Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Can this marriage be saved? This is a question frequently thought about by couples who feel hurt and hopeless. It’s not just sad, it is also tragic when a couple loses love and their marriage falls apart. 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 feel hurt and hopeless. And usually, by the time we see them, it is often their last cry for help before separation or divorce. I’ve sat across the couch from literally hundreds of couples and heard their stories. It’s a sad state of affairs to see a couple who have come to the end of their rope in their marriage. They feel there’s nothing left to do but call it quits. Without a doubt, there are few things in life more disheartening.

That’s how it was with Jim and Christine. After dating for almost two years they got married. Chris recalled their dating days and some of the good times they had shared. “I especially remember the candlelight dinners that Jim treated me to. And when we were dating we frequently went to church together,” Christine 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. Most couples run into some problems early on while navigating the post-honeymoon marital adjustments. Like others, Jim and Christine encountered the typical range of marital problems. Jim 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. With each new responsibility came increasing demands on their resources and time. But other complicating factors ultimately led to the demise of their love and marriage.

A Marriage in Trouble

“Unfortunately,” said Christine, “just after we got married we got so busy 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 being sidelined 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.

Jim said, “Our marriage became characterized by deceit, unfaithfulness, and hostility.”

A Marriage in Crisis

In 1989 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,” Jim said. He continued,  “Basically just coexisting under the same roof with little to no intimacy, just surviving, living in our worlds.”

Christine shared, “I became so resentful toward him that I began subtly undermining his authority with the children..” Her anger had turned to resentment, and in due time her resentment turned to bitterness, and then eventually her bitterness into years of apathy. Christine said 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 said, “Distrust destroyed our relationship. Despite 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 our marriage was over.” In November of 2000, Jim 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?” she inquired.

A Marriage Being Saved

Over the next several months, Christine started attending church regularly and sought help from a counselor. During their 2½-year separation, Jim 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 “A New Beginning, Marriage Renewal Weekend” for crisis marriages. She thought about it and two days later told Jim she would be willing to attend. “But” she emphatically said, “I truly believe that we can’t do it without God’s help.” Jim agreed, and they called me.

We worked together with Jim and Christine for five weeks. Several weeks later they enlisted in our “A New Beginning, Marriage Renewal Weekend They attended the retreat in March 2017. If you were to ask them today, more than 3 years later if a marriage in crisis can be saved, they will tell you YES. Even when marital problems seem insurmountable and the future together appears hopeless, the answer is YES. However, they will tell you, “It takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and working through the process. And your marriage can become even stronger than ever before.”