Restoring the HopeMarch 29, 2012
Even though Adam had come back home, Laura struggled to forgive him. The Browns tell how an unforgiving spirit and continual self-centeredness almost ripped a hole in their marriage that couldn't be patched.
Even though Adam had come back home, Laura struggled to forgive him. The Browns tell how an unforgiving spirit and continual self-centeredness almost ripped a hole in their marriage that couldn't be patched.
Restoring the Hope
Bob: Laura Brown's young marriage was a mess. She and her husband Adam had been separated five times, and she came to a point where she simply didn't know what to do.
Laura: Before—I still loved him. I had this love that was holding on, but I developed hopelessness. I began not to trust him, even more; and I'd cry myself to sleep at night, just realizing, “Five times he's left, and I don't even know if I love him anymore.” During that time, it became harder to hold on. It became harder to have hope.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Is there a way to find hope for your marriage when things seem hopeless? Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I know, as a parent, when you think about your kids getting married, you hope that the first few years of marriage will just be an extended honeymoon; don't you? I mean, you hope that they're just going to have a great time getting to know one another. Sure, they're going to have some adjustments that they'll have to make along the way; but you just want it to be a sweet time for them.
Dennis: Well, you do; but you also know better.
Bob: Well, yes.
Dennis: You know that real life comes at us and will come at your children. So, ultimately, you want them to have some foundation and some hope, some blueprint for being able to translate that reality into a good marriage.
Bob: You do hope that the road they'll travel on in that first few years of marriage will be a little less bumpy than the one that Adam and Laura Brown, our guests this week, were on in their first few years of marriage.
Dennis: Yes, you sure do. Adam and Laura, welcome back.
Adam: Thank you.
Laura: Thank you.
Dennis: Adam and Laura serve here on FamilyLife staff, now; but who would have ever thought they would be sitting across the table being interviewed on FamilyLife Today—because their marriage was in trouble.
Bob: Yes, you shared with us, already this week, that the first year of marriage—there was isolation, there were trust issues.
Adam, you lost your job. There was drinking and hanging out with friends. You were going off with your buddies to strip clubs, leaving your wife at home. She was pregnant—had just given birth to your first child; and a month after Madeline was born, you found yourself walking out the door, shoving her aside, and on a bus on your way to Tennessee—from Portland, Oregon, to Tennessee. That's a long bus ride; isn't it?
Adam: That is.
Bob: How did you get back from Tennessee, back home to your wife, and how did you begin the process of trying to see if you could make your marriage work again?
Adam: I had been gone for a couple of days, and I really just felt I needed to call Laura and at least attempt to ask for forgiveness. I called about three days after I'd been in Tennessee—I'd been gone almost a week—and we talked for a couple of hours. Basically, I remember asking, “If I were to come home, would you be able to forgive me; and would you let me back in the house?”
She said that she would, and we had no money. I said, “Well, let me call my parents and see if they'll get me home.” I called my parents and explained I was down here in Tennessee with Tim, with a friend of mine, and wanting to come home but I had no money. Could they fly me home?” They said they'd need a couple of days to make the arrangements, and they flew me home just about a week after I had left.
Dennis: Now, when you got the phone call, hearing he wanted to come home, why did you agree to let him back in?
Laura: Like I said earlier, I didn't really know who I was. I was Adam's wife. That's who I was, and I wanted him back. I wanted things to be back—not the way that they were before he left, but I wanted to make it like the first year of our marriage again. I was willing to accept him back, despite all the hurt.
I remember when he came back home and our baby was only four weeks old. So, feelings of post-partum depression, all that—that stuff is still real fresh. We're still dealing with a baby that's up all hours of the night, and it seemed like we hit back into reality really quickly.
I remember just hurting so much inside; but yet, not feeling able to express how I was feeling to him because I was afraid he would just leave again. I dealt with so much turmoil inside of me and not—I think that was—that right there just put us right back in the same spot.
