Learn how married couple Steve and Noelle McGarvey brought their marriage back from the brink of divorce and how what they learned can help you do the same!
1) Recognize that the honeymoon won’t last forever
Noelle and I met at work almost twenty years ago and we married a few years later. Our early years were wonderful. We share a love of the outdoors and enjoy running, hiking, backpacking and exploring nature together. We spent many happy nights at our favorite book store reading books, drinking coffee and learning about each other. Our conversations were long and plentiful, as we got to know each other better and better.
Soon though, the normal pressures of life and duties began taking a gradual toll on our marriage. The honeymoon stage had slowly drifted away and the day to day reality of stressful jobs and having a blended family with many varied children’s activities took their toll on us. We communicated about tasks and events but we rarely discussed dreams or our own relationship.
Today we know that the romance stage of marriage is just part of a cycle. We can periodically re-capture the honeymoon, but no couple can live there indefinitely. Understanding that the honeymoon won’t last forever freed us to fully experience the other stages in our relationship and to see each stage, no matter how difficult, as having value and worth.
2) Admit the Reason for disillusionment and misery
Another way we’ve saved our marriage is by taking close looks at each of our parts in the breakdown of our relationship. We each caused the other pain. We each experienced the marriage stages of disillusionment and misery. Without warning, the company we worked for closed and we were both unemployed. The stress level in our home increased exponentially over the next few months, as we grappled with our loss and then both searched for and began working at new jobs. As we each put our energy into our new jobs, our marriage problems grew. What little meaningful communication we did have ground to a halt. We stopped talking with each other and only spoke to each other. We exchanged basic information about children, meals and household needs, but that was it. We often went the majority of the week without having a significant dialogue. We no longer went to coffee shops, book stores, or hiking. We each went in our own direction. It didn’t take long for the silence to become arguments, which then allowed us to stretch into even longer periods of more silence.
We wanted to say the disillusionment and misery we were experiencing wasn’t our fault and that it was all due to our unemployment and the challenges of being a blended family. In reality, we allowed those stresses to chip away at us. We chose to focus on the busy-ness of taking kids to orthodontist appointments and softball games, so that we didn’t have to see each other’s pain. We focused on our careers and what was for dinner, rather than looking into one another’s eyes or holding each other’s hand. Our marriage started failing when we stopped communicating. We each had ownership in the disillusionment and misery we were living.
3) Recognize the Relationship is worth fighting for
Divorce was our logical next step, but deep down we knew there was something left to fight for, so we began talking with a marriage counselor. The sessions were never easy, and often the very last place we wanted to be was together, with a marriage counselor, discussing our pain. The counseling got us through an initial patch that was pretty rough, but then it plateaued, so we looked other places for help.
We knew we loved each other, we just didn’t know how to live together anymore. We’d both been divorced before and we couldn’t bear to put our children through that again. It was a time of tears and sadness, but also a time of determination, as we recognized the worth in our relationship and joined forces to fight together to save our marriage.
4) Take active steps towards Reconciliation
That’s when we found Retrouvaille, a marriage retreat for couples seeking hope. Attending the Retrouvaille Weekend didn’t fix our problems, but we began learning how to communicate with each other in a new way. We learned a way to reconcile. After the Weekend, we attended six weekly follow up sessions. We learned a great deal about “us” as a couple and about ourselves as individuals. We used the tools we learned in these sessions to begin communicating with each other again, really listening to each other and learning how one another felt. Later as we gained more confidence, we began to “unpack our baggage” and discuss the true causes of the disillusionment and misery in our marriage.
Once we each realized that we had both contributed to the breakdown of our marriage and we each owned a piece of our joint misery, we knew we could do something about it. We began taking active steps towards reconciliation.
5) Surround ourselves with Rescue
We became involved in our local Retrouvaille community, where we meet with other couples once a month to refocus on our marriages. If we’re experiencing a rough patch, we can share it with others. If we’re in a great place in our marriage, we can share that too! Meeting with other local couples has been bedrock for our relationship. In our local community we found a support system for us as a couple. Up to that point in our marriage, we had his friends or her friends, but no significant couple friends. We determined that we would surround ourselves with other couples who were working to have healthy and fulfilling marriages. We gave those couples permission, and they gave us permission, to speak into each other’s lives with candid honestly. This system of learning and support is instrumental to us. They’ve rescued us and we like to think we’ve had a little part in rescuing some of them. Surrounding ourselves with rescue literally saved our marriage!
6) Revise our Vision
The final way we’ve turned our relationship around was by taking a hard look at who we are as a couple. What do WE stand for? Noelle and I realized that we didn’t have a couple vision for our marriage. After surrounding ourselves with Rescue, we decided to start giving back. We choose to help our own marriage through service to others. Our vision for our marriage is to be the light in the dark for others, just as those who came before us shone their own lights brightly!
There are about 150 Retrouvaille communities throughout the world with many different ethnic cultures and languages represented globally. Noelle and I have had the opportunity to serve in the leadership of our local community and are now finishing a term on the International Board of Directors of Retrouvaille. We find it hard to believe that within a span of ten years, we went from the brink of divorce to now having traveled far and wide to meet with local communities and couples from all walks of life. We have made the dearest of friends all over the world. We are united with those communities and those couples in our mission of sharing our marriage pain and stories of reconciliation with those who have lost hope in their own marriages. We believe that in the sharing of our pain with others, they will recognize that all is not lost for their own marriages. We have experienced the depths of disillusionment, pain and misery in our own relationship, and we know that Retrouvaille offers hope for healing in any marriage!
Retrouvaille is part of our vision for our marriage. What is your vision for yours?
Learn more about Retrouvaille.