When had our relationship changed? Was it after our 6-week-old son's surgery? Was it when my husband, Larry, was forced to quit his job because his employer couldn't afford to pay him? I was scared of where we were headed and needed my husband to reassure me, but he didn't. I tried to talk to him, but my words only made things worse.
Larry opened a struggling business, and we slogged through two years of hoping our life and relationship would improve. I questioned whether my husband loved me. If he did, wouldn't I feel it? We were like strangers sharing the same bed.
In the heat of an argument, I uttered the word divorce. Larry didn't flinch. Was he thinking the same thing? I wanted him to say we could work it out, that there was hope. Instead, he left the room. Maybe divorce was the solution to our problems. I found a job and put our kids in day care in preparation for our separation.
I finally confided in my sister about our marital struggles. She and her husband arranged for us to attend a weekend marriage retreat. I didn't want to go, but Larry was eager. Even though I was convinced it would be a waste of time and money, I reluctantly went just to prove to everyone I had tried.
During the retreat, another couple shared about their lives. Their marriage sounded so much like ours. They said how much they had been in love but things had changed for them, too. I could hardly believe someone felt exactly the way I did.
One of the presenters owned his own business, and Larry closely identified with him. He, like my husband, was afraid of not living up to everyone's expectations. This gave Larry the courage to share these same fears with me.
He dropped his defenses and told me how hard it was to please me, his employees, his customers, his friends and his family. His openness broke through the wall I had been building over the years.
I learned how to share my feelings without raising Larry's defenses — a simple communication tool I now use every day. I also learned that what we were experiencing happens in a lot of marriages.
That weekend we forgave one another and started over. At first we were scared. Would these new tools make a difference in the long run? But as the months and years passed, we slowly grew closer to each other and to God.
If you and your spouse are struggling in your relationship, maybe you too can find hope and begin the process of healing at a marriage retreat.
A variety of conferences and formats are available all over the country. Contact your local church for retreats or classes they may be sponsoring. Worried about registration fees or baby-sitting? The leaders of these programs understand your needs and often have solutions.
A counselor may cost you $150 a session, and a divorce begins at $10,000. But your marriage and your family's future are priceless.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.