FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Our Marriage Dreams Were Broken

with Sandy and Cheryl Spangler | September 2, 2013
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Sandy and Cheryl Spangler tell Dennis Rainey how their relationship blossomed after that first meeting at the Moose club with her parents. The good time they were having together soon ended, however, when Cheryl realized she was pregnant, and they reluctantly married. Hear how God changed their hearts and their marriage one attitude at a time.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Sandy and Cheryl Spangler tell Dennis Rainey how their relationship blossomed after that first meeting at the Moose club with her parents. The good time they were having together soon ended, however, when Cheryl realized she was pregnant, and they reluctantly married. Hear how God changed their hearts and their marriage one attitude at a time.

  • 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.

Hear how God changed their hearts and their marriage one attitude at a time.

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Our Marriage Dreams Were Broken

With Sandy and Cheryl Spangler
September 02, 2013
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Bob: Sandy and Cheryl Spangler began their marriage with a lot of hope, without a plan, and things quickly began to unravel.

Sandy: I thought I was the normal-type guy, you know. I worked construction pretty much my entire life.

Cheryl: He would stop after work—most evenings—and I would go straight home from work and get dinner ready.

Sandy: You get done with a hard day's work, and you stop at the bar, and you have a couple of drinks. Just because you're married doesn't mean anything. I mean, that's the way it's supposed to be.

Cheryl: Responsibilities—I think that was the big thing for me. All of a sudden, I need somebody to be responsible.

Sandy: When your wife, of a year, tells you that you're a drunk and you need to start taking responsibility, then everything inside you says, "It's her—"

Cheryl: You know, we're going to have a child pretty soon—and just trying to figure out life and go through life—

Sandy: “—it's not me. She just doesn't understand how it's supposed to be.”

Cheryl: He just didn't seem to be there, and it just went downhill from there. Our first wedding anniversary—we were separated.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What do you hold onto, in a marriage, when it seems like all hope is gone?  We’ll talk about that today. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. Today, we’re going to go back and listen to an interview—that was done a number of years ago—with some friends of ours, Sandy and Cheryl Spangler. Sandy and Cheryl have been on staff at FamilyLife for a number of years. Prior to coming here and joining with us, Sandy worked in construction. Cheryl was a registered nurse. God did a remarkable work in their lives and in their marriage at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.

One of the reasons we wanted to air the interview with Sandy and Cheryl this week is to pay tribute to Cheryl—who, earlier this year, went home to be with the Lord. After a prolonged battle with cancer, God called her home. We wanted to honor her life, her service, and her memory by sharing a story that she would want you to hear today if she were still alive to share it with you. It’s a powerful story of God’s transforming work in a couple’s life. It all started at one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.

This week and next week, here at FamilyLife, our team is making available a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners who would like to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. If you’d like to join us for one of these two-and-a-half day getaways—that we do in cities all around the country—these are getaways for married couples or for engaged couples—to hear about God’s plan for your marriage relationship. It’s a great two-and-a-half day getaway. If you’d like to join us, you can sign up this week or next week. When you register yourself, your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one/get one offer for the Weekend to Remember.

You save 50 percent on the registration rate when you call this week or next week. If you’re registering online, you need to type my name—you need to type “BOB”—into the promotion code box in order to qualify for this special offer; or simply call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “I listen to FamilyLife Today;and I’d like more information about the getaway,” or, “I’d like to sign up for one that is coming to a city near where we live.” When you do, you will save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; alright? So, we’d love to hear from you. We hope you and your spouse will plan to join us for a Weekend to Remember. Again, find our more at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.

With that, let’s listen back to a great conversation with a great couple. Here’s our conversation with Sandy and Cheryl Spangler.

Dennis: Let’s take a moment and go all the way back to the beginning of your relationship. Share with us how you guys met.

Cheryl: We met in a bar.

Dennis: What were you doing in a bar?

Cheryl: I went to dinner with my parents. I had just broken off an engagement. You know, I was not a believer at the time and decided to go to dinner with my parents to a Moose Club. My parents were there, the night before, for dinner, as well, because it was a great place to go for dinner. They had met him, and talked to him, and liked him. My mom thought that we should meet.

Dennis: How old were you at the time?

Cheryl: Twenty-two. I was a nurse and I had to go to work that night. So, I kind of left early. I had given him my phone number, and I didn’t know if he would call or not; but he actually—I so impressed him that he forgot my name! [Laughter]

Sandy: I remembered your name—I forgot your telephone number!

Bob: Did you know you were getting set up by her parents when all of this was happening?

Sandy: No, I didn’t have any idea at that time.

Bob: What were you doing at the Moose Club?

Sandy: Drinking.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: You were how old?

Sandy: I was 30.

