Speaking the Truth in Love
About the Guest
Most couples experience disillusionment at some point in their marriage. Today, Sandy Ralya recalls the first meeting with her husband, Tom, and the whirlwind courtship that ensued. After the wedding, however, Sandy realized she had married an angry and emotionally abusive man. After years of disillusionment, find out how Sandy found freedom and hope.
Most couples experience disillusionment at some point in their marriage.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Sandy: I just knew that I could not live like this anymore. I needed something to change, and I wasn’t getting Tom to change so I knew that I needed to do something different. I found some awesome scripture to point me in the right direction. In 1 Peter where it says, “That men are not won over by words but by watching your pure and godly behavior.” You know men – I guess they see better than they hear!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 26. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Sandy Ralya about how the combination of perseverance, some tough love, and the support of caring friends lead to a turn-a-round in her marriage relationship.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. Would you imagine that for most husbands and wives there is a time of disillusionment that occurs at some point early on in the marriage? I mean some point where you think this is not exactly how I thought it was going to work out.
Dennis: Well, if there isn’t that point of disillusionment maybe they’re not living in a real world because they have to find out that they’re living with an imperfect person. You know what I mean?
Bob: Well, yes, and hopefully you knew some of that going in but once you’re married some of that imperfection starts to surface and you didn’t see it as clearly before did you?
Dennis: That’s right, and I have a verse for you in that situation. It’s not one you would think you would quote in a situation like this but it’s Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” Now, what does that mean?
Well, it means that if you’re willing to live your life in dependence upon Jesus Christ, love Him, fulfill His purposes, even an imperfect situation - being married to a spouse, where you’ve become disillusioned can be used by God for something wonderful, something mighty.
We’re going to hear a story today from our friend Sandy Ralya who joins us on FamilyLife Today. Sandy welcome!
Sandy: Thank you so much. It’s good to be here!
Dennis: Sandy is the founder and director of Beautiful Womanhood, which is a mentoring ministry for wives. She and her husband Tom have been married since 1980. They have three children, and three grandchildren.
Sandy: Actually four granddaughters now. We just had our fourth in March.
Dennis: Okay and she’s written a book by the same title as her ministry: Beautiful Womanhood. This really starts out as your story Sandy of your own romance with Tom how he swept you off your feet. How did that happen – how did he romance you so wonderfully?
Sandy: Well, let me tell you – the first sight I had of my husband Tom was him on a blind date. He was walking up the steps to my house, and he had his eyes closed, and his arms stretched out in front of him feeling the space around him, and he said, “Hi – I’m your blind date!” I thought to myself what have I gotten myself into here? But, it became clear immediately we were opposites that attracted.
He is outgoing, and dynamic, and I’m more reserved and quiet. Instantly there was an attraction. He was the life of every party, and I’d always wanted to be a part of that, and so he ushered me right into that world, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Bob: How long from blind date to “I do”?
Sandy: Five months!
Bob: That’s a whirlwind right there!
Sandy: That’s a whirlwind!
Dennis: You hadn’t met him before then?
Sandy: I had not met him before that night.
Bob: Okay, well wait – wait. How long from blind date to will you marry me?
Sandy: That was about two months.
Bob: So, this was a quick process.
Sandy: It was very quick! Some of it quickened by our own choices. It was exciting. I was in love with him, and unfortunately we made the decision to become involved sexually before we were married. When I found out that I was pregnant we decided to go ahead and get married.
Bob: Now, you had grown up in a Christian home, the idea of sexual involvement prior to marriage was something that you knew was wrong.
Sandy: I did – that’s true – I did!
Bob: But, in the passion of the moment…
Sandy: Yes – I made some bad choices!
Dennis: What did your dad think about this relationship?
Sandy: My dad actually liked Tom – he’s a very likeable guy. He makes friends easily, and people are drawn to him. So, my dad was caught up in it, too.
Dennis: Was he professing to follow Christ at the time?
Sandy: Yes, Tom was a believer as was I and he was very outspoken about his Christianity.
Bob: So, he proposes, and it’s after that you find out you’re pregnant?
Sandy: That is correct.
Dennis: How old were you at the time?
Sandy: Nineteen – it was a dark and lonely time. I remember even going to a nearby mall and just sitting there and wondering what I was going to do.
Dennis: Did he go with you to talk to your parents?
