What a tragedy it is when a couple loses love and their marriage falls apart, and especially so where there are children at risk. If you or someone you love has ever been there, then you know what I mean by, “tragedy.” Over the years we’ve worked with countless couples in marriages like that. And usually, by the time we see them, it’s often their last cry for help before separation or divorce.
That’s how it was with Jim and Chris. After dating for a little over a year, they were “head over heels” in love and decided to get married. Chris reminisces about their dating days and the good times, “I especially remember the candlelight dinners that Jim treated me to. And when we were dating we always went to church together,” she says.
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 all couples run into some problems while navigating the “post-honeymoon” marital adjustments.
Like others, Jim and Chris encountered the typical range of marital problems. Jim was working long hours in the auto business. Chris 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.
“Unfortunately,” says Chris, “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. Jim says that he often dreaded coming home after work because of the constant tension, hostility, and shutting out by Chris. He frequently chose instead to go out socializing and drinking with his co-workers and friends.
Chris 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 Chris, empty and desperate for acceptance, resorted to having several affairs.
Jim says, “Our marriage became characterized by deceit, unfaithful- ness and hostility.”
At about that time, Jim 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,” he says, “Basically just coexisting under the same roof with little to no intimacy, just surviving, living in our own worlds.”
Chris says, “I became so resentful toward him that I began pray for my marriage subtly undermining his authority with the children..” Her anger had turned to resentment, in time her resentment to bitterness, and then her bitterness into years of apathy. Chris says that she eventually became ambiguous in her feelings for Jim. 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, Jim says, “Distrust and unresolved conflict destroyed our relationship. In spite of my adamant beliefs against divorce, I saw no hope for our marriage. I felt there was nothing left to do but to leave and move on with our separate lives, and so I moved out.”
Chris was devastated and at the end of her rope. The night Jim moved out she turned to God and asked Him to help her save her marriage. She prayed, “Lord, I’ve fouled up my life trying to do it my way so I’m turning it over to you to follow your way”. During this time, Chris started attending church and sought help from a counselor.
During their 2½-year separation, Jim started noticing subtle changes in Chris, but still, with little hope for their future together, he proceeded with the divorce. One day, he realized something significantly different about Chris, he said, “She was becoming a much kinder and more compassionate person. He recalls, “I called and asked her if she would consider a mutual dialogue of reconciliation.” Chris thought it through and told Ski that yes she would be willing, “But” she emphatically said, “I truly believe that we can’t do it without God’s help.” Jim agreed.