When Joseph and Samantha first met through a mutual friend, love blossomed and after two years of dating, the couple married in 2012. Their belief that they needed only one another soon faded as the realities of married life began to take hold. They were soon to discover that they were missing a third, very important, partner in the marriage.

“Although Samantha and I knew that marriage would never be a bed of roses, we were totally unprepared for what was a horrendous start to our marriage,” says Joseph. “It was fraught with constant disagreements and heated quarrels over just about everything. We were both quick to lose our cool. So when troubled times came, like when I lost my job and felt very low about myself, I just could not see her as my helpmate but rather someone who judged me along with the rest. Our marriage crumbled like a house of cards since the foundations of our faith and our marriage were never properly developed.”

Killing A Marriage

Their fights were often sparked by a lack of tolerance and poor understanding of each other’s underlying needs and emotions. One negative tone or judgemental look would escalate to insensitive comments, and even expletives. “Sometimes the fights were in the open and our children could hear all the ugly words we threw at each other,” adds Samantha. “We were not even aware that we were repeatedly breaking the 5th commandment: Thou Shall Not Kill.”

Joseph had grown up with a mother who had anger management issues and a father who was extremely reticent and could not protect him. With deep hurt from his family of origin, his anger flares out easily and is often laced with contempt at the slightest provocation. Samantha’s upbringing held no model for what she was now experiencing in her marriage. Growing up, all the way into adulthood, she was doted on by her parents, who took care of her every need. In the workplace too, she was treated with respect and courtesy. Yet, daily, she returned home to a very different environment. “After each fight, Joseph and I were unforgiving and chose instead to store all the resentment. I became angry with God for this hurtful man who made me feel so condemned. I struggled to pray whenever we fought, and I blamed Joseph for the endless cycle of negativity,” says Samantha.

They could easily have fallen through the cracks, but for the divine intervention of our Merciful God.

Divorce Was On The Cards

It was a deeply unhappy and untenable position, and it wasn’t long before the couple decided the easiest way out was to cut their losses and divorce. And they could easily have fallen through the cracks, but for the divine intervention of our Merciful God.

“On the verge of breaking up, while at Mass one Sunday, we heard a church announcement about an upcoming Couple Empowerment Programme (CEP),” Samantha remembers. “We were invited to attend once we got out into the Church lobby and, to my surprise, Joseph agreed, seeming to be ready to give our marriage a last shot.”

God Sent In His Squad

It was not easy. It took many attempts and long sessions to break down the many facets of the couple’s issues. They even gave up the CEP sessions at one point. “But I suppose God never gave up on us,” said Joseph. “He sent the CEP team after us. When the subsequent CEP run came round, we were invited to continue where we had left off. And so we soldiered on.”

They started to be able to remove the shades of sins and to see how pride and fragile egos had contributed to the brokenness and hurt that lay deep within.

Over time, they started to be able to remove the shades of sins and to see how pride and fragile egos had contributed to the brokenness and hurt that lay deep within. Joseph came to realise that even if he felt he was being provoked to anger, he should not give in to his rage and negative emotions and vent them on Samantha. “She is my wife, whom I vowed to love and honour all the days of my life,” he says. “I need to accord her dignity and respect. She is, after all, a child of God just as I am. Like Jesus, who gave His all to the Church, His Bride; and also like her dad, who always acted in her best interest, as her husband, I am called to be Samantha’s protector and life partner. I should be looking for opportunities to love and affirm her.”

The Restoration Plan

The couple were provided tools in CEP to repair, heal and rebuild themselves and their marriage. These included going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, praying the rosary and other prayers, attending daily Mass, allowing the Word of God to nourish them, and spending quiet moments in the Adoration Room as well as setting aside time to regularly check in with each other, to have their couple dialogue and to pray together as a couple.

Most significantly, they felt a deep presence of God’s love through their assigned CEP mentor couple, facilitators and the entire CEP community, who ministered to them, and journeyed and prayed with and for them as Samantha recalls: “They literally carried Joseph and I through our deeply wounded marriage state, helping us to reconnect with God and drawing upon His love to rekindle our love for one another.”

A Welcomed Third Wheel

“There were countless times when the conflicts in our marriage seemed unsalvageable,” adds Joseph, “but with every fall we took, we felt God holding us up each time and whispering into our ears: ‘I’m here, keep going’. Through this, we know for sure that God is ever present whenever we call upon Him.”

“It certainly does take three to be married,” says Samantha. “These days, whenever those tense moments arise, we cling on to that all-important third party in our marriage, the Crucified Christ, and allow Him to lead us.”

This story was first published on the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family’s website.

*Joseph and Samantha are pseudonyms.

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