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If we love each other, why do we hurt each other?

with Scott and Sherry Jennings | July 9, 2012

When Scott and Sherry Jennings married in college, all they needed was love. Fourteen years later, their feelings had morphed into anger, deceit, and adultery. Find out how a couple moves from love to hate ... and back to love.

When Scott and Sherry Jennings married in college, all they needed was love. Fourteen years later, their feelings had morphed into anger, deceit, and adultery. Find out how a couple moves from love to hate ... and back to love.

If we love each other, why do we hurt each other?

With Scott and Sherry Jennings
|
July 09, 2012
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  When your marriage is dying and things seem hopeless, what do you do?

Scott and Sherry Jennings have been in that situation.

Scott:  I was an excellent liar—and a deceiver.  I manipulated Sherry and the people in my life to get what I wanted, when I wanted it.  So, I ended up in an adulterous affair.  I ended up moving out and moving in with another woman.

Sherry:  Actually, he moved out with another woman because I knew about the affair.  He said that he was stopping it, but I was realizing he wasn’t.  It just got to a point where I had to say, “Honey, if you’re going to continue to have a girlfriend and drink, you’re going to have to not live here.”  I actually asked him to move out.

Scott:  At the time, I just didn’t know how to deal with that.  So, I just kept turning back to alcohol—more and more.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 9th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Scott and Sherry Jennings tell us today about the path that led them to divorce and the path that brought them back together again.  Stay tuned. 

Bob:  And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  You know, you look forward to these kinds of programs more than interviewing some well-known author or—

Dennis:  Oh, yes!  I mean, we’re talking about heroes in the faith—people who are slugging it out and making it happen, all across the country.  Scott and Sherry Jennings join us on FamilyLife Today.  Sherry and Scott, welcome to the broadcast.

Scott:  Thank you so much for having us.

Sherry:  Thank you.

Scott:  It’s a pleasure.

Dennis:  Scott and Sherry live in Goldsboro, North Carolina—

Scott:  Yes, sir.

Dennis:  What part of the state—I’m sorry—I’m not real—my geography for North Carolina is not good because one time I was supposed to go to Greenville, North Carolina.  Instead, I didn’t read the wedding invitation properly.

Bob:  Guess where he went?

Scott:  Greenville, South Carolina?

Dennis:  Yes, Greenville, South Carolina.  It turns out that there was a coach for North Carolina State who made the same mistake as I did.  I felt like I was in good company, even though I felt like an idiot.

So where’s Goldsboro?

Scott:  It’s about an hour east of Raleigh—actually, not that far from Greenville, North Carolina.

Dennis:  Scott and Sherry give leadership to a marriage and family ministry in a church.  They are Homebuilders. 

Bob, you and I have talked about—for a number of years—how we have wanted to create tools and make them available to couples, like Scott and Sherry, who can grab the tool and take it to their neighborhood, their church, their community, other communities, a military base—as they have.  They’ve pulled out the tool of a Weekend to Remember® and helped with ten of those.  They’ve done five Art of Marriage® video events and have four more scheduled.

Scott:  That’s correct.

Bob:  Yes, the thought has been that there are people who have a passion and a vision to see God work in the lives of friends, family members, and people in their community in the area of marriage.  I know for you guys—that passion to see God touch people really comes out of your own story.

You grew up in Massachusetts, Scott.  Is that right?

Scott:  That’s correct—out on Cape Cod.  It was almost an idyllic place to grow up—on the water all of the time. 

Bob:  Was there anything spiritually going on in your life or in your family as you grew up?

Scott:  I recall being baptized at age nine in a church that I don’t remember the name of and don’t remember ever returning to.  It wasn’t really a legacy that was passed down in our family. 

Dennis:  You wouldn’t say you had a conversion at age nine, even though you were baptized?

Scott:  No, I think it was my parents felt it was necessary.

Bob:  Sherry, you grew up in Connecticut; right?

Sherry:  Yes, sir. 

Bob:  Anything going on spiritually in your life as you grew up?

Sherry:  No, I grew up military.  I grew up Catholic.

Bob:  Okay.

Dennis:  You two ended up meeting.  Tell us how that occurred.

