FamilyLife Today®

A New Attitude

with Sandy Ralya | April 27, 2010
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Sandy decided that, with God’s help, her relationship with her husband, Tom, could and would be different.
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  • Sandy decided that, with God’s help, her relationship with her husband, Tom, could and would be different. Today, Sandy talks about the new attitude she adopted, fueled by her faith in an Almighty God and the intervention and brief separation that finally got her husband’s attention.

Sandy decided that, with God’s help, her relationship with her husband, Tom, could and would be different.

A New Attitude

With Sandy Ralya
April 27, 2010
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Bob:   You’ve already shared with us this week that you and Tom met on a blind date and two months later you were engaged and not long after that you learned that you were pregnant. So the marriage happened quickly.

You had known Tom for five months and you shared that not long after the honeymoon you realized that Tom was angry, was emotionally abusive and all of a sudden you were in a marriage that was not at all what you had dreamed.  You stayed silent for five years and then opened up to some women who came around and loved and supported and helped you.

Sandy:     Yes.


Bob:  But there was still a long period of time between when you shared this with your friends and a point when Tom had a friend come alongside him and challenge him.  Tell us what happened with Tom and what opened the door for him to begin to confront his own issues.


Sandy:  Well, I actually got to the point with my husband where I did have to ask him to leave.  I remember one morning waking up and just thinking “huh! You know something more is needed here” and I had been praying and seeking God.  The abuse just did continue.

Dennis:  How long in your marriage are we now? Are we year ten or so?


Sandy:  We’re at year eleven and a half.   


Bob:  Wow.  You’ve lived now for five, six years trying to live the way that God would call you to live.  Were you seen any change with Tom?

Sandy:  Yes, I did see change you know?   I would see a softening now and again but I think the biggest change that occurred was in me.  All of a sudden I was clothed with strength and dignity, the strength and dignity that it talks about in Proverbs 31.  I wasn’t a doormat any more.  I wasn’t an angry witchy woman anymore.

Dennis:  You were speaking the truth in love not just speaking the truth.


Sandy:  I was.  That is correct.  I was behaving in a loving way in the midst of abuse.

Bob:  There was some joy in your life in the midst of this too?

 Sandy:  Yes! There was such closeness with my Heavenly Father.  In many respects He was my husband during that time.

Bob:   But you wake up one morning and say this can’t go on.  I mean… that’s a really dramatic point to come to in a marriage.

Sandy:  It was and growing up in the church and realizing that divorce is not an option.  All I can say is that I was transported to a new place, that day.


Dennis:  You weren’t necessarily threatening divorce you just wanted him physically out of the house.


Sandy:  Yes.

Dennis:  You wanted him to feel something and maybe have some of the relational props that he was enjoying removed from his life.

Sandy:  Yes!


Dennis:  How did you confront him and ask him to leave?


Sandy:  Well, I actually called one of his best friends and my brother.  I said “I need your help and support tonight.  I am going to ask Tom to leave and I‘d like you to be there.” because I was afraid of his anger. I was afraid of how he would respond and I thought I need some men there.

One of his best friends and my brother did come over that night and they actually lead the meeting.  I was highly emotional.  They said “you know you had been mistreating Sandy for quite some time so we’re going to see that you pack a few belongings and leave right now.

Bob:  Was there some event that had happened that precipitated this with you?


Sandy:  Nothing major. It wasn’t anything major.


Bob:  It was just the end of the rope kind of thing?


Sandy:  Yes, I can’t really point to anything major I was just in a new place.

Bob:  Did he get angry that night?


Sandy:  He didn’t but one of his best friends and my brother were there.  They were outlining some of the things that had been going on that I had shared with them.  They said “this just can’t be anymore Tom this is wrong.” I remember Tom’s response. He apologized for how he had treated me over the last week.  It’s like he just didn’t get it.  It’s like honey this has been years, this isn’t just a bad week.


Dennis:  So at that point you don’t think he got the overall message that it had been years?


Sandy:  No, I don’t think he did, not based upon his response.


Bob:  He packed up and took off?

Sandy:  He did.  His friend and my brother changed the locks on the door because I was afraid that he would come back and retaliate in some way.  He didn’t and instead he went to straight to an older man that we knew of and asked to be mentored by him.  He and his wife actually took Tom in for about a month and spent time with him, teaching him, encouraging him.

