A Marriage Worth Saving?

Photo by Lisa Weingardt
Two wounded souls discover what it takes to restore a relationship in ruins

If she’s being brutally honest, Monica will tell you that she didn’t really want to save her marriage.

Can you blame her? After all, she’d been through so much already, what with her husband stepping out on her — not to mention his drinking, the drug use and the porn. And now, for the first time in a really long time, Monica was learning to live a normal life, just her and the kids and no Romone.

Her faith told her that marriage was for life, but the last few years had ground their relationship to dust. Romone knew it, too, didn’t he? Wasn’t he the one who walked out in the first place? Wasn’t he the one who moved into an apartment and had to schedule appointments just to see his own kids? Wasn’t he the one saying he wanted to be free?

So why now? Why was her high school sweetheart, a man who cheated on her during their first year of marriage, contacting her the day before they were due in divorce court? Taking Romone back now, Monica reasoned, would only upend the new normal she had worked so hard to fashion.

“This man called me and asked to come home,” she says. “And I’ll never forget. I told him no.”

A secret too great to bear

Romone wore white on his wedding day, but not because he was pure. No, young Romone’s purity was taken from him, carefully and methodically, by a woman who attended his family’s church.

It began, as it invariably does, with the grooming. The woman referred to Romone as her godson, and she manipulated that relationship to her advantage. It began with regular visits to her house, but after a few months things got weird, as in a-grown-woman-treating-a-preteen-kid-like-her-boyfriend weird.

“Before I knew it,” Romone says, “I was no longer innocent.”

The molestation continued for a couple of years, until Romone was 13 or 14. The secret became a weight he could no longer bear. Yet when he finally told his parents, Romone says “they felt betrayed and asked why I didn’t say anything earlier.”

Romone tried to move on with his life, but the protective seal of childhood had been broken. As much as it scarred him, the abuse had also imbued in him an appetite, he says, “for that which I should not have been desiring.”

He discovered marijuana and porn, grappled with anger and contemplated suicide. His parents loved him dearly, and the family spent untold hours in church. Yet by age 16, Romone was a slave to his urges, and sitting in the pews only magnified his guilt and shame.

Two troubled souls

Monica and Romone occasionally crossed paths at church functions, but they didn’t start dating until Monica transferred to the same high school.

She, too, had sexual abuse in her past. She, too, was promiscuous at an early age. They were drawn to each other immediately.

“Monica was the first person who I felt truly heard my pain,” Romone says. “I felt she understood me.”

They had great days and horrible days — two troubled souls with no clue how to treat their wounds. They somehow concluded that marriage was the solution to the arguments and jealousy.

“The first year of marriage was great — or at least I thought things were good,” Monica says. “Later I realized that the unresolved issues of our past carried over into the marriage.”

“The sexual molestation, pornography, drugs, premarital sex — all of it followed me,” Romone says.

Looking back, Romone isn’t quite sure why he donned a white tux for his wedding. Perhaps the undefiled color would give him a new start, some form of freedom from his past.

Wearing white might have made him feel free, but it didn’t make him free at all. And so, when Romone eventually started talking about divorce, Monica agreed that it was time to set this man free for good.

On his knees

After 13 years, two kids and a host of poor decisions, Romone was on his own, trying to live life without Monica. The last nine months out of the house had shown him just how stubborn and angry he’d been. He was sick of acting like everything was OK when it clearly wasn’t, yet it wasn’t until Romone had the divorce papers in hand that he fell to his knees. That’s when he decided to stop blaming others for the anguish he had caused and to start fighting for his wife and children.

And that’s when he remembered listening to Focus on the Family. Whether driving in the car or listening at work, Romone had heard programs about couples on the brink, couples like Monica and him — husbands and wives whose broken relationships had been restored through hard work, counseling, prayer and sacrifice.

“I realized that if God could do it for them,” Romone says, “I was hoping that maybe He could do it for me and my marriage.”

‘God has restored that man’

With divorce court looming, Romone called Monica and asked to come home. She refused, but he was just getting started.

“He was blowing up my phone,” Monica says.

He texted, then called, then texted some more. Monica threatened to change her number.

“He kept calling,” she says. “He said, ‘I just want to come home. Please let me come home.’ ”

Romone apologized to Monica and to his kids. He apologized for all of it — for the pain, the hurtful words, for walking out and for not being the husband and father he was supposed to be. He repented, and he resolved to tell the truth.

Monica eventually let her husband come home, but she told him — and herself — that it was just a matter of time before he messed up, like he always did, and she would send him packing.

It never happened.

“We would get into arguments, but it wasn’t like how it was before,” Monica says. “God has truly restored that man.

Stronger than ever

Monica recalls a particular Focus broadcast about a woman who was sick of her marriage, sick of her husband. There was no love left, nor any hate. Only apathy. The relationship was dead, she said, just waiting to be buried.

Recounting events from her own life, the woman shared a dozen principles that helped revive her marriage. Monica listened again and again, and it all sounded way too familiar.

“I felt like it was my story,” Monica says. “I said, ‘God, if You could do it for her, You could do it for me.’ ”

It’s been six years since Romone came back home, and their relationship is stronger than ever. “The day our counselor told us that we no longer needed his services,” Monica says, “was a very proud day.”

The couple now have their own story of restoration, and today they share it with as many people as possible.

“God turned our situation around, and He healed our marriage,” Romone says. “And we want to let someone else know there is hope.”

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