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A Love Restored: Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez, Part 1

with Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez | July 22, 2010

Postponing their family seemed like a good idea when her husband was in med school. But as the years went on, resentment and loneliness set in and the marriage seemed doomed to fail. On today’s broadcast, hear how Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez pulled their marriage out of the ditch and onto the road to recovery.

Postponing their family seemed like a good idea when her husband was in med school. But as the years went on, resentment and loneliness set in and the marriage seemed doomed to fail. On today’s broadcast, hear how Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez pulled their marriage out of the ditch and onto the road to recovery.

A Love Restored: Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez, Part 1

With Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez
|
July 22, 2010
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez had been married for 10 years – a marriage that was slowly decaying.  But one of them wasn't aware of the decay.

Alberto:  She came to me one weekend on a Saturday and said, "I'm leaving you, and I'm taking the baby with me."  I couldn't comprehend–“what are you talking about?” 

Debbie:  I remember Alberto saying, "What have I done that you want to leave me?  What have I done?"  He hadn't done anything.  It was just there was nothing left.  I remember that Saturday morning at our kitchen table it's just the pain had just gotten so great that I thought, "I have to escape this."

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 22nd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez share their story of a marriage that was crumbling on today’s program. 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  We’re going to hear a compelling story today from Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez who experienced a real revolution, a transformation in their marriage at one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways a number of years ago and that gives me an opportunity here at the beginning of today’s program to remind our FamilyLife Today listeners that the Fall conference schedule is now set. 

You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out when we are hosting one of our Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways in a city near where you live, either this fall or in the spring of 2011.  If you make plans either this week or next week, if you go ahead and register for one of these upcoming events, and lock it in, and just plan to be there.  If you sign up as a FamilyLife Today listener, and the way you do that is by joining my group.  Just put “BOB” in the group name box, you’ll get a special group rate for being a FamilyLife Today listener—that’s the buy-one-get-one-free rate that we’re offering to our listeners. 

In addition to that, if you sign up this week or next week, we’re going to send you a thank you gift.  I asked the team to see if there’s some way we can say thanks for signing up early, so they’re going to send you a thank you gift.  I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something nice just to say thanks for signing on early. 

So, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, find out more about when the conference is going to be in a city near where you live, or call 1-800 FL-TODAY and we’ll answer any questions you have.  We can get you signed up over the phone, or get you signed up online.  Just mention that you’re in my group, in the “Bob group” so you can take advantage of the special group rate for listeners, and so that you can get the thank you gift that we’re going to send out to you.  As you’ll hear today, these weekend getaways for couples can begin a process in a couple’s life that can be transformative. 

I feel like I need to start things off today by saying, “Bienvenidos y Vida Familia Hoy”  Did I do okay?

Dennis:  Bob, our listeners do not speak Spanish.

Bob:  Yes, and I don't either, as was obvious by the way I just butchered the language right there.

Dennis:  But our guests today on the broadcast do.

Bob:  They do–what I said, obviously, “Was welcome to FamilyLife Today.”

Dennis:  Say it again.

Bob:  Y bienvenidos Familia Vida Hoy – how was that?

Dennis:  I'll have to ask Alberto.  Debbie is shaking her head no.  This is a great moment in FamilyLife Today – Bob has missed it.

Bob:  What did I say?

Debbie:  You said it backwards.  You said, "Life Family Today."

Bob:  Oh, did I?

Debbie:  Spanish is backwards from English.

Bob:  Welcome to Life Family Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  We are going to meet a delightful couple today and hear a little of their story.

Dennis:  We are.  Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez join us on FamilyLife Today, and I can say it right in English.  Alberto and Debbie are the proud parents of four children.  They just recently adopted.  Maybe we'll get a chance to hear a little bit about that story a bit later on.  Alberto is a physician.  Debbie is homemaker.  Together the Rodriguez’s head up FamilyLife's United States Hispanic ministry.  Share with our listeners what that's all about.

Alberto:  Vida Familiar Latina.

Bob:  Oh, you did that very nicely–better than I could have ever done it.

Alberto:  In 1999, FamilyLife decided to have an outreach for the growing Hispanic population here in the United States, and we were interested in that, of course, and had been attending FamilyLife conferences for 10, 15 years before, and we were always asking, "Do we have this material in Spanish?" 

They continually said, "No, would you like it to be in Spanish?  Well, you can start it."  So we decided we need this in Spanish.  Our marriage was changed forever, thanks to FamilyLife, and we wanted to let others have the same opportunity that we had.

Bob:  You mentioned that all of this goes back a number of years for you to regular attendance at a Weekend to Remember® conference.  Give us a little of that story.  First of all, how did you meet?  The two of you met in Puerto Rico, is that right?