Scott:  We were actually at a keg party at the University of Connecticut.

Dennis:  That’s a spiritual matter.

Scott:  Isn’t that?

Sherry:  Yes, it was!

Bob:  There were spirits in the room!  [Laughter]

Scott:  Yes, Sherry was a—were you a senior by then?

Sherry:  Yes.  I didn’t pay much attention to you.  I felt bad for you.

Scott:  Yes, I was an 18-year-old freshman and trying to fit in with a bunch of other fraternity guys.  Sherry didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention to me at that point.

Bob:  You noticed her, right?

Scott:  Oh, yes!  We met again at another party.  I basically followed her—not followed her physically—but just watched her the whole night and kept my wits about me. 

Dennis:  So, that’s how you tried to get on the radar.  How did he get on the radar?  [Laughter]

Sherry:  Well, that was pretty much it.  I mean, as a woman—we like to be noticed.

Bob:  And you knew this guy was paying attention?

Sherry:  Absolutely!  We connected toward the end of the party and made plans to see each other again—between visiting each other at the different schools, back and forth, for the next several months.

Bob:  But he’s a freshman!

Sherry:  Oh, but he’s very handsome, Bob.  [Laughter]  He was very sweet and soft-spoken at the time. 

Bob:  Sometimes, even those things can transcend your age; right?

Sherry:  Yes, that’s exactly it.

Scott:  Sure, sure.

Dennis:  So—your first date?

Scott:  Gosh, what was our first date?  I think we went to the Quad—I attended the University of Massachusetts.  She came up to visit me—I didn’t have a car.  I took her out for chicken cutlets at the dining hall.

Bob:  Wow, wow!

Sherry:  Very romantic.

Scott:  Very romantic.  Then, I think we might have gone to a pizza pub or something.

Sherry:  Yes.

Bob:  But things were already starting to work in both of your hearts?

Sherry:  Yes.

Bob:  There was a mutual attraction.  How long from chicken cutlets at the dining hall until you proposed to her? 

Scott:  I proposed in October of 1990 actually.

Sherry:  Yes, it was about a year and a half later.

Scott:  About a year and a half later.  We married in September of 1991. 

Sherry:  We very quickly became “Scott and Sherry”—sort of one word—“Scott and Sherry.”

Scott:  Yes, that’s it.

Bob:  I’m guessing that your romance in college would have been like a lot of college romances, where kids aren’t following Christ—things kind of progressing, maybe beyond where they should have been progressing?

Scott:  Oh, yes.

Sherry:  Absolutely!

Bob:  Yes.

Sherry:  Really quickly.

Bob:  So, when you got married, you really didn’t have a whole lot of solid foundation on which to try to build anything; did you?

Sherry:  No, no.

Scott:  But we had feelings, Bob!

Sherry:  And we lived together.

Scott:  And we had lived together for quite a while.

Sherry:  So, we were prepared!

Scott:  We just had no idea what we were doing.  We were just doing, pretty much, what had been modeled by the culture.

Bob:  People talk about the period in marriage where you realize the honeymoon is over.  Did that happen quickly for you guys or was the first year a good year?  How would you assess when you started to notice there were cracks in the foundation?

Sherry:  I think the first year was pretty good because it felt like an extension of college.  We were still having our college friends over—so it didn’t feel a whole lot different.

Dennis:  Scott, you were still in college?

Scott:  No, actually, I had dropped out.  I was on academic probation because I liked to drink more than I liked to go to class.

Bob:  He had other interests other than the academic pursuits.

Scott:  I did; yes.  During the summer—actually, after my freshman year—Sherry was attending college in Connecticut.  She actually kind of said to me, “You are either going to move down here and we’re going to continue this relationship or it’s going to be over.”  She didn’t want to have a long-distance relationship.  Instead of returning to school at U Mass, I moved to Connecticut.  That’s when we moved in together.

Bob:  I have to ask you the question—thinking as a parent—“What was going on back home with Mom and Dad, with Scott on academic probation?”  He’s dropping out of school.  He’s going down and he is moving in with this girl.  Were they like, “Oh, well, I guess that’s what kids do today,” or were they trying to talk you out of it? 

