A Love Restored: Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez, Part 2
About the Guest
"Our marriage was dying trickle by trickle." That’s how Debbie described her marriage to husband, Alberto, before attending a "Weekend to Remember" over 10 years ago. On today's broadcast, hear how the Lord used the marriage conference to bring this languishing union back to life.
“Our marriage was dying trickle by trickle.”
A Love Restored: Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez, Part 2
Debbie: I thought at that point, I was just too tired to try again. I thought, “Here I’m going to go to another church event, where they’re going to preach to me, and I’m going to have to repent of something, and try to work at this marriage again.” I had no energy for that.
Bob: Ultimately though, Debbie Rodriguez and her husband Alberto did show up at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway, and Debbie was surprised.
Debbie: When we walked in that ballroom, it was not intimidating to begin with. What took my guard totally off was, they didn’t even start with singing, they didn’t start with, “Let’s have a prayer,” they just started with some light conversation, some fun stuff that totally surprised me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. The way the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway got started wasn’t the only thing that surprised Debbie Rodriguez that weekend. Starting to have feelings for her husband again was a big surprise.
And, welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. We have a couple who are with us here today who went to one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways a number of years ago and it was a dramatic turning point in their marriage relationship. Frankly, we’re hoping that there will be similar kinds of turning points that take place as couples attend one of these Weekend to Remember® Getaways for couples.
Most of the couples who come, Dennis aren’t in the kind of critical condition that Alberto and Debbie were in. Most of them are coming just to freshen up their marriage—just do some preventive maintenance on their marriage. But, we do have some folks who come who are in difficult desperate kinds of situations. This week and next week, we are drawing our listeners attention to the fact that the fall schedule is now set.
You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and find out when the conference is going to be in a city near you. You can mark out that weekend on your calendar and if you go ahead and register this week or next week, and if you sign up using my name for your group name, when they ask you if you are part of a group, you say yes, and you put “BOB” as your group name. We’re going to give our FamilyLife Today listeners the group rate, which is the lowest rate we offer. It’s a buy-one-get-one-free offer. And, we’re going to send you a little thank you gift for registering early.
I just asked the team if they could come up with something that we could send out to you to encourage you and to thank you for getting signed up ahead of time. So, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, get the information about when the conference is going to come to a city near you, and go ahead and get signed up. Just make sure you identify yourself as a part of my group, by putting “BOB” in the group name.
You can do that online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or if it’s easier, call 1-800 FL-TODAY, register over the phone, we’ll answer any questions you have when you call. Again, it’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word TODAY. We do hope you’ll go ahead and register and plan to join us at one of these weekend getaways for couples, the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway.
In fact, I think a lot of couples don’t realize that there may be a slow leak in their marriage relationship. And you know how when you get that in a tire, you can run along just fine, until all of a sudden one day, it’s flat? Well, the same thing can happen, in a marriage.
In fact, that’s—as we’ve already heard this week, that’s what happened with Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez. They had kind of a slow leak in their marriage until they got to a Weekend to Remember® and that was the place where it started to get patched up.
Dennis: And they join us on FamilyLife Today. Alberto, Debbie, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Debbie: Hi, Dennis.
Dennis: It’s great to have you. Alberto and Debbie are–well, they're natives of
Puerto Rico, and Bob attempted to speak your language yesterday.
Bob: Did you just say Porta Rico?
Dennis: Porto Rico? I don't have the …
Bob: It's "pwairto" Rico – say "pwairto" Rico.
Dennis: Hey, I lived on the south side of Ozark, Missouri.
Bob: You can do this. Say "pwairto."
Debbie: Good, very good.
Dennis: Anyway, back to the program. Alberto and Debbie live in Avon, Connecticut, where Alberto is a physician. Debbie and Alberto have four children, and yesterday we heard a story of how med school debt accompanied with their schooling, the birth of their firstborn, Christopher, along with the startup of Alberto's medical practice, all contributed to the slow leak that Bob was talking about.
But at some point in this drama, even though, Alberto, you were clueless about the slow leak in your marriage, you guys heard about the Weekend to Remember® in the midst of your drama. Which of you heard about it first?
Alberto: Well, when Debbie told me that she was leaving me, I immediately called a good friend of mine, another doctor, that we had known in the church for a while. I told him what was happening in our lives, that I needed help, and I needed prayer. I needed Barbara, her friend, to call her and see how we can get help. So they did. Barbara called Debbie.
