I was 16 years and 4 months old when my parents told me that they were getting a divorce. I remember it like yesterday.
I had walked into the kitchen after football practice. My parents were sitting at the table with my two younger brothers. Mom and Dad said that they weren’t able to get along anymore and that they were going to go their separate ways.
They said that I needed to decide which parent I wanted to go with.
At the time I didn’t even know there was anything wrong between my parents. It was frightening.
I was upset that they would leave me with a decision like that. So I chose not to go with either parent. I grabbed all of my clothes out of the closet and threw them into the trunk of my car. And for the next two years I lived and slept in my car while attending my last two years of high school. There were people who offered me a place to stay but I wanted to be left alone. I felt like God had no use for me whatsoever.
After I graduated from high school, I worked for about a year on an automobile assembly line. It didn’t take me long to know that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. I enrolled at the University of Montana, and met my future wife, Chris, when I was home on semester break. We went to a local dance together and hit it off.
My grades in college were poor. So when I received a draft notice, I dropped out of school and joined the Air Force. Chris and I continued to date. We got married in 1968 and the following year I was sent to Vietnam.
I made a commitment to myself that I would never get divorced no matter what. Sadly, I did not have the tools to be a good husband and father. For the next 21 years, our marriage was all about me. Me and what I needed and very little about what Chris needed.
In 1990, I was part of Desert Storm in Iraq. As I was preparing to return to the States, I called Chris, who told me about a marriage conference coming up. “It will be right after you get back. What do you think about going?” I didn’t think I really needed to go, but I said I would go to support her.
When I returned home and realized that I had agreed to go to the marriage getaway, I thought, I’ve got to get out of going to this thing. It will be a waste of my time. And I’m going to probably be uncomfortable.
I tried to volunteer to work that weekend, and also told Chris that we couldn’t afford to go. I said that I didn’t want to be away from the kids. But Chris wouldn’t accept any of this.
Much to learn
As the Weekend to Remember® started, I still did not understand why I needed to be there with all of the other men who needed help. But after just a few minutes, I turned to my wife and said, “They are talking to me, aren’t they?”
She just nodded.
We both learned so much that weekend. As we worked through the couples projects, some issues were brought out in the open. I learned I had done a lot of things to offend Chris over the years. She had carried a lot inside.
Chris had never gotten in my face and said, “You’re a mess,” or, “This marriage is a mess.” But she had wondered if our marriage would make it.
When I discovered the poor job I was doing as a husband, I asked her, “Chrissie, why did you marry me in the first place and why did you put up with my selfishness for so long?” And she said, “I saw potential in you and didn’t want to give up.”
After attending our first Weekend to Remember, I spent some time reflecting on the first 21 years of my marriage, asking myself a lot of questions: Had I helped out around the house enough so Chris’s work was done so she and I would have time to sit and talk? Had I found opportunities to take her out on a date after we were married? The answers were, Not really.
I felt like I still had so much to learn. That’s why Chris and I went to two more Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that same year. We promised one another that we would attend one each year that God allowed us to live on this earth.
We’ve now gone 21 times, and we look forward to it every year. We always come away refreshed, refocused, and stronger in love than we have ever been. We have taken our children and their significant others with us, we have sponsored friends, and we continue to seek out opportunities for helping others attend.
We take something away from each Weekend to Remember that we can apply each day to our marriage and lives. The getaways have helped me “walk the talk” and “man-up.”
Chris and I have now been married almost 42 years. Frankly, if it had not been for God, FamilyLife, and the conference speakers, I do not know what we would have done.
Now, I look for ways each day to be the best husband and father ever. I seek out opportunities to show my wife how much she means to me and my life. The Weekend to Remember goes far beyond just a few hours together. It actually changes lives and marriages.
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