Bob: Were you aware of what was going on in your wife's heart, in her life? Were you aware you were back in the old patterns?
Adam: Yes, somewhat. I don't remember a day-by-day scenario, but it wasn't too many days or weeks passed before we found ourselves back at the door again—again, just verbally tearing each other down. This time, I'd flee the house, flee the argument. Now that my parents and her parents knew we had problems, I could go out to my parents’ house and stay the night—or most of the time, just head back out to the bars and find some college or high school buddies and crash at their place.
Dennis: Three times in the next year?
Adam: Yes, a total of five times, our third year of marriage, the first year of Madeline's life. I left Laura and Madeline, both—all five times, talking about divorce.
One time, we separated for, I think, two months over around Christmas and New Years; and we just had to start dating, trying to find any kind of common ground between us that we could light that spark of love and make our marriage work. Each time, it was the same scenario, “I’m sorry. Would you please forgive me? I don’t want to be without you. I want to be a father to Madeline, and I want our marriage to work.” She’d accept me back, and we would just never reach out. We always had that face that, “We were great.”
It wasn't until the fifth time that I left, that I came back and Laura said, “You know, if you're being sincere that you want to make this marriage work, then, we need to go to counseling; and we need to go to Christian counseling.” Having no money, I agreed to counseling. I thought Christian counseling was more expensive. It was one of those things she was saying she wants to do; but, “We really won't ever do it because of the finances.”
Dennis: You had finally come to the end of your rope, where you wouldn't let him back in the house unless he agreed to do the counseling.
Laura: Right. It was affecting me too much—him leaving and just the constant roller coaster and the constant hiding it in my heart and trying to be this happy, cheerful wife to him and yet inside dying. By this time, Madeline is creeping up to a year old, and she's understanding that Daddy leaves. I did not want her to live like that anymore.
Bob: Did you have other friends, girlfriends, or adults who were giving you advice along the way?
Bob: I imagine that some of them were giving you the advice that, “It's time to end this nightmare and get rid of this guy.”
Laura: Yes. I would say 95 percent of the people, even family members, were telling me to give up.
Dennis: Even in your church?
Laura: Yes. Really, I mean when I say 95 percent, there were so many people who did not know because I still kept this happy face; but the people I let in were the people that I trusted and loved the most that I could tell. I had people there. I had my parents that believed that we could make it—that they just kept holding on and kept praying that, with the Lord’s help—they trusted that God was going to save our marriage; but it was really hard because I had friends—best friends—that were telling me to give in.
“Laura, when are you going to get smart, this is the fifth time—this is the fourth time. When are you going to get smart and realize he is not going to come back? How much more pain are you going to go through? How much more are you going to put your child through?” To hear those questions, you know being in—I had to just really—that was testing my faith.
Bob: I’m just curious why neither of you did throw in the towel because so many couples get to this point in marriage and they say, “I’m hearing from my friends there’s no hope. I don’t know whether there is hope.” Why didn’t you just cash it in?
Adam: I’ll take the first stab at that one. Really, growing up—extended family—divorce is very prevalent in my family. Seeing cousins dealing with mom and dad being divorced, having sat on the couch a couple of times, me with Mom and Dad, explaining to us—and my younger brother and sister—that they were going to be separated and getting a divorce. It was kind of the pride, if you will, Dennis—the pride that, “That is not going to happen to me. I’m going to make this work. I don’t know how to make it work, but I’m going to make it work; and it’s going to be different.”
Laura: For me, it was—it was just that I knew that I had made a vow before God—that’s truly what it is. It was that, when I stood there on that wedding day, I meant every word that I said, “Till death do us part.” Even though that was hard at that time to stand by that vow, I knew that it was before God. How could I turn my back? That would be sinning! No matter how much pain I was in or even how hard it was to deal with friends not encouraging me in this, I knew that I needed to stay in. I knew that there would be hope. I knew that God was a God that is a miraculous God and that He could do everything; and I had that hope that He could change us—that maybe we could be one of those couples that could be changed.
