At 18, Rob Kopf thought he knew what he wanted: 17-year-old Laurie. Eager to leave their Sunday school upbringing behind, Rob and Laurie’s tumultuous courtship and eventual breakup ultimately led to other destructive choices.
At 18, Rob Kopf thought he knew what he wanted: 17-year-old Laurie. Eager to leave their Sunday school upbringing behind, Rob and Laurie’s tumultuous courtship and eventual breakup ultimately led to other destructive choices.
Rob: I was 18. I had just graduated high school, I was 18. Laurie had just turned 17; she was going into her senior year in high school, and we got caught doing what we should not have done – and our parents said, "You can't see each other anymore," and we just said, "No, that's not an option," and they said it was, and they were going to do it, and we said no. I just took some clothes and put them in my car and drove away. I was 18, they couldn't stop me. Her and I had a secret rendezvous. I picked her up on the street corner, and we just drove. We drove for four days solid.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 14th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When a marriage starts the way Rob and Laurie Kopf's marriage started, what are the odds it will go the distance? We'll a part of their story today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. This is Day Number 10, by the way, of our 40-day Love Dare between now and Valentine's Day. We are taking the first part of each program to remind you of something specific you can do to help strengthen your marriage relationship. This is all taken from the book, "The Love Dare," that was featured in the movie, "Fireproof," which some of you saw in theaters when it was out last fall. It's going to be out on DVD here in the next couple of weeks and for Day 10 the theme is a reminder that love needs to be unconditional. Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrates His love toward us, and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
At our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, we talk about how the 50-50 marriage plan is destined to fail. In fact, somebody has said if your view of marriage is we'll meet halfway, you're probably a poor judge of distance. And so the idea that love needs to be unconditional; it needs to be us caring for our spouse no matter what the circumstances, and even when things aren't going well. So here is your assignment for today – do something out of the ordinary today for your spouse – something that demonstrates both to you and to them that your love is based on your choice and not on their performance. Wash her car, clean the kitchen, make his favorite dessert, do something special that demonstrates love to your spouse for the sheer joy of expressing love to your partner in marriage. That's today's assignment from the Love Dare, and if you'd like to get a copy of the book, "The Love Dare," it's available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and you'll find the information available there.
And speaking of the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, this week is your last opportunity to take advantage of a special offer we're making for FamilyLife Today listeners. If you register to attend an upcoming conference as a couple, and if you register at the regular rate, we're going to send you, at no additional cost, a certificate that is good for a free registration for another couple.
So you can invite a friend to come with you to the conference, you can send the certificate across the country to somebody else in another city, and they can attend the conference of their choice. Whatever you would choose to do with the gift certificate, we'll send that to you at no additional cost when you register for one of our upcoming conferences and pay the regular registration fee.
Now, all the information about the conferences is available on our website, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and you'll find a link there to all the conference information or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY – 1-800-FLTODAY.
Now, we have a couple of friend who are joining us on today's program – Rob and Laurie Kopf are here with us. Rob, Laurie, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Rob: Thank you, it's good to be here.
Laurie: Thank you.
Dennis: Glad you all are here.
Bob: The two of you first were introduced to Dennis, as I understand it, when you went to a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference in Dallas in 1986, and, Dennis, when you met Rob and Laurie, did you have any idea the drama that was taking place in their marriage?
Dennis: No, not at all. In fact, it wasn't until years later when I met them again that I found out how God had not only used the conference in their lives but also just the wonderful work of grace and a story of the power of the Gospel in Rob and Laurie's life. Let's start at the beginning. Rob, why don't you tell us about where you grew up and how you met Laurie?
Rob: My parents are missionaries, just as a way of background – my parents are missionaries. I grew up in church the whole time in a pretty strict upbringing, and it's kind of hard to say. I mean, she wore – it may seem silly now, but she wore a jean jacket to church, and at that time, back in the late '60s, early '70s, that was pretty radical. That was like a hippie. I mean that, for some reason, that's just really – I thought, "Boy, she's not going to do everything the way my parents wanted to do, and she's going to be the kind of girl that would just – I was starting to break out a little bit in my own life and starting to find out what I was all about, and I didn't think she would hold me back. I thought she would be part of that. I thought she would be a good partner in that breakout time, and …
Bob: By "breakout" you mean you were rebelling?
Rob: Right, right, but my senior year, Laurie and I started going out my senior year, and I started to feel my oats, as they say. But it was just – there wasn't anything that she did. It wasn't like she was out in the street cussing or anything, it's just the way she acted, the way she looked, I could tell that she wasn't your typical church Sunday school girl, and I wanted to be – that's what I wanted for a girlfriend at the time.
