Susan and Larry Arndt say their dating relationship was awesome. “He was so godly toward me,” Susan recalls. “Always kind, always polite. I couldn’t get enough of him. He just treated me like a queen.” They dated for six months, and she expected bliss when they married on December 5, 2008.
Susan was 50 years old when she vowed lifelong love; it was her first marriage. Larry had been married for 23 years before his first wife died, leaving him with two adult children in their early twenties.
It wasn’t long before Susan started wondering if she had made the biggest mistake of her life. She and Larry were both very independent and had different expectations for their marriage. That realization became obvious just one day after their small wedding when the father of one of Susan’s dear friends died. Susan was surprised when Larry did not agree to delay their honeymoon so she could pay her respects.
After a long argument, the newlyweds stayed home to go to the funeral and then left on their honeymoon two days late. When they returned on December 23, Susan wanted to start some new Christmas traditions. But Larry and his children wanted the holiday celebration “like it used to be.”
Neither wanted to change
Susan adjusted to being a stepmother and the wife of a man who is accustomed to being his own boss at home and at work. Larry owns his own business, and that requires extra time at the office. After the wedding, he went back to his old work schedule. “I guess when you are dating,” Larry says, “you put your best foot forward … and you kind of relax a little bit [after you get married].”
Like Larry, Susan is used to being her own boss. That began when her parents died; she was just 17 years old at the time. She also ran her own housecleaning business before she and Larry were married. As you can imagine she was pretty set in her ways.
Susan thought Larry would do things her way, and he thought she would do things his way. Neither of them wanted to change.
After three marriage counselors in 12 months, Susan became convinced that unless God intervened, she and Larry would not make it. The Arndts fought so much that it got to be the norm. Larry said Susan’s standards were too high; Susan complained that he didn’t give her enough attention.
The getaway began on Friday evening, October 23, 2009. After a 5 p.m. counseling session that same day, Susan and Larry stopped by their house. He grabbed an apple out of the refrigerator—for himself—because they hadn’t eaten dinner. As they were sitting in the car together Susan says she was thinking, Gee, thanks for thinking about me. I’m hungry, too.
Is it any surprise that they were late for the first session of the conference? The hotel ballroom was packed, and they got stuck in the very back of the room. That ended up being a blessing, however, because they sat by two of the speakers.
Between sessions Susan got to talk with Brenda, the main speaker’s wife. She sensed that Brenda and the other two speakers really cared about the couples’ marriages. “She was so kind to me and I told her something that was really bothering me,” Susan says, “and I started to cry and she just hugged me and she told me that it would be okay.”
On Saturday morning both Susan and Larry were connecting with the speakers. Susan noticed Larry nodding and commenting to himself about things the speakers said about marriage. “He was really listening to what the speakers were saying,” Susan says, “and I was too. And I was learning so much.” Before long, the Arndts both forgot about their individual desires and started understanding God’s plan for their marriage and how wonderful it could be.
During one project those attending the getaway were asked to write love letters to each other. “Larry’s just touched my heart so much.” Susan says. And on the final day of the conference they renewed their wedding vows. “We were holding hands and I looked up at Larry with tears coming down his face,” Susan says. “I knew then that we were going to make it. I knew he was really committed.”
Larry describes himself as very goal-oriented. “If I want to do something I really go for it.” At the Weekend to Remember he decided to really go for his marriage—to make things work. “If you want a raise or whatever in life you have to work hard,” he says, “And you have to do the exact same thing in marriage.”
It’s been two years since Larry and Susan attended a Weekend to Remember, and they are continuing to turn more and more to God for help. Susan used to wonder, Why does Larry act this way? or Why does he treat me this way? She used to put all of the blame on Larry. “Now I just get down on my knees and ask the Lord, ‘How am I not being a godly wife?’”
Larry also is turning to the Lord in times of conflict. Not too long ago Susan walked into their bedroom and saw Larry on his knees praying, asking the Lord to help guide them. “That made me fall in love with my husband all over again,” she says.
God worked through the Weekend to Remember to show the Arndts His plan for marriage. They still have their getaway workbooks. Susan says that she can’t help but smile when she rereads Larry’s love letter to her.
Larry is showing Susan his love by trying to be much more attentive. Often he makes Susan a higher priority than ministry or phone calls. “Before the getaway,” Susan says, “They were always before me.” He’s also doing little things for Susan, like bringing her a cup of tea before she goes to bed.
Psalm 27:13-14 says, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” After the getaway Susan began to change these words a little in her prayers: “… Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness in my marriage.”
Larry and Susan are now seeing God answer those prayers. “Recently we went over two weeks without one harsh word to each other,” Susan says. “And for Larry and me, that’s an amazing blessing from God.”