This is a common question—and it should be. This is also a presently active topic on the forum: Why stand when you could move on? Each of you should look at your reasons for Standing and understand both the pros and cons. Most of you will have doubts as well. That is healthy.
I wrote that series to not only introduce the concept, but to be persuasive toward Standing and to help you look at possible deeper reasons—whether Standing was a way of denying and avoiding. But let’s look at it from another perspective.
How long you Stand is a personal decision. But also consider what Standing means for you. What is your motivation/purpose?
Standing is a personal choice and journey that provides you with a Grace Period, a buffer zone between abandonment and betrayal and a decision. It guides you through the initial shocked panic and anxiety. It is about building relationships rather than building enemies; that means it can enable a cordial rather than confrontational after-marriage relationship.
Love & Marriage
A person can choose not to Stand and do so with love and respect for their spouse and marriage and go through healing without a desire or hope for reconciliation. So let’s face it, Standing is at its core about being married and staying married in the face of threats to your marriage. That means it is not only about you and your journey and your needs for healing; there’s something bigger. Standing is not simply a stopping point where you wait to file for divorce until a certain amount of time has passed. It’s about being married—whether for love, the kids or both.
You’ve got to Stand for something. Marriage Standers Stand for the bonds and commitment given in marriage. But the extent of a vow is unique to each individual. What is your commitment in the context of…
- for better or for worse?
- ‘til death do us part?
- your faith?
- your unique situation?
- your personal needs and the needs of your family (dependent children)?
What are your hopes or—are dare I say it—expectations—of Standing?
You may have accepted that there are no guarantees; your spouse may never return home to your marriage. If there comes a time when you realize that no matter how long you Stand, your spouse will not return, what is your Plan of Action? Keep Standing or stand down? And why?
What I mean by including expectations in my questions is not about whether you expect reconciliation to be the end result of your Stand, but whether you feel that Standing is only something to do if there is a possibility of reconciliation—note that does not mean it is probable.
Is the purpose of Standing, for you, to reconcile or commitment regardless—keeping your ‘til death do us part vow.
What Are You?
Are you a Covenant Keeper?
Not all Standers are Covenant Keepers, but all Covenant Keepers are Standers. A Covenant Keeper is someone who will continue to honor their marital vows—forsaking no other—until the death of their spouse, regardless of whether the law has granted a divorce. That means no dating!
If you are a Covenant Keeper, you still have choices to make. You may choose to honor your vows and also choose to refuse reconciliation it is offered. If your spouse is dangerous or an addict refusing recovery, it is not a requirement that you continue to put yourself and your family at risk (physical, emotional, mental, financial…) to honor your vows. Also consider that giving in to an addict may enable continuation of their unhealthy behaviors. Sometimes the best help you can give is to let them go.
So what about living? You are in many ways like a person widowed who is choosing to not seek out a new romantic relationship. There’s nothing wrong with that—people do it all the time, though admittedly most are older than a midlife spouse. But no one can truthfully claim that my grandmother did not have a life for the 19 years she lived after Grandpa died.
My bigger concern is for those of you who are not Covenant Keepers. The question how long is more relevant for you. What is your Plan of Action?
Now as an aside, this post is for the long-time Standers, not newbies. In the beginning it is often going to seem as though your MLCer really means it, they hate you, they are never coming home, they seem truly happy…BLAH BLAH BLAH. But what about six years after Bomb Drop? At the 6-year mark, why are you still Standing? That question is not meant to imply you should not be Standing, it’s meant to get you to consider your motives, the progress, your needs and your Acceptance.
If you are a long-time Stander and not a Covenant Keeper…
- Are you still holding onto Standing as a Grace Period sort of buffer?
It’s not meant to be such a long Grace Period. Are you using your Stand as an avoidance and to enable denial? Do you now identify yourself with the label Stander?
A Grace Period is a limited period of time set aside to get you back to health and wellness so that you able to make life-changing decisions with a healthy balance of emotion and reason. If you are still not at a place of healthy balance, please seek professional guidance; it sounds as though you may be stuck.
- Are you still raw and unhealed? Do you still feel like an abandoned and unloved victim? Do you still pine away and cry—to friends or yourself? Are you stuck in self-pity?
The period of recovery varies, but there comes a time where you need to realize that it’s not happening and you need help—or to change the help. Posting at forums and reading books or articles such as this can only take you so far. Hands-on personalized help will be specific to your needs.
- Have you been observing progress in your MLCer?
Great! Is this a change from what you had been observing previously, or are you always highlighting cookie crumbs and calling them progress? Maybe your MLCer has made a huge turn around and has re-opened communication or relationship topics. How subtle is the progress?
- Is your MLCer a Clinging Boomerang?
In this situation, you may see plenty of interest in you and a return to the marriage, but your MLCer—or both of you—may be stuck in a cyclical back-and-forth pattern and you don’t know how to step off the merry-go-round to the next stage of being together.
It’s time to change the game—sorry for calling it a game. Maybe you need help doing that—the advice of a professional counselor or some input from Standing peers. This is scary because whatever pattern you’ve been in, it’s grown comfortable. It may not be pleasant, but it’s safe in that your MLCer is still present.
It is not my job to determine what you should do and whether your MLCer is showing significant progress. It is not my job to tell you to continue or to stop Standing. It is my job to help you come to a place where you can make that decision on your own.
What do you need to know to determine your Plan of Action?
- What are your needs: physical, emotional, social, financial…?
- What do you want?
What do you want in the way of relationships?
What do you want out of your life in general?
What do you specifically want from your MLCer?
- What are your MLCer’s abilities?
Actually, look at the abilities of your spouse rather than your spouse in MLC. An MLCer may not show empathy, but can that same person empathize when not in MLC? Or has MLC been like taking a zoom feature to all of their poor coping skills and issues that were active before MLC?