Thursday, February 28, 2008

Troubled Marriage Info from Smart Marriages

This came off of the Smart Marriage website. I have not had time to review all of these resources. Some of them I am familiar with, and some I am not. There is so much here for so many situations that I wanted to post to help people as they search. As always, do your homework.

RESOURCES FOR COUPLES IN CRISIS
Diane [Sollee], we're looking for something we can refer folks to that are in crisis, and who need some immediate intervention....
I suggest you start at the Directory of Programs:
http://www.smartmarriages.com/directory_browse.html
Maybe refer them to a program listed in Deeply Troubled section:
http://www.smartmarriages.com/directory_browse.html
Or, Infidelity section:
http://www.smartmarriages.com/directory_browse.html
Though you don't name the crisis so realize it could be just about anything - parenting, porn, violence, etc. Also, I don't know where you're located - maybe you should refer them to the Phone coaching section:
http://www.smartmarriages.com/directory_browse.html
And/or, the "strengthen your marriage at a distance" section:
http://www.smartmarriages.com/directory_browse.html

Spiritual Weapons and Survival During a Separation

There were lots of times during our separation when I was barely functional. It was hard to pray, hard to worship, hard to do anything. In 2 Corinithians 4:10, Paul says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."

Often when I couldn't get anything else out, I would pray the Lord's Prayer. I often prayed through Psalm 51, which was David's prayer after his affair with Bathsheba. Even if we haven't sinned in the same manner as he, who of us couldn't use a clean heart and joy in salvation, especially if we are separated?

For me, speaking Psalm 23 out loud gave me alot of comfort.

I think Beth Moore said once that when she gets in that awful place where just nothing will come out of her mouth, she speaks the name of Jesus, and shortly she will have a release and then maybe she can speak scriptures.

Kenneth Copeland said something similar. "When you speak out the name of Jesus it is like throwing the whole Bible in Satan's face."

Lots of times I just put on worship. Twila Paris and John Elliott were two artists whose worship ministered deeply to me even when all I had the strength to do was hit "play".

I did this on those days when it just seemed like I didn't have energy for anything else.

Searching for Help

If you are in a crisis marriage, or just trying to build your marriage so you don't get to the crisis stage, please be encouraged, because there are truckloads of resources available. I have quite a few on this blog but there is alot more. Here are some suggestions for finding more resources:

Go to Google and search for things like marriage, separation, divorce, adultery, domestic violence, step families. If you primarily want a Christian perspective, just add the word Christian to any of the other words. Obviously, you have to be discerning because there is some wacky stuff out there, but this is how I found alot of the resources listed on this blog.

If you go to a bookstore you can usually find help under the sections of marriage and relationships, self help, sexuality (be cautious here - but sometimes there are real gems of books shelved with some not so good books), and legal.

In a library you can usually sort their index with the same words I suggested for Google and ask the librarian for help.

If you have a Community Marriage Policy or Initiative in your community, they have great resources and know the quality people in your community to network with for help.

There are some pastors who have a gift for working with marriages, and others know where to send people. But, please, if they recommend you go to a counselor, make sure he/she is a marriage-friendly counselor! Do your homework!

My encouragement is to pray and not give up hope. Sometimes it seems like looking for a needle in a haystack for help that will work for you, but it is available for many different situations and many different personalities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some Thoughts for Men in Crisis Marriages

During our separation, I happened to spend a Saturday with a couple of men who had been through marital crisises in the past and had reconciled with their wives.

One piece of advice they gave me on issues where Sharon and I disagreed, is that I should move radically towards her way of thinking in my actions.

This is very counter-intuitive for men. I think most of us know that in life you don't always get what you want, but that often you can find a happy middle ground with another person by compromising. For example, maybe you found the perfect red Corvette equipped just like you like it. You have done your research and your best guess is that maybe you could get it for $48,000. However, the dealer wants $52,000. You and the salesman huff and puff and bluff for an hour and eventually you agree on $50,000. You both feel like you did a good job negotiating and go away mostly happy.

Well, that mentality just doesn't work so well as you try to work through a crisis in your marriage with a woman.

One thing that Sharon and I drastically differed on was psychological tests and psychiastrists. Because of some various issues within me, she wanted me to take several psychological tests and see a psychiatrist and consider medications. I bucked and kicked her requests - to put it politely.

I had major fears about what kind of diagnoses I might receive and I also had, and still have, some major concerns theologically about alot of psychological and psychiatric theories and treatments.

Eventually, I did reluctantly comply and take the tests and saw a psychiatrist. I also gave her full access to my medical files, which I had been warned by a professional could be used against me if we ever got to court.

Later in our separation, when I got so depressed that I knew for myself that something was seriously wrong, I voluntarily researched and checked myself into Meier Clinic which is a three-week intensive Christian-based outpatient pyschiatric program. I voluntarily took even more tests.

Right or wrong, I did draw the line and not take psychiatric meds. They were recommended a couple of times, but the choice was left up to me. I did sit down and ask questions from the professionals before I said no.

Financially we were struggling at the time of our separation. We had already sold some land that we had held for a long time, and we needed to sell more. Sharon and I disagreed over how aggressively to sell, but eventually I gave her my power-of-attorney. We sold more than I would have, but more in line with her thinking.

I continued to allow Sharon to have access to all of our bank accounts and credit cards even though she had money in her own name.

What was the point of all of this? I guess I was trying to show God, myself, and her that I was really willing to go the extra mile, and that nothing on this earth was more important to me than her.