Bob: What was it about Rob that attracted you?
Laurie: The first time that I ever really remember even seeing him, my parents had Bible studies at our house. And our youth group was there, and he was across the room, and it was the first time, I think, we really noticed each other. And he came up to me at the end of the Bible study and asked me out, and I think, really, that was the first guy who ever asked me out, really. That was just the beginning. I mean, our story is so long we could be here for a week as far as the in and out and we were together and we weren't, and – but we dated for about a year and a half there, and …
Bob: Off and on, a year and a half?
Dennis: And at that point you were doing drugs?
Laurie: Yeah, I was smoking pot mostly in high school. Later, after I graduated, I did other things, but I think what attracted us maybe when you really think about it, is, for some reason, both of us individually, in our families, felt unaccepted for who we were, and he made me feel special and made me feel like somebody loved me for who I was. And I think that's how I made him feel. I think I made him feel special; that he was great, and …
Rob: I think we were both what the other person was looking for right then, and the fact that we ran away – I mean – she was under age, and we ran away and just got in the car and drove and drove from Jersey to Las Vegas to try to get married, and couldn't get married there because she was underage, and then we went and lived in Colorado in a tent for a while, and then they finally caught us and brought us home.
Bob: You did this in high school?
Rob: Yeah, it was just high school we did this. I was 18, I had just graduated high school, I was 18. Laurie had just turned 17. She was going into her senior year in high school, and we got caught doing what we should not have done, and our parents said, "You can't see each other anymore," and we just said, "No, that's not an option," and they said it was, and they were going to do it, and we said no. I just took my – I just took some clothes and put them in my car and drove away. I was 18. They couldn't stop me. Her and I had a secret rendezvous. I picked her up on the street corner, and we just drove. We drove for four days solid.
Laurie: Isn't that terrible? I think about it now, and I don't even know how I could have done that to anyone, let alone the person who probably loves you the most in the world, so – they told us in Colorado, "Just come home. There will be no restrictions. Just come home, and we'll talk and get this over with."
When we came home, they'd thought a little bit more, and what they told us then was we were going to be – we could not see each other or speak to each other for six months – even in church. You weren't allowed to say hello to each other. And, at that time, I mean, he is like my lifeline. And I was very angry from that point on that – and now I realize that probably wasn't even enough for what I put them through, but it was too much at the time for me to handle, because I think I was just an emotional wreck.
Rob: There was one more incident, though. We did come back, and they did let us go to church together on a Sunday night and instead of going to church that night we went bowling and didn't tell them we were going bowling, and I think what that showed them was that we were no more trustworthy when we came back than we were in the beginning, and that's when they told us we couldn't see each other.
Laurie: I don't even remember that.
Rob: Yeah, but we were supposed to go to church that night together and instead we just took off, went bowling, and came back, and then they had asked some friends or something, but they knew we weren't there, and then the four parents got together and said, "We can't trust these two. We need to keep them apart."
Dennis: Both sets of parents got together and said you couldn't see each other.
Dennis: Did they really achieve that objective? I've got a question of whether that could be done given the starchiness of you two. I mean …
Rob: I used to – Laurie lived, at the time – I think she lived 13 miles away in the next town over, and I would ride my bike over to see her. We would sneak visits through friends. I would tell my best friend who would tell her best friend when I'm going to be there, when to be outside taking the trash out, and I'd be in the bushes. I would just give her a letter, you know, a love letter or something and give her a big hug and a big kiss, and that would be for about a week, but they couldn't keep us apart.
And there is one thing that Laurie and I, as parents of four boys, we are committed to this is that if one of our sons wants to see somebody, it's going to be awful hard just to sit there and say "No, you cannot." Because we know what it's like when we were told no. We were told "No, you can't see each other," and even looking back now was probably for good reasons, but when you're 17, 18, and you really feel like you're in love, and your hormones are raging, and your parents say "No," that's just the topper. That just means yes.
Bob: It probably had kind of a Romeo and Juliet effect. Now you felt like everybody is against us, and it even pushed you closer together, didn't it?
Laurie: I think so.
Rob: What you just said reminded us, flying back from Colorado on the plane after we got caught, and we came back, one of the songs that was on the headphones was …
Laurie: Helen Reddy.
Rob: Helen Reddy – "You and Me Against the World."
[Helen Reddy sings "You and Me Against the World."
Rob: And that became our theme song. We came back, and that was our theme song to meet our parents. So this is the frame of mind we are in when we got back – it's you and I against the world, and everything that was said or done just made that more true.
Dennis: You went off to college at that point?
