Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Joel. Michawn. {Part 80 - Help}

I don't think that I've said this here on the blog, but Joel and I are separated again.  He moved out April 10th.  I had stopped posting regularly here already before that happened...I was busy with other things (someday I might post about that here too).  And I've talked about our separation on Facebook.  But, yes...been living apart almost 4 months now.

It just wasn't working.  He tried to do the right things.  But, he doesn't believe that the right things are therefore, that wasn't sustainable.  When you don't believe the right things are right, you can't do the right things.

He doesn't believe that you should put your spouse in a place of priority over others, especially not family of origin.  (He says he believes this, but doesn't put it into practice)
He doesn't believe that you should walk away from harmful people...because nobody is 'harmful' unless they've harmed you physically.
He doesn't believe that walking away from harmful people is something you should do...if they walk away from you, you bless them and let them be on their way.  But, you don't walk away from 'love and forgive.'
He believes having boundaries equals having grudges.

And, there is no convincing him otherwise.

Therefore, he is ONE with his family of origin again...not me.  He continues to believe and say that I'm unforgiving and unloving (among other things).

And a marriage cannot survive in those conditions.

I'm going to share with you a conversation a friend had with him at the beginning of March.  Sadly, this friend is the only one who has said these things to him without backing down one bit...bold, pure truth.  Counselors have never said these things.  Other people in our lives...never.  There have been a couple (literally just 2) of very sweet friends who have done their best...but, they are friends of mine and they are females...and Joel hasn't listened to anything they said (as in actually heeded their words and believed and tried the things they've said).  But, then again, he didn't listen to this guy either.

I've tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.  You know how when you have heard something all your life, a new concept is hard to accept at first.  These things should NOT be new concepts.  But, growing up in the belief system he did, there are definitely ways in which this IS new to him.  So, I hoped and prayed that he would be introduced to these things...over and over.  That hasn't happened. These things aren't 'out there' at all...they are just not what he's been taught.  And sadly, the counselors all, in some way or another, reinforced the things he's been taught.

Here is the conversation (all names of others have been changed to protect their privacy)...
I hope this finds you well....I was asked to share a few words with you about my thoughts on marriage and family.  I can't even pretend that I know what you and Michawn are walking through, but I wanted to share a few words.  I heard a recent sermon about perseverance.  In it our pastor mentioned that we as believers need to finish strong. Obviously in reference to our faith, but also in what God has blessed us with on earth, the first thing that I think of is my wife and kids.  Lisa and I have had a turbulent couple of years with much death, and also now abandonment (which is even a bit harder to wrap our heads around than death).  My parents have decided that they wanted to get off their chests what they think of Lisa.  My dad, over the years would quietly take me aside and let me know how needy Lisa was and that I need to basically man up and put her in her place.  I would gently remind him that we are in a needy/busy time of our life with kids and job and school etc, and he and I would move on.  I wish now I would have ended his "gentle" disapproval of my wife. In college, I learned the importance of leaving and cleaving, from a man that mentored me, and I saw mistakes my dad made in his own marriage.  I believe that the most important relationship I have on earth is with my wife, whom I have no doubt God put in my life.  I love my kids, but know that they see our interactions and are shaped by them.  My dad has written texts and emails defaming Lisa because he wants more of my attention at the expense of my marriage.  I support and love my wife, because that's what I have been called to do.  I believe that's what all husbands are called to do.  I would love for my parents to desire encouraging us, loving us with words and actions, and praising us in front of our kids for staying together, even if times are tough, but the reality is they are sinners and are too wrapped up in themselves to humbly apologize.
The "gentle" disapproval of my wife that I mentioned earlier has come to a head and I see it now as it really has been all along,  all out divisiveness and I should have ended it more firmly earlier on.  I have chosen Lisa.  I wish things were different with my folks, but know that my decision to remain loyal to Lisa is what God wants.  I remain convinced that my parents have the choice to love and encourage my wife, even though they may not agree with her decisions, or choose divisiveness, and miss out on so much enjoyment from their grandchildren.  I can't imagine why they would choose the latter. We'll be praying for y'all.
Now, our circumstances are a bit different.  Joel was the one who started, at the beginning of 2012, saying that I was being 'difficult' (because I wouldn't let him out of a promise he'd made to me) to his family first...they weren't the ones to come to him with their complaints, he went to them.  But, they encouraged him in breaking that promise to me, and therefore were very divisive.  And then continued to just, over the years, feel very free to speak about me very, very negatively and tell Joel just what they thought of me.  Then, after we separated in 2014 and were trying to come back together that Fall, they 1) refused to discuss everything that had been said with me, even after I tried for 2 months to get them to just talk to me about it all, then 2) entered into a secret relationship with Joel that lasted 7+ months (*regular* communication that included them working together to try to get me to do things they having no idea they had joined forces to try to manipulate me), and 3) bullied me on social media (I'm not providing links here, but I've written about these things in more detail before in this series...really, really horrible things; if you want the links, just ask me).  Of course after they got caught in all of that...of course they then said at that point, "Oh, we're so sorry...we should have discussed whatever Michawn wanted to discuss 9 months ago...please forgive us."  And of course Joel, at that point, says, "See, Michawn?  They are sorry and they love you and want to work it out.  You are being so unloving and unforgiving if you don't talk it out with them." :(