Tom would tell you that  one night he came in late for dinner and this mentor looked at him and said how inconsiderate of you.  If this is just a small taste of how you treated your wife, this can't be anymore.  He really read him the riot act.

Bob:   For coming in late for dinner.

Sandy:   Exactly.

Dennis:  Just kind of pointed out some of his selfishness that he had been allowed to get away with.

Sandy:  Exactly. Yes.

Dennis:  I want to point out here is the power of another man in a man’s life and that his wife can help set some of these moments up.  You can’t make you husband teachable as Tom became at that point.  That really is the more remarkable response here that he almost instantly began to deal with his stuff.


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis:  The issue is you help him face to what he’s doing wrong. You bring some witnesses in there that don’t allow him to get away with what they’ve been getting away with.


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis:  A lot of woman I don’t think do this because they live in the fear.


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis:  They don’t have those who could come along side them to help protect them.


Sandy:  Yes. Having people who you can count on to come along side you is a tremendous benefit. Actually, his whole family was very supportive of me.


Bob:  So, he moved out. He’s got an older man who is mentoring him.  How long did you guys live apart?


Sandy:  Just 30 days.


Bob:  In that 30 days did you have any relationship?  Did he come over for dinner at all?  Did you talk on the phone? What happened?


Sandy:  I am glad you asked that question. He did start calling me and talking to me.  I was a little reticent to talk to him after such a short period of time but I did.  I thought this sounds good but…


Dennis:  Was he sweet talking you, you think?


Sandy:  Well…I didn’t know but I thought “how could the change that I needed to see in my husband occur in such a short period of time” so I was doubtful.


Bob:  As you say this and I think it’s a fair warning to woman especially if they’re in a relationship where there has been physical abuse but I think it’s true for emotional abuse as well.

I remember the Nashville Police Department talking about what they call the “Oh, Baby Syndrome” where an abusive man once he has his feet held to the fire he comes back and he say’s “Oh, baby.  I am so sorry.  I am going to be a better guy.  I’m going to start going to church. I’m going to start doing this.  I’m going to start doing that.  So you were skeptical.


Sandy:  I was.


Bob:  There is good reason to be skeptical.  Because you want to know whether you’re seeing worldly sorrow…


Sandy:  Yes.


Bob: …or godly repentance. 


Sandy:  That is exactly right.


Bob:  The only way to tell the difference between worldly sorrow and godly repentance is time.


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis:  That equals fruit


Sandy:  That equals fruit, that’s right.  I was also hearing from the couple that was mentoring Tom at that time. So, they were keeping me up on some of the things they were dealing with. I remember about three weeks into it the wife of the man called me and said “you know, Tom’s going to call you and ask you out on a date.  I will just urge you to go.”

So, Tom did call and he asked me out on a date and I was scared to death because you know I had really held up a standard and I was still afraid!  I was really afraid and I did go.


Dennis:  What were you feeling at that point?  Were you wondering if it was again the sweet talking insincere, fake repentance?


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis: …and you were in danger?


Sandy:  Well, not physically in danger.  I just didn’t want to be sucked in to a sham.

I didn’t want to go there.  This step had taking me so long to take and I had come so far that I didn’t want it to be for nothing.


Bob:  Were you enjoying having him out of the house or were you missing him?


Sandy:  Both.  I didn’t miss the stress and the pressure.  He was my husband and I did love him.


Dennis:  What about the kids? You had three children.


Sandy:  I had three children.


Dennis:  Did you tell them what was going on?


Sandy:  I did.  That was particularly hard.  Tom, though the majority of his abuse was directed at me and though he would get angry with our kids, it wasn’t the same.  He was an active dad.  He played with them.  They loved their dad so that was particularly heart breaking for me.


Bob:  Well, take us back to that next blind date.


Sandy:  The next blind date…


Dennis:  Yes! This wasn’t a blind date.


Bob:  You went in with your eyes wide open.


Dennis:   There is a statement that says love is blind but marriage is an eye opener.


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis:  That’s where you were on the date.


Sandy:  That’s where I was,


Dennis:  You knew what you were going out with at that point.

