FamilyLife Today® Podcast

A Marriage on Free Fall

with Adam and Laura Brown | March 28, 2012
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The first year of marriage was total bliss for husband and wife team, Adam and Laura Brown. But little did they know that severe trials were waiting for them just around the corner. On today's broadcast, the Browns tell how God stripped away everything they thought they needed and replaced it with everything they couldn't live without, namely Himself.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • The first year of marriage was total bliss for husband and wife team, Adam and Laura Brown. But little did they know that severe trials were waiting for them just around the corner. On today's broadcast, the Browns tell how God stripped away everything they thought they needed and replaced it with everything they couldn't live without, namely Himself.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

The first year of marriage was total bliss for Adam and Laura Brown. But severe trials were waiting for them just around the corner.

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A Marriage on Free Fall

With Adam and Laura Brown
March 28, 2012
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Bob:  Adam and Laura Brown hadn't been married long—in fact, it was the first year of their marriage when conflict began to bubble up.

Adam:  It was a Saturday morning.  Laura asked me to go over and mow her parents’ yard.  They were, again, paying for some of our bills; so, “Why can't you do this?”  Well, I had my own agenda. 

I had no way of dealing with stress and anger; and when we would argue, I would have so much anger that I could not even speak.  Finally I said, “Forget it.  This is just way too hard.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 28th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We will meet Adam and Laura Brown today and hear how anger and stress almost destroyed their marriage.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  You know, I have this experience often as I'm in a room with a lot of couples.  I'll just look around, and this question will pop into my head, “Whose marriage in here is in trouble?”  Because if you've got a room of 100 couples sitting there—

Dennis:  Sure.

Bob:  —the chances are you've got some folks who, everything looks good—a fresh coat of paint on the house.  You know, everything looks smooth; but behind the walls, there is tension, there is trouble, and they may be just a step away from the marriage falling off in the ditch.

Dennis:  You know, we're going to hear a story of a couple who fell off into that ditch, a couple who are on the staff here at FamilyLife.  Adam and Laura Brown join us on FamilyLife Today.  Adam, Laura, thanks for being on the broadcast and sharing your story with our listeners.

Adam:  Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Laura:  Thank you.

Dennis:  I heard about their story a couple of years ago, but it really wasn't until it was written about in The Family Room

Bob:   —that's our online magazine that many of our listeners subscribe to each month.  It's free.  You can just go to our website at; and, with a few clicks, you can sign up.  Once a month, we'll deposit The Family Room in your e-mail box.

Dennis:  There was a story in The Family Room, sometime back, about Adam and Laura.  In fact, rather than tell the story, I just want to read it.

“Adam Brown felt he was at the end of his rope.  The money was gone, bill collectors were calling, and he was responsible to take care of his wife Laura and newborn daughter Madeline.  One more night of fighting with Laura only made matters worse, and it was too much for Adam to handle. 

“Laura cried, standing at the door with the baby in her arms, ‘Please don't go.  We can talk.  We can make this work,’ but Adam replied, ‘I don't love you.  I don't want to be a part of this marriage.  I don't want to be a part of Madeline's life—just move out of the way and let me leave,’ but Laura would not move from the door.  So, Adam grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her into the kitchen, far enough that he could leave.”

You know, as I read that, Bob, I—first of all, you think of the drama that leads a couple to this point of where there is verbal and then, ultimately, physical violence; but you think how often couples get off in a ditch, they have no one to help them, they're arguing behind closed doors, no one knows what's going on, and they need help.

Bob:  I'm sure that the two of you, when you were dating, when you were first married, you never thought this is where things would end up.

Adam:  Never, never, in a million years did I ever think that, no.  Still, to this day, I still wonder, “Was that me that did that?” because it seems so unreal and uncharacteristic of me.

Bob:  How long had you been married when this scene took place?

Adam:  That was our second year of marriage; so, probably, just before our second year or just starting the third year maybe.

Laura:  The first year of our marriage was wonderful!  We had a great marriage.  Everything was going like we had planned.  Adam, right before we had been married, had received the Lord—at least I thought, you know? 

