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“Sex on the First Date.” It’s not the ideal way to start a marriage, but you probably know that. What you may not know is that just because your marriage had a lousy start doesn’t mean it has to have a lousy finish.
Our marriage has never been perfect, and our guess is that neither has yours. During the first 27 years of our marriage, we were on a search to find ourselves through drugs, alcohol, multiple affairs and many failed self-help opportunities, but we came to the point when we knew our marriage wasn’t only about us anymore. We had to make some serious choices. Our kids, our grandkids, and our legacy for generations yet to come were at stake.
We met in August 1981, and Kath became pregnant with the first of our three kids in December of that year. We married in February 1982. We were so in love when we started dating, but by our wedding night, both of us knew we had made a mistake.
We came from completely unrelated backgrounds. My broken childhood taught me that my own survival was a priority, that success was everything, and that working harder and harder was the key to both. It was, but success unfortunately made me selfish and controlling.
Kath was raised differently. Her dad was home most nights, and she saw him interact with and actually listen to her mom. I had no way to conform to that image. I had never seen it. Even worse, we had little to no communication. I thought that as long as we were having sex, we were good, but Kath’s marriage to a very controlling man — me — left her isolated and without a voice.
I went to marital counseling to fix my wife. I should have gone to fix myself.
We went to multiple counselors over the years. I went to fix my wife. I thought I was normal and that she was lucky to have me, so I made just enough changes to make her feel better for a little while. Kath, on the other hand, worked on herself, but nothing got better for long anyway.
We hit roadblock after roadblock. Our marriage was a roller coaster of extreme highs and extreme lows, but the lows were so terrible that I secretly looked outside our marriage, and in all the wrong places, for encouragement.
In 2005, Kath went back to school. I was not on board with her decision. The over three-hour drive from our home threatened my control, but, with some encouragement from others, she left for eight months. She did well, and I was attracted to the newer version of her, even though she made some poor choices toward the end of school.
When she had a few one-night stands under the influence of alcohol, she asked me to forgive her. I thought her infidelity was God’s way of getting back at me for doing all the things I had done that she didn’t know about, so I said I would. Only a few days later, though, I caught her on the phone with a lover from her past. I was done, but Kath wasn’t.
She set up counseling and said she would do whatever it took to make our marriage work. We both committed. During this time, she started a business, and my own ventures flourished. Heavily invested in making my own kingdom on earth, I was making more money than ever. Then my world fell apart and took me with it.
I was at the end of my rope. I let go … and landed on my knees in prayer.
In 2008, my little brother, at age 43, was diagnosed with stage-four cancer and given just months to live. Immediately after his diagnosis, our 22-year-old nephew died. After his funeral, a sickness that started like the flu drove me into anxiety and depression.
Facing potential suicide, I tried using both legal and illegal drugs to cope. I drank up to a fifth a day of hard alcohol, and for the first time in my life, I was unable to work. That year brought me to my knees in prayer, exactly where I needed to be. I turned to God and finally realized that, rather than trying to fix my wife, I needed to take responsibility for myself, for our marriage, and for our family.
We both surrendered to Jesus, read God’s word and prayed … together … and set boundaries to protect our marriage. The end result of all of it was, and still is, a thriving marriage blessed by our three children, now adults with families of their own.
Our book, “Sex on the First Date,” details our journey of forgiveness and healing. It also has tools to help you wherever you are in your marriage. If your marriage is good, then it can be better. If your marriage is lousy, it doesn’t have to stay that way. We’re living proof.