There are two kinds of abandonment physical and emotional. Physical abandonment is pretty self-explanatory the person has moved out or left the marriage and the family. The other type of abandonment is emotional. It can be just as devastating to the family.
There are countless numbers of people who give all of their attention to things such as work or hobbies. When a person’s heart turns away from his or her spouse, they have emotionally abandoned their spouse and/or their family.
The Downward Spiral
Couples fall in love because they focus on each other and spend energy pursuing one another. As their relationship develops, it is critical that they prioritize one another and protect their relationship from competing demands of work, friends, hobbies, church, etc.
It is the failure to pursue and prioritize the relationship that begins the sure erosion of passion that couples once felt for each other. When there’s a void caused by a dwindling emotional balance of what’s being invested into the marriage, something or someone will begin to fill that void.
Over time, there are natural changes in the progression of your marriage that, if left unchecked, lead to distraction from your spouse and your family. Having children and pursuing success in careers are two of the most common. Distraction can come gradually as work or interests outside of the home take more time.
Today, more than ever before, jobs are unstable and people can no longer depend on the security of working for a single company their entire career. The demands of staying on top in their field and providing for their families can create intense pressure for men and women. Oftentimes, this results in working late and more often than not, the person will begin to seek something to relieve the stress that is associated with the job pressures and insecurity – drinking, sports, gambling, spending money, etc. Now the family has lost the person not only to the job, but to other interests or hobbies in order to cope.
It is common for women who have children to begin transferring more attention toward the children or toward interests such as work, church, or the home. If there is tension in a marriage and one of the spouses is detached, it is easy for the other spouse to begin to retaliate and “fight fire with fire” by focusing on other interests to replace a spouse who is distant. Although it may be tempting to do, remember that if you fight fire with fire, you get a bigger fire. To put out a fire, you battle it with the opposite – water. To cause a distracted husband to focus on his wife again, she should begin to focus extra attention and care on him and make him want to spend time with her.
Making Things Right
If you suspect you or your spouse or both of you are slowly being distracted from your marriage by something or someone else, here are three suggestions that will help.
First, focus on yourself. The fastest and easiest way to change your spouse is to change yourself. Many people make the mistake of attacking or accusing their spouses for their problems without first examining their own lives. Jesus called it “trying to get a speck out of your brother’s eye while you have a log in your own” (Matthew 7:3-5).
If your spouse seems distracted, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I changed the way I pursue and prioritize my husband/wife?
- Am I being sensitive and careful to meet his/her needs or to be romantic?
- Am I responding to my spouse’s distraction by retaliating and deliberately choosing to be distracted myself?
As you think these questions through, don’t try to justify your actions in light of your spouse’s. Instead, take responsibility for your own role in the marriage and change your own wrong actions without waiting for your spouse to change.
The first and most critical step in restoring the heart of a distracted spouse is to endear your spouse to you. That takes place when you put your needs and desires on the backburner and unselfishly focus on their needs and desires. This is a decision you must make?not based on feelings or whether your spouse deserves it or not. It’s a sacrificial gesture that is based on your doing the right thing, regardless of emotions or merit.
Next, confront your spouse in a loving manner. After you have taken a personal inventory and dealt with your own issues, it’s time to get honest with your spouse. Raise the issue by first affirming your love and commitment to your spouse. Then focus on how you feel, putting the spotlight on you so your spouse can listen without feeling attacked and without becoming defensive.
Finally, you must pray and trust God to deal with your spouse. Once you have taken responsibility for your own issues and communicated honestly, you must not try to enforce your will upon your spouse. Let the Holy Spirit be the enforcer.
Some of the greatest damage in marriages comes when a well-intentioned spouse tries to browbeat or nag a husband or wife into doing what they want – thinking that they are on a mission from God. This type of behavior causes more harm than good and will make the reconciliation process much more difficult. You absolutely have to take the steps mentioned above, pray, and then trust God for the results that’s how change comes.
Beyond distraction is emotional abandonment. In the case of distraction, there is still an opportunity for communication. In emotional abandonment, the spouse has essentially “checked out” and there is no real communication or relationship.
In cases of emotional abandonment, there is almost always a point of contention and it is usually necessary to get outside help. When a problem has escalated to this point, it is difficult to identify and resolve issues without objective intervention. Ideally, you would seek counseling from a trusted leader.
If your spouse refuses counsel, ask a friend, relative or someone who has a good relationship with your spouse to intervene. Let that person determine whether or not you should be present.
Objective input from a caring voice outside of your relationship can make the difference between your marriage being saved or not. Get involved in a good church and develop relationships with people who are committed to God and their marriages.
In seeking counsel, keep in mind that not all “friends”offer good advice. You should break off contact with anyone who is negative about marriage and who regularly encourages divorce or is going through a divorce himself or herself. Divorces tend to come in groups, and a friend’s negative advice can prove deadly to your marriage.
The Last Resort
In severe cases of emotional abandonment, or especially physical abandonment, divorce is an option. However, it should not be entered into lightly or suddenly. Read 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. This is another time when counsel is valuable. Because you are in a vulnerable position and hurting emotionally, it is best to seek godly counsel about your situation.Unless you or your children are being physically or emotionally abused, do not take any action quickly. Instead, pray about it over a period of time and get God’s direction for your individual situation.
God is a miracle-working God, and we must focus on Him in difficult times and not on our circumstances. Turn your emotions to the Lord and let Him strengthen and heal your heart as you trust Him for wisdom to do the right thing. Let God’s Word minister to you and give you the peace you need to walk through this difficult time. God bless you.
These Scriptures may be of special comfort for you:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Copyright © 2005 Jimmy Evans, Used by Permission.
Author & one of America’s leading authorities on family and marriage relationships, Jimmy Evans is Founder & CEO of MarriageToday. He and his wife, Karen, host MarriageTodayTM, a national television program. Jimmy is the author of many resources including the books Marriage on the Rock, Freedom From Your Past, 7 Secrets of Successful Families, and Resolving Stress in Your Marriage. He also travels nationwide presenting life-changing truths for couples through his marriage seminars and conferences. Jimmy and Karen have two children and two grandchildren.