Sandy:  I did.  We went out on this date and he wanted me to start by opening a gift.  I opened it…sorry…


Bob:  It’s okay.


Sandy: …and… ah... it was a box of chocolate.

sniff…and that might seem minor but God did something in my heart.


Dennis:  This was the man who had controlled your ordering of a chocolate milkshake.


Sandy:  Exactly.


Dennis:  At McDonalds and made the order a vanilla because he didn’t want you to have chocolate, didn’t think it would be good for you.


Sandy:  That’s right.


Bob:  So, after the date did he take you home and kiss you good night?


Sandy:  We drove separately. 

Bob:  Wow.

Sandy:  I told him I wanted to meet him there.


Bob:  You left and said goodnight and..???


Sandy:  Yes.  I left and said goodnight and he thanked me so much for keeping the date and I went back to one of my godly mentors who was watching my children during that date and I said “This might be something, it just might be something.”  I didn’t allow myself to just completely melt and go with it.


Bob:  You needed to see something more than a night with a box of chocolates and a love letter.


Sandy:  Exactly.


Bob:  So what did you see over the next weeks?


Sandy:  Actually he was only gone for a month so it was only another week, only another additional week and it was a lot of communication. He would send letters to my house.


Bob:  This was before e-mail, before instant messaging.


Sandy:  Exactly!

Bob:    Before texting…


Sandy:  Right. Before Twittering!


Bob:  He was actually mailing…


Sandy:  He wasmailing…


Bob: …hand written letters?


Sandy: …hand written letters to our house.


Bob:   You would go out to the mail box and get one of those and …


Sandy:  Everyday.


Dennis:  There are some women right now who have heard your story and they are gaining courage from your example and they need to draw the line in the sand with their husband. They need to ask him to step out of the home for a period of time to clean up his act.


Bob:  Maybe, call some guys over when they do that.


Dennis:  That’s right! Get the protection in line and what I just want to say at this point is I think Sandy’s story is remarkable that all this took place in a mere 30days.  Now 19 years later, we are telling a great storey.  Now what I want to just say to the women who do this is you are in a vulnerable position to do this once.  Draw the line carefully and then gather those around you that will help you and protect your heart from being taken advantage of.


Sandy:  Yes.


Dennis:  In this situation, an abuser as you talked about Bob can turn it on and can…


Bob:  Manipulate.


Dennis:   Absolutely!  There can be true danger, physical danger, life and death danger in letting an abuser back in the house before they’ve dealt with their stuff.


Bob:  A week after the box of chocolates was when Tom gathered the family together and asked you to take off your shoes and socks?


Sandy:  That’s correct.  I do want to say though, it just wasn’t a week of letters, and it was also meeting with this other couple that was mentoring Tom and they were not just going to send him back home and leave us be.  We met with them once a week for about 4 months.  Once they saw that Tom continued to walk in the instruction that he received with them, then we met every other week.  For a year we met with them.


Dennis:  So there were all kinds of excellent accountability?

Sandy:  Exactly! I wouldn’t have felt comfortable any other way.  There was also a conference that went on during this month that Tom was gone.  Do you guys remember Ed Cole?


Bob:  Yes.


Dennis: Yes.

Sandy:   There was an Ed Cole ministry conference where Ed came to our church and town during that month.  Tom went to that conference and I heard testimonies from men that saw him at the altar, prostrate weepingand totally broken.  Ed Cole’s message was also very instrumental in Tom’s life during that month.


Bob:  When Tom came back, I know God had done a work in his life.  Was everything different or did you see some of the old pattern start to sneak back from time to time?


Sandy:  Everything was different.  He was really trying hard.  I remember one particular night he was two minutes late home and I was in the car in the garage ready to take off as soon as he got there.  That’s how firmly I was holding his fingers to the fire.


Dennis:  What do you mean by that?  That you were going to leave?


Sandy:  I was going to just take off for the night and let him watch the kids and eat dinner by himself.


Bob:  Because he was two minutes late?!


Sandy:  Because he was two minutes late.  I put him through the traces guys.  I wanted him to know that I was not kidding around.


Bob:  So, he gets home two minutes late.  What’s he say?


Dennis:  Were you in the car when he got there?