He had actually made a commitment to the Lord but for all the wrong reasons—to marry me—but the first year of life—it was all about getting for us.  So, the nice cars were important to us, the nice furniture, and everything that we could have kind of to keep up with the Joneses, and our first year was going really good.

We got, I guess, into our second year of marriage, and that was when things really started to go downhill.

Adam:  Well, November 23rd, we celebrated our one-year anniversary.  We celebrated Christmas; and then, January 9th, on my birthday, I went into the office and got fired on the spot for a decision that I had made a few months before—really had to come home and explain to my wife that I had lost my job, that I could no longer provide for the family; but, “Don't worry, I'm young, I've got lots of experience; so, it’ll be okay.” 

Consequently, I was out of a job for about seven months, and that's really what started the downward spiral.

Dennis:  Tell me about the decision.  Had you made an error in judgment?

Adam:  Very much so.  I was working for a beer, wine, and beverage distributor and provided alcohol to a minor.

Dennis:  Wow!  As in against the law?

Adam:  As in against the law.  It was caught and seen by a security guard who reported it to the business.  The president came down and said, “You're fired,” on the spot.  I couldn't argue.  I had done a very poor and stupid decision.

Bob:  You had to go home and not just say, “I lost my job,” but tell her that you'd lost your job because you'd made a bad decision.

Adam:  It was one of those times where you really wish you would have listened to your wife because she was there telling me, “You shouldn't be doing this.”  I remember driving home, going—she's saying, “Why did you do that?  You're going to pay for it.”  I said, “Don't worry, it will be okay,”—don't worry, don't worry, don't worry.

Bob:  I want to take you back.  You said that when you and Adam were dating, it was in that time that he made a profession of faith in Christ.

Laura:  Mm-hm.

Bob:  So I guess I have to take you back before that time.  You were a believer—

Laura:  Yes. 

Bob:  —but you'd fallen for a guy who wasn't.

Laura:  Correct.  When we first started dating—I was raised in a very godly home.  I have been blessed to have wonderful parents that just passed on a great heritage to me; but when I was a junior in high school and met Adam—and here's this really nice-looking man—I fell for right away.  At that time, I fell for him, and I didn't really care where he was in his walk at that time.  I think I always thought, too, if I ever met a guy that I could change him, you know?

Adam:  I was raised a Catholic and really did not see any correlation between having Christ in your life and not having Christ in your life.  So, when she was talking baptism—“Okay, I got baptized when I was a baby.  I did that already,” and kind of got into the old checklist mentality of what do I need to do to become a Christian?  Basically, finally, just gave into the fact that, “Okay, if I become a Christian, she'll marry me.  I want to get married to her; so, give me my checklist.  What have I got to do in order to get married?” 

Bob:  They said, “You need to pray,” and you prayed.  Here’s my question for you—

Adam:  Yes.

Bob:  —did anything happen spiritually? 

Adam:  No, not at all.  I look back on it and went, “Oh, yes, there was”—kind of like when you light the lighter—when you go to light the lighter and you spin the wheel and then, there’s a flame that (Click) pops up real fast—

Bob:  —little sparks. 

Adam:  —spark.  You’ve got to do it again before there’s an actual flame.  I would say that is what took place in that first time when I made the decision.  The little spark went up but nothing else. 

Laura:  I hoped he had experienced a genuine conversion, but I didn’t see fruit from it.  That’s where I came to the point of, “I can change him now.  Okay, he’s made that first decision.  There’s no fruit here, but that’s okay.  We’ll get married, and I’m going to just work on him.  We’ll get him to the point he needs to be at.”  

Bob:  At what point, do you remember a time, an incident, when you first thought, “There is a serious crack in the foundation of our marriage that I wasn’t aware of before this time.” 

Laura:  As soon as Adam started to smoke and drink and lie to me, you know I could smell it on his breath.  I could smell it on his hands, and he lied to me.  I realized, “This is not the man that I thought I had married.” 

Bob:  Adam, what was going on?