Joel's reply:
Hey Jake. Thanks for taking the time to write about family / extended family. I really appreciate it and agree with everything you said. Taking care of our wife and kiddos is of utmost priority. The situation with your parents is sad and hard but I do believe you took the correct steps to protect your wife.
As you might know, Michawn and I have a situation with my parents as well but its much different.  I made the mistake of confiding in my dad about the difficulties Michawn and I were I was seeing the situation....specially after Michawn kicked me out of the house.  His tone was always loving and caring for Michawn and all for the restoration of our marriage.  At some of the more difficult times that I was trying to figure out  Michawn, some of his advice was misguided because of all the turmoil I was going thru. He didn't really say anything I wasn't saying but made some assumptions about her in trying to help me that were too far. When Michawn and I got back together Michawn saw these emails, was very hurt and called out my dad for all he said....line by line. She had the right to be angry and I supported her in that.  My parents apologized several times and different ways but didn't talk thru line by line. Because of this Michawn decided we would cut all ties with ALL my family. About a month and a half in I decided that that was not the right thing to do and checked up on them from time to time behind her back. In july I came clean with Michawn and my parents have since apologized for not working thru line by line of her email and agreed to do so. Because of this betrayal on my part, we asked for 6 months of no contact with any of my family (including family that had nothing to do with this) and that is what has happened for the last 7 months.
Now, I want and hope Michawn will work things out but she is determined that we will never have anything to do with them EVER again. ANY of them.
So, this is a shortened version of where we find ourselves. One of the many struggles/differences of opinions we are still dealing with. I'm struggling to find the right answer. Michawn and the kids are way way more important but I know my parents have humbled themselves and learned their lesson. I come from a big loving family and to excommunicate all of them does not seem right. Any advice/thoughts?
Jake's reply:
Man, sounds like it's been a rough few years for both of our families.  From what I know of Michawn, you and I are both really blessed to be married to strong women.  Years ago, at a conference, Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) said that the greatest gift any man could ever be given is the gift of a strong wife to walk beside you in life.  I'm thankful that Lisa challenges me towards truth and it sounds like that's something you should be incredibly thankful for in Michawn.  Although we've both struggled with our parents, I guess our situations are different. Lisa wasn't put in a spot to lose trust in me.  I can imagine how guilty you must feel for first slandering Michawn and then checking up on your parents behind her back. That's pretty harsh.  She must feel betrayed. One of the most important attributes for marriage is trust. It may take your serious singular devotion to heal those wounds.  In your message you said taking care of your wife and kiddos is of utmost priority, but if you read back through, it might surprise you that the majority of your words are spent defending your parents and explaining how stepping aside from them was too tough for you.  I wonder if you should spend some time reflecting on what your utmost priority really is?  It sounds picture perfect the way you explain that your parents have tried and continued trying to apologize, but from my experience apologies should not be given with demands.  One of the best ways to be a good father is to be loving and loyal to your wife.  As you tell your story, you seem to give yourself a lot of grace, but seem to be pretty attacking of Michawn. Did you commit before God in your wedding vows that you would love and comfort Michawn, honor and keep Michawn for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to Michawn, for as long as you both should live?  Loyalty is huge man, make sure it's to your wife ... the one you said before God that you would cleave to, the one that you joined to become one flesh. And not the father and mother you left. God gave you His blessing to be loyal to your wife.  For me personally, I have had to step away from my dream of utopia where my entire extended family stands around a campfire singing praise songs and step into reality, things are broken with my family of origin.  I can't rewrite the past, but I am responsible for the present. Man to man I think you're going to have long term regrets if you don't start focusing on making your wife your passion in life.  I don't know how things between you and Michawn can get better until you embrace her as a gift that God chose for you to adore and stop defending your "mistakes" and "checking up on your parents."
Hands down the BEST counsel that has been given this entire 4 1/2 years.  It WOULD take his 'serious singular devotion to heal those wounds' he and his family has caused, as Jake said.  But, he refuses to provide that.  (Please, do not interject here that 'only God can heal you'...I think we all know that in the end, that is true...but, it is through people that He so often provides that healing, so you can save your Christianese...surely you can all understand what Jake said here.)

