Can This Marriage Be Saved?
By Roy Milam
Can this marriage be saved? A question that is frequently asked by couples who feel hurt and hopeless. It’s not just sad; it’s “tragic” when a couple loses at love and their marriage falls apart, and especially where there are children at risk. If you or someone you love has ever been there, then you know what I mean by, “tragic.”
Over the years we’ve worked with countless couples in marriages where either or both of them feels hurt and hopeless. And usually by the time we see them it’s often their last cry for help before separation or divorce. I’ve sat across the couch from literally hundreds of them and heard their stories. It’s a sad state of affairs to see a couple who’s come to the end of their rope in their marriage and they feel there’s nothing left to do but to call it quits. Without a doubt there are few things in life more disheartening.
That’s how it was with Jim and Chris. After dating for over almost two years they got married. Chris recalled their dating days and some of the good times they’d shared, “I especially remember the candlelight dinners that Jim treated me to. And when we were dating we frequently went to church together,” she said.
But apparent problems began to develop early on in the relationship. Not that it’s all that unusual for couples to encounter problems early on in their marriage. In fact, most couples run into some problems early on while navigating the “post-honeymoon” marital adjustments. Like others JimSki and Christine encountered the typical range of marital problems. Ski was working long hours in the auto business. Christine was in school and had a baby on the way. Soon, along came another child, a mortgage, bills and careers, and with each came increasing demands on their resources and time. But there were other complicating factors that ultimately led to the demise of their love and marriage.
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
“Unfortunately,” says Christine, “just after we got married we got so busy that we eventually quit going to church and our active spiritual lives went downhill.” Subsequently, their relationship took a downward spiral and eventually spun out of control.
As the years came and went, many of their problems, conflicts and issues were left unresolved. Dreams were hampered by harsh realities. Tensions mounted and stress started taking its toll. Ski says that he often dreaded coming home after work because of the constant tension, hostility and shutting out by Christine. He frequently chose instead to go out socializing and drinking with his co-workers and friends. Can this marriage be saved?
Christine recalls how she felt so empty, disappointed, angry and all alone. She admits, “After living like that for so long, I became very resentful and difficult to live with.”
Their marriage became further complicated when Christine, empty and desperate for acceptance, resorted to having two affairs.
Ski says, “Our marriage became characterized by deceit, unfaithful- ness and hostility.”
In 1989 Ski was recruited to a new position and they moved to Houston. He recalls that they were leading separate lives and how their relationship continued to deteriorate. “We were disconnected and disgruntled,” Ski says, “Basically just coexisting under the same roof with little to no intimacy, just surviving, living in our own worlds.”
Christine says, “I became so resentful toward him that I began subtly undermining his authority with the children..” Her anger had turned to resentment, in due time her resentment turned to bitterness and then eventually her bitterness into years of apathy. Christine says that she eventually became ambiguous in her feelings for Ski. Unresolved issues and painful events of the past had eroded the relationship to a point of despair.
After eighteen years of marriage and with two children their marriage was in shambles. In the end Ski says, “Distrust destroyed our relationship. In spite of my adamant beliefs against divorce, I saw no hope for our marriage. There was nothing left but to leave and move on with our separate lives. I knew that our marriage was over.” In November of 2000 Ski willingly moved out. Christine called me and after briefing me on the details of their marital situation she asked my advice; “So, after all that has happened in our marriage, what do you think? Is there any hope for us? Can this marriage be saved?”
Over the next several months, Christine started attending church regularly and sought help from a counselor. During their 2½-year separation Ski started noticing a sincere change in Christine, even though he still wanted to proceed with a divorce. “She was becoming a much kinder and more compassionate person. Then one day, he said, “I just decided to call her and ask if she would consider a mutual dialogue of reconciliation.” Just days earlier Christine had heard on the radio about Cornerstone’s “New Beginning,” Marriage Renewal Weekend for crisis marriages. She thought about it and two days later told Ski that yes she would be willing, “But” emphatically said, “I truly believe that we can’t do it without God’s help.” Ski agreed, and they called me. We worked together for five weeks and several weeks later they enlisted in our “New Beginning, Marriage Renewal Weekend.” They attended the retreat in March 2017. Ask them today, more than 6 years later. They’ll tell you that although their marital problems seemed insurmountable and their future together appeared hopeless, they’d answer with a resounding “YES.” However, they’d tell you, “It takes lot of hard work, but through the process, it can become even stronger than ever before.”
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