Alberto:  Oh, yes, that's a story.  I remember, as a new college student, we have these summer missionary-type activities in our church.  I decided I've never been to a psychiatric hospital, and I decided we'll form a group and go there and pray with the people there. 

Debbie:  …so that means we actually met in a psychiatric hospital.

Alberto:  You could say that.  We met there.  I saw Debbie, and I wasn't sure if she was a patient or not, but I liked her. 

(laughter)

Bob:  The two of you were ministering together, side-by-side, over the course of that summer, and the friendship just blossomed.  But you were in different colleges, right, so you had a long-distance courtship throughout your college years.

Debbie:  For four years we just pretty much saw each other on the weekends, because I would travel back home over the weekend, and he was in the San Juan area in Puerto Rico, so that's where we saw each other.

Dennis:  And then you went to med school…

Alberto:  Yes.

Dennis:  What moved you to ultimately ask her to marry you?

Alberto:  I was madly in love with her.  She was my best friend, my only friend.  After meeting her, meeting her family, we decided we wanted to get married.

Bob:  They actually told you, that you had to wait, didn't they?

Debbie:  Yes, my dad said it very clearly.  The part that you don't know is that when I entered college, I was 15.  So when I met Alberto that first year, he made it very clear—until you get me a diploma here, there is no marriage, you know that.  This was a very wise thing, because otherwise I would have not—somebody had to work.

Bob: You had an extended courtship then, and that can be a challenge for any couple.  When you finally did marry, I guess…

Dennis:  No, no, we have to find out, I want to hear how he popped the question to you, Debbie.

Debbie:  It was one weekend I came home from college and, as usual, he came to my Mom's house to visit, and he took me out for pizza, and then after that we went driving around.  Actually, it was in the neighborhood.  Do you remember where that was?

Alberto:  Yes.

Debbie:  And it was night, and he parked the car right in the middle of an intersection.  There was a lot of traffic coming, and he just parked there, and said, "Would you marry me?" and gave me a ring.  And, of course, I started screaming—that's when I got home my dad said, "You graduate first, and then you get married."

Alberto:  Not too romantic.

Debbie:  Yeah, it was intersection.  That's romantic.

Dennis:  Why did you ask her in the middle of an intersection to marry you?

Alberto:  I don't know.  I was very nervous.  I didn't know what to do.  I was looking for a spot, and I couldn't take it anymore, so I just parked.

Debbie:  Stopped the car.

Alberto:  Stopped the car.

Bob:  There you go.

Debbie:  He’s spontaneous.  He’s very spontaneous.

Dennis:  And so you were married as you finished med school, moved into your residency, and did you feel the stresses and strains of med school immediately upon your marriage?

Debbie:  I did. 

Alberto:  It was hard.  Before, we would see each other only on weekends, and I had the week to myself to study, and it was fine.  But now I had somebody else at home that I needed to interact with.  So I was always feeling the stress.  "I have to study, but I have Debbie, and what do I do?" 

Bob:  You were probably feeling like a new bride who was not getting as much attention from her husband as his professors were getting from him.

Debbie:  Yes, right away I remember feeling many times that medicine was taking first place.  Now, the thing was, I always thought, "Oh, this is temporary," because you're a new bride, and being raised in a Christian home, you are supposed to just be victory in Jesus.  I just thought, "This is just temporary.  It will get better, it will be better, it will be better, it will be better."  I just kept saying that to myself, and didn't actually say much to Alberto, because I thought he had plenty of pressure coming from the outside.

Bob:  But you were feeling pretty lonely all the way through that period?

Debbie:  Oh, yes, and especially when we finished medical school, Alberto actually came to the States for residency.  So not only was I feeling alone because he was at the hospital all of the time, but my family wasn't there, either.  So here I was in a different country with a different language with no extended family, no friends, no church.  It was pretty lonely.

Dennis:  It's important to point out that as you started out your marriage, you are not unlike the way a lot of "Christian" couples start their relationship.  They think because they met at church or they had church in common, had a similar walk with Christ that, "Hey, we'll be okay.  We'll be able to merge two selfish people into this relationship."  Well, what happens is called reality, and reality can result in loneliness and despair and hurt and further isolation.

In fact, at our Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conference you get a plan to really help you counteract the isolation that creeps in to every marriage.  Debbie, you described the slow death of your marriage as a trickle—that, trickle-by-trickle, your marriage was dying.  How did you know that?

Debbie:  Well, as the years continued, and I tried to think that this was a temporary thing, I think the reality of, "No, this is not going away," started setting in.  It wasn't from one day to the other, but it was like a little drop that was falling away from my life every day and, more and more, Alberto and I were becoming strangers.  We were living under the same roof, but total strangers.

