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The DNA of RELATIONSHIPS for COUPLES
By Greg Smalley Robert S. Paul
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Smalley Publishing Group, LLC
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRodney went to the kitchen window one more time. Stretching over the sink, he leaned closer and pulled back the curtain, as if he could will himself to see headlights bouncing toward him in the distance, indicating that Chelsea might be coming home. Everything was dark, save the little streetlamp at the end of the drive. She wasn't answering at the office or on her cell. Should he call the police? A mix of worry and rage-fear-crept into his throat. His wife might be in trouble.
He had played with the kids and fed them dinner, assuming she'd been held up at the office. Next he bathed the two toddlers, read books to them, and tucked them into bed. Still Chelsea was not home. He was getting nervous. The young dad watched several sitcoms and willed himself to wash the dishes-mainly so he could stay close to the window. Three more hours passed. Rodney didn't know what to do. It wasn't as if this was the first time his wife, a professional who refused to be controlled by anyone or anything, had arrived home long after she'd been expected. But not this late. She would be furious if he called the police.
Flopping onto the couch, Rodney paid little attention to the living room floor strewn with books and toys. Instead, images ofhis wife played out in his mind. Wondering, worrying, he fought with his suspicions. She's been really loaded with work ... she's been so annoyed with me ... I know she goes out after work sometimes ... pushing deadlines, that's all ... there are all those attractive men in suits! Hauling his large body off the couch, he went to look out the window one more time and then to check on the children.
Jack's cheek was mashed against his pillow, and his lips were pursed in an open-lipped pout. His chubby palm fell open, making him as vulnerable and innocent as any little human being could be. Hannah slept on her tummy in her crib with her knees bunched under her so that her padded bottom stuck up. Rodney leaned down to brush away her curls and kissed her temple.
Standing there watching his children sleep, Rodney felt even more desperate for Chelsea's return. At bedtime, little Jack had asked about his mommy and refused to be consoled until Rodney promised she'd give him a kiss as soon as she got home. These kids needed their mom. Where was she?
By the time Chelsea's SUV pulled up to the curb, the clock on the microwave read 2:13 a.m. Rodney's emotions had covered the gamut. With a mix of relief and anger, he knew this was it. He had to confront his wife about what was going on. He would meet her at the door and insist on an explanation. Her key was in the lock. He had waited up all these hours, and he fully meant to stand up and ask her, point-blank, what was going on.
The door opened quietly. Rodney panicked and remained paralyzed in his prone position. He heard his wife sidestep the cat and tiptoe quietly past the couch, where he was pretending to be asleep.
* * *
"This is Julie. How may I help you?"
Rodney froze. Calling the Marriage Institute had seemed like a good idea, but now he wasn't sure what to say. "Urn ...," he stammered, "a ... a friend gave me your number a-a-and said I should call." He took a deep breath. "I don't know what to do. Several days ago, my wife moved out with the kids and said she is leaving me." The house was now barren. No laughter, no children squealing, no cartoons. He could hear his voice trembling, but he went on anyway. "I love my wife and kids, and I don't want to lose them. Can you help us?"
"I hope so," Julie said. "But first, tell me about what's going on in your marriage so I can help you decide if our programs are what you need and, if so, which one is right for you."
Rodney wiped his eyes on his sleeve. "My wife says I don't take any initiative in our relationship. It's not that I don't love her, because I do ... with all my heart." He fought back tears. "I think it may be too late. I'm just not sure what to do."
"Are there other specific complaints or issues between the two of you?"
"Well ... sort of ..." Rodney explained that he didn't make enough money and that his wife claimed she wanted to be at home with their kids, but instead she wasn't coming home until late at night. Her resentment toward him continued to grow, no matter what he did. She hated the fact that he was still working at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and pressed hard for him to go through management training or more schooling. "But I like my job. The work is steady, I have flexible hours, and I'm good with the kids.... I'm sorry for rambling."
"Not at all," Julie said. Her voice was pleasant, and she seemed patient. Rodney started to relax a little. "It's helpful to understand a little bit about what is happening in your relationship. It sounds like both of you are unhappy and feeling misunderstood. I can't help but wonder if maybe you haven't even gotten to the root of the problem."
That was exactly how he felt, but the idea of getting to the root of the problem was unsettling. Terrifying, actually. What would be discovered at the root of their troubled marriage?
Julie explained that the counselors she worked with, Dr. Greg Smalley and Dr. Bob Paul, were marriage specialists who helped people get to the root of these kinds of issues every day. They made sure both spouses felt safe before diving too deeply into their issues. She then described the Intensive programs available and encouraged Rodney to go to their Web site for more details.