Retrouvaille

Retrouvaille (http://www.retrouvaille.org/) is a weekend of renewal for struggling couples.

During our separation, I had heard so much good about Retrouvaille that I was looking for the right opportunity to ask Sharon to go, in a last ditch effort to save our marriage. Fortunately, a PAIRSc seminiar came along, and she was willing to go to that.

Retrouvaille means "rediscovery".

The format is that a couple goes to a hotel or a retreat center for a long weekend. Presenters, who are lay couples and who have been through Retrouvaille, give talks on various aspects of communication. The talks are the same no matter what Retrouvaille you go to, but each couple interjects some of their story. The presenters are couples who have also struggled in their marriages. After a talk, there is time for the couple to go back and practice what they have just learned. No one has to share details with anyone else. Retrouvaille started in the Catholic church, but you don't have to be Catholic, or even religious to attend.

They ask for an anonomyous donation to help cover the cost of the weekend, but people are not turned away for money issues.

There are follow-up sessions for several weeks after a weekend that are highly recommended.

There have been judges who have ordered couples to go to the weekend to try one last time before he would declare a divorce.

When I called for information, I talked to a lady who had attended with her husband while he was still having an affair. They reconciled and now they speak at Retrouvaille.

Retrouvaille weekends are offered all over the country. Please see their website for locations, testimonies and more information.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Smart Marriages

Smart Marriages (http://www.smartmarriages.com/) is an annual conference for marriage and relationships. It includes both Christian and secular speakers and resources. If you are interested in a wealth of information about marriages, saving marriages, and plenty of resources to help you, peruse their web site. It is also helpful to be on the email list Diane Sollee, Founder of Smart Marriages, sends out with all kinds of up-to-date information on what's happening in the marriage world.

I have learned that there is a wealth of information and help available for marital crisis situations, for enriching marriages, and resources to help build healthy marriages from the very beginning of a relationship. A person just needs to do a little research, but it usually doesn't take long to find something useful.

I think it's ironic that some people will spend hours searching the web for a car, or hotel, or perfect vacation, but don't spend much time looking for marriage help. Start with the Smart Marriages website to get you inspired.

Remember, Jesus promised that those who seek, will find.

Seventeen Action Statements by Father McGinnis; and Our Testimony

Long after Sharon and I reconciled I heard about Father Mc Ginnis and his Seventeen Action Statements.

He is an Episcopal priest who interviewed several couples who had reconciled, and then came up with a list of common steps they had all gone through to reconcile.

They are similar to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous but there are 17 instead of twelve.

Anyone who is separated, and really desiring to get back together, would be well served to take these as a blue print, even if their spouse is unwilling at the time, and start working through the steps by themselves. The more a person grows closer to God , the more likely reconciliation is.

Here is an article by Mike Mc Manus from Marriage Savers, about the 17 Action Statements. www.goodnewsmag.org/library/articles/mcmanus-nd91.htm.

The 17 Statements:

A. HOPE
1. Through other Christians' testimony and example we/I found hope for our marriage.

B. COMMITMENT TO GOD
2. I experienced God's love and forgiveness.
3. I made a decision/committment to love: Christ, mate, self.
(This wording indicates that this kind of love comes only after commitment is made. Known as agape, it is the form of love that is self-giving rather than self-receiving.)
4. I made a decision and commitment to follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
5. Once obedient to God, we were able to begin to love by His standards, not ours.
6. I became accountable to God for my behavior, thoughts, and actions, and became aware of my accountability to others.

C. COMMITMENT TO PARTNER
7. We/ I made a decision to stay together.
8. We/I made a decision to forgive mate and myself.
9. I accepted my mate as he/she is.

D. I CHANGED MYSELF
10. I realized that the problem was with myself.
11. I began looking at myself as needing change, to be able to love, no matter what. I became aware that I needed to change, became willing to change, learned what and how to change, and began to change with God's help.
12. I made an examination of my role in our marriage, according to God's word, and changed accordingly with God's help.
13. I accepted change in my mate.

E. TRUST
14. Through Christ, I began trusting enough to increasingly put my whole self in the care of my mate.
15. I learned to communicate honestly, truthfully, and openly in love.
16. I learned to put God and mate ahead of myself (became humble before the Lord).

F. PROCESS
17. We are still in the process and realize that we must share what we have found with others.

Here is our testimony in the format of the Seventeen Action Statements:

The 17 Action Statements ~ The Heart of Marriage Ministry
by Richard and Sharon Wildman

Before our separation my (Richard) primary perception of Sharon was that she was a very angry woman, especially when she was in my presence. I couldn’t always tell what things I had done were fueling her anger. I knew she had reason to be angry about some things, but I often felt it was out of proportion to my offense at the time.

From a distance I could see a lighter, friendly, bubbly side to her when I observed her with my kids and when I saw her out in public. When I would hear her on the phone with others even when she was in my presence I could see it. I liked her from a distance, but so often, in her presence, there was just a huge wall. Even at times when there was not a lot of outward expressions of anger there was a huge distance between us.

It seemed like so seldom the wall of anger would come down where we could truly communicate in effective, non-destructive ways. What was so frustrating was that there were times when we both tried our very best, with good intentions, often with professional help or mentoring help, to break through that wall between us. We tried to truly lovingly, honestly communicate, but our relationship seemed to get worse in spite of our best efforts and prayers, and the best efforts and prayers of others. It was such a hopeless feeling.

