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Marvin and Linda Rooks’ first six years of marriage were heaven then the children arrived, and conflict was swept under the rug. The Rooks tell how isolation began to take its toll.
Bob: Over the years, Marv and Linda Rook's marriage was drifting. And during that time, the two of them were drifting in different directions.
Linda: I remember one time when we were sitting at the kitchen table and Marv got up and was angry and he said, “I am the last thing on your list of priorities.” Then he stormed out of the kitchen. That was a big part of it. We were both very busy. We both had our own priorities, our own things . . . I thought that he should understand that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 29. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we'll hear about how the growing drift toward isolation in Marv and Linda Rook's marriage eventually led to separation. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know anytime we hear about someone who has gotten separated, a couple who have decided to take a time-out in their marriage, I think there's a natural inclination for us all to think—well, this isn't going to turn out well. Because separations often don't turn out well.
Dave: Yes, I tell you as a pastor, I concur. I can't remember more than one or two in our church in 30 years that's ended well. They separate, you have a little bit of hope, then you lose hope, and then it ends.
Bob: And sometimes you think, Ann, that maybe taking some pressure off the day to day of the marriage relationship will give them the relief they need to start to rebuild. But I think couples just find that relief and say, “I just can't go back to the hardness and the pain we had.”
Ann: I agree. And I think that a lot of times couples find that relief and then they start looking onward. Or they start thinking—I've really lost hope and it seems easier that we're not together. And so this topic today is going to be very interesting.
Bob: We have a couple joining us who went through an extended separation in their marriage and in the midst of that, God did put their marriage back together. Marv and Linda Rook join us. Marv, Linda, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Marv: Glad to be here.
Linda: Great to be here.
Bob: Marv's an attorney in Florida, and actually now a law professor Barry University School of Law. Right?
Marv: Yes, I'm not sure what I profess, but that's what they call me. [Laughter]
Bob: Linda is a writer and a mom, a homemaker, and an educator. She has written the book that tells their story, which is called, Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated: A Practical Guide for the Brokenhearted. Nobody has separation on their radar when they get married. You guys had a happy marriage—you were in the Navy; right?
Marv: Yes, yes.
Bob: How did the two of you meet?
Marv: I'll give you the short story. We had an officer come to my ship. I was a naval officer. He had been in Japan for four years and he wanted to find a Christian. That was a time in my life when I thought that being a Christian was someone who went to church
on Sunday, and maybe sang in the choir. So, I knew someone that did that; through a series of other people, I put them together. Her name was Mary Ann. He took her out on a date and about several months later, asked her to marry him.
I guess he felt obligated to me for putting this together [Laughter] and asked me to be in the wedding. And I met this beautiful woman from California who was also in the wedding named Linda who has been with me—we're on our 51st year right now [Laughter] And so we started our relationship basically by walking down the aisle together. [Laughter]
She had a career with ABC in Hollywood as a news writer and I still had another nine month cruise to go through in the Navy. So, we had no interest in getting married. We just liked each other.
Bob: And this was sparks flying in one weekend when the two of you met at this wedding?
Linda: Well, he actually asked me out three times before I was able to go because I was very busy. But, I think that after we dated three times, we were starting to see that we were really interested in each other. We got married after four months. Which was really funny because my friend, Mary Ann, when she met Joe, which was the man she married, she had been dating somebody else before that.
So I was cautioning her and saying, “Date him at least three months before you make up your mind, because you can't possibly know [Laughter[ that quickly whether he's the right one.” She didn't listen to me and they got married after three months and then we met at their wedding and I didn't listen to my own advice [Laughter] and we got married after four months.
Ann: How did it go? Was it easy being married? Did it start out well?
Linda: We were married for five weeks before he went on a cruise.
Bob: And by cruise, you're not talking about a pleasure cruise?
Marv: No, no.
Bob: You were shipped out.
Marv: That's right.
Linda: For nine months.
Marv: To Vietnam.
Linda: For nine months. So, the first year of our marriage, he was overseas most of that time. And we wrote together every day and when he came back, it was literally the happiest day of my life. We were just so happy to be back together and then we decided that we wanted to go to Europe. He was going to law school in September and it was February or something when he got back, so we had five months that we could just do what we wanted. I had been working and saving money and he was living on the ship mainly, so we had saved the money.
