Statistics paint a gloomy picture of second marriages — more than two-thirds of them end in divorce. So when I got engaged to Jerry, the logical thing seemed to seek guidance from a Christian counseling ministry.
We didn’t want to be another sad statistic; we wanted to protect our marriage.
Still, I was scared. “What if they tell us we shouldn’t get married, Jerry?”
“Why would they?” My fiancé and I were sure we had heard God give us the
go-ahead to marry.
We met with a licensed therapist who was kind and funny and made us feel at ease. “It’s wise that you came for counseling,” he said. “You’re both bringing baggage into this marriage. It’s good to figure out what that is and formulate a plan of action for success.”
The therapist had each of us take a thorough psychological and personality assessment alone and return the tests later. The form had hundreds of questions ranging from our physical health to our thoughts and social responses. I wondered how helpful all this information would actually be.
At our next appointment the therapist went over the results with us.
“Kelly,” he said, “you exhausted your submission in your first marriage.”
Well, that was right! After five years of being hit in the head, choked and told I was worthless, I had finally grabbed my two preschoolers and left. Being the head of my own home and in charge of my little family had made me stronger and more independent. Although I had found the Lord during that time and desired to please Him, being submissive to a man was not my first inclination.
The therapist then told Jerry, “You exhausted your patience in your first marriage.”
“That’s for sure,” he said.
“You’re going to have to keep that in mind as you navigate your marriage together. Also, Jerry, because you lead all day in your job as school principal, you may not feel like leading at home.”
The therapist turned to me. He said, “Kelly, you’ve had to be in control of your home since you left your first husband. You may feel like you want to be at the helm. You’ll have to find balance.”
The personality assessment results were on target!
Our counseling helped us redefine “love, honor and obey” as “love, honor and respect.” We learned to avoid the words always and never. Statements such as “You always do this” or “You never do
that” were now taboo. It was a good lesson — not just for marriage but also for life.
The counselor explained that Jerry and I needed to continue drawing closer to God in our individual study times. He said to imagine a triangle with God at the top and Jerry and me at the two bottom corners. As we drew closer to God, we’d grow closer to each other. Reading the Bible or a devotional book and praying together would increase our intimacy and enhance our relationship.
The new beginning
When our wedding day came, we felt prepared not just for the event but also for our life together as well.
The marriage ceremony was lovely. My son was the ring bearer, and my daughter was the flower girl. Unfortunately, Jerry’s former wife wouldn’t let their children attend. While we were sad about that, we tried not to let it overshadow the day. Most of our family and close friends were there to witness our union, pray for us and wish us well. At the end of the evening, we left the reception and had our first night together at a local resort. The next day we traveled south for a week in the Carolinas.
One night during the honeymoon week, I had a familiar nightmare about my violent ex-husband. As usual, I was crying and sweating in my sleep. I awoke and realized my groom was there. I was shaking and clearly not in control. My vulnerability was embarrassing.
Jerry was sweet and patient: “Kelly, I’m going to pray for you.” I loved how he cared for me, and I gladly acquiesced. It was comforting to have a godly man lead the way.
Frankly, I didn’t have much faith in his prayer. I’d experienced horrific dreams intermittently since I left my abusive first husband. Still, I appreciated Jerry’s words. He stepped into the role of spiritual leader
with ease, simply asking God to take the nightmares away and to let me feel His peace.
Thankfully, even though I had no faith in his prayer at the time, Jerry did. That was over 30 years ago, and I haven’t had even one of those frightening nightmares since.
During our honeymoon, we dedicated our marriage and family to the Lord. We consciously gave Him full control over our lives and asked Him to help our household become one of love and respect. We prayed about what the counselor had said, asking God to help me follow Jerry’s gentle leading and for him to have patience with me. We prayed that God would guide our blended family and help us grow spiritually as we put Him at the center of our marriage. And as we followed the advice of a counselor and submitted to God’s leading, our marriage became one that beat the statistics.
Kelly J. Stigliano is an author and speaker.
A variety of marital issues can lead to challenges or even hopelessness for one or both spouses in a marriage. Gaining a sense of hope and direction often requires understanding the underlying issues and relationship patterns that may have led to the crisis. Reach out to well-trained helpers even if you are the only person in the marriage willing to take action at this time. We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or [email protected] www.FocusontheFamily.com/Counseling