My (Sharon) perception of Richard before our separation is one of a person totally absorbed with himself. Miserable, and wanting me to be miserable along with him. He provided for the kids and me physically, but was emotionally dead to us. His lack of self-motivated help with our family caused me to feel like a single parent. He had no social skills, and could only carry on a conversation with me if it revolved around himself. Actually, I got to the point of calling them monologues, because there was no back-and-forth between us.

We had no communication other than the daily surface issues of what appointments we each had or the general plan for the day. I gave up trying to talk with him about deeper issues because if I didn’t agree 100% with what he thought, felt, or wanted to do, he got angry with me and shut down – for days, weeks, or months – literally. In the three to five years before I asked him to leave, we lived a miserable existence in the same house. The harder he pushed me to listen to him (for hours and hours) the more I pulled away, so by the time we separated, I felt I had died inside.

Through other Christians’ testimonies and examples I (Richard) found hope for our marriage. In God’s Word it says, “They overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11). Following are some brief testimonies that gave me hope:

Joe and Sue. Sue had an affair years ago with the husband of the couple who were mutual friends. Joe had a one night stand with a prostitute on a business trip. Sue eventually confessed to Joe years later when those mutual friends were coming to town to visit. Jesus healed their marriage. They have had a good marriage for years and have shared their testimony publicly. Joe is now an elder and they are noted by others for their love.


There is a web site called Rejoice Ministries, hosted by a couple named Bob and Charlyne Steinkamp. Their testimony is that he had multiple affairs, she divorced him upon the advice of pastoral leaders, decided she made a mistake, and started praying for him. Eventually he came home and they have a marriage ministry together that encourages people to stand for their marriage no matter what or how long. Multiple testimonies on their website were tremendously encouraging.

Joe and Michelle Williams. They have a ministry called “Reconciling God's Way.” Their testimony is that they had both had previous divorces. They separated for a few years, and then by God's grace, got back together. I personally talked to Joe and he told me that when he got divorce papers he threw them in the drawer and counted on Jesus as his attorney. He told me that since God said He hates divorce, so he wasn't even going to touch the divorce papers.

I called several Retrouvaille intake people, trying to decide when to ask Sharon to go. Each time I talked to various ones I received encouragement and hope. I remember crying on the phone as I was talking to one lady and she told me that when they went to Retrouvaille, her husband had been having an active affair. They have now been back together 10 years.

I also got on websites like Divorce Busting by Michelle Weiner Davis, went to a seminar with Sharon Hart Morris May, a psychologist and marriage counselor, and heard various other testimonies about marriages that had recovered.

Jack and Mitzi. At one time Jack beat his wife, she packed her bags to leave, then he got help and now they lead marriage ministries in a local church.

Dave and Jane. It was about 20 years ago, that Jane divorced Dave. She did it so quietly a lot of people in their own church didn’t even know. He spent about three years running around with women, then finally reached the end of himself. They got remarried and he is now a pastor. They encouraged me not to give up.

While studying the Beth Moore “Believing God” series I read several testimonies of healed marriages.

Roy and Jane. Roy had an affair several years ago, went through church discipline, and now they have a reasonable marriage. Roy is a very close friend of Sharon’s, and I remember the night years ago when he called Sharon and confessed to her what he had done. I remember how much she hurt for him and his wife. I also know that it took him a long time for him to accept his wife’s forgiveness.

I was at a church out of town and went up for an altar call during our separation. I very briefly told my story and asked for prayer. The couple that ministered to me talked about their separation and how God had healed their marriage.

I was at a church in another town at a men's breakfast where I introduced myself, and asked for prayer for my marriage. Two men came up to me afterwards, and spent several hours with me that day encouraging me. One of them was a professional pilot who had been so distraught over his marital issues that he almost had a breakdown in the cockpit. They sold their house and switched towns - did several radical changes to save their marriage. I had lunch with him and his wife the next day. The other man had been through major marital issues and shared his testimony. I knew his brother who was a pastor who had run off with a counselee/ member of his church. Later in our separation I was at a totally different church, went forward for prayer, and wound up sitting on stage with this pastor's ex-wife being prayed for.

George and Barb. They are on our marriage mentoring team at church. He admitted to me that there was a time they lived in their house so polarized they may as well have been separated. Now they seem to have a good marriage. His wife looked right at me and told me to stay faithful and to never give up.

I (Sharon) had absolutely no hope for our marriage, or my life as it was, and was just counting the days when the kids would graduate and I could get a divorce. I felt emotionally abused and could not take it any more though, and asked him to leave.

I did not have many examples of hope before and during our separation. No one seemed to have been as bad as we were. I heard a lot of platitudes such as “trust God”, “hang in there”, and “it can’t be as bad as that!” I felt like a leper at times – that no one had ever been as hopeless as us. I talked one time to Joe Williams while ordering “Reconciling God’s Way”, and he gave me the first glimmer of hope, but it died quickly. My counselor was the only one who would not say ‘die’, but even he wavered at one point.

We experienced God’s love and forgiveness in many ways. Sometimes I (Richard) experienced love and forgiveness at the altar, or out walking and talking to God. I blew my cork a couple of times by phone or email with some pastors and elders over some issues. They gave me grace, forgave me, and continued to encourage and pray for me. I really gave a couple of counselors some pretty inflammatory thoughts and feelings, and they forgave me, gave me the benefit of the doubt and hung in there with me.

