When John and Jane were dating, every moment with each other was sweet and romantic. In the first year, they met up every single day, no matter how busy they were. At that time, there were no mobile phones so when they had something to say to each other, they would write letters to each other or pen what they want to say in a diary that they shared. They believed they have found their soul mate in each other, and married in 1997.
After marriage, life started to get routine. The daily drudgery of work, chores and parenting slowly weighed on them.
Being physically together sometimes caused more friction. Minor differences in their habits, expectations and needs started to irk each other. They began to spend less and less time doing things together, and lived individual lifestyles as if they were still single.
Eventually, the daily grind and the lack of satisfaction at home led John to seek comfort and excitement elsewhere. When Jane found out about his extramarital affairs, their relationship blew up right in their faces. Things got so tumultuous that they were on the brink of divorce.
Jane felt so heartbroken that the intensity of pain could not be measured. It was like stabbing a knife into her heart. How could the man who had professed and promised to love and honour her, cause her so much pain? Her dreams and hopes were shattered, and her sense of self-worth fell drastically.
In the daytime, she tried to live her life as normally as she could, but the nights were unbearable. Thoughts of suicide even crossed her mind.
John, on the other hand, felt immense guilt and shame for betraying Jane, and causing the marriage to break down. The feelings of guilt, regret and shame were so overwhelming that he attempted suicide. It was the darkest time of his life, and he was physically and emotionally drained.
Jane turned to the only thing she knew that could give her comfort – the rosary. Though she was not a Catholic then, meditating on the rosary was the only way to give her some peace during the times of trouble.
Every single day was a challenge but she did not give up praying to God, attending masses and saying the rosary. She reflected on the past and how she could have done better as a wife and partner. She finally realised that there was simply no purpose in finger pointing and self-pitying.
John was also not a Catholic. However, he sought atonement and found peace in the Church. He was determined to turn over a new leaf and save their marriage.
But with all the existing hurt and issues between them, they did not know how to go about healing their marital relationship. It was a steep uphill struggle and they felt lost and hopeless.
By God’s grace, they found out about the Retrouvaille programme. It was the turning point in their broken relationship. At the weekend, they discovered the importance of forgiveness and trust in their relationship, and healing. They learnt to make decisions to love, to communicate at a deeper level, and to solve problems as a couple.
“This means that we have to take action to work on our marriage, instead of just reacting to the romantic feeling that diminishes in times of conflict. This is a daily decision to love, honour and forgive each other, making our marriage a priority.”
Slowly, they rebuilt their lives and marriage. The journey was difficult in the beginning, and the progress was agonizingly slow – three steps forward and then two steps backward. There were times when they felt like it was easier to just give up.
However, with God’s mercy and guidance, they found the strength to plough on. The momentum picked up, and the going became easier and easier.
Through their eventual conversion to Catholicism and their transformation after the Retrouvaille programme, they have come to realise that love is not a feeling but a verb.
John said, “This means that we have to take action to work on our marriage, instead of just reacting to the romantic feeling that diminishes in times of conflict. This is a daily decision to love, honour and forgive each other, making our marriage a priority.”
Jane added, “God is now part of our marriage. He is our constant source of strength in times of conflicts. We pray daily as a family and as a couple. We seek His help in prayer and invite Him to be a part of our healing process. Love is work but we discovered that the reward is worth the effort.”
They admitted that they are still working at it. They encourage couples in hurting marriages not to give up too easily God’s gift of their spouses whom they held dearly at the start of their marriages, but to work together to build their relationship.
“We learnt that growth in the marriage relationship cannot come from one person doing all the pushing for growth. It takes two. As both of us take an active interest and share the responsibility, our marriage is now a source of love and joy for us and our family,” said Jane.