Marvin and Linda Rooks appeared to have it all. He was an aspiring attorney dedicated to his practice, and she a devoted wife and mother, albeit lonely. Their marriage was adrift on a slow boat to isolation. The Rookses talk about the Easter Sunday that changed everything for them, and the marital separation that had each of them seeking answers.
About the Guest
Marvin and Linda Rooks marriage was adrift on a slow boat to isolation. The Rookses talk about the Easter Sunday that changed everything for them, and the marital separation that had each of them seeking answers.
Bob: When one person in a marriage wants a separation, Linda Rooks says it’s advisable for the other spouse not to vigorously or aggressively pursue.
Linda: They’re running away from conflict. Either it’s a conflict at the home or it’s a conflict within themselves. Sometimes it’s their own conflict they’re dealing with. If the person is chasing after them, it will push them farther away. The answer is for these people—the very first important thing to do—is to give them space, and not call them, not text them, not email them. Just give them some time.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 30th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson, and I'm Bob Lepine.
So, what should you do if you’re in a marriage, and your spouse wants out—wants a separation? We’ll talk to Marv and Linda Rooks about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
We talk often about the fact that marriages drift toward isolation, that that’s a natural phenomenon. Yet most couples, in the midst of isolation, don’t make the decision to physically separate. In fact, I think most couples who are in isolation are living under the same roof, maybe even sleeping in the same bed. They’re just emotionally isolated, and they think, “That’s just our new normal. We’ll figure out how to deal with that.
When a couple says, “We’re going to physically separate,” that’s when the marriage moves into a new state of—they’re on the precipice at that point.
Ann: I think at that point, they’ve lost hope. I also think those couples think, “I am going to find life somewhere else, maybe with someone else, because there isn’t any hope left in this marriage.”
Dave: I’ll add this. I think a lot of guys are like me. They don’t even know that their marriage is that bad until their wife says, “I’m leaving.” I’m not kidding.
Our marriage was horrible; I thought we were doing great. How could I be so clueless? I look back on that—even people say to me, when they pick up our book—“How could you be so stupid?” I’ve heard that. [Laughter] “All the signs were there, and you thought your marriage was a nine out of ten?” I’m like, “Looking back—how could I—”
But if my wife would’ve said, “I’m leaving,”—which she almost did say, “I’ve lost my feelings for you,”—that’s when I woke up, like, “We are isolated and if something isn’t done right now, we’re going to end up literally, physically, isolated—separated.”
I think a lot of guys are that clueless. I’m sure wives are, too, but man, when you say those words, everything changes.
Bob: Did you ever think about packing the car, taking the kids, and going?
Ann: I hadn’t made a plan, but I had resolved in my heart that this was the new state of our marriage, and this would be all there was.
Bob: You’d just kind of live with this emotional separation.
Ann: I really did think, “I’m just going to pour my life into the kids.” It sounds to me like that’s what our guest did as well.
Bob: I want to introduce our guests again. Linda and Marv Rooks join us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, guys.
Marvin and Linda: Thank you.
Bob: Linda and Marv live in Florida, central Florida. They have been—how many years have you been teaching the Marriage 9/11 class that you do.
Linda: Twelve years.
Bob: You’ve been helping couples in the kind of situation you found yourselves in—couples who are separated—thinking about divorce. They are either physically or emotionally isolated. They don’t have any hope left in their marriage. You do a 13-week class through your church with these couples, and you’ve had 800 plus people come through this class, right?
Bob: We’ve heard you this week share your story about meeting at a wedding, falling in love—four months later, you’re at a wedding again. This time it’s for the two of you. You have five weeks together before, Marv, you take off for a Navy tour, that’s a nine-month tour.
The early years of your marriage were good years. The kids come along. You’re on the fast-track at the law firm. You’re raising the kids. Life starts to separate, but you stay busy and distracted from the growing isolation that’s occurring in your marriage—until the empty nest years roll around, and then all of a sudden, you’re face-to-face with the fact that you’re in the same house with somebody that you’re emotionally distant from.
There came a day, Marv, when you said, “I’m done. I’m out.” Right?
Marvin: Yes. I want to add one word to what Dave said. Isolation was the thing that kept growing with me. But I had become a Christian around 1972. One of the things I did right was that I got into a group of men that held me accountable. When things got to be so busy and so hectic, I got away from that. I actually was physically isolated by moving into the condominium, and I just wanted to be around different people.
Bob: How long did you think about pulling out of your marriage—separating—before you actually packed your bags?
Marvin: About ten minutes.