God was the only one Who actually would not let me (Sharon) give up, pushed me to believe Him, and gave me hope, literally through the “Believing God” Bible study by Beth Moore. He graciously introduced me to it in the fall of 2002 – a year before our separation – I believe, in anticipation of what I would need to trust Him through it all. Then the fall of our separation, my women’s Bible study decided to study it and I repeated it. I ended up going through it 3 times. I flat out learned that I had to believe God for my marriage. I could not see at all how He could heal it, but just had to ‘believe’ He could and would, for that is His heart. So, really, it was God who ended up giving me hope for the marriage. But, knowing others were praying for us, when they didn’t know what else to do, helped tremendously.

Over and over again, God proved to me He loves me. He would wake me in the middle of the night to spend time with Him. He would have the Body minister to me at just the right time for the right reason over and over. As I confessed my sins, my part in our marriage going bad, and my attitude towards Richard, I felt washed and cleaned. He overwhelmed me with love and forgiveness every day.

We made a decision and a commitment to love God, each other, and ourselves. Frankly, making decisions to love has been an ongoing process for years that sometimes I (Richard) do well with, and sometimes I don’t.

I’m (Sharon) not sure I made a commitment to love Richard, but I made decision after decision to forgive him over and over again. I think in the long run God honored the forgiveness and the love blossomed again for Richard from the bud God had never let die. I learned to forgive myself. I learned to love and like characteristics in me that had been ridiculed and rejected, and felt like I had had to hide. I continue to learn to accept the ways God has made me, and to believe He’s made me for a purpose and is pleased when I obey him.

I made the decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior years ago, probably first as a teenager, but have often rededicated myself, especially during our separation. At times I just wanted to forget Christianity, so at times ran from God, into things I knew were wrong, but He protected me from my worst impulses.

I (Sharon) recommitted myself to follow Jesus as Lord, only this time I truly came to know what it means. I had to learn to trust Him with all the details of my life. I had to obey Him not knowing the outcome.

Once obedient to God, and only by His strength working in me (Richard) was I able to love by His standards and not my own.

I went to prayer counseling for some very intense prayer about generational curses, ungodly beliefs, and my own sins. I also continued to pray various prayers of repentance both from books and ones that I made up on my own.

I remember coming back to the farm from our counselor’s office, after Sharon had announced divorce plans, but we had had a joint counseling session. I had been very, very down on the way home. All of a sudden something snapped in me, and I started walking around our driveway and in a loud voice saying things like "In the name of Jesus, spirit of divorce be gone, spirit of division be gone, etc. etc."

Rejoice Ministries has a Stander's Prayer that I said several times:

A Stander’s Affirmation
I AM STANDING FOR THE HEALING OF MY MARRIAGE! I will not give up, give in, give out or give over 'til that healing takes place. I made a vow, I said the words, I gave the pledge, I gave a ring, I took a ring, I gave myself, I trusted GOD, and said the words, and meant the words... in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad...so I am standing NOW, and will not sit down, let down, slow down, calm down, fall down, look down or be down 'til the breakdown is torn down!
I refuse to put my eyes on outward circumstances, or listen to prophets of doom, or buy into what is trendy, worldly, popular, convenient, easy, quick, thrifty, or advantageous... nor will I settle for a cheap imitation of God's real thing, nor will I seek to lower God's standard, twist God's will, rewrite God's word, violate God's covenant, or accept what God hates, namely divorce!

In a world of filth, I will stay pure; surrounded by lies I will speak the truth; where hopelessness abounds, I will hope in God: where revenge is easier, I will bless instead of curse; and where the odds are stacked against me, I will trust in God's faithfulness.

I am a STANDER, and I will not acquiesce, compromise, quarrel or quit.. I have made the choice, set my face, entered the race, believed the Word, and trusted God for all the outcome.
I will allow neither the reaction of my spouse, nor the urging of my friends, nor the advice of my loved ones, nor economic hardship, nor the prompting of the devil to make me let up, slow up, blow up, or give up 'til my marriage is healed.

I also prayed a prayer from http://www.covenantkeepersinc.org/:

Confession Against the Spirit of Divorce
Divorce, you can’t live in my home. I’m saying to you in Jesus’ Name, remove yourself from me and go into the depths of the sea. No divorce can live in my home because Jesus is my miracle worker. Jesus, you are performing a miracle for me now, you are removing divorce from my marriage. My marriage is free from divorce, in Jesus’ Name. Divorce, you are cursed. The roots of you have been cursed. You are dead - dead - dead. Divorce, you are dead. Get out in Jesus’ Name. The Lord Jesus Christ is my miracle worker and He is performing a miracle for me now. Jesus, You are my miracle worker. Mark 11:24

My best understanding was that legally there was no way to stop a divorce, however, I had decided to try my best not to help it along. The reconciliation messages in Divorce Care and Choosing Wisely before You Divorce gave me new hope to carry on. Probably more than anything else, getting into Divorce Care helped me by God’s grace to pull out of a very deep, severe depression.

I did the online Bible Study “Believing God” by Beth Moore at the same time Sharon was leading it at our church. I really worked to “believe God” for healing our marriage.

I made a decision to forgive. Forgiveness was a huge issue with me. Neil Anderson believes that forgiveness isn’t complete until you deal with and acknowledge your emotions of anger, bitterness, hatred etc. He suggests a prayer along the lines of “Lord, Sharon hurt me so much when she ________. I am so angry, etc. I forgive Sharon, and I renounce my right to seek revenge and I choose not to hold onto my bitterness and anger. I ask you to heal my damaged memories and emotions. Please forgive me of my bitterness, anger, lust, etc.”