Bob:  Dr. Rodriguez, were you aware of what was going on in your marriage?

Alberto:  Well, you never think that this can happen.  We love each other.  It wasn't like I didn't love her or she didn't love me.  We wanted the best for each other and for our marriage, but it was just every day we were separating, kind of each one on their own paths and not communicating.

Bob:  But did you have a sense of the same thing?  Did you think, "Gee, I miss Debbie.  I'm not getting time with her.  I'm lonely”?

Alberto:  Really, I was so busy.  The years that followed my medical school were internship and residency.  I was so busy in the hospital that I couldn't think about any of this.  What I was feeling or not feeling.  You detach from your feelings and take care of people that are really sick.

Bob:  I don't know what the statistics are, but I know anecdotally that anyone I talk to who has been through medical school tells me of the toll that takes on marriages.  In fact, you all were saying that in your class there were not a lot of marriages that survived medical school.

Debbie:  Yes, I don't think that from our whole class that graduated with us from medical school that there were more than five couples whose marriages are still intact.

Dennis:  Out of how many?

Debbie:  Oh, wow…

Alberto:  100

Debbie:  100 and some…

Dennis:  Oh, really?  Like 95 failed?

Debbie:  Yes.

Bob:  A lot of couples who have experienced the kind of isolation that you have been describing think, "If we have a baby that will pull us back together."  Did you have that thought?

Debbie:  Yes, actually, for 10 years we had been waiting to start a family, because I was working full time, and my dream was when we'd have a baby I want to be home.  We had a lot of debt, like you were saying, Dennis, and we just had a lot of strain.  We wanted to make it right.  The time came when we thought, "Well, maybe now is the time," and that was the time that there was also a transition in Alberto's career from academia into opening a private practice, and that's when I got pregnant.

Then the thing with us was in that period of 18 months, I became pregnant.  We opened a practice.  I had an accident that put me in a wheelchair and crutches for four months.  We had tremendous financial stresses with medical school debt and also the opening of the new practice, and just our life seemed to—at that point, there was not much communication, and that's when it just—it all collapsed all at the same time.

Bob:  When your wife came and told you, "Alberto, we're going to have a baby," did you say, "Oh, that's great, honey." 

Alberto:  I really did.  That was my dream.  I love children and, like a good man, I can only think one thing–focus on one thing at a time, so I forgot all my debts, all the practice, every problem, and I say, "A child?"

Bob:  But your practical wife was thinking, "No, sweetheart, you don't understand."

Debbie:  He actually said, "This is great."  And I said, "You're kidding me, right?"

Dennis:  Well, the reason he said it was great was because he was oblivious to the misery and the pain you were feeling in your marriage.  He had no idea you were not happy in this marriage relationship.

Debbie:  Yes, and I wasn’t helping, Dennis, because I was from the school of thought and taught that a good Christian wife is supposed to stuff it, and so I was stuffing it.  I just thought a good Christian wife is supposed to stuff her feelings, and being transparent with my husband about what I was feeling was not an option for me.  So all this time, Alberto pretty much thought that things were going okay when, in reality, our marriage was dying little by little, and he had no idea it was happening.

Alberto:  I was a good provider.  I love her.  I tended to her when I was home.  I love her family. We worked hard in our church.  Everything was going very well.

Dennis:  What about the possibility of divorce?  Today couples move to this as an easy solution when the misery and the pain are too great.  Did that cross your mind?

Debbie:  At the time that I actually told Alberto I was leaving, yes, it did.  But the thing is, Dennis, you don't think—divorce is a big word that is a bad word.  You don't get to that point thinking that you're going to get to that point.  You think of divorce as no, I'll never be divorced, but you move towards divorce without knowing that's exactly what you're doing.

Dennis:  So you separated from him at that point?

Debbie:  We were still living under the same roof, but we had separated.

Alberto:  She came to me one weekend on a Saturday and said, "I'm leaving you, and I'm taking the baby with me."  I couldn't comprehend.  “What are you talking about?  Why?  I didn't do anything bad.  Can we talk about this?  Can we do something?  Can we fix it?”

Debbie:  I remember Alberto saying, "What have I done that you want to leave me?  What have I done?"  And he hadn't done anything.  It was just that there was nothing left.  I remember that Saturday morning at our kitchen table.  The pain had just gotten so great that I thought, "I have to escape this."  Now, again, I didn't say, "I'm going to divorce you."  I just wanted to escape the pain, so I said, "I'm leaving you," but it's the same thing.