Marvin: It was on an Easter. We were having dinner. Linda was pulling the ham out of the oven. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I got very upset with mother-in-law. I got very upset with Linda. I just got up.
Linda: And he walked out the door.
Dave: And that was the day.
Linda: It was Easter. He walked out the door. I thought he was coming back because this had become a pattern. One of the patterns had become that—at that point in our marriage, when we’d have a big argument—he would walk out the door and leave. Then he’d come back about an hour later, and we’d both act like nothing happened.
Linda: That was kind of our pattern. And we were both so busy. I am not a person that holds grudges—I have a really hard time holding grudges—so when he’d come back, I’d just say, “OK. We’re all fine.” We never resolved anything.
On this particular day when he left, I thought, “He’s coming back,” so I had Easter dinner all ready to go, and he didn’t come back. And he didn’t come back, and he didn’t come back. I started getting really worried. I really thought that, in spite of the fact that we were living different lives, I really thought he loved me, and I didn’t think he would ever leave. Even when we were having problems, I thought he still loved me.
So, when he left and didn’t come back, I called one of our mutual friends, and he went over there to check on him. He came back, and he said, “Well, Linda, he said he may be gone for a while. He’s just sort of chilling out and reading a book every day, and he may come back.”
At that point, I just panicked. I mean, I was just falling apart—emotionally, physically—the pain. I just could not believe it. It was a horrible time for me.
I think this is very true here. You’re talking about how couples may decide to separate. I think an awful lot of the time, it isn’t the couple deciding; it’s one person deciding.
Bob: Here’s what’s surprising to me. You’d walked out before and come back an hour later—two hours later. Why this day did you say, “I’m not coming back”?
Marvin: I got in the condominium, and I started comparing. This is where I didn’t get God involved with this. “OK. Here I am. I can do what I want to. I can have dinner when I want to. I don’t have to deal with a mother-in-law. I don’t have to deal with social organization. I don’t have to deal with children. Why not? Why not?”
I thought this made me happy. I found out very quickly that it did not. The reason that I did not come back is that I said, “I’m going to go with this lifestyle.”
Ann: Statistically speaking, most couples that get separated will end up in divorce. Your story’s different. What happened? Take us on the journey. How did you get back together?
Linda: It wasn’t like one thing happened. It wasn’t like there were one or two things, and that made all the difference. A separation is a very complicated, confusing time. It’s a heart-wrenching time. There is no simple, easy answer for it.
Yet, there are certain things that you do that make a difference. Somehow or another, God led me, one thing at a time, to do the right thing. Even though this was the hardest time in my whole life, it was also the sweetest time with Jesus. It drew me so close to him because I had no one else to depend on. I’d lost him. My kids were teenagers, and they had their own lives. At first, I didn’t have any really close friends to help me. Some friends came along, and they were wonderful, and that made a huge difference.
But really, I only had God to go to, so He led me one step at a time. That was just so amazing.
Bob: Let me take you into that journey a little bit. When your friend came to you and said, “I’ve been with Marv. He says this could take a while.” You’d been thinking, “This will be over tomorrow, the next day. Now it’s been four days.” When that hit you, that this could be a while, that’s a whole different way of thinking about where your life’s headed and what’s going on.
I think of a lot of wives who, in that moment, start to beg or plead, or get emotional. They get emotionally manipulative with their husbands, or they get angry. All kinds of things happen. What did you do in that moment when you thought, “It’s going to be a while? Get back here where you belong?” How were you handling it?
Linda: That’s interesting that you would ask me that because that’s, again, a place where I think God simply led me. I realize now that the thing you do need to do is to give the person space when they leave like that. I did do that. I gave him space. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know why he was leaving. I wanted to know, but I wanted him to come to me and tell me. I guess inside, God was leading me to say, “He needs to be the one to come and tell you.”
Bob: You didn’t go pound on the condo door and say, “Come out here and talk to me”?
Ann: That says a lot about you and your trust in God. I would get panicky. I think a lot of women get panicky and try to take that control back, like, “I will do anything. Let’s go to counseling. Here’s a book.” You’re trying to do all this. Yet you pulled back and allowed God to do that work. Was that a difficult decision? How did you come to that decision of “I’m going to let God do it.” Did God?
Linda: I don’t think it was really a decision. I just did. That’s the way I reacted, and I can’t really tell you why except that I believed that God was leading me.
Dave: When Ann said that, I thought, “I know my wife.” [Laughter] “If I would’ve gone to a condo, I don’t think it would’ve been three hours. Seriously. She would’ve been pounding on that door, and she would’ve said, “We’ve got to talk. We’ve got to talk now.