Debbie: Then she got into my life and started encouraging me, you know, "Don't leave the house. Just stay here. I'll hang there with you, and we're going to make this work." By God's grace, that fall–she'd never heard of FamilyLife–neither had I or Alberto–and that fall she got a brochure from somewhere. It was the second time that FamilyLife was coming to Hartford.
So she got a brochure in her hands about a FamilyLife conference into Hartford. So she came straight to my home and said, "Deb, I've got this conference. It looks great. You've got to go to it." I remember saying to her, "You're kidding me. What are you talking about? There is nothing to work out. There's really nothing to work on this."
She kept just pleading with me, "You've got to go to this, you've got to go to this." At that point, I was just too tired to try again. I thought, "Here I'm going to go to another church event where they are going to preach to me, and I'm going to have to repent of something and try to work this marriage again." I had no energy for that.
Dennis: You were hopeless.
Debbie: Oh, I was. I was in total despair.
Bob: Alberto, you were open to the idea of the weekend, right?
Alberto: I was open to anything. I would have gone anywhere, anytime. I would have gone to a counselor if that's what it takes to save my marriage.
Dennis: You were clueless. The wakeup call came, and you didn't hit the snooze button. You were listening now.
Alberto: I was.
Bob: What finally pushed you over the edge to say yes, okay, I'll go to that conference?
Debbie: It was prayer. Really, our friends just were praying for us and praying for us, and Alberto was very nicely asking, "Deb, let's just go, let's just go," and finally one day he said to me, "I know there's no guarantee. I know you're already gone, but let's just go, even if we have to take separate rooms." That's when I thought, "Okay, I'll give it a try," knowing—I did tell him not to expect anything of me–put no expectations on me, because, really, I'm just going to go.
And the thing about this conference was, Bob, when we walked in that ballroom, it was not intimidating, to begin with, and what took my guard totally off was they didn't start with singing, they didn't start with, "Let's have a prayer." They just started with some light conversation, some fun stuff that totally surprised me because this was a "Christian" event.
Bob: You're a Christian. Isn't it nice to start things with prayer?
Debbie: Up to that point, what Christian life was to me, without knowing it, was just a burden of having to stuff feelings and not be real and be transparent especially being Hispanic in our culture. You don't show your dirty clothes out there. You keep a good face with everything. So, to me going to another church thing was like more hammering in the head and what I found there was, like, "Boy, these people are having fun here. They're actually starting with a joke."
Dennis: The thing I want our listeners to hear, though, is we may not begin publicly with prayer, but privately, for weeks, we had been praying for the individuals, for the conference, for the people in attendance, the speakers, everything. It is an event that is under-girded with intercessory investments.
Bob: In fact, a lot of our listeners need to know that we’ve designed these events so that those who come from a non-religious background can show up on Friday night and feel comfortable in the ballroom. I was talking to somebody who had attended the conference, and they said, "You sure didn't preach the Bible much on Friday night." I said, "There's a reason why we don't preach the Bible much on Friday night," and that is we want the person who is not used to hearing the Bible taught to feel comfortable.
But by the time we get around to Saturday morning, we're looking pretty seriously at what the Scriptures have to say about how you make a marriage work. By that time, the guy who is not used to having the Bible preached to him is used to hearing what we have to say, and his heart has begun to open up.
Dennis: What they've heard by that point are speakers who are real, they're authentic, they are winsome, they smile, they laugh, as Debbie was talking about. We don't live the perfect marriage, we don't have a perfect family, but we are redeemed sinners who have been transformed by Jesus Christ, and we just want to show you what the Bible has to say about how two imperfect people live with one another in the most intimate of all relationships.
Bob: Well, and you mentioned that our listeners may know people who are in some kind of marital distress, and I think some listeners would think, "Yeah, but they're not Christians. I couldn't recommend this event to them …
Dennis: Oh, get them there …
Bob: …because they're not Christian." They will feel comfortable at a Weekend to Remember®, and all we have to do is tell folks there is an unconditional, money-back guarantee. We will give you your registration fee back, no questions asked, if, for any reason, the conference is not what you expected it to be.
Dennis: Right. Debbie, when did you begin to feel your heart start to soften a bit? Was it through the laughter on Friday night and as we kind of sought to perform a little open-heart surgery and massage your heart a bit?
Debbie: Yes, it was Friday night. My guard just got down, as the speakers were just, again, talking and making me laugh and talking real about the real threats that were presented to marriage, and I could start to identify.