Scott:  They were not particularly happy with my lifestyle choices at that time.

Bob:  Is there anything they could have done that would have deterred you from the path you’d set for yourself; do you think?

Scott:  Not that I can think of.

Bob:  Yes.

Scott:  No; not that I can think of—wonderful parents—loved us very much but were very firm with us.  There was no relationship with God at home.

Bob:  Sherry, what about with your parents when they got the news that this boy was moving down and moving in with Sherry or did you keep that kind of quiet from them for a while?

Sherry:  No, it wasn’t anything I could keep quiet.  They weren’t pleased.  They weren’t happy.

Bob:  But by this point, you’re living your life, doing what you want to do?

Sherry:  I have an apartment.  What are they going to do?

Dennis:  So, you were married.  Then, there began to be some problems that were more than just, “The honeymoon’s over.”

Sherry:  Yes.

Scott:  Yes.  Really, we married in 1991, as I said.  My father, in particular, had some physical hardships.  He contracted polio very young and was on crutches most of his life—in a wheelchair for most of my lifetime.  I didn’t feel like we had a connection beyond that relationship, where I was, essentially, his helper.

I was looking forward to that opportunity, as we got older—as I became an adult—to maybe have a relationship with him of that nature, where I could relate to him and maybe we could develop a friendship to some degree.  He passed away in 1994—somewhat unexpectedly.  He was 65 years old—fairly young—but had a lot of physical challenges, like I said.

That was really devastating for me.  The good news is two years before, they had moved to North Carolina to be near my sister.  They had gone to church with my sister and they had both accepted Christ.  So, I know where he is and I know what he’s doing.  I’ll get to see him again.

But, at the time, I just didn’t know how to deal with that.  I didn’t understand how a God that could be your Savior would take my father from me.  I really turned more toward some of the activities I had outside of the home.  I was a volunteer fireman by then—for about two years.  I spent a lot of time there.  That was back in the era, you know, of some of the departments would have a soda machine.  One of the dispensers was always full of beer.

We wouldn’t talk about some of the things that we saw at a wreck or in a fire—which were really things you’re not supposed to see, as a human being.  We didn’t talk about them.  If you did—if it bothered you, you were weak.  Naturally, it did bother me.  I just kept turning back to alcohol, more and more.

Bob:  Sherry, let me ask you, “Were you aware that your husband was slipping away from you and away from where he needed to be as a man?”

Sherry:  Well, not because of his father’s death.  I had a very strong personality.  I was very controlling.  I was the boss at work and very much the boss at home.  I didn’t realize that that wasn’t a good design.  I had my plan for how our marriage was supposed to work, for how our family was supposed to work, for what we were supposed to do.

I was realizing more and more that he wasn’t participating in that plan—he wasn’t doing what I thought he was supposed to be doing.  I saw more of that conflict, where he was taking more and more fire calls and spending more and more time at the bar—more as being rebellion against this plan that I had.

Bob:  This is not a recipe for a healthy relationship.

Scott:  [Laughing]   No!

Bob:  I mean, losing your dad—which was traumatic for you—and then some of the trauma you were being exposed to as a volunteer firefighter, and a wife who is controlling and nagging.  You’re kind of thinking, “Okay, I’ll just escape.”

Scott:  Exactly. 

Bob:  You’re finding that in alcohol.  As he’s doing that, you’re just getting angrier and angrier—it sounds like.

Sherry:  Well, more and more frustrated and spending a lot more time at work.  I had great opportunities to succeed there.  I had a lot of affirmation there—a lot of success there because they were doing what I told them to do.  That sort of, I guess, was my escape—that, and our son.

Bob:  And did you realize your husband was an alcoholic?

Sherry:  No, no. 

Bob:  You didn’t know that?

Sherry:  I had no idea.  No, I just thought that he was sort of still coming off the college thing.  That’s what I think it was.  It was the transition from the college life together to the family life together.  I think that was almost more frustrating for me as a mother and a wife.  “Okay, we have a child.  It’s time to grow up!”  I didn’t realize he was an alcoholic, but it was just time to stop partying so much.  He wasn’t getting onboard with that part of the plan.