Joel's response:
Jake, what you say is true. I am incredibly thankful for Michawn. It has been an amazing 15 years of marriage despite the incredibly hard last 4 years. I love her, want to win her back, build trust and enjoy the rest of my life with her.
My intent was never to slander Michawn. Only to humbly seek help from a few trusted friends and family members as i wrestled to understand what was happening with her/between us.
Maybe I went over the top trying to explain to you what happened in particular with my parents. They messed up and said damaging things. I know it, they know it...not explaining it away. Wish I could take everything back. We both owe Michawn for that. Can not demand anything for what was done. That was extremely damaging ....period.
I have taken full responsibility for what I said and did behind Michawns back. I've learned my lessons and accepted the full consequences. It has been a year and a half of little-to-no friends, no church and 6 month of no family contact so far.
I am focused on making amends to heal the incredible trust shattering behavior I have had while dealing with this "greater storm" we are in.
A few weeks ago Michawn told me that  she was actually going to praise my efforts to win her trust back ....she was thinking that just before I  mentioned that I hoped that some day we can work things out with all the relationships that have been damaged in the midst of this "greater storm" we are in. Many friends and just about all (both sides of) our family.
And this is when the "greater storm" just went up a few categories. And I was told I lost all trust again.... Back to 0. I'm not sure what to do.
Michawn is categorizing all family and many friends as hurtful and damaging people. People to avoid for the rest of our lives at all cost.
This is one of the hard to understand things in our lives. Maybe not so hard in the case of my parents but still...this is not how Michawn used to be. She used to be the most social, people loving, people attracting, active, forgiving person I knew. Now she stays isolated in her bedroom most of the time when I'm home and barely leaves the house.
 I realize time is needed of course when there are wounds. She is my priority and maybe I brought it up too soon but at some point I hope we don't live the rest of our lives completely isolated from everyone that cares about us.
Jake, thanks for the straight up talk. It does help me to wake up to the realities of what I did and the gift that she is.
I do want to get thru all this mess. I win when trust is built and Michawn is flourishing and is loving life again.  I am listening if you have anything else to add or say.
I give you complete freedom to speak into any area of my life.
I appreciate you man.
Sadly, he did actually demand things from me, and you can see here that he was so very focused on his own selfish desires (and all that he was missing and 'giving up').  If he had that serious singular devotion to me, and to healing our marriage, those things wouldn't be the focus at all.