Marv: Twenty-five hundred dollars. [Laughter]
Linda: We went to Europe for five months—camped half the time, stayed in youth hostels and stuff like that, and it was wonderful.
Ann: So, what happened when things started going wrong?
Linda: Really, truly, for the first six years of our marriage, I thought he was perfect. I truly did.
Ann: That's a long time.
Linda: It was. And anytime we had a problem, I thought it was probably my fault. He was just such a calm, easygoing person and so we had a wonderful marriage. We really did.
Bob: What you didn't have though, was an ability to resolve conflict when it came up. You guys had very different patterns of dealing with conflict in a marriage, from your families of origin; right?
Marv: That's correct. I grew up in the “Father Knows Best” era, and Ozzie and Harriet. We used to watch those programs as a family. Conflicts would come up and they would just sort of walk away from them and ignore them. I loved my parents; they've passed away now, but I love them. But I really never saw them get into an argument. They just kind of avoided it. So I grew up with a pattern that when I got married, I wanted to avoid conflict. And the way to avoid it is just to move on until things got better.
Bob: Just sweep it under the rug.
Marv: That's right.
Bob: Pretend like it didn't happen and it will all go away.
Ann: And Linda, you were okay with that.
Linda: Well, for the first six years, I don't know that we really had a lot of conflict or differences. But after we had children [Laughter], we started having differences of opinion and I think that's when it kind of started. We were not resolving conflicts. I was starting to feel I had some needs because of the children and he was working on his career, and so some issues started to come up at that point.
Bob: And your pattern for dealing with conflict was to deal with it head on.
Linda: My family had conflict. Sometimes it was good conflict and sometimes it wasn't good conflict. But we did talk about problems.
Dave: So, when Marv walks away from the conflict—I did that—my wife followed me into the room, yelling, “We're going to talk about this!” What did you do?
Linda: Well, that didn't happen for a while. I think for a while, we just didn't resolve it. We'd talk about it and he'd say, “Okay” and he'd kind of agree or something, and then just didn't do it. We just went through a period of time where we didn't resolve things. And while we had the children and they were young, we really had a good family life. We had a lot of fun together. We didn't resolve the problems, but they were just building up.
The bitterness started to build up underneath us. So I think we were starting to lose feelings that we had—the love feelings. And things just started to build up, but it wasn't until, I guess, until our girls were starting to get into the empty nest period of time, when it really started coming out and we started realizing there were some problems.
Bob: Which as you guys know, that's a time in life for a lot of couples
Bob: Where stuff that's been swept under the rug for a long time—you are just distracted by other things, so you don't deal with it. But now all of a sudden when it's just the two of you in the home, there's nothing to distract you and those conflicts get bigger—they don't grow in size or scope, but you can’t just pretend like it didn't happen.
Ann: They're magnified-you start to notice them.
Linda: Right. We were very focused on the children during the time that they were young. One of them had gone off to college and the other one was still in high school. But, you know, we weren't spending time as a family. So that was different. That's when it started . . .
Bob: What was going on in your lives spiritually during all of this time? Had you both grown up in the church? What was your background or pattern?
Marv: In my situation, I had grown up in the Methodist church, and I basically just bought into it because I grew up in it. I was president of all the youth organizations and all that. I realized after meeting Linda that I just really had not accepted Christ. I guess for the first five years of our marriage, I thought I was okay because I went to church.
But I realized one day—we had a little youth director and he came up to me one day and said, “Marvin, let me ask you a question. What would you do if Jesus Christ walked in that door right now?” My first reaction was to say what he wanted to hear, that I would adore Him, and that type of thing.
But I stopped to think and I said, “I probably wouldn't do anything, because I don't really respond to people I don't know that well.” [Awkward laughter] That led me on a course of where I accepted Christ after we had been married for about six or seven years.
Bob: Did you recognize that your husband was just kind of going through the motions spiritually?
Linda: Yes. There was a point when I started realizing that.
Bob: Your faith had been real and alive and active, although you meet this guy and you get married in four months and you haven't really gotten to the bottom of where he is spiritually. [Laughter]
Linda: Well, in the circles that I was running around in, he was probably the closest thing to a Christian that I had found. [Laughter] I was working at ABC TV, and you know . . . Really, I accepted the Lord at the age of eight and I did have a very bible-believing family and it was very important to me. But somehow or another, I missed the scripture about being unequally yoked. I don't know. So, when I met him, he was a really good person . . .