I often went on walks. We have a bike path behind our house. Lots of times I walked a mile to the next small town, and most of what I had done on the way was yell at God about how hurt I was by Sharon, and tell Him I forgave her. Sometimes I told Him “LORD, THIS PAIN IS SO DEEP, YOU HAVE TO HEAL IT”, or something like that. Frankly, I yelled at God more than I have in my whole life. Somewhere along the way, I must have truly forgiven on many issues, or I don’t think I would even have a desire to be with Sharon.

I realized that God loved me as I am, and I want to try to love Sharon as she is.

My (Sharon) obedience through it all brought love at the end of the separation. I realized because of God, I had loved Richard through all the ugliness – it wasn’t a feeling of love – it was a decision. I didn’t love him as a husband through the 16 months, but as a brother in Christ.

We became accountable to God for our behavior, thoughts, actions, and our accountability to others. Lots of people told me (Richard) that I was most of the problem. Over time I took some of it to heart, and started to focus less on Sharon’s problems. I actually worked through a good bit of Dr. Phil’s workbook, Relationship Rescue. His big message is pretty blunt. “If you have a relationship problem, you are part of the problem, so if you work on yourself, the relationship has to change.” For some reason he said some of it in a way I could hear.

In Stormie Omartian's book, The Power of a Praying Husband, the first prayer is praying for yourself, confessing sins, etc. I did that several times. I also spoke aloud Psalm 51, which is David's prayer after his affair with Bathsheba. At various altar calls, and with our counselor, I confessed various sins; also to pastors and elders in person and by email. At times I confessed things to Sharon in person and by email. At a joint counseling session, after she announced divorce plans, I took our marriage certificate that we had signed after an “I Still Do” weekend, and told her how much I had failed to honor my promises. I tried to more quickly apologize when I did fail.

I (Sharon) knew I was accountable to God for all my behavior and actions during this time. It’s probably what caused me to stop, listen, keep my mouth shut when I wanted to spout off, and take every thought captive. I learned to trust God to defend me no matter what was said by either Richard or others. I learned accountability to elders, pastors, and even my counselor. I learned there is safety in accountability.

I decided to get a divorce almost a year into our separation. It was only after learning the PAIRS skills, and God moving in my heart and consequently obeying Him, I made the decision to stay with my husband. In my heart I always wanted it to work, but absolutely could not see how, and was desperate for change – in me, in him, in us.

Every day I made the decision to forgive Richard, and myself. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. I learned when you forgive it releases God’s power in that person’s life, but more so in your own.

Because of mental and emotional abuse, I had a hard time excepting Richard as he was. I admit I had to wait until I saw serious, consistent change in him. But even more, I had to trust God that the changes I saw were real, permanent changes.

I realized that the problems weren’t all Richard’s. That I had to change, also. The way I had reacted to his behavior was just as bad as the behavior itself.

We began seeing that we needed to change individually, learning what and how to change, and began to change through the power of God. I (Richard) often asked God for help. I spent a month in Meier Clinic during our separation. Meier Clinic is intensive outpatient psychological, psychiatric care clinic with therapy done in a group setting in a Christian environment. I wrote a list of issues that Sharon saw as shortcomings, gave it to my group, and tried to listen to them on issues where they saw similarities to Sharon’s struggle with me. In other areas, I was encouraged by the fact they didn’t see it quite the same.

I read a book called “Every Woman’s Desire.” It is by the same men who wrote “Every Man’s Battle”, but goes into detail about what a woman really desires. Sharon confessed to me that what was expressed in this book is what she had always deeply desired. I have made a conscious effort to try to practice some of the key principles.

I had a huge problem. When I would see Sharon across a room, even during our separation, I was even more attracted to her. I liked a lot of the changes I saw and heard about. Unfortunately, in my presence, she had so little desire to be with me, that things often didn’t go well. Once we made the turn in our relationship, and we started to interact more, I have tried to accept the changes in her, and not force her back into the old mold I had put her in before. I am able to do this better some days than others.

I still remember sitting in my psychiatrist’s office and praying some simple prayer about entrusting her to God, giving her to God, something like that. It was very hard to do. I gifted almost everything I owned to Sharon - land, machinery, household goods. She had my power of attorney and access to all of my bank accounts, credit cards, etc.

Meier Clinic taught me about what they called the circle of responsible love. If you went through all the steps you had shared very honestly about a situation. PAIRS helps you do this on a practical basis, and I have tried to more and more hang in there with various tools to really communicate as truthfully, and lovingly as possible. It’s still a big struggle for me though.

With lots of my (Sharon) own prayer, lots of others’ prayers, with our counselor’s prayers, with Bible study and exhortation, and encouragement from many, but mostly from spending hours and hours before the Lord, I knew I needed to change, became willing to change, and God showed me what and how to change over time. It became a process of dying to my self, learning to trust God to protect me, and giving up my “rights”.

I’m not sure I examined my role as a wife in our marriage as much as a Christian. How is a Christian to act, speak, love, exhort, encourage another person? Especially her husband? I studied the fruit of the Spirit and asked God to flood me with His love and compassion, and to change me in the areas that needed work.

I did accept change in Richard when I finally trusted God to continue His work in both of us. When I could rest in Jesus to protect me from so much hurt again. I remember my counselor telling me once, “You can’t love unless you are vulnerable.” I was so afraid to be vulnerable enough to possibly be hurt again, but when I could trust God to protect me, I was free to love.

The ability to trust Richard enough to put my whole self into his care again, came through many tears and struggle, but the trust came. It’s only because of Jesus I am able to do this.