Ann: Or, “Here’s a counselor’s name.”
Dave: Yes. Right or wrong. When I was hearing you say that—some of that is your temperament, but now it’s like, “God was at work.” There was another sense that I would’ve barred the door and said, “I need time.”
Linda: Yes, and he would’ve—
Dave: “I need time.” You gave Marv time.
Linda: Yes. Later on, at one point, he sent me flowers for Mother’s Day. At that point, I did go over to the condominium, and knocked on the door to thank him. He said, “I’m glad you liked them. I can’t talk now,” and he shut the door. That was it. I went home and cried my eyes out.
Dave: Marv, what are you thinking at that moment?
Ann: Are you thinking, like, “I could be happier with another woman?” Have you moved on that way at all?
Marvin: At that point, God had not gotten me at my wit’s end. I will tell you people He used and circumstances He used to get me to my wit’s end. But I did not want to give up this style of isolation, as superficial as it was, to go back to something real that I was not ready for.
Bob: Didn’t you miss Linda at all?
Marvin: I did to a certain extent, but not to the extent that I was ready to shuck everything and go back.
Bob: Did you feel any guilt or remorse about what you were doing? You’ve got two girls who know that Dad’s just left Mom.
Marvin: At that point in time, I wasn’t feeling guilt or remorse.
Bob: You didn’t care.
Marvin: It took some things to happen in my life. The reason that I started being willing to come back was not because of guilt or remorse. It was because of what she was doing that she describes in this book. It was so tantalizing.
Linda: What Marv is saying is so typical. This is what we have found. We have worked with so many couples. I get emails from people who are going through this. The truth is that when a person leaves, like he did, they are just confused. They really don’t know what they want. They really, truly don’t. So, if the spouse runs after them, and wants to know what they’re going to do, and why they’re going to do it.
If you read the stories in my book, it’s amazing. They’re all the same way. God has just revealed this a little bit at a time to me: If the person is chasing after them, it will push them farther away. The answer is for these people—the very first important thing to do—is to give them space, and not call them, not text them, not email them. Just give them some time.
Bob: Is that a week, or a month, or six months?
Linda: You have to let God lead you on terms of the time. There basically is a significant time. It can be weeks.
Bob: There are people who get scared to death thinking, “The longer this goes, the less the chance of reconciliation comes.”
Linda: I know. This is one thing that drives me crazy. I hear people say if a separation lasts very long, it’s going to end up in divorce. My experience is the opposite. When you give God time to work, that’s when the marriage can come back together. It takes doing the right things, too. You don’t just sit there and wait and hope.
Dave: Do you say the same thing to couples who—the husband’s left or the wife’s left—and there’s another person involved? If there’s a third party, is it different? Or the same?
Linda: There is a difference when there’s another person. They still need to give them space. There is a difference. It’s harder if there’s another person involved at the time. That is harder.
Bob: I was going to ask this—Ann kind of alluded to it. Was there already a thought in the back of your mind? “There is this cute woman at the office who’s kind of been paying attention to me.” Was that even a factor in all this for you?
Marvin: It was a factor. I was going places and hanging out with people that I shouldn’t be hanging out with. I had what I would call an “emotional” relationship with one other person that ended up going nowhere. But to be honest, you consider everything.
Ann: Linda, one of the things you say, in the book, “give your spouse time and space to sort things out.” I like that you get very specific. You say, “Don’t call. Don’t email. Don’t text—unless you need to discuss something significant.” You also said, “Pray for your spouse and use this time to get closer to God.”
Ann: And that’s what you did.
Linda: Exactly. It took a little while of going crazy [Laughter] before I really and totally got to God. Basically, yes. You need to pray for them, and you need to realize there’s something going on with them, and I need to pray with them. You can’t change another person. You can’t change your spouse. Only God can change them. And He really does answer prayers. I had some amazing answers to prayer during this time. I know that He answers our prayers. You have to have the mindset that I’m going to give this some time.
One of the things that happened that really helped me. I did have friends who came along and did say the right thing at the right time. I remember there was one friend—we were out to lunch. I was going on and on about what Marv was doing and what was happening, and everything like that. She said, “Linda, he’s confused. Don’t make him make a decision right away. Give him some time.” She said, “Call him up and tell him to take a year to figure himself out.” I said, “A year?” She said, “Yes. Linda, look at it this way. What if he takes a year, and he figures it all out, and you get back together, and you have 20 happy years together after that. Wouldn’t it be worth it?”
I thought, “Yes. I guess it would.” As it turned out, we were separated for three years, but we have had 20 happy years together since that time. It was absolutely worth it.