By the time Sunday came, my heart was very pliable, and when the conflict session came–again, now, remember, I'd been stuffing feelings for 10 years—when the conflict session came, and the speakers started talking about how forgiveness was not conditional, and how it was to release someone for something they had done, for sure—that it was real. It just gave me the liberty to feel the pain that I was feeling, be real, have that validated and, at the same time, realize that, yes, there is forgiveness for this, and that's when God just began His open-heart surgery with me.
I remember sitting there in the chair, and I started weeping as soon as they finished that sentence, and I started weeping and weeping. I couldn't contain myself. Then right after that, which is the beauty of this conference, is you have the project time–the time when you just have to go and talk about these issues, and I think for the first time Alberto and I, in 10 years, he heard some of the things that were right in my heart that he had never heard before–all the hurt, all the things that were hidden.
What that conference did for us, Dennis that was the beginning of a new journey for us. We walked out of there, still with our differences, still with our problems that had to be dealt with. It wasn't a little magic wand, but it was the hope that we needed to begin our marriage.
Alberto: What caught my attention, Dennis and Bob, was finally I had a plan in my hands. I said, "I can do this." When we got married, there was no booklet telling me how to do marriage; how to communicate what she needed; how I was supposed to be as a father, as a husband; and this conference, through the speakers and the materials, gave me a written plan–okay, I'm going to start here."
Dennis: Here you are, one of the most professional people in all the world, and yet you're saying it took a weekend getaway to equip you to become literate in relationships.
Alberto: Yes. That is absolutely right.
Bob: Do you remember, over the course of that weekend, things that would start to pop up, and you'd go, "Oh, yeah, nobody ever told me that," or "I haven't been doing that."
Alberto: One of the things that spoke to me volumes was when they started to describe the different languages—her needs—and I didn't know that. Her major need was time. Her love language was time. And that was exactly what I wasn’t…
Dennis: … you know what? It still is, it still is. She's over here grinning real big right now, and she's nodding. It hasn't changed, in case you didn’t notice, Alberto.
Debbie: He does know.
Alberto: And that was exactly what I was not giving her. I was giving her money, provision; I was giving her many things, but time, attention, and priority.
Bob: You were trying to say I love you, but you were speaking French …
Bob: In this case, and you needed to have some time for her to be able to translate what you were trying to say, right?
Alberto: That's right.
Bob: Yes. At the end of that weekend, and I appreciated, Debbie, what you said—you didn't walk out saying, "Oh, great, it's fixed." This slow leak had been going for 10 years. You don't just put a patch on it in a weekend and drive away, do you?
Debbie: That's right. What this weekend did was, again, open the door of hope for us, to go out and seek help, because we had worked ourselves and our marriage into this situation for 10 years, and now we needed to learn new ways. We had now the foundation. We knew now that God had a specific plan on how to do this, which we had not known before. And then after that, three years of professional Christian counseling followed that.
Alberto: I had to swallow my pride. I wanted a quick fix, and that's what happens to a lot of people. They said this weekend, like my dinners afterwards, will fix it. Well, it wasn't a quick fix, what we needed. I needed to go and seek help.
Bob: That's an important point, I think, Dennis, because there are a lot of couples who think if this weekend doesn't immediately patch the tire and get us back on the road, it's a failure. What it can be is a weekend that identifies the problem, gives you a foundation for fixing it, but you've got to have the desire to get back in and start to do some work.
Dennis: You know, it gives you the tools, it gives you the process, and it points you in the right direction, but you have to make the choice at that point, and one of the things I really wanted to underscore that Debbie said, was she said it was the project after the session on resolving conflict.
What we do at the conference is, after we’ve talked to people about forgiveness and asking for forgiveness and speaking the truth in love and reconciliation is we give them some time to apply that message to their marriage, and that's done privately. That's not done in front of other people. That's a brief time where no one else listens in. It's just you two, but it's an opportunity to finally ask for forgiveness and to grant forgiveness. Now, Debbie, when you came to that point of realizing you need to forgive him, had he asked you at that point to forgive him?
Debbie: As we were doing the project, we went back to the room, and it was obvious that I was crying so much that something had hit me hard. When we got to the room, right away we started working on the project, and I started speaking to him everything that was in my heart. Through the project, it walks you into what forgiveness is all about, and all these things that you need to address, and that's when it happened. He realized, "I do need to ask forgiveness," and I had to realize I have to grant it, because it's the best thing for both of us.
We both need to–and I actually asked him to forgive me, too, because all this time I had not spoken to him about any of these things. So I needed forgiveness, too, for my part in helping our marriage be in the state that it was–or not helping our marriage be a healthy one, too.