Sandy:  I was in the car.  I took off.  This is a funny story that he tells because our kids were I think the youngest was eight so our oldest was old enough to stay home with the other two.  I took off and he chased me down the streets of our small little town and at the stop light the light turned red and he hopped out his car and went to the window and said  “Sandy, I’m so sorry I’m two minutes late!”  The guy behind him started beeping his horn saying “Get back in the car you jerk!”


Sandy:  Anyway I think I did keep going for a ride.  He turned around and went home but I was really watching his behavior closely, ready to call in the Red Brigade if needed.

Dennis:   I think that it important though, the model that you set there.  Not to be legalistic about the two minutes but you again you clarified what you expected.  You stuck to it.


Sandy:   I did.


Dennis:  He needed to know that you were no longer the door mat.

Sandy:  That’s right; he wasn’t going to walk all over me anymore.  It was up to me to draw those lines and to enforce them.


Dennis:  There are some men who have been listening to this story and they may be saying” Is it me Lord?” A man who’s abusive to his wife with his words is just wrong.  We are physically more powerful but that power was meant to be used to protect, not to curse; to care for.  I can’t help but wonder if there are some men who don’t need to find an altar somewhere and get down on their faces like Sandy’s husband Tom did and just say Lord “I poor out my heart.  I’ve been wrong.” and to deal with their sin. 

I pray you’ll be the courageous man you need to be and you won’t let another day go by without dealing with this.  If they do, the story of this book right here, the Bible is a story of hope.  God takes broken men.  We’re all broken and he mends them and heals them and takes their scars and He makes them into trophies of grace.  There is not a man who has committed the worst acts that can’t receive mercy and grace at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.  Just be the man and step up and do and do it now.


Bob:  I think that Tom finding that godly couple and submitting himself to them…


Dennis:  Very important.


Bob:  That was huge! Then Sandy you getting wisdom from friends who helped coach you on how to respond and what to do.  What not to do.  I think the key to all of this is that in the midst of what was going on with your husband you were continually trying to be the woman God called you to be.  You weren’t fixated; you weren’t focused on everything he’s doing wrong and he was doing plenty wrong.  You were saying” Okay Lord, how can I be your woman in this situation.”

 It was out of that you wrote the book Beautiful Womanhood, which we got in our FamilyLife Today resource center. Let me encourage listeners go to get a copy of Sandy’s book.  This is just not for woman in a crisis situation. This is for all women who are trying to live out Gods design for beautiful womanhood in their marriage and in their home. Again, the title of the book is Beautiful Womanhood.

Our website you can order from us online or if it’s easier order by calling 1 800-FL-TODAY.  Again it’s 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.  

Over the next several weeks and months you are going to hearing about a number of new resources that we been working to develop here at FamilyLife. Some video resources, some exciting new tools that we think God is going to use these in some significant ways in peoples’ lives to help strengthen marriages and families. That’s what we are committed to as a ministry.  We want to see every home become a godly home. 

Just recently one of the new tools, well, it’s actually a study guide we have had around for awhile but it has just been updated, revised.  It’s called Preparing for Marriage.  There have been tens of thousands of couples who have gone through this study guide in preparation for getting married.  We have had great feedback from it but it was time for an update so we just updated it.  This month those of you who are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount we would like to send you the brand new Preparing for Marriage study guide.

I know most of you are probably already married but I also know you probably know somebody, maybe somebody in your own family, who is preparing for marriage or thinking about it.  This would be a great guide book for a young couple to go through together, as they think about getting married.  Again, if you can help with a donation of any amount, this is one of these new tools we would love to send out to you as a way of saying thank you for supporting the ministry for making it possible for us to develop new resources to help strengthen your marriage and your family.

Go online at FamilyLife you can make your donation on our website and when you fill out the online donation form just type the word “PREPARE” in the key code box that you find on the online donation form or call 1-800-FLTODAY make your donation over the phone and just mention that you would like the Preparing for Marriage study guide.

It’s our thank you gift when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.  We are grateful for your financial partnership with this ministry.

Now tomorrow we want to invite you back. Sandy Ralya’s going to be here again and we’re going to hear how she counsels younger women on what it means to be God’s woman in your marriage and in your home, even when things are tough.  That’s coming up tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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