A few days passed and we hadn't heard back from Jake, so Joel sent this:
Jake, I'm sure you are a busy guy but I really value your feed back and would love to keep this open dialog with u going. What is your take on what I said? Do you still think those thing u said before based on what I just wrote? Thanks again for your time.
I had been included in these messages.  Had not spoken until this point.  But at this point I said:  "jake, thank you for your help.  i, of course, have answers for all the things that joel has said, including things he said in his last message. i was staying silent up until this point, but just wanted to let you know that if you do have any questions for me, please let me know.  i have nothing to hide. thank you."

Because I did have answers.  Like the way Joel continued to try to throw me under the bus by saying things like 'she is categorizing ALL family and many friends as hurtful and damaging people'...not true.  And 'She used to be the most social, people loving, people attracting, active, forgiving person I knew. Now she stays isolated in her bedroom most of the time when I'm home and barely leaves the house.' ---> When you've been through hell and back over and over for 4 1/2 years, and people have completely unexpectedly abandoned you at best and vehemently attacked/accused you at worst, it changes you.  It just does.  I am still social and people-loving and active and forgiving.  But I also now have boundaries and guard myself more and know what true forgiveness is (it's not necessarily reconciliation).  I'm active again now...but for so long (when Joel lived here), after I had survived some of these things that would come my way daily, I just had no energy left to do other things.  And, staying in my room when he was home?  Well, that's the only place I could go to be away from him...and my room is small and the bed fills it up.  That is the only place I had to sit.  "Staying in bed" tends to carry a whole other connotation, but that is why I was 'in bed.'

Jake did eventually reply again a few days later...
Yes, life has been busy. Spring baseball has started up and we just finished spring break.  I received both of your messages and while I appreciate your willingness to hear more from me, I thought I'd been clear in my last message.
Joel, even with you clarifying yourself my perspective is the same. I still believe it would be most honoring to God, your wife, and your kids if you chose to let go of wanting everything perfect with your parents and embrace your wife.
I can't imagine Lisa not trusting me.  If I were in your shoes, I'd be letting go of my side relationships and put all my energy into rebuilding a loving and respectful relationship with my wife.  Look for all the ways she's a God given gift to you instead of blaming her for where the two of you are at today.
If I recall, your continual betrayal is what has led to an estrangement from your parents.
Personally, I don't know if rebuilding will take 5 years or a lifetime, but clearly not 7 months. Joel, healing doesn't have a precise time frame. As long as you're looking for a formula, I'm convinced your heart is in the wrong spot.
Lisa and I were thinking about reading through face to face by Carrie Miles if y'all wanted to read it too. Man, it may be tough but as you read, try and look for ways you need to grow up.  Don't set impressing me or convincing your wife that your parents deserve an active role in your life as your goal, but instead aim to once again reach that sweet spot in your marriage.
Again, Jake just continued to see through all the muck, straight to the heart of the matter.  STRAIGHT to the heart of the matter.  And he boldly stuck to it!

" would be most honoring to God, your wife, and your kids if you chose to let go of wanting everything perfect with your parents and embrace your wife."
"I can't imagine Lisa not trusting me.  If I were in your shoes, I'd be letting go of my side relationships and put all my energy into rebuilding a loving and respectful relationship with my wife.  Look for all the ways she's a God given gift to you instead of blaming her for where the two of you are at today."

"If I recall, your continual betrayal is what has led to an estrangement from your parents."

"Joel, healing doesn't have a precise time frame. As long as you're looking for a formula, I'm convinced your heart is in the wrong spot."

"Don't set impressing me or convincing your wife that your parents deserve an active role in your life as your goal, but instead aim to once again reach that sweet spot in your marriage."

Sadly, Joel just continued to plead his case.  He surrounded it in language that sounded good and would fool most people.  I feel sure, though, that if Jake had continued to respond, he would have continued to just call Joel out...seeing past the muck and continuing to say the SAME things.