Adam:  I was—Laura and her best possible way was trying to encourage me where I didn’t have a job.  She would, “Who are you talking to about getting a job”—doing this and doing that.

Dennis:  Was she nagging you?

Adam:  That’s what it came across as because it wasn’t—it didn’t feel like she was coming alongside of me, but rather she was pushing a finger and pointing it down at me.  So, I saw it as just a way to rebel against her.  When I’d go out for an interview, I may go to that interview but then, hit the bar afterwards—just say that the interview went longer than it did, or that I stopped and dropped off a resume here or there.  Really, I—just severely, severely depressed.  I saw no light at the end of the tunnel—just really no hope at all. 

Bob:  So, was this continuing all through the pregnancy?  You eventually got a job before the baby was born; right?

Adam:  I got a job about a month—probably a month before Madeline was born.  I was lumping lumber for a construction company.  Guy at the church gave me a job.  Looking back on that relationship, with this guy giving me a job, was just a God-send; but I got a job and was putting—barely putting food on the table—and Madeline was born. 

We couldn’t have been happier.  She was just incredible.  “We could have lived in a cardboard box,” we say.  We didn’t care what we didn’t have or did have; we just had this healthy baby, and she was the focus of our attention—just the care that the baby needs, Laura was giving all her attention to Madeline. 

I would get this second—basically the table scrapes, if you will.  That really started me questioning like, “Why isn’t she giving me any attention?  I’m doing some things, and I’m doing these things right.  She’s still kind of nagging that we need diapers and we need this and need that.” 

That was really when I—it kind of hit rock bottom again, for me.  “I’m trying—I’m doing this; I’m doing that, and it’s still not good enough.  Why even keep trying?” 

Laura:  I remember that when Madeline was born, too, it was like she was giving me the joy that he wasn't giving me, and I felt whole again, as being a mom.  So, I was having a hard time, “How do I love Madeline, and I need to give her so much of me—how do I do that; and then, still love this man who is barely providing?  He's still smoking, and he's still drinking.  Things are looking a little bit better, but why would I choose to give him portions of this love that I can give to this innocent baby who loves me, no matter what?”

Bob:  What was happening in your heart, spiritually, during this two-year period—because you weren't in a marriage where you had a husband who was leading the relationship spiritually?  Were you guys going to church regularly?

Laura:  We were.  We were going to church.  I think, a lot of times, though, we were going to church because it's what looked right.

Bob:  Yes, check it off the list.

Laura:  Right.

Bob:  Keep up appearances.

Laura:  We put on this fake face that, “Everything was fine,” you know?  I had always been called Laura Lane Bermace, that was my maiden name—“the girl with the happy face”—and now, Laura Lane Brown, “the girl who never frowned.”  That was kind of how I was, I think. 

I felt like, “If I let this down; and they really see what I'm struggling with, then I'm a failure.  I need people to think that I'm doing okay.”  We both thought that.  I was embarrassed.  I didn't want anybody to know—and prideful.  So, we just kept on going without help. 

Dennis:  You know this is an important thing because a couple who is in a ditch, generally speaking, you need a third party to step into your lives—and I’ve used this imagery a couple of times recently in counseling couples—you need a third party to be like a wrecker to pull you both out of your different sides of the road—out of two different ditches. 

So, when we go to that day, when, Laura, you were standing in front of the door—

Laura:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —keeping Adam from leaving, and he says to you those words, “I don’t love you, I don’t want to be with my little girl, I want out of here.”  You had to feel, as he did; you now were at rock bottom.

Laura:  Yes, the lowest that we could have gone.  I knew that things were bad in our marriage but to hear, “I don't love you, I don't want you,” that hurt—it crushed.  I was so numb.  I remember just holding my baby, four weeks old, and just feeling, “Who am I?  What am I?  What am I going to do?” 

At that point, Adam had left the door.  He left out, and he was gone.  The truck, I had heard it start up.  I had heard it go.  I heard him drive off; and now, “Who am I, and what am I?”  I think I had placed my identity so much in Adam; and so, then, if I can’t be his wife and he doesn’t want me as his wife—he doesn’t love me, he doesn’t even love our daughter and want our daughter—then, how can I be anything and how can I be good for anybody, even as a mom? 