Sandy: He did. He did!
Bob: How’d you break the news to Tom that you were pregnant?
Sandy: I just went over to his house and I just said, “Hey – we’re going to have a baby.” He was actually not devastated by the news and said, “You know what let’s move the wedding up. Let’s get married right away.” So, that’s what we did.
Dennis: So, when you went to your parents how’d that go off?
Sandy: Well, it was a very somber occasion as you can imagine, and you know my dad I know is deeply disappointed, and my mom loves babies so actually she was kind of excited at the prospect.
Dennis: So, you moved the wedding up?
Sandy: We moved the wedding up got married in December, on December 12th 1980, and we started our new life together.
Bob: How long into your marriage before you started to think I see the imperfections here. There are problems. This is not going to be exactly what I thought it was going to be.
Sandy: Not long after the honeymoon. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was married to an angry and emotionally abusive man. I had seen warning signs earlier in our short whirlwind courtship but I chose to disregard them especially in the light of my pregnancy. So, I just forged ahead, kind of jumping into deep water holding my nose, and hoping everything would be all right and it wasn’t.
I did not know how to deal with this emotional abuse that I was experiencing from Tom. Tom would try to control who I could see, where I could go, what I could do, what I would wear, and even what I would eat. I have a lot of women ask me what do you mean control what you would eat? We would be going through the drive-in lane of a McDonald’s and I would always order a chocolate shake. I love chocolate and it would always come back to me vanilla.
He would literally change my order because he didn’t feel that chocolate would be good for my skin or my body. He was very, very controlling!
Bob: We should say here that what you’re sharing with our listeners is something that Tom’s aware of. You talk about this in seminars that you do as our listeners are going to hear. Tom would confess this same thing if he was here today right?
Sandy: If Tom was here he’d be saying that’s right. That’s what I did.
Dennis: I want to know what brought this pronouncement that you write about in your book because I thought it was not only well written, I think it probably describes a lot of couples who start out their marriage as Bob talked about at the beginning with great hopes, high expectations, and then disillusionment either suddenly or slowly settles in.
You write this – you say, “On a cold December day Tom and I passionately vowed our lives to one another forever. It wasn’t winter’s icy winds that cooled my passion to love, honor, and cherish it was my inability to deal with Tom’s rough edges grating on my own. Marriage is all about becoming one, and I had no idea how to make that happen. I needed help.”
Sandy: That’s right – I did need help. You know when I first began experiencing life with my husband I didn’t know how to handle it. So, I just responded with what came naturally to me. I mean I know that I heard good teaching in church, but I didn’t know how to make it practical to my situation. So, I preached a lot to Tom, and that was one of the things that I thought would help the situation, and it didn’t help at all, and in fact sometimes just made things worse.
Bob: When you get a vanilla milkshake after asking for a chocolate one what would you say?
Sandy: I would question what he was doing. But, when things were more black and white you know like when he would say terrible things to me I would point out to him that God would not be pleased with how he’s treating me.
Dennis: Things like what – what would he say to you?
Sandy: He cursed at me a lot – just demeaned me in my value. I remember one day him looking at me and saying, “I don’t even know why I ever married you.” Just very demeaning things with a lot of bad language.
Bob: So, here you are nineteen years old, pregnant with a husband who’s saying I don’t know why I ever married you. You had to think this is a nightmare, and what do I do?
Sandy: Yes, and so I was trying to respond to it as best I knew how. I knew enough of the Bible to know about submission so sometimes my response was just being a doormat. I thought maybe my biblical idea of submission was maybe just taking it, and so I would. But, it just exacerbated this behavior in Tom. It didn’t diminish at all it just increased when I would do that. I didn’t feel good about myself either. I mean this isn’t what I was created to be, and do.
Dennis: Yes, you know you just used two illustrations though of how you responded preaching at Tom, or turning around and allowing him to run over you. I wonder how many women settle into a marriage for not just a few months but for years and remain the doormat or become the nag – the nagging preacher, the lecturer at her husband, and they just polarize in two different rooms in the house. They don’t have a marriage or a family, there’s no oneness, there’s no intimacy. It’s hopelessness.
Bob: Well, and if you pull back and say all right let’s try this behavior for a year, or for a couple of years – I’ll be a doormat for a number of years and maybe things will get better. That doesn’t work. Or if you say I’ll preach for a year or two that’s not going to work either. It’s going to take something different than simply becoming passive or preaching for there to be a break through.
