Hope after heartbreak
Rusty Benson
AFA Journal associate editor

June 2019 – When Marv stormed out the door just before the family was about to sit down to Easter dinner, Linda was not surprised. After all, walking out had become a pattern in recent years as the couple’s arguments had grown more and more heated.

“At first, I thought he was just making a point,” she said, “and would be back in a day or two.” But days turned into weeks.

Eventually – on the advice of a counselor – Marv returned home, but that lasted only a couple of months. This time when he left, divorce was on his mind.

“I was in shock,” Linda said. “It was the most painful experience I ever had. Even though we’d had problems, I thought he loved me and would never leave me. I walked around in a fog like one of the living dead. I was in literal, physical pain. My emotions went up and down like a roller coaster from tears and depression to anger, then back to tears again.”

It would take three arduous but indispensable years suffering God’s severe mercy before Linda and Marv Rooks (photo right, Linda) would emerge reconciled, revived, and restored in their love for God and one another.

Today, drawing on their own trials some 20 years ago, the Rookses walk with other couples in Central Florida through their painful marriage crucibles.

Reaching beyond their local community, Linda has written two books addressing the subject of separation – Broken Heart on Hold (2006) and Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated (2019). In these books, as well as through speaking engagements and social media, Linda offers strong hope, biblical wisdom, and practical help for couples in the death throes of marriage.

Upon the February release of Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated, Linda shared thoughts with AFA Journal regarding hope for broken marriages.

AFA Journal: I’ve always heard that separation only encourages couples to divorce. How do you respond to that?
Linda Rooks: Unless there is addiction, abuse, or an affair that a spouse won’t give up, I don’t recommend a separation. However, it does happen, and that’s the reality I’ve written about.

Obviously, when a marriage is severely broken, changes need to be made. Bringing a couple back together isn’t necessarily going to encourage the kinds of changes that are essential to restore their marriage.

Early is our separation, my husband and I got back together, but it only lasted two months because nothing had changed. It took time for each of us to look at our own issues and to grow and change. Then, when we came back together, we were able to establish a new relationship. So, as long as there are good things happening in the meantime, separation can end well.

AFAJ: Do you find that couples give up on marriage too soon?
LR: Generally, I think they do. Especially when the one who has been left doesn’t know what to do. They may even have heard their spouse say, “I don’t love you anymore,” or something like that. To them, the situation just looks hopeless, but it is not.

That’s why I wrote this book. A separation is such a complex and confusing time, and there are no simple answers. When people ask me, What was the magic moment that turned your marriage around? I don’t have an answer, because there were so many different things.

Just yesterday, it occurred to me that the chapters in the book simply expand on particular things that turned our situation in a different direction and, little by little, led to the restoration of our marriage.

AFAJ: Can you describe what that process might look like?
LR: First, it’s important to start the right way. The one who has been left behind is probably going crazy wanting answers. He or she wants to know Why are you doing this? When are you coming home? And, naturally, they keep pressing and pressing, but what they need to do is the opposite, which is to give their spouse time and freedom.

Likewise, when you do have contact, make it positive. Don’t press for details.

The second best advice I received came from a friend early in our separation. She told me, “Well, Linda, he’s confused. Just tell him to take a year and figure himself out.” I said, “A year!” Then she said, “Look, what if he takes a year and you get back together, then you have 20 or 30 more years. Wouldn’t that be worth it?” And it has been.

So, I think the reason so many marriages collapse in the middle of a separation is that the spouses do what comes naturally, which is press for answers. But we need to do the opposite, give one another time and space.

AFAJ: If that’s the second best advice, what is the best advice?
LR: To put my husband on the back burner and focus on my relationship to God. The tendency is to become obsessed with your spouse, the circumstances, and the pain. However, when your focus is on God, He can start showing you how to proceed. That is what can really turn it around.

AFAJ: What kind of commonalities do you see among couples whose marriages are in critical condition?
LR: One significant thing that I commonly see is that one spouse is more assertive and one more passive. And it’s usually the more passive one who leaves.

Let me first say there is a wide spectrum in both cases. For example, the more assertive one can range from controlling and domineering to simply one who is more confident in making decisions. Likewise, the passive one can be someone who is being abused or someone who just wants to avoid conflict. Or, perhaps they don’t know how to express what they need.

At any rate, this is the dynamic that I’ve seen. And it’s the passive one who feels powerless in the marriage that finally ends up saying, “I’ve had enough,” and they leave.

But that dynamic can change, and I want couples to know it. I’ve seen it happen many times.

AFAJ: What hope can you offer when one spouse wants to reconcile, but the other does not?
LR: While it’s true that it does take two to take that final step to get back together, many times, one person who is willing to fight for the marriage can bring about reconciliation.

We’ve seen in our crisis marriage classes that when one person begins to make changes, the other person often responds positively.

But, the most important part of the battle takes place on our knees. God has answers we do not have. He sees
the big picture. He can lead us one day at a time and show us how to fight for our marriages His way and in
His timing.  

Crisis marriage resources
Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated is available at newgrowthpress.com or at online booksellers. Marriage911godsway.com is a faith-based online resource for marriages in crisis. Learn more at brokenheartonhold.com