Here are some surefire ways to guarantee defeat on a battlefield: Underestimate the threats from your enemy. Become isolated from your fellow soldiers. Lose communication with each other.
It’s no different when it comes to marriage conflict. And that’s what is at the heart of the new movie, Indivisible.
The new film follows the real-life story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner (played by Justin Bruening). Turner finds himself thrust into action at the tip of the spear of the 2007 U.S. surge in Iraq. But when he returns home to his wife and three children, he’s ambushed by new conflicts he didn’t expect, including marriage conflict.
An abrupt change
On deployment, Turner is faithful to stay connected to his family at home but shields them from the trauma of the war around him. Eventually, it’s harder for him to divide the soldier from the family man. The wall he builds becomes so much a part of his coping strategy that it follows him home. Except now it separates him from his family, and even from his true self.
And that’s the farthest thing from what Darren and Heather (played by Sarah Drew, Grey’s Anatomy, Mom’s Night Out) expected when they started this adventure. After years of doing campus ministry together, Darren felt called to serve the spiritual needs of those serving their country. After a lot of time praying about the decision, they agreed they would minister together. Darren would serve the soldiers and Heather their wives and children.
It was only a matter of weeks before they realized they would do their joint ministry separately. Darren was shipped off to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. And not for a one-year stint he imagined, but for 15 months.
Different homes, different issues
The Turners’ home is not the only one featured in the movie. In Indivisible, moviegoers are introduced to three other families whose lives link together on the battlefront.
The Turners’ neighbor, Michael Lewis, is a career soldier battling war trauma of his own. His marriage is in trouble. Multiple deployments have created a man largely absent from the daily life of his wife and twin teen daughters. Lance Bradley is the proud father of a newborn daughter and husband to a loving wife who dreads his absence. And Shonda Peterson, part of Atlanta Police’s SWAT team, is a largely-absent single mother of a toddler son.
During deployment, we see Chaplain Turner selflessly and compassionately come alongside each of these soldiers. He helps them work through their traumas from the battlefield, as well as their problems at home. “Keep the family together, keep a soldier together,” he says. But we also see hairline cracks develop in the foundation of his own marriage and family, and even his faith.
It’s a slow drift that can happen in any marriage. Two spouses with busy, individual lives and few shared experiences and communication are bound to grow apart. As Darren pours his life and time into his soldiers, he deals with his own battlefield trauma. Half a world away, Heather lives a different reality—raising a family without a husband while she ministers to other families holding down the fort.
Indivisible director and co-writer David Evans masterfully interlaces parallel experiences at home and at war. For Darren, seeing men lose their lives in tragic and horrible ways is hard. Even harder is guiding their comrades to find hope and meaning in their buddy’s ultimate sacrifice.
For Heather, every knock at the door might mean uniformed officers bringing news of her husband’s death. Or herself going to the home of a wife and mother who has just learned she is a widow. How does she give comfort when there are no words?
The film also does an excellent job of being family friendly while still realistically portraying the gut-wrenching reality of war. It shows the heartbreaking reality of spouses in marriage conflict—not from making bad choices but from doing good things separately. And it shows these same spouses trying to find each other again but not knowing how.
His wounds, her wounds
Both Darren and Heather thought coming home would erase the traumas they had faced separately and restore the months lost. The help others through their marriage conflict, but they never expected their own relationship would be in jeopardy. But they had built up unrealistic expectations.
The real-life Turners shared their story recently in a radio interview with FamilyLife Today co-hosts Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. “When he came back, he knew that his heart had shifted,” Heather admitted. “I was so caught up in the joy of him coming home that it never occurred to me that we were going to have a hard transition coming back. It didn’t take us long to realize after he got home and we both got back to work that we had both changed dramatically.
Darren revealed his own issues, including a crisis of faith.
“Men who return from war often don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to relive the horrors, but also because they want to protect others close to them from that horror,” he says. “I think when soldiers come home, the default is self-preservation. We don’t want to risk pain, or rejection, or frustration or conflict. So the easy button is to stay distant or to create distance. But my encouragement is to talk about it: if not to your spouse, then with someone.”
Marriage conflict is prevalent in military families, where the divorce rate is among the highest of any profession. But Darren asserts it’s not just military families struggling with this tension. “You don’t have to go to a combat zone to get to a place where your spouse or your family or your situation is so disappointing that you choose to abandon it.”
How to connect with Indivisible
Indivisible is the second film by David Evans, who, along with wife Esther, released The Grace Card in 2010. Provident Films, which produced the movie, is behind highly-acclaimed faith-based films such as Courageous, I Can Only Imagine, Woodlawn, and Mom’s Night Out. It is a great fit for Christian audiences, with its solid themes of faith and family, but the film will resonate with just about anyone who is married or in the military, or knows someone who is.
Indivisible opens on October 26 with a wide distribution throughout the U.S.
Marriage conflict happens to everyone
Rather than wait until marriage conflict overwhelms you, choose to be proactive. At the request of the Indivisible team, FamilyLife has created couples discussion questions, keying on some of the film’s poignant moments, to help you connect with each other. For military couples, FamilyLife highly recommends the resources provided through a ministry called Cru Military. But whether you’re military or civilian, FamilyLife also has numerous articles to help couples experiencing marriage conflict. Here are a few:
- Overcoming Communication Barriers with Your Spouse
- 6 Steps to Resolving Conflict in Marriage
- 8 Symbols of Isolation
- Coming Home After War
- Helping Couples Thrive During Deployment
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