Bob: An honorable guy.
Linda: Very moral. He had all the right qualities.
Bob: I think it's important here just to stop and say that somebody can be a man of character, a woman of character, noble and good.
Bob: Yes. They can have lots of virtue. If they don't have a living relationship with Jesus, virtue alone is not going to sustain a marriage relationship over time.
Dave: Yes, I would say that the thing that every marriage needs, and you guys—your story has this—is power. How do you have the power to be a man of character? A woman of character. How to sustain a marriage. I really think that in yourself, in myself, I don't have power. I just don't. I'll get too frustrated, too angry—I'll walk away too much. And I will not be able to sustain a marriage that honors God without God in it. That's what I've seen—it's a power thing.
Bob: There will come circumstances into our lives that will prove that we may be good at “MacGyvering” all kinds of things in life; right? [Laughter]
Ann: That's a good way to say it.
Bob: But some circumstances come along and we go, “We can't handle this circumstance.” And that does bring us to the end of ourselves and that's where we recognize that we need something more than good character to make this work.
Marv: What happened to me by having the lack of power of Jesus in my life, actually being guided by the Holy Spirit, is that I got off on a wrong set of priorities. When I entered my first law firm, it was better than any law firm I thought I could get in and the senior partner kind of adopted me as being with him. And probably the number one goal in my life, at that point in time—I loved Linda, had a good marriage, and I loved the church, but my number one goal was to become a partner in that law firm, as soon as possible.
Bob: And that's seventy hours a week to make that happen.
Marv: Exactly. And so I would call Linda up—she'd been with the kids all day—and she wanted to be a great wife and all that—and I would say, “Linda, I'm just finishing up some stuff here; would it be okay if I got home, say around eight?” You tell them what you would say.
Linda: I was pretty agreeable for a period of time. But I remember there was one particular time—sort of a pivotal time, I thing—I was sick, and you know as a mother, you just don't get sick. And our first daughter was one year old. I was really sick that day so it was really hard just to stay with my daughter. And thankfully, we had one of those little rocking horses and she was so good and rocked on the horse most of the day, which I was so thankful for.
And I'm lying there on the couch and just watching the clock—couldn't wait for him to get home, you know. So the time was coming when he would be coming home and he called me up and he said, “How are you?” And I said, “I'm fine.” Just trying to be agreeable, trying to be nice. I said, “I'm okay.”
And so I waited and he didn't come home—it was another hour before he got home. I don't know how long it was, but I remember when he finally got home, I said, “What took you so long to get home?” And he said, “Well, you said you were fine.” [Laughter] And I thought—oh my goodness. Okay, I need to be a little more direct about what I'm saying and can't just be agreeable all the time. I think that was kind of a pivotal moment that I remember, where I thought, “Okay. I need to start speaking up in terms of what I need and what I want.”
Ann: And did you start doing that? Because this is when your daughter was one and then you're talking about having problems as you became empty nesters. Had this become a pattern in your relationship for you, Marv? That your job was your priority?
Marv: You don't advance in a law firm because you're good-looking. I would never advance. [Laughter] You don't advance because of who you know. You advanced by the clients that you bring in. And so, in addition to having to spend the 70 hours a week that Bob talked about, I felt like I had to get on that merry-go-round. And so, I felt like I had to get into a Rotary Club, I had to get into, you know, church activities. You know, more—doing that type of thing.
Linda and I sat down one time, and this was before things really got bad, and we wanted to see how I was spending my time. So I wrote out everything that I had done for a two week period. We realized that I would have probably 15-30 minutes per week where I would be in my children's presence.
Bob: Here's what I hear you describing—at this point in your marriage, when you're about to enter the empty nest, you're pretty focused on your career. Life for you is about you.
Bob: Not a whole lot about your marriage. Not a whole lot about your family. As long as you got that, that you can come home to when you need to, you're running in the fast lane at work. Meanwhile, Linda, you're in charge of everything. Running the family, raising the kids, while Marv is out being the bread winner. You were leading pretty separate lives; right?
Linda: Yes, we were. I remember one time—this is something that really hit me while we were separated—I remembered this moment when we were sitting at the kitchen table and Marv got up and he was angry and he said, “I am the last thing on your list of priorities.” And he stormed out of the kitchen. And I thought that was a big part of it.
Bob: We've got to turn that around.