Dennis: You were stuck in your marriage, but neither one of you were ready to give up. It was, then, in 1997 that a co-worker, Rita—
Laura: Rita, yes.
Dennis: Is that right?
Dennis: —told you about something that brought some hope to your marriage.
Laura: Yes, the thing is she didn’t even know anything about our marital struggles. At least, she didn’t—she may have known it. It was pretty evident, probably on my face. She knew that something was going on, but she just came to me with this brochure—and this is after nine months of counseling. We did start going to the counselor. Rita just handed me a brochure to FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®—I’ll never forget that—it was a fall brochure.
She said, “My husband Lloyd and I go to this every year as a tune-up. No matter where you are in your marriage, this can be a great weekend for you. Can I give you this brochure?” I thought, “Sure.” You know, “Thanks, Rita; and I’ll talk to Adam about it.”
I remember taking the brochure home; and my dad was our babysitter, actually, at the time—coming home and kind of putting it on the counter. My dad was there, and he saw it; and Adam was there—said, “Hey, this is something we should look at.” Of course, we didn’t have any money still, and my dad said they wanted to pay for us to go to this conference.
Bob: So, Adam’s stuck again, now.
Laura: He’s stuck again. (Laughter) There’s no hope.
Bob: Were you thinking, Adam, “Boy, I really want to go to this thing?”
Adam: Actually, when she brought it home, I was to the point where, “Hey, we’ve been to counseling for nine months; let’s give this thing a shot and see if it’ll give us a boost and get our marriage back on the right track.” While her parents paid for us to attend the conference, my parents paid for us to be able to stay at the hotel; and the conference was actually the weekend before our third-year anniversary.
Dennis: Had either of them been to the conference?
Dennis: They just trusted that this was worth the money and wanted to invest in your marriage?
Bob: As the conference date approached, were you expectant or were you apprehensive?
Laura: I was apprehensive. I was getting a little bit nervous that we were going to this romantic Weekend to Remember. Yet, I did not feel like being romantic with my husband. I remember feeling really nervous about that aspect.
Dennis: Again, I want to go back—Adam, you were clueless.
Adam: Completely clueless, but looking forward to it because it was a weekend away with—I knew Madeline was going to be taken care of. It was just going to be “Laura and me” time at a hotel. I was looking forward to it.
Dennis: You did not know that your wife's heart had shut down?
Adam: No, no clue whatsoever.
Dennis: That you're toast; you're history.
Dennis: But you walk into this hotel. What were you thinking as you walk into that hotel, and get your name badge, and your conference manual? Were you cringing inside?
Laura: Inside, I was. Yes, I remember just thinking, “Well, we're here now. We've got babysitting lined up. We're here. There’s no way to get out of it. Rita's here even—she knows we're here.” So, I remember just sitting down and really just being nervous about the hotel part. It wouldn't have been as bad, maybe, if I could just go and then go back home; and we could kind of live our separate lives at night, but it was like this is a whole weekend, just the two of us.
Bob: Were you doing that? Were you living your separate lives? You’re three in your marriage. He was doing his thing; you were doing your thing. Was there any sense of oneness, or intimacy, or closeness between the two of you at that point?
Laura: No, not at that point at all. Because of the pornography issue that was going on, on his side, I didn't want to be intimate or anything with him. I did not want to be close to him. I did not want to be. There was—that oneness was not there.
Bob: You were aware of what was going on. How had you found out about his involvement in pornography?
Laura: When he would leave me, I would find out that he was at strip joints. I would see different things come up in the computer or different magazines, different things like that. I could see—really what bothered me was how he looked at other women and how he flirted with other women. I could see that. That was just really degrading to me. I didn’t want to—I didn’t want to have any part of any romantic weekend with this man.