Bob: You made a decision following the Weekend to Remember® conference that in addition to getting some professional counseling help, you were going to attend the conference again, right?
Alberto: Yes. It was going to be our retreat for the year. We were going to separate that time every year to go back, remember, but also, to our surprise, it was the same material—different speakers with a different flavor–and we said how can this help us?
But as we started going back, year after year, we were at a different level in our relationship and we love it, because right there God met us where we were, and there were issues. Not only issues, good things that have happened during that past year that we can celebrate, and we can start working on.
It's just a journey where we work on this marriage and nourish it and sometimes we can only take one part of it during the weekend and then the next year we work on a different part of our marriage. And for at least 10 years, we went faithfully, every year.
Debbie: Every year.
Dennis: And you've now been how many times?
Debbie: Oh, wow …
Alberto: Probably 15.
Dennis: Fifteen times. I talked to someone the other day who went to one of our very first Weekends to Remember, and they haven't been back since. They said, "That was really a life-changing, great conference. We came as an engaged couple." I said, "Have you been back?" They said, "No, no, no," like it was enough. Like one weekend is good for 25 years.
You don't have to come every year, although Alberto and Debbie are setting a great example for us.
Bob: It wouldn't hurt you to come.
Dennis: It wouldn't hurt, that's exactly right. But once every two or three years, because marriages, lives, and families evolve into different needs, different issues, and if we're not careful, we'll start missing one another again.
Bob: Well, I'll tell you, I was reading in 2 Timothy the other day, and in the middle of chapter 2 Paul says to Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ." Now, Timothy is a minister, he’s a pastor. I thought to myself, "He’s not going to forget Jesus. He’s not going to forget the Gospel." But the truth is, if we’re not constantly reminded of what the God’s word says to us about salvation, about our marriage, about how we’re to live, we do forget. We do slide. We do drift back into patterns and habits that are the way our flesh is wired to go. That’s one of the reasons we encourage couples to make this a regular part of their marriage.
It doesn’t have to be coming to the Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway. But have something regularly, yearly where you set aside time, get away as a couple and focus on your marriage. If you don’t do that, then entropy takes place. You have that deterioration start to happen. If the Weekend to Remember® can be an opportunity for you to do that year in and year out, that’s great.
I mention that because we’ve locked in the dates for the fall of 2010 and for the spring of 2011, if our listeners want to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways, either in the fall of 2010 or in the spring of 2011, go online right now at FamilyLifeToday.com, you can find out when the getaway is going to be in a city near where you live.
We’re encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to sign up and use the group rate. Sign up as a part of our group, the FamilyLife Today listener group. It’s “Bob’s group”. All you have to do is write “BOB” in the group name box on the registration form, and you’ll get the group rate which is the lowest rate we offer anybody. It’s a buy-one-get-one-free opportunity for a couple to attend.
If you’ll do it now, if you do it between now and next weekend, I’ve asked the team if we can send you a thank you gift for registering early. They said they’re going to find something nice and send it out to you as a way of saying thank you for getting registered. Not only will you get the group rate, but you’ll get the thank you gift as well.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, find out when the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway is coming to a city near where you live. Get registered now, type “BOB” in the group name box. Or, if it’s easier just call, 1-800-FL-TODAY, say “I heard them talking on the radio about the special group rate for the Weekend to Remember® and I want to go.” We’ll answer any questions you have and get you all fixed up so that you can attend. And again, you get the buy-one-get-one-free special offer, the group rate and you’ll get a thank you gift that we’re going to send out to you.
We know how powerful this event can be in a couple’s marriage. We’ve heard that from Alberto and Debbie Rodriguez today. In fact, their story is available on CD if you’d like to get a copy of the CD, you can request that online. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and all you have to do is ask for it and we’ll send that out to you for free. You may want to listen to it again, or pass it on to somebody you know who’s in a difficult marriage and needs to hear some hope from another couple who was in a tough spot in their marriage. Again, just go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY and say “Send me that CD and I’ll pass it on to somebody who will benefit from listening to it.”
With that we’ve got to wrap things up for today. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when author, counselor and Pastor Paul David Tripp is going to join us.
Paul: If it’s a sinner, a flawed person, married to a flawed person, if that DNA of selfishness is there, confession and forgiveness need to be a regular, daily lifestyle. We go in knowing we need this pattern.
Bob: We’ll talk about expectations couples bring into marriage. Paul David Tripp has got a lot of great insights to share and I hope you can be here 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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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