Laurie: Well, Rob went off to college first, and so my senior year was kind of part of the year where we couldn't see each other, and even when we finally could see each other, he was only allowed to come over for five minutes, and then he had to leave, and that's kind of how we started to see each other again. But the next year I did go off to college. I can't exactly remember how, but I ended up going to this girl's school in Missouri. We lived in New Jersey, and he was in Pennsylvania.
And I had never been there. I remember my parents dropping me off there. In the book – I didn't realize that what I thought were roads were sidewalks, I mean, it's really small, and I was so depressed there. I was suicidal, and my roommates basically kicked me out. I mean, they couldn't deal with me anymore. And that's when I started to visit a guy that I had known in high school, and Rob and I had broken up, and I started to see him, and at one point my mother called me on the phone, and I told her we were talking about getting married, and she said, "Laurie, do not do that." And that's all she had to say, and it was very shortly after that we got married.
And it was, you know, the next big mistake of my life, because it was – the day I got married, I remember we got married outside with flowers in my hair. I really guess I was a late hippie, because I really wasn't in the earlier years where they were hippies, but I remember thinking that day – "I don't really love him like I thought I loved Rob, but if it doesn't work, I'll just get a divorce," because it sounded so simple.
But it wasn't until later I found out that divorce is – it hurts so many people. It's not just you, it's your children, it's the grandparents. Three years, I think, we were really together, but it took, like, four. So before I actually got divorced, because it took 18 months of separation before you could be divorced.
Dennis: So you got married while you were in college, lived with him for three years.
Dennis: Had a son, and then one day you just up and left this guy?
Dennis: Tell us about that.
Laurie: I was making a trip from Missouri, and I was going to go home for Thanksgiving to New Jersey, and I just packed never to return. And Calen [sp] was like 18 months old, and I know – I mean, I'm saying that – that's terrible now that I can hear it, and I know exactly what I did.
Bob: Rob, when you got the word that your old girlfriend was getting married in Columbia, she said you were broken up. Did that impact you at all?
Rob: There were two times in my life that I sincerely wept, and that I just bawled like a baby, and that is the day I found out she got married, and the day that she – I found out she had a baby. As silly as it may sound, when I found out that she had a baby, I guess I confirmed my worst fears that, yes, they were having sex, and that was quite heart rending. But those are the two times that it just tore me up.
But the reason we broke up in college, it was funny, because, as she said, I went to Philly to school, and my freshman year she was still a senior in high school, and we did – we were allowed to see each other very controlled, very strictly, very short period of time. Well, the school I was going to in Philadelphia, I lived in a co-ed dorm where the floors were co-ed. It wasn't just a matter of the guys were even floors and the girls were odd floors, it was co-ed floors. And that was quite a shock from a guy who grew up with no sisters.
Dennis: So did you have some girlfriends at that point? Start going out with other ladies?
Rob: I did when Laurie and I officially broke up.
Dennis: And when you heard she got married, what happened?
Rob: When I heard that she got married, I was already starting to drink a little bit, and I decided to make it a full-time career, and I still remember the first time I ever went to a bar and bought a six-pack and then took it back to my apartment and drank it by myself. I remember sitting there thinking, you know, "There are people out there that think this is a problem." Because before that, it was just, "Well, I'll just start drinking when I'm with friends or I go to a bar or something," but that was the first time I actually went to the bar, bought my beer, and then took it back and just sat there by myself and got soused.
Then I found out when she had Calen, that was just total confirmation, and I just – I had about a four-year haze where I don't remember a whole lot. There was maybe enough days where I was sober, I mean, you can count on one hand, and that's four years, and I was just – and I quit school. I was a second-semester senior when I quit school, because I was able to get a job that paid so well that fed my drinking, and I always thought, "Well, I'll go back and finish school later."
Bob: But how could you keep a job if you were getting drunk every day?
Rob: Because – and Laurie will verify this – you can be drunk and still function. During the day I was never fall-down drunk. You could sit there and have a six-pack for breakfast and then go to work and then maybe have a couple of more beers for lunch or something. And I'd always have beer in the refrigerator in the morning. I always made sure I saved myself two or three beers for the morning for the ride to work, and I'd drink them, and then I'd …
Dennis: Do you think all this drinking was because you loved Laurie?
Rob: Yes, it was. It was I loved Laurie, and then I started to love drinking, and I started loving drinking enough to where women would tell me – I'd be going out with women, and they would say, "Rob, it's either me or the beer," and I would tell them, "Fine, get me a beer on the way out." I mean, there were women that were just dropping like flies because they saw that I had a problem. You know, from the time I was about 20 years old and when Laurie got married until about the time – about 24 or 25. But I was told by quite a few people that I had a drinking problem.
Dennis: She moved back to the same city where you were living at that point. Who initiated that relationship at that point?