Bob: But the fear—you know the fear. “I give him a year. A year is going to cause this thing to move farther apart.”
Bob: We’re headed toward divorce. If I give him a year, that’s where we’re going to end up.
Ann: He could file in that time.
Bob: Exactly. He’s a lawyer for heaven’s sake! [Laughter]
Bob: I’m curious. On the day when the florist rang the bell and said, “Here are flowers—Mother’s Day.” You look at the card, and it’s from Marv. There had to be something in your heart going, “OK. This is the moment when—
Linda: Exactly. And he signed it “love.” [Laughter]
Bob: Right. And every wife is noticing that word, right? And so you go down, knocking on the door thinking, “Maybe we’re going to put an end to all this right now,” right?
Linda: Right. Yes.
Bob: Then he slams the door in your face and says, “Glad you like them,” and that’s it. You had to be crushed.
Linda: Oh, I was, absolutely. Absolutely crushed. As I said, it was because of people speaking the right words into my mind. I had another hairdresser. I went to get my hair done, and she’d heard about what was going on. She said, “Linda, take it as a time to rest. I used to have a lot of conflict in our home. When he would leave, I’d look at it as a time to rest and pay attention to the kids, do things with them.”
Her words kept swirling through my head, over and over, all that week or two. Then, actually, we did—this mutual friend of ours told me that Marv was going to a counselor. He’s started going to a counselor, and he said that I could go to the counselor, too, if I wanted to.
So, I did. I called the counselor up, and I went. We went to her for a couple of months. Her goal was to get us back together in the same house. That was her goal. She succeeded. He did move back. He moved back; he was there for two months, and then he left again. At this point, he was thinking maybe a divorce.
The thing that happened—he moved back, but nothing had changed. Everything was just the same as it was before.
Linda: And because nothing had changed, there was nothing to give us any more hope.
Bob: This is so important. This is where I think listeners have to recognize—the goal, if you’re in separation, if you’re in isolation—the goal is not, “OK. Let’s get things back to normal.” Normal wasn’t working for you in the first place. Normal’s how you got in this mess to begin with, right?
Dave: Yes. Everybody know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. And there you were. You were back together doing the same thing. Marv said, “This isn’t any better. I’m out.” And every couple feels that. You’ve got to find a new life.
Bob: So, when you’re in isolation, don’t think, “We have to get back to the way things were.” The way things were got you into isolation. You’ve got to be asking the question, “What do we need to do so that we can have a new normal, a different normal than the normal we had before.” Even if this marriage doesn’t resolve the way you’re praying it’s going to resolve, you’ve got to recognize that you need to be a different person.
Ann: Linda you describe it as having a new marriage.
Linda: Right, right. In fact, you don’t just reconcile the marriage. You’re going to resurrect the marriage from what was probably dead to something that has new life in it.
Bob: The story of your resurrection is the story of this book, Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated. I don’t know if couples listening would say, “We’re in isolation, or we’re headed toward isolation, or we’re separated, or we’re thinking about a divorce.” I don’t know where you are. Undoubtedly, you know somebody who’s in this situation. Maybe you know somebody who is separated today.
Let me encourage you. Get a copy of Linda’s book Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated. We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or you can call to order at 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-FLTODAY to get your copy of the book.
Of course, it occurs to me that one of the ways that we keep from drifting toward isolation in marriage is by doing things that promote health and strength in our marriage. That’s why our team put together a fitness guide for your marriage for this summer. We call it “Stronger Forever.”
We’ve had lots of people who have been downloading this marital fitness guide and starting to do some of the workouts—the exercises that are in here—all designed to build stronger, healthier marriages.
It may be one of the reasons for so many people downloading this guide is because when you download it, you become instantly, automatically eligible to win a grand prize we’ve put together. One couple’s going to win this—that is, round-trip air fare and passage on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise in 2020. This is our tenth anniversary cruise. It is almost sold out at this point, but we saved a cabin for you; that is, if you are the one whose name we draw at the end of August.
There’s no purchase necessary for you to enter. The contest began back on July 1st, 2019. It ends on August 31st, 2019. The official rules can be found at FamilyLife.com/strongerforever. Whether you win or not, you get a great guide for strengthening your marriage, but somebody’s going to win the cruise. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out more about the “Stronger Forever” summer marriage workout plan we’ve put together. We hope to see one couple joining us on the cruise in February of 2020.
Tomorrow we’re going to hear how God moved to bring Marv and Linda Rooks back together after three years of separation. I hope you can tune in to that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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