.”

Okay. Let's first talk about the unhealed wound from your first marriage. Maybe you've heard me say this. First marriages end at the rate of 40% to 50%. Second marriages end at a rate of 68%. Third marriages end at a rate of 74%. The reason for that, in my opinion, is because when we get divorced, we often think, “Well, my partner is the problem, get rid of him. Problem solved.”

Not so fast. Because we are part of this equation. We take ourselves with us. If we are not willing to ever look at our role in the creation of our experience and heal that, then we are going to keep recreating the same experience over and over until we finally learn the lesson.

I don't think that it's random. I do think that there's an attraction thing going on. I always say wherever you place your focus, it will get bigger. It will get bigger in your experience. It doesn't matter if you focus on something that you consider a good thing or a bad thing.

But oftentimes, where we place our focus and our attention is on our fears. Probably your biggest fear coming into this marriage was that it was going to be the same thing again. You're going to get stuck in the same thing again, supporting someone for 10 years and then the marriage ending anyway.

Because that was your fear, and you probably had some energy going around that, we created the same experience. But things can change. I understand what you're saying about the “This isn't what I signed up for.” I really, really do understand that. I'm going to tell you something. Derek and I were married, gosh, I don't even know, let me see, probably three years, somewhere between three and four years, and he decided he was going to retire.

I thought, “Well, this isn't what I signed up for.” He was working as a firefighter paramedic when we met and for the first three years, he was going to stop doing that. He hadn't worked long enough to get a full retirement payout by the way. It was going from an income on his part to nothing coming in.

I very much had this feeling of “This isn't what I signed up for and what do I do?” I had to do a lot of inner work. I had to do a lot of introspection to figure my way through that, to find my way through that. Ultimately, what I came to is I love my husband. I love this man. How can we make this work so that I can feel good about it, not tolerate it, but feel good about it?

He and I sat down and said, “Okay, here's how we're going to divvy up things.” The way that we were able to make peace with it and both feel good about it was his role, his contribution to our little family was he was going to take care of us. He's going to do all the things to take care of us so that I can have more mental space to serve my clients in a higher way so I could grow my business faster, so I could build it to become something bigger.

It's going to require more of me. But that means there's less of me to do all the things to take care of the house, to take care of the dogs, to make sure that we have groceries and food around, and that my car hasn't had an oil change in 10 years or something. He does all of those things so that I don't have to do any of it. He takes care of all of it for the most part, and so that frees me up and I can make peace with that. I can make peace with that.

We both contribute to this relationship and to this little family in our own way. Who am I to say that one is better than the other? It just is what it is. Because ultimately, I loved this man and I didn't just want to end our marriage because he could no longer do his job.

Now your husband didn't ask for these issues to come up, these circumstances. He didn't ask for COVID. He didn't ask to be hurt to where he had to rehabilitate, learn to walk again, and all that kind of stuff. You didn't ask for any of that. But you too have an opportunity. If you love him, as you say that you do, you have an opportunity to find your way through that.

I would just say do some real introspective, quiet work within yourself of “What could our relationship look like where I could feel at peace with the way that we both contribute?” He could feel good about it too because, by the way, everyone needs purpose in their lives. They need a reason to get up and get out of bed. He needs that too. You both need to feel good about what you're doing, how you're showing up in your life, in your relationship. See if there's an opportunity for you to find your way through that.

Now the last thing, so his love language is words of affirmation, and he would like for you to give him that more frequently. My response is, look, if you are in a marriage, I promise you, you didn't get into this marriage thinking, “I hope the entire time we're married he never feels loved by me.”

Of course, you didn't say that and hopefully, he didn't say that either because we don't come into relationship and come into marriage thinking, “I hope they never feel loved. I'm going to withhold my love from them as punishment for the entirety of our marriage.” That doesn't even make any sense.

If you love this person, you want them to feel your love. He's flat-out giving you the roadmap. He's saying, “This is what is going to make me feel loved.” Does it feel natural? No, who cares? We do lots of things that don't feel natural in life. We do lots of things we don't want to do. I don't want to pay taxes, but I do because this pretty face would not do well in jail.

I don't want to go to the gym five days a week, but I do because the benefits for me outweigh the pain of going to the gym. I don't want to eat vegetables every day, but I do because it helps my body. We do all sorts of things in this life that we don't actually want to do, that don't feel comfortable, or don't feel good for us.

But if you're in a relationship, and you never want your partner to feel loved, then you're in the wrong relationship, my darling, or you have no idea how to love, which I don't think is the case. You're using that withholding as a way to punish your husband for him not contributing financially.

Punishment through that sort of passive-aggressive means isn't productive and it's not helpful. Instead, open up the conversation. Get clear. Do you really love this man? If so, are you willing to work through this hiccup so that you too can find your way to a new reality that you can both feel good about inside the relationship?

If and when you do that, then yeah, love him in the way that he wants to receive love, that makes him feel loved. Then also get clear about how he gives love because when it comes to the whole love languages thing, everyone knows how they receive love, not everyone, but anyone who's ever looked into love languages knows, “Oh, that's how I receive love.”

But we each have a way of giving love and receiving love. It's good for you to know your own ways in which you give and receive love. It's also good for you to know your partner's ways in which you give and receive love. He's asking you to show him love through words of affirmation. It's a perfect opportunity for you to say the way that you can love me is through acts of service. That can be working that then generates money for the family.

It can be through volunteering. It can be through taking care of you, the family, the house, and the home, or whatever a bit more. It can look any way you want it to look. But it sounds like your love language might be acts of service. This might be a great stepping stone to help you discover the answer of what this needs to look like. Alright. I hope that's helpful for you, Tamara.

If you would like to send me a question, I want to hear from you. I really do. Call and leave me a message at 727-537-0359. You don't have to leave me your phone number. Sometimes people leave me their phone number. I don't know if they think I'm going to call them back. I'm not going to call you back but I'm going to take your question and I'm going to answer it on these monthly Q&A calls. So I want to hear from you. If I can help, I want to be helpful. Until next time, take really good care.

If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now.


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