Bob:  Adam, what had set you off that night?

Adam:  Anger.  I had no way of dealing with stress and anger.  Smoking and drinking were ways I would deal with stress and anger; and when we would argue, I would have so much anger that I could not even speak—that I would throw my fist into the wall, and I just could not talk.  Finally, I said, “Forget it.  This is just way too hard.”

Bob:  Were you having arguments every night?  Was this just some night when something touched it off?  Do you remember?

Adam:  I don't know.  After—talking afterwards, I think the conversation—or the argument started with Laura. 

It was a Saturday morning.  Laura asked me to go over and mow her parents’ yard—and they were, again, paying for some of our bills; so, “Why can't you do this?”  Well, I had my own agenda, my own things to do that day; and just, again, like you said, the things just got heaped up on top of each other.  I didn't resolve this conflict last week.  Everything was just piling up, and—poof!—it exploded, that boiling point.

Dennis:  So, when you slammed the door—well, actually, you pushed her out of the way. 

Adam:  Yes.

Dennis:  Did you throw her out of the way?

Adam:  Yes.  She was standing in the door, and she was very strong.  I verbally broke her down—“I don't love you, I don't want to be part of this marriage, I don't want to be a part of Madeline’s life”—just broke her down, broke her down, and she still would not move. 

So, it wasn't like just a grab her by the shoulders and gently move her out of the way so I could get out the door.  I mean, we’re literally fighting each other physically for the door.  It, finally, came to the point where I literally just—literally grabbed her as if I was on a football team and threw her sideways so that I could get through the door. 

Bob:  Yes.  I’m looking at you—I’m thinking she doesn’t stand much of a chance when you want out the door. 

Adam:  She did.  She gave me a good fight, but when I—yes, but when I really wanted to—yes. 

Dennis:  As you drove off, did you have any thought in your mind, your conscience, that you'd just thrown your wife and baby?

Adam:  No, I remember leaving—the first thing I thought of is, “Where can I get a cigarette and a beer?”  It wasn't until probably time out—an hour or two after I'd gone—that I felt really remorseful and, “Man, what did I just do?  Why did I just do that?”  That's when I really thought, “I need to go back and ask for forgiveness, but how can I go back and do that?” 

It wasn't like I had just yelled at her for spilling milk or something.  It wasn't something tedious or something small; it was significant.  I mean, never in my life had I ever touched her that way.  I really just ripped her heart out of her chest, and I felt there would be no way that she would be able to forgive me for that. 

This is where my pride came in.  I did not want to go to three or four people I knew who would be there in an instant—my dad, her dad, brothers, people at church, people outside the church, friends—I mean, just countless number of people I could have gone to, to say, “Hey, I need some help,” or “We need some help,” but I was too prideful.  I didn't want to admit my faults to somebody.

So, I just resolved, “Hey, I made this decision, I said these things, I hurt her, I just need to follow through with that decision.  As horrible as it is, that's just what I need to do.” 

Dennis:  Weren’t you wondering when you tossed her aside if you’d injured Madeline? 

Adam:  I don’t remember feeling that way—no.  No.  I—as horrible as that sounds—no. 

Bob:  Where'd you sleep that night?

Adam:  On a bus.  I drove the majority of the day around—specifically going to places where I knew Laura would not be able to find me—went down to the bank, withdrew all the money we had in our checking account, about 250 bucks. 

I thought, “Well, I need to start my life over. I need to get away,” and ran to Tennessee where I had been going to college a year before we got married and had some non-Christian party buddies who I thought would be able to ask me two questions.  I'd be able to start my life over there.  So, I went down to the train station, purchased a ticket to ride to go to Tennessee, and—

Dennis:  You were living in what state at the time? 

Adam:  Oh, we were living in Portland, Oregon. 

Dennis:  So, it was a short train ride. 

