Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tearing Down Walls in Marriage: One Woman's Story

“Here’s your assignment for the week,” the counselor told my brown-haired friend. “Touch his arm.”

My friend couldn’t believe it. Sitting in the counselor’s office, she hated to hear this advice.

“Husbands need lots of touch,” the marriage therapist reminded her. “This week, I need you to touch his arm.”

“It took me two or three weeks to do it,” my friend recounted to me later. “Each week, my psychologist asked me about it, and re-issued the homework.”

There is a smile in my friend's voice now as she shares this story and says her husband’s name, but that wasn’t always the case.

“After 25 years of marriage, it all kind of blew up,” she began. “Looking back now, the one thing I never understood --or maybe it was never taught to me--is that spot in Song of Solomon that mentions ‘little foxes that sneak in and destroy.’ Little things that happen; your spouse may say or do something and you get that little coldness. We should just talk about it right then, but we don’t. Instead we build a wall brick by brick. Taking that wall down later is so hard, and so much work. Some incidents are even so forgotten by then that they are slightly embedded in your memory, but still need to be dealt with.”
My friends are a strong couple and family in the church, involved in missions, church programs, and working hard alongside all of us. In 2006, it blew up, as she calls it. We didn’t know details and shouldn’t have. Instead our church family respected and admired them, and was so proud of them as they vulnerably cried, and had us pray for them. In honoring-vagueness, they didn’t speak poorly of each other, they merely confessed that marriage was hard right then and that they were getting help.

“I took my commitment to marriage very seriously,” my friend said. “Getting up everyday, and doing what I had to do. We both had separate counselors, plus a joint counselor—seeking wise counsel. He had two groups he went to, and I had a group I went to. I had to put aside my feelings, and do what I knew to be right.”

My friends worked hard, through tears, anger, walls. Her husband had an in-house separation, and then moved out for a more official separation, as the couple continued to walk through Christian counseling and the hard work of rebuilding their marriage. All 2007, they worked hard. “In early 2008, we were getting back together,” she said softly, "and he moved back in the summer of 2008.”

The turning point that melted her heart happened one day while she was driving past his apartment on an errand. “I felt God telling me to call my husband and ask him out for lunch.” 

“'No,' I replied. The voice told me two more times. Finally I did it, calling him, but I hoped he wouldn’t be there.”

They met then and, in a long conversation, her husband opened up to her about hard things, sharing his heart with her. My friend melted, and they started re-connecting. “If you hear God telling you something, do it!” she advised me over the phone.

Over the next few years, our church family got to see God mend their hearts and re-ignite their relationship with passion, tenderness and romance. Their daughters feigned disgust at seeing them kiss, and hold hands everywhere, but there was a happy peace and relief in the children's eyes. 

Now my friends date, and enjoy spending time together, saying their marriage is the best it has ever been. They still know the secrets of working hard for their marriage too. 

Hi friend, what is one piece of marriage advice you have found invaluable? (If you are reading this through your email and would like to leave a comment, simply click here. Welcome!)


tandemingtroll said...

That is such a cool story!

When my husband and I pray regularly together as a couple, things go much better between us because we are bringing God into the picture. The other advice we were given as part of the wedding ceremony was to use liberally the words "I was wrong. I'm sorry." and "I forgive you."

I also work very hard to forget past arguments, which has been God's advice to me. Honestly, I can't remember the cause of most of our arguements. There is just a dim memory of relationship temporarily interrupted and then restored. God has me doing the same thing with my kids.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Tandeming troll,

Saying sorry, apologizing often, admitting where wrong, and praying together... good stuff. Thanks.


Brian Miller said...

nice...thanks for sharing a bit of their story...never stop dating...our lives get so busy tht we put it on the back burner and it is a killer...and always look for new ways to woo your wife...smiles..

LOLITA said...

I love this line, Jen.

“If you hear God telling you something, do it!”

This is where PRIDE resists. If she did not heed that soft voice and gentle nudge, how would they ever have reconciled?

We need to do it, even if it is down-grading in the standard of the world, for the time should be ripe...if not, God will not push.

The time away from each other is helpful too, and the timing of needing someone to talk it over, she was there for him.

Oh so great. Praise God!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Brian,

I agree, their story is encouraging!

"Never stop dating, and look for new ways to woo your wife." -- I like those.


Jennifer Dougan said...


Yes, pride so often is what builds walls and resists the tear downs. Thanks.


Diane Ronzino said...

Jennifer, I just left you a comment over on Pam's blog. So, I stopped by to say hello.

What a ministry you have! God bless you - it is so needful in the Body of Christ.

I look forward to coming back and getting to know you.

It's 8:30 PM and my hubby isn't even home yet. Have to get his dinner ready for when he does.

Jennifer Dougan said...


How fun to meet you! Thanks for coming over. I'm heading over to your's and Pam's site to get to know you more.

Nice to meet you. :)


Michelle @ Changed By The Maker said...

Well, given that my post was also about marriage this week, I'd have to go with Total Disclosure! :-) Seriously, choosing to let little infractions, oversights, and mis-communications go.

Most of the time, Lon doesn't even realize he's done anything wrong -- there's no intent! It's just my selfish view of what I expected/hoped for that was never communicated and then never happened.

How can I feel hurt by stuff like that? I've come to realize that it's mostly in my own mind, so I choose to let it go and remind myself what a terrific husband I have! My feelings usually change on the spot!

So I'm going to say, choose to think the best of your spouse and let it go!

Thanks for linking up, Jen!

suzannah | the smitten word said...

this is encouraging. we're in a difficult season right now. my husband is working almost around the clock and i can feel more than a bit neglected. but this morning, i woke up and found him on the porch, having assembled the new furniture that i was sure would remain in the box 'til july. such an act of kindness:)

Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Michelle,

Total disclosure in terms of practicing gritty transparency is vital, I agree. Not fun, but vital in building trust. We practice that too.

You found a different angle on that term than I have seen before, but is good too. More about choosing what to obsess about and choosing to let the minor things go, and rather assume the best of a partner's intentions. Good stuff too. Thanks. Did I get that right?


Jennifer Dougan said...


I appreciate not only your honesty to say that this has been a harder season right now, but also for you applauding your man for the sweet gift of assembling furniture when he was tired! :) Our affirmation is so important.

Hang in there. Thanks for stopping by.