Dennis: Again, I want to keep going back to this, Adam. You were clueless that your pornography and your wandering eyes were having any kind of impact upon Laura.
Adam: Yes and no. She had always talked about my wandering eyes. That was a project that I was always working on. Through these nine months, there wasn’t the heavy dose of pornography like when I would leave the house—that’s where I would be going at night. It wasn’t—I was not aware of where she was at, or how much I had really damaged her with leaving and with abandoning her, and the things that I did and how gravely it impacted her.
Bob: Are you saying you had severed with that past of pornography and going to the strip clubs or that it just wasn’t as prevalent as it had been?
Adam: Help me out here—I don’t know.
Laura: You don’t remember?
Dennis: You can’t remember?
Adam: No, I can’t remember. I want to say it was severed, but I don’t remember.
Laura: I remember that he wasn’t going to the strip clubs—at least, that’s what he was saying—but I knewthat where he worked and the influence that he was around at work—that he was around the pornography very heavily on the computer and magazines at his work.
Dennis: There you are on Friday night, and we begin the conference with “Five Threats to Oneness”.
Laura: Yes. (Laughter)
Bob: Why are you laughing?
Adam: —back up to the—almost the opening comments by the speaker who said, “Some of your marriages will be changed this weekend.” I thought, “Changed in a weekend? How can our marriage be changed in a weekend? There’s no way. I mean, we’ve been going to counseling for nine months. Nine months has been kind of baby steps in the right direction. How can a weekend change it? It may give us a hop, skip, and a jump ahead in the right direction; but it’s not going to change our marriage.”
He followed it up by saying if we had an open heart, an open mind, and if we were diligent to do the homework—the projects that were going to be taking place throughout the conference—that our marriage could be changed. That’s when kind of my ears perked up and said, “Hey, Adam, let’s pay attention. Maybe they know what they’re talking about.”
Dennis: There was some fresh hope there? I want to say, at this point, that the projects and homework that are done at the Weekend to Remember are all private. It’s just between a husband and a wife. In fact, I think that’s the strength of the weekend is it really—well, in a real sense is an invitation for two people to reconnect or to take their connection deeper if they have a good, healthy relationship—which you all didn’t at that point.
So, okay, back to the original question—you’re seated out there on Friday night, hearing these “Threats to Oneness”. What were you thinking at that point? “That's us”—
Laura: “That's us.”
Dennis: —or that's somebody else?
Laura: Probably both. “That's us,” “Oh, no, that's him,” “Oh, that's me,” “That's us.” Definitely, they were targeting every area of our life that was pretty much messed up.
Adam: I wish we had our conference manuals here because I remember just taking—and the little blank that they give you in the manual wasn't enough for us—the three inches in between each question was taken up by notes and quotes and little asterisks of things to ask Laura afterwards and things like that. It was, “Oh, this is awesome.”
Bob: You were getting into it right away on Friday night?
Bob: Were you getting into it, too?
Laura: I was getting into it. I was soaking it up. I think I was so dry—we hadn't been given this information! I was really soaking it up. I think I had a little bit of hope—“Wow! They really do know what they're talking about, and they are hitting so many key points in our marriage. I'm going to listen; I'm going to soak this in.”
Dennis: So, your heart, which had no EKG on it for him just a couple of hours earlier—
Dennis: All of a sudden, there's the faint heartbeat.
Laura: The faint heartbeat.
Dennis: —for Adam, once again.
Bob: Do you remember on that Friday night, when we wrap up, there's a project that we ask couples to do where you work through those five threats—and you kind of grade yourself, “How are doing in those areas?”—was there warmth between the two of you, or was there still a distance?
Dennis: Well, how about a thaw, Bob? (Laughter)
Adam: I would say there was a flutter for me, at least.
Bob: A flutter, and you were starting to show up. Do you remember going to bed that night thinking, “Maybe there is something here”?