Here was Joel's reply...
Hey Jake, thanks for the encouragement. I have and will continue to embrace my wife and kids.
I will give up the hope of working things out with my parents even though I'm more the kind of guy that thinks we need to hack any problems out face-to-face. Michawn comes first. This doesn't mean - no contact with them ever again - because that is just not possible. But nothing for now for sure. I want to protect my wife and give her what she needs.
"If I were in your shoes, I'd be letting go of my side relationships and put all my energy into rebuilding a loving and respectful relationship with my wife."  -   Why did you mention this again? All other side relationships are on hold for the last 7 months as I try to build trust and address the issues Michawn continually finds in me. I only interact with work related people.
I do think it is important to start attending church again. A church, of course, that Michawn feels safe in. Being a lone ranger is not the way to go.
The difficult part is that Michawn is still saying I'm betraying her just like I did for the last 4 years. I'm still struggling to understand that. We are now working with a friend of ours to talk thing thru every sunday. hopefully that will help. I am doing my best to listen, hear and understand her complaints and address them in a way that honor her.
I am reading several book right now to help me work on different areas in my life and marriage. I will be more then happy to read the one you're suggesting with Michawn if shes up for it...will pick it up for myself either way.
Sweet spot it is. Let keep talking.
Take care.
Jake couldn't have been any clearer.  Yet Joel just continued in HIS ways and with his selfish desires, even in this response.

Behavior modification never works.  Joel always wanted to just agree to a specified amount of time to modify his behaviors (stay away from the people that hurt me, for instance) instead of actually feeling those things with me.

When you are ONE with your spouse, if someone hurts them, it causes you pain too.  You don't continuously defend the people who hurt your spouse.  And deny the feelings of your spouse.

But, then again, most of the times they were awful to me, he was awful to me with them.  Many of those times, he was defending not only them, but himself as well.  The times they had acted alone, he still defended them...and continuously minimized all they did and how I should feel about it.

That continues to this day.

He was taught a fierce devotion to his family...and since his only family was his family of origin for the first 24 years, that is where he goes I guess (it's been proven).  He was obviously not taught to leave and cleave...doesn't know the meaning.  He hangs on to what he was taught about forgiveness, which is really just sweeping things under the rug...acting like nothing ever happened, "I'm sorry" is always sufficient (not what forgiveness is, by the way).

I've always thought of Joel as teachable.  I've always thought he would be able to learn and change and grow.  But, I'm not sure of which is at play here...

1) Is he unable (or just refusing to) learn and grow and change?


2) Since...

He has only heard these things from 1 person this boldly, and 2 others occasionally (and less boldly)...and from me (who he was constantly told not to listen to anyway)...

And all of the rest of what he has heard the past 4 1/2 years has been those things he's been taught all of his life (from counselors, from church members, from 'friends')...

Since that is the case, is it possible that he can learn/change/grow and would be willing to, if he thought that what Jake said was really the issue here?  If he really believed those things he was being told by Jake and me?

He's entrenched in those wrong beliefs about family and forgiveness and boundaries, etc.  When I think about the things I've changed my beliefs about, it was done over time...and only because I was exposed to the 'alternative way' many times, bit by bit, over that time.  If more people were willing to do that in his life, could that work?  He has asked...but, we don't have anyone to continually speak into his life boldly like this and basically disciple him.  Like I said...he is entrenched.  It would require, basically, walking him out of the trenches.  Into freedom.  And into the possibility of saving his marriage.

Am I wrong for even thinking that is a possibility?

I don't want to give up on my marriage, y'all.  I can't and won't continue to stay in a marriage where I am treated that way.  But, I don't want to give up on it just yet either.

Anyone willing to just walk him through this...if he is still even willing?  Anyone willing to disciple and mentor him in how to leave and cleave, how to be ONE with his wife, how to put his wife and kids priority?  Anyone of you who see things the way Jake does even willing to just say one or two things to him?  Because if enough of you do that, maybe he would see it as valid.

That sounds desperate and sad.  But don't think of me that way.  The truth is that I am those things at this point, lol, sigh.  :(

But, I'm also tenacious and unwilling to give up this fight just yet.  

Thoughts?  Encouragement?  (I sure could use some.)

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