Dennis:  Usually in a situation like this, a woman has fired flares into the air—a warning flare, a warning shot.  Are you saying you didn't fire those flares?  Are you saying that Alberto was so clueless he didn't even see the flash of the flare as it was fired?

Debbie:  He was clueless.

Alberto:  She fired.

Debbie:  I did.

Dennis:  How did you fire flares over the air?

Debbie:  I think once in a while I would just throw a fit.  I would just explode and throw a fit, and then he would take me out to dinner, and things would be right back okay when we never dealt with the issues.  We never dealt with what is it that's isolating us this way?  What can we do?  Can we be proactive on this?  We never did that.  We just fixed it for the night that was it.

Bob:  Now, be honest, Alberto–were you thinking, "Okay, she's in one of her moods.  I take her out to dinner, she'll get over the mood, and everything will be fine."

Dennis:  "I've read about this in the medical books.  This is a condition that's treatable."  Is that how you thought about it?

(laughter)

Alberto:  Yeah, I thought, "This is going to go away, and she's feeling bad, and we'll fix it."  I'm feeling pretty good.

(laughter)

Bob:  And so after dinner she's nicer, she doesn't seem to be upset, you think that fixed it.  The next time she has one of those moods, I'll take her to dinner again, and we'll fix it again, right?

Alberto:  Yes.

Bob:  I think a lot of husbands–they don't know–is there a real issue here or is it just a bad day.  Do I fix it with dinner or do we really have to get serious about what's going on in our relationship?

Dennis:  Yes, and what Debbie did so well is really to clarify how she, as a woman, could be asking for a relationship and how a man can interpret that by hearing that there is a problem to be fixed that's like throwing a switch.  I'll go throw a few dollars at a romantic evening out, say a few sweet words, and everything will be okay.  But as Debbie just said, he wasn't addressing the core issue that most wives are desperate to have with their husbands, which is a relationship. 

That's what happens at the Weekend to Remember®.  We give couples not only the practical instruction from the Scriptures at how to have a real relationship, but we also give them the time to talk.  Now, that may sound funny, but in this day and age, to have a weekend to focus on just your marriage.  Now, think about that. 

It's like an island–go to the island and focus on your marriage and give it a chance to grow.  Most of us never see our marriages grow because we never invest more than an evening out in the relationship.

Bob:  Well, we never get to the island because we don’t make plans in advance to get there. You’d think, “Oh, we ought to do that some day.”  Well, guess what, if you don’t, if you’re not intentional and deliberate, you won’t get there.  We just locked in the schedule for the Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways for this Fall.  They’re going to be in cities all across the country.  In fact, we’ve got spring of 2011 all locked in as well.  So, if folks want to, they can be intentional now, and sign up to attend one of these Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways when it comes to a city near where they live.

Because they’re FamilyLife Today listeners, we’re going to let them sign up as a part of our group.  Give them the group rate, which is the lowest rate we offer to anybody throughout the year.  It’s a buy-one-get-one-free offer so you sign up, you put my name in the group box, just type “BOB” in there when you’re filling out the online registration form, just put “BOB” in the group box, and then you buy one registration, the second one comes at no cost.  As I said, that’s the best rate we offer to anybody. 

I’ve also asked the team if there’s not some way that we could say thank you to those folks who listen to FamilyLife Today and who sign up early.  They said, okay, they’ll send a special thank you gift to anybody who signs up as a part of my group, this week or next week.  Again, go online and get the information you need about when one of these getaways is coming to a city near where you live.  And, then go ahead and get signed up as a part of my group.  Put “BOB” in the group box, and not only will you get the special group rate, but you’ll also get the thank you gift that we’re going to send out to you.

If it’s easier to call, 1-800-FL-TODAY, is the number.  1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life then the word TODAY, we can answer any questions you have about the getaway, or we can get you signed up over the phone.  We hope you’ll come out and join us.  These are great weekends for couples, and we want you to experience it and be a part of one of these either this fall or into next spring.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about the fact that it may be that some of our listeners know couples who are in the situation that Alberto and Debbie were in, where it’s a marriage that’s gone stale and they’re just throwing in the towel on it.  They might want to get a copy of the CD of Alberto and Debbie’s story to pass along to somebody who is in this situation. 

We’ll send you a copy of the CD at no cost if you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and request it.  Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com, just request a copy of the CD that features this week’s program with Alberto and Debbie and when you get the CD, listen to it again, or pass it along to somebody you know who would benefit from hearing their testimony. 

Again, FamilyLifeToday.com, you can request the CD from us online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and we’ll send it out to you.  You can pass it along to somebody you know who would benefit from listening to their story.  Okay? 

In fact, tomorrow we’re going to hear the rest of Alberto and Debbie’s story.  Hear about the turnaround that took place in their marriage.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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