In July, I (Richard) wrote a couple of suicide notes. I didn’t have any particular plan. I was really down so I just wrote out my thoughts - mostly anger. Within about 24 hours I started having a sense of using our home for some sort of retreat center for troubled marriages even if we got divorced. I wanted someway, somehow to help people head off divorce so they wouldn’t go through the pain that I had been through. Within a day or so of having that revelation, whatever, I realized that I needed a hostess to help me, and I realized Sharon was the perfect person for it.

The point of all of this is, that even in the darkest days, when Sharon seemingly had little desire or hope that things would turn around, she was actively working in ministries to help save marriages. When I was accepting that things might not turn around, I still was dreaming about how to help others to head off divorce. At that time, I didn’t have a testimony of how to turn a marriage around, but I wanted so much to help others avoid the pain that I was in.

This is what is really exciting. We went to a PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) training October 9. I firmly believe that was the day the Lord really turned our marriage around using those tools to change our hearts. Even before we moved back together on Dec. 11, I shared some of what I had learned with other men about how to strengthen their marriage. At our recommitment ceremony, several people came up to us, asking for help. We were at a PAIRS training in February, and shared some things with a few troubled couples, and helped one of our elders and his wife walk through some communication exercises on an issue in their marriage.

What is even more amazing, even before October 9, when things looked pretty hopeless, Sharon was helping behind the scenes with Marriage Savers and with the CMP signing. Unbeknownst to her, I came to the CMP signing. Unbeknownst to me, my kids were at the CMP signing to help. I was totally blown away when I realized that even though my family and I were barely on speaking terms, we were the only complete family there for the CMP signing. I went to mentor training alone the weekend of the CMP signing. I wanted to see what I could learn that might help us, and how to possibly help others, regardless of us.

Before we were even living together, Sharon and I went to mentor couple training, and one of our first dates was to go to a banquet where Wade Horn spoke about saving marriages. About the same time we were starting to talk about moving to DC to volunteer our help with Marriage Savers.

We are both excited about sharing with others. We have had the privilege to teach the PAIRS’ DTR at our church’s marriage retreat. We were involved in our church’s mentoring ministry and retreats even before it was an official arm of the church. The only year we missed was when we were separated.

Through learning PAIRS’s skills, I (Sharon) had a way to communicate truthfully and openly in love for the first time without fear of retribution.

I (Richard) hope I put God and Sharon ahead of myself, at least some of the time.

I (Sharon) learned to put God first through shear desperation to get me through each day. To be honest, I didn’t want to put Richard ahead of me, but again, it was trusting God to take care of my needs that I was able to do it.

I (Richard) can’t totally explain how things are different now except to say that the difference is huge and noticeable. Sharon has a desire to be with me now. When things do surface, I feel like with the tools we have learned, we have ways to deal with issues now. I sense a commitment on both of our parts not to go back to the old ways, and are willing to confront the other and say when something is wrong. We are quick to go through a Dialogue Guide, Emotional Jug, or another tool from PAIRS, so we can work through an issue.

I think one thing that has helped me have more compassion for Sharon has come from the time I have spent listening to women pour out their hearts - whether at Meier Clinic, Divorce Care sessions, or in Divorce Care tapes. I have had a new understanding of some of the issues Sharon has faced in her growing up years, but probably even more relevant, some of the pain women have gone through with their husbands who had similar struggles to mine with mental, sexual, financial, and anger issues.

One of the things that I truly admire about Sharon is her honesty with God about the positives and negatives she thinks and feels. Another thing I admire is how much people look up to her, both men and women. A lot of people just really admire and enjoy Sharon, and I gain a new appreciation for her by listening to them.

I (Sharon) am so much still in process. Still searching to find the balance in all things. But I have hope again. I have trust in and a relationship with God that has made this time all worth it. I believe God for so much more than I ever have. I believe He is a God who absolutely can do the impossible – who wants marriages healed and will do much with a person’s obedience and forgiveness. He is the God who performs miracles still this day. I believe we were allowed to go through what we have so we could help others. To share with others not to ever, ever, ever give up, no matter what.

Today, I see a husband who is not in his own little world all the time. A husband who may still struggle with negativity, but is trying, with God’s help to see the brighter side of life. He sees the good in me and is not trying to squelch it because I’m not like him. I see a man who has been humbled by God to change and seek His ways, not his own. He is finally taking responsibility for what he has done to our family by his behavior and attitudes, and who is seeking to learn from others how to be different. I see him reaching out to me and to others when we have a problem, are sad, or struggling, instead of ignoring it.

I see a father who knows he has messed up unbelievably with his kids, but who is working hard to mend the tears in the relationships. I see a father who wants the best for his family, and is finally putting us first in his life behind God, when we always seemed to come after the family farm, himself, and sometimes, God (in that order).

I see a friend to others who is reaching out, wanting to minister to them, and not have it all be about himself.

God has made all things new in our lives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Testimonies of Reconciliation

In Revelation 12 there is a scripture that reads "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony."

Sometimes it is easy to get wrapped up into digging through the Scriptures for yourself and studying what others have to say about whether you or your spouse has a biblical reason for a divorce. One thing I found helpful was to lay all of that aside and listen to testimonies. The more I heard testimonies the more hope I had that some way, somehow Sharon and I could be reconciled. So here are some I learned. I hope they encourage people to hang in there because "with God all things are possible."

Bob and Charlyne from http://www.rejoicemarriageministries.org/ are a reconciled couple. He was having affairs and other issues years ago. Charlyne went to her pastors, who advised her to divorce him, which she did. She was then convicted that what she had done was wrong, and started praying and fasting for him. He came home, they remarried, and now they have been ministering for years together. Their website is an awesome resource of testimonies, practical help, and prayer support for those who are separated.

