Can a hopeless marriage be restored?
In August of 2006, I came to the point of desperation in my marriage. I felt no hope for experiencing the marriage that I wanted and that I felt God wanted for Ron and me—a marriage that honored Him. We had just passed our twenty-fourth anniversary, and I did not feel I could go on until another one.
A Hopeless Situation
Through the years, I had tried to find ways to make changes and improve things, but it seemed that the harder I tried, the worse it got. I begged Ron to go for counseling, but he always said there was no reason to, because it wouldn’t help our situation. At one point, I asked one of his friends to intervene. However, the resulting changes were small and short lived. I also went to our pastor and asked for his intervention. He attempted to get to the bottom of the problem and met alone with Ron for a couple months. However, the week when the pastor was going to bring me into the sessions, he developed heart trouble and had to discontinue counseling. He referred us to another counselor, but Ron would not go.
Since Ron would not continue the counseling, our pastor referred me to a counselor, and I met with her once. Her assessment was that my husband was depressed and angry and that he needed to see a psychiatrist to get on medication. She suggested that I cause a crisis by giving him an ultimatum of either seeing a psychiatrist, or moving out.
The Pain of Conflict
For many years, Ron’s method of conflict resolution was to ignore the problem. When he was through being angry, he would act like nothing had ever happened. We never discussed any issues. Sometimes he would be angry for weeks and would not speak to me at all during that time. Recently, this angry silence occurred right before Christmas, and it lasted over a month. I endured the silent treatment with lots of sarcastic verbal abuse while I tried to plan Christmas for our family of nine children and participate in Christmas activities at church.
At a health conference that I attended recently, I heard that a woman will use 80% of her energy struggling with unresolved conflict. I could certainly attest to that! Because of the conflict between Ron and me, I developed headaches, stomach problems, thyroid problems, and fibromyalgia.
Reaching a Crisis Point
My husband’s angry behavior became directed more and more toward the children, and they were beginning to suffer many ill effects as well. Right before a homeschooling conference in Indianapolis, there was a particularly hurtful interaction between him and several of the children. My older children practically demanded that I do something. I tried to talk to him about the specific situation, but he had another angry outburst and left.
I reasoned that my only option was to follow the counselor’s advice—to demand that he either see a psychiatrist or leave the home. I wrote him a letter and told him that he needed to get an appointment with a psychiatrist and begin taking an antidepressant or be moved out of the home by the time I came back from the week-long conference.
Seeking Help in Desperation
I knew that personal counseling would be available at the conference. I didn’t feel that the steps I had taken were really the best, so I went to sign up for an appointment. I was given the choice of meeting with Bill Gothard or Jenny Speed. I thought, “Yeah right! I am not talking to Mr. Gothard!” We had seen Paul and Jenny Speed the previous year and had heard their testimony, so I scheduled a time to meet with Jenny. I had spoken briefly to her at the previous conference, and I felt she was very real, open, and easy to speak with.
The first time we heard the Speeds share, I asked Ron over and over again if he was hiding anything. I had experienced many vile dreams, including dreams that he would leave me or that we weren’t even really married. Although I was very insecure, I never thought Ron would be unfaithful, because his spouse in his first marriage had been unfaithful. Past relationships and sins were off limits for discussion, because Ron said it just made him jealous. He kept saying there was nothing wrong, and he was quite angry that I would even suggest that there could be some hidden things he needed to confess. He always blamed my insecurities on the fact that my father had left my mother when I was young. While I wasn’t ready to blame my father for my insecurities, I didn’t believe that Ron was hiding anything.
When I met with Jenny Speed, she was very open with me and she sensed the heart of the problem. She listened to everything I had to say. Then she said, “I believe that your husband is hiding something. He has some hidden failure that he is not telling you about, and he has balanced your sin with his sin and is shifting most of the blame on you. You have to take yourself off the scale.”
I was sure she was dead wrong. I thought he was just angry and depressed, and I was quite certain Ron had nothing like that going on. However, I did have something hidden that I needed to confess to him. During the first year of our marriage, I had come very close to having an affair. When I felt alone and abused in my marriage, I started considering having an affair with a man at work who was pursuing me. I backed out of that relationship at the last minute and determined that I would never tell Ron, because he would be devastated and it would remind him of what happened in his first marriage.
Jenny told me her story. She told me that I had to take myself before the Lord with prayer and fasting to remove any guilt I had, so that God could deal directly with my husband. I told her that I’d already told Ron to leave and asked her what I should do about that. She counseled me to call and ask him not to leave and to tell him that I was going to fast and ask God to show me where I had failed. She told me I needed to be sure I wasn’t hiding anything myself.