Bob: Where was Linda on your list of priorities at that point?
Marv: It was very low at this point. We were still physically doing things and living together and that type of thing, but I was looking at, you know, pretty much—that's just my entitlement.
Bob: Yes. I just have to step in here because guys, when marriage and your relationship with one another is down at seven or eight or nine or ten, or lower than that on your priority list, you can't expect that you're going to have a fulfilling, enjoyable, happy, God-honoring marriage, because you've let it sink to the point that you're not taking care of it anymore.
Ann: I think what you're describing—I think so many people live that life—where you can't find satisfaction in each other's lives, so you've put so much of your life in other place to bring you fulfillment and joy, whether it be kids or work. Dave and I did this exact same thing, and I think many people have done it. And then you're at a point where you don't know what to do.
Ann: And I think so many couple are there—finding life through other things—and now they feel totally isolated—emotionally, spiritually—so many things. For Dave and me, this was the case, and I felt hopeless.
Bob: Yes. One of the “Aha” moments, Dave, at the Weekend to Remember ® is the very first night when we say to couples that the natural drift in every marriage is where?
Bob: And when everyone sitting in the room goes, “Oh—so what we're experiencing—this sense of drifting apart—that's normal.” That can be a moment of relief to go, “Okay, so it's not just that we have some unique experience of being isolated from one another.” If you don't tend to a marriage, this is where it goes.
Dave: In a sense, it's a boat on a river, and if you don't put that oar in the water, it's going to go wherever the stream takes it. The stream in the human DNA is selfishness, so it's always going to be drifting away from the other person to my own heart. I'm listening to your story thinking, “Well, that's our story.” Bob and Mary Ann—same story.
Bob: That's right.
Dave: It isn't like anybody hasn't experienced this, but if it doesn't change, you're isolated forever.
Marv: I'm glad you said that word because that's one of the two or three main causes why I left. And it's one of these things that when you become isolated emotionally, and you feel like it's you versus her, and that type of thing, it's very easy to say, “Okay, I'm going to do this physically.” And unfortunately, we had the means—I had a condominium at my disposal that I could just move into.
Bob: There you go.
Marv: And I wouldn't have to deal with all the pressure and all the problems.
Bob: And when the emotional isolation leads to physical isolation, now a marriage is really on the precipice, and this is the time when couples need your book, which is called Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated: A Practical Guide . . . This book takes you into the path you can follow to start to heal some of those wounds and move back toward the oneness that your marriage was built for in the first place. It's right at the heart of what we talk about, again, at our Weekend to Remember getaways.
You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Linda's book, Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated. Find out more about the Weekend to Remember. We've got three dozen events, plus, happening this fall. And the information is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com
If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can order Linda's book by phone or find out more about the Weekend to Remember. Again the website is FamilyLifeToday.com our phone number is 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800- “F” as in Family, “L” as is Life, and the word TODAY.
Now, it just makes sense that the stronger your marriage relationship is, the less likely you will find yourself in the isolation that Marv and Linda found themselves in. Here at FamilyLife, our commitment is to help build strong healthy marriages. In fact our goal is to effectively develop godly marriages and families because we believe godly marriages and families can change the world, one home at a time.
Our team has put together a summer guide, a workout guide for couples, so that this summer you can strengthen your marriage by doing some simple marriage exercises. We've outlined it in this workout guide, and the guide is completely free. We've thrilled to see how many couples have downloaded it so that they can strengthen their marriages.
Now if we're honest, it may be that one reason so many couples are downloading the StrongerForever Marriage Fitness Guide is because when you download it, you become automatically eligible to win a trip on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2020.
It's Valentine's week, February of 2020. One couple that downloads this guide will be selected to be our guests—we'll cover the airfare, we'll cover your passage on the cruise, and your night in the hotel before we head out for the cruise.
All the information is available online. There is no purchase necessary to enter. The contest began back on July 1, 2019, and it ends on August 30, 2019. Official rules can be found at FamilyLife.com/strongerforever. So, it's simple. Download the marriage fitness plan—the StrongerForever Marriage Fitness Guide. Start doing some of the exercise and then maybe, we'll draw your name and you and your spouse can join us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in February.
Now tomorrow, we're going to find out just what went on during the three years that Marv and Linda Rooks were separated. Did the relationship start to thaw or did they stay isolated? We'll hear more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for 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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