In the Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce video series http://www.churchinitiative.org/, and Divorce Care video series http://www.divorcecare.org/, there are multiple testimonies of healed marriages. I don't remember names but here are some of the testimonies I remember:

A man and woman had so much anger between them that they had court orders to stay apart, but eventually they reconciled.

There were couples who had survived adultery who had reconciled their marriages.

Clint and Penny Bragg had a storybook church wedding, divorced a couple of years later, then moved 3000 miles apart. After 11 years they miracuously reconciled. You can read and listen to their story at http://www.inverseministries.org/.

I know a husband who had domestic violence issues, he was confronted by his wife, got help, and now they lead a marriage ministry.

I know a couple where both the husband and wife had affairs, but they continued to stay married. He is now an elder in their church, they are recognized for their love, and they have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Another couple I met recovered from the husband's affair and now help marriages in their community.

When I was considering whether to invite Sharon to http://www.retrouvaille.org/, one of the intake people there testified that she and her husband attended Retrouvaille when he was still having an affair, but they reconciled and are now Retrouvaille leaders.

God is at work in marriages and still does marriage miracles.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Separation: Stay or Go?

On a Saturday night, as told elsewhere in this blog, Sharon told me she wanted me out of our home by Tuesday. Monday she went to our pastor, and as I understand, laid out why she felt she couldn't live with me. She came back and reaffirmed that she wanted me out by Tuesday.

When I called the pastor and talked to him, as I was trying to decide whether to stay or go, he told me, in his observation of many years as a pastor, that approximately seven out of 10 times if the man moved out and wanted to get back together, they got it worked out. But, if the wife and kids picked up and left, then it was rare for the couple to get back together. Later in our separation, I happened to share that with a pastor in another church, and he got on me that I shouldn't have left home because there is no example in the Bible of couples living separately to resolve their problems.

I have had people who have been neck deep in these situations who have gotten legal advice and been told, "Whatever you do, don't move out until you have a legal agreement." I also had a friend who came home and his stuff was piled in the front yard. By God's grace they had some long phone conversations and got things worked out. This whole idea of living separately is very emotionally upsetting no matter which side of it you are on.

If you, as a spouse, or your children, are on the recieving end of physical or sexual abuse, then I strongly urge you to seek help. Start with your church first, if you are a Christian, or from women's shelters, counselors, or the court system, if necessary. There is help out there, and with prayer, God can show you what to do. Do not automatically assume that all of this means divorce. I know people whose marriages have recovered and are thriving in spite of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

If you are just frustrated with your spouse and don't have solid grounds regarding abuse, don't use the court system to make threats or manipulate. That is just a dead-end street for everyone involved.

If your spouse asks you to leave, then I suggest you do a couple of things. Examine your own heart, and if your spouse truly does have a reason to fear you physically or sexually, please get help immediately from pastors or counselors. If your spouse has gotten to the point of asking you to leave, now is the time to get help because the next step is probably going to be legal action, and your life is going to get to be a whole lot messier in a hurry. The legal system in general, does not mess around with these issues, so if you do have a problem, far better to get help voluntarily than have it forced on you. You could be on the verge of losing alot of things important to you - your spouse, kids and home.

Now, if your spouse doesn't truly have a legitmate reason to fear you, but is saying they do, you need to really slow down and think. Be aware that even unfounded accusations can sometimes be taken to court, and that your spouse may perceive your behavior differently than you do.

I recommend seeking spiritual guidance from pastors or marriage-friendly Christian counselors. Don't give up and assume your marriage is over, but wake up and realize something is seriously wrong regardless of whether you stay or go. Pray for wisdom and guidance.

Personally, I went ahead and left, but at times since then I have wondered if it was the best move or not. Sharon was pretty firm that if I didn't she was, so part of me thought the most loving thing to do was to disrupt my kids lives as little as possible. I was thankful that she continued to stay in our home rather than moving, but it was very hard not to feel welcome there. I also realized that even though I had never hit her, that my anger was starting to surface and I was afraid of what I might do. In my heart of hearts I didn't want to compound problems, even though sometimes I did.

My encouragement, regardless of what you do about staying or going, is not to give up on your marriage. It is time to get more serious about your marriage than ever before, and that you will find hope and practical help. There is plenty on this blog to start with.

Three Choices in Christian Separation

Sometimes I seem to get some skepticism from people about my radical stance on my own marriage during our separation, and my encouragement of others who are separated to really get single minded in saving their marriages regardless of their spouse's attitude.

Part of me wants to say, "Yes, there are a couple of other approaches: Give up and just try to meet in the middle for a divorce settlement with your spouse."

My observation is even if they do meet you in the middle, you have a good chance for a whole lot of pain ahead.

I had a lady come into Divorce Care who said that she had a good divorce several years ago. No kids involved, but she and her ex-husband were still friends, but she admitted she had never quite completely recovered from the divorce.

In other words, just giving in and trying to do things amicably, seems to lead to more pain, even if it goes, supposedly, well.

The other option is to be aggressive. Go get the sharpest lawyer you can find, attack first, and attack hard. Thankfully, I wasn't on the receiving end of this kind of approach but I have observed people who have been.

One of the ladies in the Divorce Care videos got served with papers out of the blue somewhere between Christmas and New Year's. It devastated her. I had a Divorce Care participant who got served with restraining orders at work one day, and then later their spouse served divorce papers again. If the spouse wanted to hurt them, it worked - they were devastated.