Dennis: Yes and what you admitted in your book early on: I didn’t know what to do. I think that’s the beginning of a great discovery.
Sandy: It is.
Dennis: You know to admit I don’t know how to fix this, and so it only takes to page three in your book. I love this – page three has the words turning to God. What’s happening all across the country at our Weekend to Remember marriage conferences there are thousands of couples filling these ballrooms coming some to make a good marriage better, some to know how to start their marriage out, but a lot of them have come to the point of saying I don’t know how to do marriage.
Bob: Well, and I think a lot of people get to that point of I don’t know how to do marriage. They get to the point that you were in your marriage, and they think this can’t work. In fact I would think most young women in your circumstance pregnant with an emotionally abusive husband would say I have to get out. Did that thought come to mind for you?
Sandy: It didn’t for a long, long time. I was raised in the church, and my parent’s raised me to believe that once you’re married, you’re married for life – divorce is not an option. I was raised with that mindset, and I took that to the bank.
Dennis: That was a protection for you at that point wasn’t it?
Sandy: It was!
Dennis: See, some people would view that as a limitation—like that’s old fashioned, but it gave you the stuff—the foundation to be able to stick to it while you were going through some difficult times.
Sandy: That’s right.
Bob: Did Tom ever threaten to divorce you?
Sandy: Yes, he did and that was part of the abuse too. You know the threats; the promise of things that he was going to do for me, and then removing them if I did things that displeased him. That continual threat of “well I’ll just leave you” hanging over my head.
Bob: Sandy what was it that brought you to the point where you said I’m going to take the risk and tell these other women what’s going on in my life?
Sandy: Desperation! I just knew that I could not live like this anymore. I needed something to change and I wasn’t getting Tom to change so I knew that I needed to do something different. Opening up to my friends was the first great decision that I made.
But, the other great decision that I made was I did start to turn to God. I did go to His word and try to figure out what it was that God had to say to me in my situation and I found some awesome scripture to point me in the right direction.
In 1 Peter where it says “That men are not won over by words but by watching your pure and godly behavior.” You know I guess men see better than they hear. It came down to watching what I was doing. They are visual right? Men are visual!
Dennis: They are – we just made a profound discovery right here on FamilyLife Today. You put that just exactly right.
Sandy: Yes, they see better than they hear. So, when I started working on myself and my own behavior that was something that Tom could see. I wasn’t preaching anymore. I was starting to work on me, and eliminating the preaching was the first thing that I worked on.
Bob: We’ve established that it wasn’t long after the honeymoon when you realized I’ve stepped into something that is hard. How long from there until you shared with your friends what was going on? How long did you live in silence in this issue?
Sandy: I would say about four to five years.
Dennis: Wow – so you really were suffering through a long season.
Sandy: I was!
Bob: Then how long from when you shared with your friends until you could say there was a turning point in our relationship, or things started to move in a new direction, or Tom realized what was going on and repented?
Sandy: That was eleven years. I started sharing at about four and five years with my friends what was going on and that encouragement that I gained from them kept me going for a long time. But, ultimately it wasn’t what I did that tipped the scales for Tom. It was ultimately the mentorship of another godly man that tipped the scales for him.
I’ll never forget one night Tom and I were together and he said, “You know I’d like it if you could get the kids on the couch.” He came to us and he washed our feet, and he said things are going to be different now I’m going to be a servant leader in this home.
I really believe that the actions that God had me doing in the marriage were softening his heart. It was breaking up the hard places in his heart but ultimately it was another man speaking to Tom that made all the difference.
Dennis: There are a lot of passages that are running through my mind right now. Hebrews chapter 10: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Which your friends did that in your life.
Sandy: They did.
Dennis: You in turn fulfilled another passage in 1 Peter chapter 3: “Do not repay evil for evil, or reviling for reviling but on the contrary bless.”
Sandy: That’s right.
Dennis: That’s not easy to do!
Dennis: “For to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing.” So, today you sit here a blessed woman right?
Sandy: Yes, that is correct. It’s amazing what happens when you do things God’s way. I mean God transformed me first. That was the catalyst in our marriage. I became closer to Him than I’d ever been before. Those days were ones of such intimacy with the Lord. I was dependant upon Him for every move! I don’t want to pretend that I did things perfectly because I didn’t.