Scott:  I don’t think either one of us understood how the different traumatic events of losing my father and dealing with some of the things that you see as a firefighter—really, we didn’t know what effect that was having at the time.

Dennis:  So, spiritually, what’s taking place?  Here you are having been married almost 15 years by now.

Sherry:  Actually, it was about 12 years by then.  At about 12 years, from when our son was born, God had started softening my heart, and the way that I was speaking, and the things that I was listening to.  It was about 12 years into the marriage that I accepted Christ for the first time.  I had some great girlfriends who were coming around me.  I was just starting to realize that there was so much more to life than the marriage that we had been living—the cycle of fighting, and making up, and fighting, and making up—and realizing that—my role as a wife—I had been totally “out of whack” with that.

Bob:  What happened?

Sherry:  It was a gradual tug—just realizing that there had to me something more to life than what we were doing.  It was in 2003 that I started to dig in and really make some different decisions for our relationship—speaking to him differently, pursuing reading Purpose Driven Life, reading some different things that sort of gave me a better foundation for who I was and for where I was going.

Dennis:  Scott mentioned earlier that you used to walk into a room—a party—and fill the room.  He spoke of it—past tense—as though you’d had a bit of a personality transformation.  Was coming to faith in Christ so life-altering that it did, in fact, kind of change how you related to people?

Sherry:  Absolutely!  Absolutely.  I guess, in college, I just had this need for attention because I had been so quiet in high school.

Scott:  Sherry actually used to seek out arguments when we were at parties and things.

Sherry:  I did.

Scott:  It was interesting.  There was an absolute transformation in her.

Bob:  And all this time, you are angry with God, wondering why your dad was taken?

Scott:  Yes.

Bob:  Now, your wife is starting to show some spiritual signs of life and acting differently toward you.  What did that do for you?

Scott:  I decided to push her further away because it made me angry at her. 

Bob:  How far and how fast?  I mean, where did the marriage wind up?

Scott:  I ended up in an adulterous affair that started—I don’t remember chronologically when it started, but it was around that time period.

Sherry:  2003.

Scott:  Yes, 2003 or so.  I ended up moving out and moving in with another woman.

Bob:  Sherry, did you have any idea that this was going on in his heart?  When did it come to light for you?

Sherry:  No, I didn’t really have any idea.  That was sort of the wild part—is that God got ahold of my heart to prepare me to learn about his affair so that when I did, I think I was less angry and just more heartbroken for where he was—that that was something that he felt he needed to do—that that was some place he needed to seek out comfort.

I had just prayed for God to show me Scott through His eyes. It made it very difficult to be angry at him.  God showed me just this broken little boy who didn’t know how to get out of the mess that he had made.

Dennis:  There would be those listening to your story who would say, “How in the world could you miss the reality of his alcoholism—now, an affair?  I mean, how could that keep going?”

Sherry:  Well, I almost think God was protecting me because I, very firmly, from the beginning, had always said, “If you have an affair, I am out of here.  We are done!”  Had I found out, before I knew Jesus Christ, we would have been done right there.

Scott:  And let me say, too—I tell folks now—that not only was I listening to the wrong coach, but I was studying his playbook. I was an excellent liar—and a deceiver.  I manipulated Sherry and the people in my life to get what I wanted, when I wanted it.  I think there was some of that that came into play, too, that kept Sherry kind of in the dark.

Dennis:  So, at some point, did you draw a line in the sand?  I mean, here, he has moved out with another woman.

Sherry:  Actually, he moved out with another woman because I knew about the affair.  He said that he was stopping it, but I was realizing he wasn’t.  It just got to a point where I had to say, “Honey, if you’re going to continue to have a girlfriend and drink, you’re going to have to not live here.”  I actually asked him to move out.

Dennis:  And then did you take legal action? 

Sherry:  I did file for separation, just because I was fearful with him driving drunk so frequently.  I wanted to financially protect our son and me.  We actually had several divorce dates.  We had a first divorce date, which he had asked me to postpone—so, I did. 

I didn’t understand it because he wasn’t doing any of the things that we had said would perhaps make our marriage work—like giving up the girlfriend, and getting a different job, and stopping drinking—but I postponed it twice and the third time—

Dennis:  Wait, wait.  Why did you ask her to postpone it?