If you are going to be the aggressor though, my suggestion is get out of the church, don't babble on about being a Christian, and loving Jesus, but you can't live with your spouse, etc., etc. Just be honest and be a good heathen.

I don't remember where I heard this during our separation, but someone said in reference to separation/divorce that you have two options, "Extreme pain if you do things right, excrutiating pain if you don't." Based on my personal experience and observations, I think they about nailed it.

God's Will, Reconciliation or Divorce

During my separation from Sharon, I often asked people to pray for our reconciliation. I always winced and was somewhat hurt when they tagged something on to their prayer about "God, please heal this marriage if it is Your will." These were Christians, downplaying my desire and committment to reconciliation, and reminding me that Sharon had a free will.

I was desperately looking for encouragement and hope from my Christian brothers and sisters and sometimes it seemed like I was getting more skepticism and discouragement. I suspect some of them realized I was very depressed. They had seen so many other Christian marriages fail or been through a divorce themselves, and were trying to prepare me for the very real possibility that I would be divorced so I wouldn't go off the "deep end".

I wasn't emotionally with it enough at the time to really articulate what I was thinking, but I was, and still am, disappointed that this idea of "maybe it is or maybe it is not God's will " to heal marriages seems to be so prevalent in the church. Perhaps I am just too simplistic in my thinking, but it seems like God is pretty clear about wanting to heal marriages.

In Malachi it says, "'I hate divorce,' declares the Lord". Jesus said, "Let no man put asunder what God has joined together." Jesus also, when asked about Moses allowing divorce, said, "It was because of your hard hearts that Moses allowed you to divorce." Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, "A woman must not separate from her husband but if she does, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband."

In Scriptures unrelated to marriage, we hear things such as "Love each other deeply from the heart, for love covers a multitude of sins, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you, and Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church, giving Himself up for her." Jesus also promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
I could not get to a place in my mind and heart where I could say, "It is not God's will to heal my marriage or it is God's will for me just to give up and accept that it is over." I don't understand how often in the church the consensus seems to be that it may not be God's will to heal marriages.

I do accept that with God giving us permissive will, divorces do happen, just like every other sin He allows to happen, and that He doesn't zap the perpetrator before he commits the sin. But, it seemed to me at the time, I had to go with the assumption that God's will was for our marriage to be healed, and that even though I couldn't guarantee that it would be healed, that I should make every effort that I could and trust Him for the results.

I am so thankful that He honored my feeble and sometimes bungled efforts, and I hope to inspire others to keep hanging in there even when it seems hopeless because "with God all things are possible."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Line of Reconciliation by Dr. Talley

One of the more memorable concepts I got from Divorce Care, which really gave me alot of hope and inspired more determination on my part, was the concept of the Line of Reconciliation as taught by Jim Talley, professional counselor.

He said marriage is like a road and that even in a good marriage people move from being together at the center of the road to being over at the opposite sides of the road because of some conflict.

In a divorce situation one party chooses to get clear off the road.

His observation after years of counseling struggling marriages, is that almost always the person who so badly wanted out of the marriage, will at some point in time come back to the line of reconciliation, have second thoughts, and want to at least try on the marriage, and often reconcile.

The key for the reconciliation to happen is for the person who wanted to stay married to always stay at the line of reconciliation, always ready to accept their partner back and work things out. The number one way to stay in that reconciliation posture is to avoid dating others, because if you do start, you are likely to be off dating when your partner is really serious about working on things and you will miss the golden opportunity.

Jim said the longest wait he has seen was a 12-year gap until the partners reconciled.

(See Separation Links and Separation Books for more info about Dr. Talley.)

For an awesome story of a long term divorce and then reconciliation, see Inverse Ministries and watch the Braggs' testimony. They reconciled after 11 years and living three thousand miles apart.

Super Bowl Divorce Analogy

I know I may be saying the same thing I have said before, but I am trying to figure out a way to really help people slow down, think, and then put their all into saving their marriage even when things don't look good.

I am a football widower - my wife loves watching; I don't, but I did sit and join her for the last 45 seconds of this year's Super Bowl between the Giants and the Patriots.

The Giants were behind with 45 seconds left and made a huge play and got a touchdown. The Patriots did make a valiant effort to come back.

My thoughts went to struggling marriages and how sad I am when people basically quit trying, when their spouse moves out, or has an affair, or says they don't love them, or files for divorce. It puzzles me how many who really don't want a divorce give up long before any court decree.

To me, it seems it is premature to give up until at least you are divorced and your spouse remarries, but that may even be too soon because there are testimonies of people who didn't give up even then and still eventually reconciled, sometimes remarried, but at least often got to civilized friendship.

Just think where the Giants would be if they had just stopped trying with one minute left on the clock, put in there third string, and just hoped for a miracle. They probably wouldn't be the Super Bowl Champs.

I didn't see this, but just read this morning that there was a short ad on TV just before the kickoff of the Super Bowl where some Patriots players looked right at the camera and said they were going to win and they guaranteed it.

Sometimes spouses who want out of a marriage say things about as brash like, "It is over and there is nothing you can do about it."

They are not always right.....

Shirley Jones' Marriage

Reading Parade magazine, Feb 3, 2008, I saw this quote:

Q. "As a fan of Shirley Jones since her goody-two shoes days on The Partridge Family, I've always wondered: How she managed to stay married to a brash comic like Marty Ingels?"

A. "We gave our money to a marriage counselor instead of a divorce lawyer," Jones, 73, tells us. "We just celebrated - maybe "survived" is a better word - our 30th anniversary."