A TALK WITH THE DOCTORS
Don't Go It Alone
We'd like to step aside just briefly from Rodney and Chelsea's story and talk with you, the reader, for a moment. Throughout this book, as you get to know our fictional couples and eavesdrop on their counseling sessions, we'll interrupt from time to time with words of encouragement, challenge, or clarification. These little "author asides" will be called "A Talk with the Doctors" and will be set apart in sections such as this one.
The first thing we want to share with you is that people were never meant to figure out how to create great relationships without help and support from others. Whether your relationship is good and you want it to be great, your relationship has occasional disappointments or challenges you don't know how to handle, or your relationship is a mess, don't go it alone. Reach out to others when you're grappling with relationship issues. There are many different ways to reach out to others. You can talk to a trusted friend or pastor, meet privately with someone in your Bible study or accountability group, visit a professional counselor, or attend a Couples Intensive like the one described in this book. It's often difficult for people to take the first step, just as it was difficult for Rodney to make that phone call. But your marriage is worth it-and so are you!
Maybe you're reading this book not because you have marriage challenges yourself but because someone you care about is struggling. If this is the case, we commend you for your compassion. We are confident that what you'll learn in these pages will better equip you to be that listening ear, should your friend choose to turn to you for help.
Whatever your personal situation might be, we invite you once again to come along with us as the fifth couple for this week's Couples Intensive in Branson. It is our hope and prayer that as you listen in on these fictional couples' lives, you will learn something about your own marriage relationship, and maybe even something new and exciting about yourself.
"An Intensive sounds like exactly what we need," Rodney told Julie, still nervous about the idea of discovering the root of their problem. "But I'm not sure Chelsea will even consider coming. Would you be willing to talk with her?"
Julie explained that just as medical doctors can't manipulate their patients to come in for checkups, their practice, for ethical reasons, wouldn't allow the staff to pursue clients either. They would simply have to wait until Chelsea was ready to contact them. "I'll be happy to discuss her questions, concerns, or hesitancy if and when she's ready. Does that make sense?"
As if his thoughts had conjured her up, Rodney suddenly heard Chelsea's voice. She had come in the back door, and he hadn't noticed.
"I just stopped by to pick up some extra clothes for the kids. I won't be long. Sorry to interrupt you."
"No, Chelsea ... no problem. Um, I ... was just talking with someone who might be able to help us. They ... she wants to talk to you." He held out the phone, hoping against hope that she would take it. Looking a little skeptical, she did. Rodney slunk out to the porch and sat on the front steps to wait.
* * *
"Hello? This is Chelsea."
Chelsea listened while Julie explained who she was and why Rodney had called. Impatient, the young mother worked around the kitchen while giving the woman on the phone a chance to describe a four-day Couples Intensive program and inquire as to whether this was something the couple would be interested in.
"You know ...," Chelsea started hesitantly, while reaching into the cupboard for the sippy cups, "to be honest, I don't know if I even want this marriage to work. I've tried hard for too long; I'm tired of hoping my husband will change. I don't know that I'm willing to put forth the effort to make it work."
Julie asked Chelsea if she was afraid to give her marriage another chance.
"Yes. I am disappointed with my marriage, and I just don't want to try anymore." She slumped down on an old stool in the kitchen. With a foot up on a high rung, she leaned her head against the wall. The cupboard doors needed to be scrubbed, food and crumbs had gathered under the table, and mudd scuff prints marked up the door. "More than anything, I just want to be happy, I want my children to be happy, and ... I can't see how we can ever be all that with Rod in the picture."
Julie acknowledged that each individual has to sort through this kind of stuff on their own and that it was not her place to tell Chelsea what she needed to do, or not do, with her life or marriage. "That is strictly between you and God. And we're confident that you and he can sort it out." Julie went on to clarify how the goal of the counseling center was to come alongside couples in a way that would be useful to each person. "In fact, we really have only one question that we ask couples in order to determine whether or not we can work with them."
"Only one question?" With the phone wedged between her shoulder and her ear, Chelsea grabbed the broom and started sweeping up the mess on the floor.
"In order for us to feel confident that you are ready to enter our program, you need to answer yes to only one question: If God were to work a miracle in your marriage-even if the miracle is similar in magnitude to the parting of the Red Sea-would you be willing to receive that miracle? In other words, if God were to part the sea before you, would you be willing to walk through?"