Scott:  I don’t know.  I’ll be honest with you.  I really don’t know.  Obviously, I still had feelings for her; and I knew, in my heart of hearts, somewhere, what I was doing was wrong.  I wasn’t really sure why, necessarily; but I knew it was wrong, though.  I don’t know why I would postpone that or ask her to, other than a desperate attempt to hang on to something that I knew was good in my life because there was so little that was.

Bob:  In case folks tuned in late, tell everybody, again, what you do for a living now.

Scott:  I’m the pastor of Marriage and Family Life at our church in Goldsboro.

Dennis:  So there was a resurrection?  [Laughter]

Bob:  Some things have changed since all of this happened!

Scott:  Yes!  Yes, sir.

Bob:  I think part of the story, Dennis, is that wherever a marriage is—there is hope for a marriage to be different than where it is today. 

Dennis:  Well, I mentioned that there was a resurrection.  I’ve said many times, the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead can bring a dead marriage back to life.  Death has been defeated.

Sherry:  Yes.

Dennis:  The tomb is empty.

Scott:  Amen!

Dennis:  Christ is alive.  He can penetrate hard hearts, deceived hearts, and deceitful hearts.

Scott:  Yes, sir.

Dennis:  Broken vessels—He can make them—they are still broken—but they are pots that are fit for allowing Christ to live in them and through them.  He can change human beings’ lives.

We’re going to have to wait to hear the rest of the story.

Bob:  I want to make sure our listeners understand—as we go through this story and as they hear about how God uses some of the resources FamilyLife has put together to be an instrument to resurrect Scott and Sherry’s marriage—we know that the power is not in the tools.  The power is in God’s Word.  It’s in the Gospel.

What we’ve tried to do is design tools that are rooted in the Scriptures because that’s where transformation comes from.  Scott and Sherry went to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.  That was one of the things God used to draw them back together as a couple.  As you’ve heard, they have been involved in hosting Art of Marriage events throughout North Carolina.  In fact, they’ve done a number of them and continue hosting these events in churches and in communities throughout their state.  It gives them an opportunity, not only to share from their own life, but also to present, in a compelling way, God’s design for the marriage relationship. 

Our team is hoping that there will be thousands of couples, like Scott and Sherry—God’s done a work in your life, in your marriage.  If you want to share that good news with others and you need a tool to help you do that, you could host an Art of Marriage video event in your community or in your church.  It’s easy to do.  It’s a lot of fun.  It’s exciting to see how God shows up and works in these events. 

The team has put together a special bundle for those of you who would like to host one of these events this fall.  You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and order The Art of Marriage Event Kit.  You’ll get the DVDs, a couple of manuals; and, with this special bundle, you’ll also receive a certificate for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway that you can use as a giveaway for your event or use it for yourself. 

All of this is available for a special price, and it’s available for two weeks.  So, you need to order this week or next week if you want to take advantage of this special offer.  Again, this is for FamilyLife Today radio listeners.  If you’re interested in hosting an Art of Marriage event—order the event kit and get the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway certificate—all of that is available at a special reduced price.  Again, you have to order between now and a week from Sunday in order to take advantage of the special offer.  Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information, or you can order online from us.  FamilyLifeToday.com is the website. 

I should also mention that we also now have available The Art of Marriage online edition.  If you’d like to order a couple of Art of Marriage manuals, we’ll send you a code where you can watch the videos online and have your own Art of Marriage event, in your home, for just the two of you.  If you want to invite friends over, you can do that.  The Art of Marriage is streamed online on your laptop, on your mobile phone, on your iPad®.  Whatever fits your schedule—if you want to do it over a weekend or if you want to do it every night for six nights—however you’d like to fit it in.  Find out more about how you can experience The Art of Marriage in the online edition by going to FamilyLifeToday.com.  That’s FamilyLifeToday.com; or if you need to get in touch with us by phone, call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear more of Scott and Sherry Jennings’ story.  In fact, we’re going to hear about the day they went together to the courthouse and heard the judge declare that their marriage was over.  That comes up 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 back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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

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