There were times when I did retaliate in anger when anger was directed at me but in a new sense things were completely different with me. I don’t want to promise that if women listening to me today are going through a really difficult time in their marriage that it’s going to end up the way my marriage did.
I don’t know the journey that God is going to take you on but this was my particular journey, and it was a blessing. But, I do want to mention, too, that it was very important for me to learn how to speak the truth in love to Tom.
Instead of being a doormat I had to confront these things that were going on in my marriage but I had to do it in a biblical way. I find that women tend to be really good at the speaking, and we have a harder time finding the truth and love flies out the window when you’re upset.
So in chapter eight in my book it’s entitled speaking truth in love, and it is my personal testimony of what I went through with Tom. I encourage women that first they need to find out the truth. What is the truth about your own behavior as well as your husbands? If your husband’s behavior is sinful then you’re going to be called upon to speak truth in love. That was a scary thing for me to do – to confront Tom but I did it whenever possible in ten words or less. Because again you know!
Bob: You could have just tweeted it!
Sandy: Yes – now!
Dennis: Because men see it!
Sandy: They see better than they hear.
Bob: And women speak better than they…
Dennis: Oh, better not go there Bob!
Sandy: Listen! Did I say it for you?
Dennis: But, the thing is I believe you’ve brought hope to some women who are facing some challenging days with their spouses. I think Bob it’s in these situations that a resource like Sandy’s book can really give them even greater hope for the future.
Bob: Yes, and the book we should say is not just a chronicling of her story but the principles that you unpack in this book for listeners to have the context of what you’ve been through and understand this is not stuff that you’re just saying after having lived with a perfect, godly man for all the years of your marriage. This is born out of adversity. You know what it’s like in the tough times to be the kind of woman God has called you to be.
Some of that you’ve learned by doing it right, and some of it you’ve learned by messing up in the process. But, when I first saw the book, and saw that Shaunti Feldhahn had written “I believe this book will be life changing for many women and their marriages.” Well, that caught my eye, and I hope our listeners will get a copy of Sandy’s book. It’s called: Beautiful Womanhood, and of course your heart is that women would get two copies of the book and go through it together – an older woman with a younger woman.
We have the book in our FamilyLife Today resource center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy. Again our website is FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have Sandy Ralya’s book: Beautiful Womanhood sent to you.
Now, I love when I get the opportunity to be at an event speaking to folks and get to meet some of our listeners. I was at an event earlier this spring. It was a meeting for men out in the Northeast. We were in Burlington, Vermont, and it was a one-day conference called Iron Sharpens Iron. We had a great day but what was great for me was how many guys came up and said, “We’re listening to FamilyLife Today and we love what you and Dennis are doing, and it’s making a difference. God’s using it in my life and my marriage.”
Or what we sometimes hear, and this is very humbling to have guys come along and say you’re mentoring me on how to be a husband, and on how to be a dad. I didn’t have an example. I didn’t know what it’s supposed to look like and you’re helping me be the man God wants me to be.
That is very humbling. We appreciate it and we want to say thank you to those of you who help support the ministry to make that possible. Those of you who provide the financial support for FamilyLife Today that’s the kind of ministry you are making possible and it’s a privilege to partner together with you in this kind of work.
Let me just encourage you if God is using the ministry of FamilyLife Today in your life and you’re able to help with a donation of any amount we would love to have you get in touch with us and make a donation this month.
In fact if you’re able to we’d love to send you a copy of the brand new revised study guide called: Preparing for Marriage. This is a book that’s designed as pre-marital preparation for couples who are thinking about getting married. That may not be you, but I bet you know a young couple that’s engaged or maybe just thinking about getting engaged.
When you make a donation to FamilyLife Today we’ll send you the study guide and you can pass it onto them as a gift. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation of any amount when you do type the word “PREPARE” into the key code box that you find on the online donation form and we’ll send you the Preparing for Marriage study guide.
Or, call 1-800-FL-TODAY – 1-800-358-6329, make a donation by phone and just ask for the Preparing for Marriage study guide. Once again let me just say thanks for partnering with us and making the ministry of FamilyLife Today possible in your community by supporting the program.
Now tomorrow we’re going to talk more with Sandy Ralya and continue with her story and hear about the transforming work that God did in her husband’s life. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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