Determined Obedience to God’s Direction
I determined to follow Jenny’s counsel, so I called Ron and told him that I released him from what I had requested him to do. He broke down sobbing and promised that he wouldn’t leave. He acknowledged that he was wrong and wanted to change his behavior, and he knew everything I had said was right. He told me to come back home and drive safely, and we’d work on our relationship.
I immediately started a three-day fast. God showed me many things about myself that were not very pretty, and I determined to get up the courage to confess my “almost affair” to Ron. There was also something else that I had lied to him about, and I knew I needed to tell him about it. Through the behavior of one of my children, God showed me that over the years I had used lying as a means of escape.
A Change in My Husband
So as soon as I got home, Ron’s behavior changed dramatically. He was very nice and considerate. There were no more angry outbursts, no more verbal or emotional abuse. He bought the car that I wanted—instead of the one he wanted—and he let me update the kitchen cabinets and get a new countertop. He told me, “If you want it, then you can get it!” In the past, we would have gotten the car that he thought was best, and he always insisted that we had to buy the best deal, not necessarily what we wanted the most. He had never acted like this!
Despite the change in his behavior, I still couldn’t get up the nerve to confess my sins to him. I asked Ron to attend a conference given by Paul and Jenny Speed in October. I hoped that this weekend would give us the tools we needed to take the next step toward rebuilding our relationship. Although Ron had promised to do whatever was needed to restore our marriage, he didn’t give me an answer about the conference. I stayed in contact with Jenny by e-mail, and she kept encouraging me to go to Ron with my confession—but I just couldn’t do it.
Time for Confession
When the deadline to sign up for the conference arrived, Ron still wouldn’t give me an answer about attending. That day, I was headed to church for an anniversary party for one of the pastors and then the evening service. Five minutes before I had to leave, our son came to us to tell us about some sins he had kept hidden from us. He confessed failure in his thought life, told us that he had committed a “hit and run” accident with a car in a parking lot, and that he had been speeding when he drove.
When our son confessed his sins, Ron just about jumped out of his skin and demanded that the two of us talk. When I got home from church later that night, we went into our room. Ron came clean with me and confessed his hidden moral failures. He first told me that he had experienced moral failure for many years by watching pornography in hotels while traveling for business. Then he told me that he had been unfaithful with at least four different women in the early years of our marriage.
I could not believe it. I was floored—I had no idea! These sins certainly explained his insomnia, headaches, overeating, and his anger problem—it was all due to guilt. Satan had him bound with guilt from the adultery and had pulled him into continued failure with pornography. Throughout our married life, I continually asked Ron if he was failing morally and if there was anything wrong, but he always said no. Now, at last, he was being honest. After he came clean, I also confessed my failures to him.
Steps Towards Restoration
We did attend the Speed’s conference. Through that weekend, God gave us the tools we needed to get through the crisis and begin the healing process. After sorting through all the details, we are finally—after twenty-five years of marriage—beginning to develop some good communication skills. For the first time ever I can completely share my heart with Ron. I finally feel that Ron loves me and cares about me, and I feel that he hears and understands my heart.
After the marriage conference, Ron confessed his failures to our children. We are working on discerning the areas where Satan has gained control in their lives as a result of Ron’s sin. One son found pornography on the Internet when he didn’t even know how to use the Internet, our older daughters have had resistant responses to us, and another son recently confessed hidden sins to us. We grieve to see the effect of our sins in their lives. Regardless of the enemy’s victory points in our family, now that Ron and I are both free from the bondage of hidden sins, we are committed to trying to help our children gain freedom in their lives as well. We will not give up!
Blessings and Hope for the Future
Ron and I now feel like newlyweds! We have experienced so much healing, and for the first time, we truly love one another. We are trusting the Lord to restore the years that the locusts have eaten. (See Joel 2:25.) We just passed our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and we are hoping for at least twenty-six more years together, so that we will have more years together in openness and honesty than without!
God is so good! He accomplishes everything in His timing. We are still seeking for His work in different areas of our lives and our children’s lives—and we trust Him for what He will do. I struggled on my own for many years to fix my marriage, yet it wasn’t until God showed me my own sin and my helplessness to change anything that I was able to release my desires to the Lord. It was then that He began this mighty work of restoration in our lives.
I am finding that Satan still wants to derail us in this restoration process, and my emotions are still easily upended. We can hit a conflict and it feels like hitting a patch of black ice, that we are just spinning out of control with no way off. If I can get a hold of my emotions, ask God for truth, and stay in the battle with my husband and not against him, then I can have hope. I know God is faithful. He is able to give us a marriage that does indeed honor Him and provide security, safety, and love for myself, my husband, and our children.
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Be Reconciled. (See Matthew5:23–24.) When Denise and Ron took responsibility for their failures by confessing them and seeking forgiveness of one another, they experienced greater unity and healing in their marriage than ever before.