Bob: The two of you meet in these circumstances. You give the phone number and you don’t hear from him because he forgot the phone number. What happened next?

Cheryl: The next thing I knew—I guess it was about a week later—I went back with my parents. He ended up there again—we ended up dating after that.

Bob: You hung out at the Moose Club pretty regularly?

Sandy: Oh, yes, I spent a lot of time in those places. I was also in the middle of a divorce, and I wasn’t really looking for a relationship. I thought it would just be fun to hang out, and she was a pretty gal.

Bob: Yes.

Sandy: Red hair—I was attracted to her.

Dennis: And neither one of you were Christians at the time?

Cheryl: No.

Sandy: No, no. My goodness, no, we were—

Cheryl: Far from it.

Sandy: —a long way from Christianity, at that point.

Bob: Did you know that he was ending a marriage? You learned that fairly quickly; didn’t you?

Cheryl: Fairly quickly. We had spent some time talking that evening, and he had kind of explained his past to me.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Were there any children involved?

Sandy: Yes, I had a son, Matthew, from my first marriage. At that point in time, he was five.

Bob: And you explained it fairly early-on. I mean, this was your first or second date that you were kind of laying out, “Here’s what life’s been like for me.”

Sandy: In some ways, I thought, maybe, it might scare her off. I think I was hoping for that, in all honesty. I really wasn’t looking for a relationship. I had grown up in the Rock Age and had gotten involved with alcohol and with drugs. I spent a year in Vietnam and actually became a heroin addict. I came back and kicked that habit but stayed with alcohol. At that point in my life, I was a pretty severe alcoholic.

Bob: Did you realize, at that point, that you were an alcoholic?

Sandy: I wouldn’t admit it; but as I look back on it now, I knew that I was.

Bob: Yes.

Sandy: I just didn’t want to come out and say that I was.

Dennis: So, how long did you date?

Cheryl: We met in March, and started to date right away, and saw each other very frequently. I was still at home. I moved out in August and moved into an apartment—we moved in together.

Bob: Was there anything in the back of your mind saying, "Gee, is this the right thing to do?"

Sandy: I think I knew that it wasn’t the right thing to do, but it was comfortable. I mean, really, for me, it was a comfortable place to be. I had somebody to be with and somebody to share my life with. There were, at that point, really no strings attached. I don’t think that either one of us ever expected that we would someday get married.

Dennis: So, why did you get married?

Cheryl: I became pregnant—and so just felt like that was the right thing to do.

Bob: Did you want to get married?

Cheryl: At that point, no. It was just an okay thing to do. It was convenience. It wasn’t like there was this romance or this real commitment—it was just the right thing to do.

Sandy: We really did like each other. I mean, we had a great time. Our relationship was a lot of fun—we had a blast! But it wasn’t a relationship that was really based on anything. It was just based on emotions and having fun together. I was okay with that. If it meant we had to get married, “Okay, we can get married.” Cheryl had a good job; and I had a good job, at that point in time. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Bob: You know, most little girls grow up dreaming of the day when the handsome young man will get down on one knee and will propose—and she'll say, "Yes,”—and they'll embrace. They dream of that moment. You tell him you're pregnant, he says, "Well, I guess we ought to get married," and that's all you got. Did you feel a loss?

Cheryl: Very much so—I think, for the first eight years of our marriage—I think that was part of our struggle because there was—there were just a lot of things that were missing. It just changes the way you relate to each other. I didn’t feel appreciated, or honored, or esteemed, in any way, from him.

Bob: Did you go to the courthouse to get married? Did you go to a church to get married?

Cheryl: We went to a church. I was six months’ pregnant when we got married.

Bob: And you said that, in the time that you were living together, your relationship was fine. You were having a good time—you were enjoying each other’s company. You’re saying, after the wedding, things changed?

Cheryl: Oh, very much so because, when you're living together, you're playing house. You're pretending. You're not the person that you really are. Even though you’re living together, you may see some of their faults but you don’t really see their faults. Things changed, dramatically, after we got married. Not that he was a lot different, even though he was different, but I was, also, a lot different once we got married.

Sandy: When you're living together, it's like you can walk out anytime you want to. Even though we were living together, I could do anything that I wanted to do; and I did. Then, when you become married, everything changes.

Bob: You're not free anymore; are you?

Sandy: You're not free: “Well, you can't practice with the band, four nights a week. You need to be home with me because we have a relationship.” My response was: “We had a relationship before. What has changed?”  Everything changed for me; and, I must admit, I didn't really like it a lot.

Cheryl: For me, all the guilt of living with somebody, and getting pregnant, and then, you get married because you have to—you still don't feel that there is any security there because, “This man just married me because I was pregnant.”

Bob: How long into the marriage before you started experiencing conflict? Was it a week—a month—six months?