Laura: I remember, even, we went to Sherry's. I remember we went to this restaurant, Sherry's, and did our homework that night. It felt more like a date. You know, we hadn't been dating; and it felt different. I did have a little bit of hope.
I remember we were actually doing this. It wasn't something that we just listened to; and then, “Okay, now, we're just going to go to bed,” and turn on our separate sides and go to bed. We were applying what we had learned, and I did have—that's when the hope started to begin.
Bob: You know the interesting thing is, Dennis, on Friday night, we don't really offer any solutions.
Adam: No, Friday night is just—
Dennis: We just point out the problems.
Bob: Yes. We point, and we point, and we point and say, “Here are the issues that cause couples to isolate and to lose oneness in marriage;” but there can be hope that comes just from the understanding, the recognition, that this is a common occurrence in marriage—that people understand—they know what happens. If they know where the problems are, maybe they know how to fix them.
Dennis: Yes, and I think what a lot of couples are feeling, Bob, is they’re the only ones who are in this ditch. They’re sitting out there—now, all of a sudden, there are these five points. You hear the audience laugh, the audience applaud at points; and there's a sense in which everybody in the audience is agreeing, “Yes, that's us. We're all there.”
You can't help but be encouraged when you realize your marriage is not alone—you know the thing that I—just listening to you, I feel it really intensely at this point. As I listened to you describe the impact that just Friday night had on you, I think, it's really too bad that every couple isn't required to go through this weekend before they get married—
Dennis: —then, again within 12 to 24 months after they get married. I mean, there is so much good training, equipping, take-away material from the Weekend to Remember. It just meets people where they live.
Bob: I'm thinking about the number of these getaways we have going on this spring in city after city, where we’re going to be going through this material with our speaker team. One of the things I appreciate about the speakers, who present the material at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, is that this is not some group of experts that we fly in to tell you how to fix everything. These are married couples who have been through the same struggles you’ve been through. They're honest about that. They're transparent. Yet, they have found that the solutions are in the Scriptures, and they’ve applied those solutions in their own marriage. Now, they come along and say, “Here’s what we’ve found that works, and it’ll help you as well.”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that are being hosted throughout the country this spring, or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information. If there is not a Weekend to Remember coming to a city near where you live, here’s an alternative for you. You can do what Adam and Laura Brown just did. You can host an Art of Marriage® video event in your local church, or in your community, or in your lake house, or wherever you got a big screen TV and a DVD player. This is a six-session video event that’s happening in churches and other locations all around the country, and anyone can host it. It’s having a powerful impact on marriages and families.
Find out more about an Art of Marriage event that may be happening in a city near where you live or how you can host one of these events when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link that says, “The Art of Marriage”. It’ll take you to the area of the web where we’ve got all the information about the Art of Marriage video event. You can find out how you can host one of these events or how you can attend one. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Our toll-free number is 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, a quick update—we are getting close to the end of the month of March. All this month, we have been asking FamilyLife Today listeners to consider becoming Legacy Partners, monthly donors, who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Some of you have done that; we appreciate your support. Our goal this month has been to get one new Legacy Partner in every city where FamilyLife Today is heard—at least that’s the average we are going for. We’re still a little ways away; but we want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who have already signed on as Legacy Partners. We’re hoping, here in the next couple of days, we can get to our goal.
Let me ask you to do a couple of things. First, join us in praying that God would raise up just the right number of folks to be Legacy Partners. Then, ask the question, “Should we do that?”—make a contribution each month to help support FamilyLife Today, help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this radio program. If you’d like to sign on as a Legacy Partner, we have a welcome kit we’ll send you. We have resources we’ll make available throughout the year. These are just our way of trying to build into your marriage and family and to thank you for your partnership with us, here in this ministry.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to become a Legacy Partner; or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, we appreciate your support, your prayers for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to hear the conclusion of Adam and Laura Brown’s story. It does have a happy ending. 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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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