Julie paused and then continued, "It's not necessary to believe the miracle could happen, or even to hope for it. The only question is, Would you accept it if it arrived? If your answer is yes, we are anxious to come alongside you both to see what happens. If the answer is no, we would encourage you to save your money and time."
There was a long pause. Chelsea glanced over at Rodney, who stood leaning against the door frame, looking a little anxious.
"Mhmm," was all she could summon. "I don't know what to think of all that. I guess if God wants to do a miracle, I'd be willing to receive it."
* * *
Becca Stuart wasn't sure how she and her husband had arrived in one piece. They had originally planned to travel separately, but she soon thought better of it and decided it would be a good idea to spend a few hours together en route so they could get their stories straight. She and her husband, Ryan, had been separated for one month, and any kind of communication was impossible because of innumerable interruptions-and it proved no better while traveling across the nation.
"Right there on the sign, Ryan. We need Highway 65-you'd better turn around here." No sooner had they found the right highway to Branson than Ryan's cell phone rang.
"That better not be the hospital," Becca said. The young physician and his wife had not been out of the Springfield rental car lot longer than five minutes before the hospital was calling again. "Can't they leave you alone?"
Ryan ignored his wife and continued the call. "Yeah, Monty. Tell me what her symptoms are again. I couldn't hear you." He shot Becca a dirty look.
Becca could hear Monty's voice through the phone's earpiece as he described the patient's symptoms: headache, nausea, stomach tenderness, bleeding, swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine. She knew the symptoms for HELLP syndrome were serious. This situation called for immediate response from an ob-gyn. Becca could see her husband's frustration and knew he felt guilty for leaving the hospital when he was needed. Frowning, he replied, "I agree with your diagnosis, Monty. You'd better-"
"Ryan, you promised!" Becca was not happy. "Get off the phone." Though it was serious, she had no doubt Dr. Monty Burleson could handle this situation on his own.
Ryan shook his head in disgust and gave his wife a look that had become all too familiar-the look that said, "Stop nagging and leave me alone."
"You committed to this Couples Intensive, and now you're telling me you can't let the other doctors make the decisions for a few days?" She felt a familiar wave of desperation. "I can't believe I actually hoped this might work." On impulse, she yanked the phone cord out of the dashboard, where the phone had been recharging after a busy day of use.
They had been traveling all day, with several layovers between Southern California and Springfield, Missouri. Getting their two little girls settled with Ryan's parents before leaving for several days had been exhausting for Becca, and frankly she didn't care who was on the other end of that line. She had waited for Ryan's attention long enough. She needed him all to herself, just this once. This decision, as well as this trip, was long overdue-in fact, it may have been too late.
Ryan hardly broke stride in his conversation. Unfortunately for Becca, the phone had enough battery power for him to continue his conversation.
"Monty, I'm sorry about the interruption. Hold on one sec, please." He covered the phone and grabbed Becca's wrist. She knew by his expression that her behavior baffled him. "Stop being so dramatic, Becca. This will only take a minute. A woman's baby and her life are at stake." He pushed her hand back onto her lap, glanced at her, and rubbed his forehead. "It's not always just about you, you know." Ryan picked up where he had left off in the phone conversation.
In a fit of rage, Becca swung her body away from Ryan, stared out the passenger window, and began to read aloud the large billboard ads that littered the highway as they drove south.
"Silver Dollar City ...," Becca announced with sarcasm. "Maybe we should go there instead of to the Couples Intensive, since our lives seem to revolve around money." Leaning toward the phone, she shouted, "Hey, Monty, did you know there was a famed Highway 76? Cool ... look ... Andy Williams sings at the Moon River Theater. Ryan, wouldn't your parents just love it?"
Ryan was livid. He held the phone away from his face with his thumb over the speaker and whispered fiercely, "Are you finished yet?"
She wasn't. With every ounce of her energy, she would make it known to Ryan and anyone else within earshot how miserable he had made her life, and she didn't feel the least bit guilty for making his life a little uncomfortable in return. "Yakov Smirnoff has a show. Remember him from TV? Oh, my goodness," she mocked in a high nasal tone, "Shoji Tabuchi is in Branson too!"
"Monty," Ryan almost yelled into the phone, "I'll call you back in a few minutes.... Thanks." He gripped the steering wheel as if he needed to hold on to it to keep from hitting her. "Becca, what is your problem?"
"Oh ... look who finally cares."
Excerpted from The DNA of RELATIONSHIPS for COUPLES by Greg Smalley Robert S. Paul Copyright © 2006 by Smalley Publishing Group, LLC. Excerpted by permission.
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