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From Carol...

I met my husband at a church youth fellowship group when we were both in high school. He was a year ahead of me, and I followed him to college. We were raised in very different kinds of families. Mine was Christian and conservative. His was very angry—they did not like anyone or anything.

In the spring of my first year of college, and his second, we discovered I was pregnant and eloped, only telling our parents we were married later that summer. We told both sets of parents we had eloped in January because we did not want them to know I was pregnant when we married. We did not want to face his parents’ anger and my parents’ disappointment. We felt we had let all of them down. Both of us were forced to drop out of college with no further financial help from our parents.

We had the love, but my husband had much anger and guilt. I also had a lot of guilt and the anger soon developed. My husband began to hit me when he was upset. Not all the time, but often enough. Because of my guilt, I felt “I had made my bed and I had to lie in it.” I was afraid to admit I might have made a mistake. I did not know how to make things any better and the anger and harsh words became a huge wall between us. That was the beginning of the verbal abuse and it, too, got worse.

Fortunately my husband was able to get a good job with a national company. Soon we had two children and eventually three. A couple of times I reached out for help, only to be rejected by those I had sought help from. If I had gone to the authorities, my husband would have lost his job and there would have been no way for me to take care of the children by myself. I could see no way out and I did not know what to do.

I eventually handled all of this by having an affair. Of course, it was the absolutely wrong thing to do –two wrongs don’t make a right, but I excused myself by saying I had a good reason. I finally stood up for myself and we separated and I filed for divorce. We both had anger and guilt; there was plenty to go around. We both had done things that would torpedo any marriage. Eventually, we were both devastated by what had occurred in our marriage.

We lived apart for over a year and a half. But there was still some spark under all fear and anger. Both of us realized that we had contributed to our downfall and we had children to consider. Each of us sought counseling from a psychologist who was also a minister. Eventually we reached a time when one of us would be ready to try again, but the other was not. Then it would be the opposite. Finally, we both came to the right place at the same time and we joined together to become a family once again.

It certainly was never easy –we both had thing that needed forgiving—by God—that was perhaps the easiest one, by ourselves- harder—and by the other person—the hardest of all. But we built a good marriage and became best friends. We worked hard together to find activities we could do together. We always told people we were “a team”, and if they got one of us, they got both of us.

Our last 30 of the 47 years we were married were very special. We had an eventful and rewarding life together and one I would not trade it for anything. 47 years were all we were to have together as my husband died recently.

When our daughter had marriage problems and separated from her husband for two years, one of my biggest joys was they eventually got back together. When I told my daughter how proud we were of her for working out her marriage and putting her children first, she told me she had a good example with her Dad and I. She knew she could do it, too.

The hard work my husband and I put into our relationship not only saved our marriage it also helped our children and gave two of our grandchildren a complete home and a chance at a better life. What I would call “Paying it Forward.”

My message to all of you is, “Marriage is worth working for. If my marriage could be saved your marriage can be saved too!”

Thank You.