Sandy: The day of.

Bob: The day of the marriage?!

Sandy: The day of the marriage.

Bob: Tell me about that.

Sandy: I like to cook—I like to cater. I like to play in the band. I like being in the middle of everything. So, the day we got married, I put myself in the middle of everything that was going on, as far as the reception—and forgot that I was getting married that day. So, when they needed to do pictures, and all of the other stuff that is so important for a bride, I didn’t make myself available, like I should have.

I look back on that day, now, and I think to myself, “How could anyone be that stupid?” —or that selfish, I guess you might say. But that set the tone for what our marriage was going to be like for the next eight years.

Dennis: Cheryl, you rolled your eyes a bit as he started reliving that.

Cheryl: Oh, do I remember—like it was yesterday! It was—it was a real struggle. It just went downhill from there. Our first wedding anniversary—we were separated. We were living apart.

Bob: What caused a couple to go from a happy-go-lucky, living-together relationship to a wedding, where there's tension to a point—where a year later—you go, "I don't want you around."  What happened?

Cheryl: Responsibilities—I think that was the big thing, for me. All of a sudden, I need somebody to be responsible. “We're going to have a child pretty soon,”—and just trying to figure out life and go through life—he just didn't seem to be there.

Bob: Was alcohol an issue, at this point?

Cheryl: Very much so because he would stop after work—most evenings—and I would go straight home from work and get dinner ready.

Sandy: I thought I was the normal-type guy. You know, I worked construction. When you get done, with a hard day's work, you stop at the bar, and you have a couple of drinks. Just because you're married doesn't mean anything. I mean, “That's the way it's supposed to be.” When your wife, of a year, tells you that you're a drunk and you need to start taking responsibility, then, everything inside you says, "It's her—it's not me. She just doesn't understand how it's supposed to be."

One of the reasons that Cheryl married me was because I was a hard-worker. I was. I like to work!

Bob: And I want to be clear on this, as well. You know, we've talked about the shortcomings of your husband here; but I'm guessing, that if we looked back at that first year, objectively, there were probably a few things you were doing to contribute to the disharmony in the home.

Dennis: Bob, Bob, she's a redhead.

Bob: I understand.

Cheryl: That's right. [Laughter]

Bob: I would just—if I had to guess—maybe, you expressed your anger pretty openly?  Maybe, you tried to adjust his behavior and control him a little more than you should have?

Cheryl: Oh, that would be correct. I would voice my anger very loudly, too. I knew how to push his buttons; and so, I became very good at it. I wouldn’t blame him a bit for not wanting to come home.

Sandy: That happened several times—where I would go back and say: "You know—I made some mistakes. I really need to do something about stopping at the bars. I'll stop—I'll quit that. That won't be something that I'll do from now on. I'll make some adjustments. You'll see—it will be fine."

Cheryl: His promises would last about two weeks. Then, he would be right back to where he was. Then, I would be screaming. It would just—the cycle would start all over again.

Bob: You know, there are a lot of folks, who are listening, who go, “This sounds too close to home.” Maybe, they lived through it or they’re living through it, right now, as they hear you describe the story. How long did this go on, in your marriage—this crazy, ongoing cycle of: “We’re angry,”—“We’re back,”—“This isn’t working.”? How many years?

Sandy: Eight years. The interesting thing is that, while we were going through all these issues, we were starting to establish a pretty nice little nest egg. I had started my own business and was very successful. Cheryl was, by that time, the nursing director for a catheterization lab at one of the larger hospitals in the Cleveland area. So, things were really looking good for us, on the outside.

Bob: Was it a marriage that you would say was mostly miserable, with a few moments of happiness—or would you say it was okay; but when the storm clouds rolled in, they thundered pretty hard? 

Cheryl: I would say it was probably about half and half. There were some good times; but as the years went on, the bad times were worse and the fighting lasted longer. I can honestly say—toward the end of the eight years—that there would be two to three weeks, at a time, where we would not speak.

Dennis: I just think of the amount of anger and bitterness that must have built up over an eight-year period. I know, from looking at the Bible, it says, “Don't let the sun go down on your anger.” For eight years, the sun had gone down on two people's anger for one another.

Bob: It was stockpiling. And, you know, we talk, at the Weekend to Remember conferences, about how the natural drift of any marriage is toward isolation. What you’re describing is a period where two people are living together and, to the outside, everything looks fine. But the emotional divorce had happened in your marriage. You were two people, living under the same roof—still sharing the same bank account, same address—but you had left one another a long time ago; hadn't you?

Cheryl: Yes. I think that I had, at that point, taken all I was going to take. You know, you joked around about me being a redhead. I can take so much—and I’ll take it, and I’ll take it, and I’ll take it—and then, I am going to explode. In eight years, I was ready to explode. I had once, previously, filed for divorce and did not go through with it. So, at that point, I went and saw an attorney and was beginning to file the papers for a divorce.