Rob: She moved back with some friends in New Jersey, and I had heard that she had moved back, and I was semi-engaged at the time, and we started seeing each other every weekend for about six months.
Dennis: Okay, hold it, hold it, time out, what happened to the semi-engaged lady you were …
Rob: Gave her the boot.
Dennis: Just out of there?
Rob: Just out of there.
Bob: After three years.
Rob: After three years.
Bob: "My old girlfriend is back" …
Rob: Laurie is back and all is well with the world. That's what I felt.
Laurie: So we thought.
Rob: So we thought, exactly.
Dennis: Now, let's hear the other side of this story. Laurie, when he called you, what were you thinking? Hope renewed?
Laurie: Yeah, I think so. I wanted to see him, and we met at my friend's house and talked to him for a while, and I think at that point in our lives, we both just believed that if we could just be together, we'd be happy. We would be totally happy if we could just be married and live happily ever after.
Dennis: Two rebels, two egos, two people both running from God, hoping to be happy.
Rob: Trying to find happiness in the world and not being able to do it and then thinking – convincing ourselves, fooling ourselves that, "Well, if I just had Laurie, I would be happy," and her probably thinking the same thing. So, naturally, the natural progression would be, "Well, if we just get together again, we'll be happy." She knew I had a drinking problem. She could do that I definitely had a problem, and I had known that she had smoked pot, but I was so unhappy – when I mentioned I had four years of a haze, that was four years of trying to find some kind of happiness in the bottom of a bottle. I was 25 years old. I convinced myself if I could have Laurie back I know I'll be happy. That's all I wanted was to have Laurie back in my life, and I was willing to do anything to do that.
Bob: If I came to you and said, "I've got these two friends. He's 25, he's been drinking for the last four years …
Bob: Pretty much drunk every day. She's a year younger. She's was married for three years, she's smoking dope every day …
Bob: And they're thinking about getting married. What would your best guess about the future of that relationship be?
Dennis: Well, I've got a question for you, Bob. Have you ever heard of a long shot?
Dennis: Like 1,000 to one?
Dennis: The odds would not be good in this situation, and the reason is, is because both Rob and Laurie were betraying many biblical principles. It says in the Psalms, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." So here's Laurie walking around talking to the Lord hoping He'll answer her prayers, and yet she's holding onto her own agenda for her life, and here is Rob making a god of alcohol.
A second biblical principle is just the partnership they had as a couple, and I know the passage over in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, talks about a believer marrying an unbeliever or being bound with unbelievers, but when two Christians who are going their own way, who are not walking with God decide to connect, they're in for deep trouble, and you experienced that at that point.
Bob: Well, and it sounds, too, like the foundation of their relationship was not rock, it was shifting sand.
Dennis: Yeah, and then, third, they had no commitment. They had no covenant, they had no hope because they were alienated from God, from – probably at this point from their family as well – and had really cut themselves off from life. And so at that point, they were in need of blueprints for life, blueprints for making their relationship work, and blueprints for a young boy who was 18 months to 2 years old.
And without God, that is a hopeless situation. Life is a spiritual relationship, and without a connection to God, without a relationship with Him, without the hope of being tied into His love and His grace and forgiveness, there is no hope in that situation.
Bob: And that is why when we get together with couples at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, we make sure that we spend time reinforcing that very point, because we believe that the foundation for a healthy marriage is, first, a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and we really rejoice at those spiritual turnarounds that take place at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.
Now, we've been letting our listeners know last week and again this week, if you'd like to attend an upcoming conference when it comes to a city near where you live, and if you register before the end of this week, and you register at the regular registration fee, we will send you, at no additional cost, a companion certificate so that another couple can attend either with you or they can attend a different conference in another city at a later date if they want to.
This companion certificate will allow another couple to attend at no additional cost. This is a very special offer that our team has put together, but the offer expires on Friday. So if you would like to attend a conference and make it possible for another couple you know to attend at no additional cost, go to our website right now, FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online. If you have questions about the conference, those are answered for you online. Or, if it's easier, just call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. We can answer any questions you have and get you registered over the phone and, again, when you register this week to attend an upcoming conference, and you register at the regular registration rate, you will receive this week a companion certificate so that another couple can attend at no additional cost. Take advantage of that offer either online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
You will also find on our website information about resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife designed to help strengthen your marriage, and I hope you'll take advantage of those resources, and I want to invite you to be back with us tomorrow when we're going to pick up with more of Rob and Laurie Kopf's story. In fact, we're going to hear about a number of challenges they faced in the early years of their marriage including Rob's drinking problem and Laurie's extramarital affair. We'll talk more about that tomorrow, and 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'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.
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