It's never too late to save a marriage (Dec. 14, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

It's never too late to save a marriage

Dec. 14, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0207}

An e-Review and UMC.org Feature
By Susan Passi-Klaus**

Charlotte** just wanted out. After more than 20 years of marriage, her husband, Bob**, had confessed to having a two-year affair with a co-worker.

"I was devastated. I felt totally victimized," the 56-year-old says. "I just wanted out. I knew it was going to be too hard...it was going to take too much to try to piece our marriage back together again."

Instead, she stayed.

"It wasn't easy," the mother of two says. "I constantly questioned myself. Would this be an everlasting scar? Would I ever be able to forgive? Would I ever be able to trust Bob again?"

Charlotte feared if she did not work out the problems in her marriage, she would simply end up in another unhealthy relationship "without ever dealing with my own issues."

But forgiveness did not come overnight, and she knows forgetting is unrealistic.

"I felt like, if I forgave, then I condoned," she says. "But my pastor helped me understand that forgiving is not condoning. And forgiving isn't a one time only thing. You may have to wake up every day of your life and forgive again."

As for Bob, the near failure of his marriage was a "slap in the face." "I loved Charlotte. I loved our family. I didn't want to lose her or the kids. I didn't want to lose us. I didn't want to see her walk out the door going in one direction while I went in another."

Almost 15 years later, Charlotte and Bob can honestly describe themselves as "happily married."

"Early on, I posted the word 'commitment' on the refrigerator door," Bob says. "There were so many times when we were struggling to put our marriage back together that we just had to focus on that one word. It reminded us that no matter what-we wanted to get through it. We wanted to stay together."

With at least one divorce for every two marriages in the United States, Bob and Charlotte clearly chose the road less traveled. Richard Albertson, the head of Marriage Savers in Florida, and others involved with marriage ministries at Tallahassee's Killearn United Methodist Church hope to inspire other at-risk couples to travel the same path.

"In marriage," says Albertson, a member at Killearn who was instrumental in getting the marriage ministries started there, "there's him and her and us. 'Us' is more important than him or her. We get into trouble when we focus on 'me.' So when a couple can find the 'us' in every conflict, in every problem, in every situation, then we know the marriage will be saved."

Under Albertson's direction, Killearn United Methodist and 69 other Tallahassee churches signed the Community Marriage Policy in January 1999. The document includes a step-by-step plan clergy and churches can follow to provide rigorous marriage preparation, ongoing marriage enrichment, and guidance and support for couples in crisis. Marriage Savers, a nationwide marriage education and mentoring program, has helped organize community marriage policies in 183 cities in 40 states.

Key to Killearn's success in reducing the divorce rate within the church are mentor couples. Bob and Charlotte are one of 12 husband-and-wife teams Killearn has paired with couples who are struggling with marriage-threatening issues like infidelity, addiction to alcohol, gambling, pornography, or work or financial failures.

"The greatest gift we can give a couple in crisis is hope from other people who can say, 'I've been right where you're at,' " says the Rev. Bob Tindale, Killearn's pastor of 19 years.

The 3,000-member congregation has provided training for "back-from-the-brink" couples who have gone on to help rescue and restore other marriages. Out of 30 troubled couples who sought help in Killearn's Marriage Savers ministry, none have divorced. And in 2002, Killearn United Methodist was one of just 10 churches nationwide to receive a "Marriage Savers Congregational Award" for its success in reducing the divorce rate not only within the church, but in the city of Tallahassee.

"When we were working through our problems, Killearn didn't have Marriage Savers," Bob says. "But several years after our crisis, Pastor Tindale called and asked us if we were willing to get some training and then become part of a core group of mentor couples."

"I felt like the Lord put this on me as a responsibility-even though it makes me very uncomfortable at times to rehash everything," Bob says. "But if I can help another couple, or another man, and guide them in a direction that will cause them less pain than we experienced, then this is the work I need to do."

Charlotte agrees.

"I think when couples hear our story and know how difficult it had to be for us to stay together, it gives them hope that the Lord can bring them through it, too," she says.

Tindale describes Killearn as a "healing church" where members speak openly about healing from sin, healing through recovery from addictions or healing within families.

"It then becomes okay to admit our own brokenness," Tindale says. "And when we can admit our brokenness, we take a huge step towards healing not only ourselves, but others too."

**At the request of the couple, fictional names were used in this article to protect their privacy.

This feature was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of The United Methodist Church.

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This article relates to Health and Wholeness.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Susan Passi-Klaus is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tenn. and publisher of "Cracked Pots," an inspirational newsletter for women.




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