Bob: At this point, with that explosion going on—with that kind of contempt coming your way—are you thinking, “Okay, the best thing to do—end this deal, and we move on.”?

Sandy: You have to go back one year, in which I went out with the guys to celebrate my birthday, and somebody else’s birthday, and somebody else's birthday and—

Bob: A long celebration?

Sandy: It was a long celebration. I woke up, in the middle of the night. I don't know, to this day, what it was or what set me off—but I woke up; and I put my fist through the wall of our brand-new house, as a matter of fact. We just had completed it. When I did that, I scared Cheryl, obviously. She took Michelle and went across the street to her parents' house. I went back to bed and managed to sleep some but woke up and saw what I had done, and proceeded across the street, and begged her to come home.

I told her that I was going to get some help, and I was going to make a change, and I was going to stop drinking. Of course, she didn't believe me because she'd heard it before. But I did—I stopped drinking. Cheryl did, eventually, come back home. When we got through that year, I thought that I had done everything that I needed to do to mend this relationship because I had quit drinking. So, what else did she want?!

I think, more than anything else, what I was trying to do was salvage my empire. I wanted to have my house back—that I had just completed—and my four-car garage, and my trucks, and my toys. I wanted to have a relationship with somebody that was willing to put up with who I was and not expect anything more than that.

Dennis: Wow, Cheryl! He's trying to salvage the relationship for his stuff.

Cheryl: For his stuff.

Dennis: You had to feel that. That had to be a part of what you were going through, in terms of lack of being valued, appreciated, and esteemed.

Cheryl: Exactly. I felt like nothing in the marriage. I didn't feel like his partner. I felt like I was just a bag that was along for the ride.

Bob: Did you feel like you were doing all you needed to be doing, as a wife?

Cheryl: At the time, I think I thought I was. I mean, as I look back now, I know that I wasn't, but at the time—you have to understand—we didn't know how to be married—we really didn't. We didn't have the first clue as to what it was going to take. So, I didn't know what I was doing wrong; and I don't know that he really did, either.

Dennis: Now, wait a second. He’s, now, almost 40. You’re almost 30. He’s the CEO of an electrical construction company. You are the managing nurse in charge of a cardiac lab, and you didn’t know how to do marriage?

Cheryl: Well, when you go to nursing school, you learn how to do everything. Then, you have somebody who—when you go in, then, they teach you. I learned everything that I needed to learn.

Bob: You’d been trained.

Cheryl: I had been trained.

Bob: You knew how to do the job?

Cheryl: I knew how to do it.

Bob: Somebody explained it to you, but nobody had ever explained how to do marriage to you.

Cheryl: Right. If somebody had explained, I would have done it.

Dennis: And, you know, I think that's where so many couples end their marriages—right there!

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: They don't realize, at their point of need, that there is a solution that's very practical. It works. It's authoritative, and that training is available today. I think some of the finest training on marriage and family, anywhere in the world, can be found at a Weekend to Remember.

Bob: You know, listening back to our conversation with Sandy and Cheryl Spangler, which took place several years ago—and, once again, Cheryl—earlier this year—went home to be with the Lord—but I listen back to them sharing their story, and I think Cheryl would say the same thing today, if she were here, that she was saying then. Couples need to make their marriage a priority. When they find themselves in trouble—in a ditch—they need to get help. Actually, before you get in the ditch, you ought to get the help so you don’t wind up in the ditch; you know?

That’s one of the reasons why our team, this week, has a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners. We are about to kick off the fall season of Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We’re going to be hosting these in about four dozen cities, all across the country, this fall. If you will call us this week or next week to sign up to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this fall—you sign up and register for yourself and your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one/get one free opportunity. You save 50 percent off the regular cost of registration. It’s available this week and next week only.

Go to to register or to find out when a Weekend to Remember is coming to a city near where you live. Again, the website is Click the button that says, “Weekend to Remember”. All the information that you need is available there. To take advantage of the special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners, you need to type my name—you need to type “BOB” —in the box that says “Promotion Code.” That will automatically qualify you for the special offer. Take advantage of this today—go online——to find out more about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Sign up now!

If you have friends who you know need to be at this event, call them or sign them up; right? You can do that! Go to and get them all signed up for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Then, call them and say: “Guess what? We’ve got a present for you!” is our website. You can also reach us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.

Now, tomorrow, we are going to continue to hear Sandy and Cheryl Spangler’s story. In fact, we’ll hear what Sandy thought when his wife dragged him to the Weekend to Remember—what he thought the experience was going to be and what it turned out to be. I hope you can tune in 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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