Adam:  It wasn’t a short train ride, not at all—realized that that was going to be taking almost all of my money.  So, I found out that the bus was cheaper and hopped on the bus—brought to Tennessee.  As we’re driving out of town, I just—I remember just being on that bus, staring out the window, and just totally shocked.  At the same time, just depressed, again, that I had failed my marriage, I'd failed Laura. 

Probably, at that time, Dennis, was, probably, the first time Madeline came into the picture—realizing that I'm driving out of town away from my daughter.  I remember the first stop that the bus made about an hour outside of town, and I called the house.  Specifically, just to let Laura know the truck was at the train station.  At the time, that was one of our most expensive possessions. 

So, I called the house and just left a voice mail saying the truck was at the train station; and boarded the bus and kept on going to Tennessee. 

Bob:  You talk about the metaphor of a marriage that's off in a ditch and needing a wrecker.  A lot of couples find themselves at a point where even if there is a voice inside them saying, “I made a mistake, I wish there was a way to fix it,” they don't know what to do; they don't know how to fix it; they think this has been shattered beyond repair.  Yet, as we've seen over and over again, in the lives of couples, there is no marriage that is shattered beyond the repair work that God can do; right?

Dennis:  Right, and He uses people to intercept people on the run.

Bob:  I think one of the things that Adam and Laura's story illustrates for all of us is that many young couples today are marrying without any plan—

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  —without some basic relationship skills for, “What do we do when conflict comes?  How do we communicate effectively with one another?  How do we respond when we face inevitable trials and difficulties?” 

At the Weekend to Remember® conference, we provide that kind of relationship training from the pages of Scripture, where God has revealed to us how we are to make a relationship work.  Nobody knows better how to make a relationship work than the God of the universe who has pursued us when we broke our relationship with Him, and He came and restored fellowship with us through His Son.

Dennis:  He gave us blueprints.  As you can imagine, this is not the rest of the story.  We didn't come on FamilyLife Today with a couple who are divorced.  They're sitting here together, smiling at each other.  (Laughter)  There is a dramatic conclusion to this story that I want every listener to make sure they hear.

Bob:  We want to make sure listeners know what we’re trying to provide here at FamilyLife is help for couples who are in this situation, or in any situation in their marriage. 

The Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, that we’ve talked about, is one of the resources that we have available.  We’ve got dozens of these events happening in cities all across the country this spring.  You can go to, click on the link there for the Weekend to Remember, and find out when one of our weekend getaways is going to be coming to a city near where you live. 

Then, we have the Art of Marriage® video event that’s being hosted in hundreds of locations in April, and May, and June, and on into the summer.  In fact, Adam and Laura just hosted an Art of Marriage event in their local church.  This is something that any couple can do.  If you’ve got a heart to try to encourage other couples and equip them with biblical help for their marriage, the Art of Marriage is a six-session video event that can be hosted by any couple who has a desire to do that. 

Go to and click on the link for the Art of Marriage to find out more about either how you can host an event; or if you want to see where one of these events is being hosted in a city near you, again, just click on the link for the Art of Marriage.  Follow the links to get the information you need; or if you need help, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”. 

Now, let me ask a favor of you, as well.  This week, we are in the final days of March.  All month long, we have been asking listeners to consider joining us as Legacy Partners to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a monthly donation.  Over the next couple of days, we are hoping we will go over our goal of 1,500 new Legacy Partners for the month of March. 

We’ve got a thermometer on the website if you want to see how we’re doing toward that progress.  You can go to and check it out; but we’d like to ask you to consider becoming a Legacy Partner and helping support the ministry with a monthly donation to underwrite the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. 

If you do that, we’ve got a welcome kit we want to send you, with some resources in it.  We’ll send you additional resources, each month, to help strengthen and equip your marriage and your family. 

Find all the information about becoming a Legacy Partner when you go online at; or give us a call for more information at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.  Please join us in praying that God would raise up the right number of families to be Legacy Partners and to join with us in this effort.  We appreciate that. 

We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to continue to hear Adam and Laura Brown’s story.  Actually, it gets worse from what we talked about today before it gets better.  We’ll hear more about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us.

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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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

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