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Rejecting Divorce and Choosing to Say (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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July 19, 2023 2:00 am

Rejecting Divorce and Choosing to Say (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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July 19, 2023 2:00 am

Carey and Toni Nieuwhof’s marriage wasn’t always happy and filled with love. There was a time when they were on the brink of divorce, and though they tried to make amends, they kept falling into a cycle of fighting, anger and distance. Today, Carey and Toni say they can’t imagine considering divorce. Through their honest and vulnerable stories and advice, they’ll help encourage couples considering divorce to save their marriages and take a path toward healing. (Part 2 of 2)


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Hey everyone, listen to my podcast, Refocus with Jim Daly.

Check out my latest episode on engaging the culture with Seth Dillon, the CEO of the Babylon Bee, a popular conservative website. To learn more, visit And it was heated and I was frustrated and I had no idea at that point whether we could ever be in love again, whether our relationship was going to work out, because there was such a long pattern of this negative, you know, dance that we couldn't get our way out of. And so I did, I forced my ring off my finger and I said, that's it, you have it.

I don't want it anymore. That's Tony Newhoff describing a crisis moment in her marriage to her husband, Kerry. And we shared part of their dramatic story last time on Focus on the Family. And the good news is they're back with us today for part two, and they're going to share about how God restored their relationship.

Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. Tony and Kerry's story is really powerful. And if you missed part one of our discussion, you need to get that download from us or check out the previous episode on YouTube or Spotify.

It was that good. You need to go listen to it. We mentioned last time that Tony is a family law mediator and a former divorce attorney, which makes her perspective about dealing with a struggling marriage very interesting and insightful. Her husband Kerry is an author, speaker and podcaster who specializes in Christian leadership. And for a long time, he served in pastoral ministry. And the basis for our conversation is a book that Tony wrote called Before You Split, Find What You Really Want for the Future of Your Marriage.

You can find details about that book and our guests when you call 800-AFAMILY or check the program notes for more. Tony and Kerry, welcome back. Thank you for having us.

I'm thrilled to be here. Ma'am, what a part one we had yesterday. I mean, that was tough. It was a lot of the difficulty in your marriage.

And, you know, what I so appreciated about your vulnerability is many people are living in that place, many Christians, and we're not talking about it. So, I mean, this is the kind of thing you want to sit down and listen to with your spouse and talk about those things in your own relationship that might not be working as well as you hoped for. That's the goal and focus is here to help you in that way. If we can provide counseling or hope restored effort, those are all things that you can do that will put you in a better place. I mean, Hope Restored, we have a post two-year survey, 80% of those couples are together and doing better. I think it's the best thing going for marriage in the country. It's very unique and they do a wonderful job and it's in four days, intensive. It's like 38 hours of counseling.

So I'd encourage you to contact us to get more details about that. Let's go back into the story. I do want to pull one of the analogies you had because it's both succinct and fun about you on a beach with the family and you ended up in a mud hole. Tell us what happened and how did that mud hole give you a metaphor for life? Oh, that mud hole was apparently a one-time miracle because we've never seen it since, but that year the conditions at this beach in Ontario produced this mud hole about the size of a large spa with this beautifully warm silky mud.

And our kids found it first, of course, and then gradually they coaxed us in. You didn't think I'd go because I'm like a clean freak. I'm like, I'm not touching that. Mud and sand drive you nuts.

I'm like that too. And you didn't think I'd go. No, because you're like, I don't want to get a disease. I don't want to get dirty. She doesn't want to get a disease, but it's fine for the kids to be in there.

Just describe half of the marriages. Just don't come into my tent. Okay. Not into my tent. Not without mud. So here you are all together in this mud hole.

Yeah. We climbed in and after we had our fun, we went into the lake, which was right there at the beach and we cleaned off all the mud that you could see on the outside, you know, arms, legs, all of that was no problem. But for weeks and months afterward, I would find hints of this mud bath that we all took in the seams of our clothing, you know, the shorts that weren't really clean on the inside. And so there was this hidden mud that I was fighting with and I thought, hey, that actually I think describes this phenomenon that many of us, I would even say most of us go through where there's wounds or hurts from our past. You might call it baggage that we carry on the inside into our marriage, not realizing that it's there.

And that cleanup effort, so to speak, is no small task. Let me ask you, turning to the divorce aspect. I mean, your book, Before You Split, I would summarize your title by saying, hey, before you split, count the consequences because I think it's not worth it. And you're talking to a divorce lawyer. That's what you became, right? So you've seen it. You've seen the pain in front of a judge with clients and the breakdown, etc. You actually even refer to it as palliative care, you know, how we take care of those dying.

Describe that analogy and why does that fit so well? When you go through a divorce, it's like going through the death of a relationship. In some ways, it's actually harder because that person is still around.

So it can almost seem like there's this haunting of your past. Like a rolling grieving. Yes.

Yeah. And sometimes, you know, seeing or encountering that other person again, drums that grief up again. And so it being a divorce attorney is like palliative care for a relationship that has died.

And it's a time when there are so many details and issues that need to be sorted out. But at the same time, you're going through the depth of grief that one would go through if you were losing a parent or if you had lost a sibling. It's a very deep level of grief. And my heart goes out to anyone who's listening right now who is going through a divorce or has gone through one. Please know that I don't talk about it lightly, that I understand the hurt and that it's complicated.

Right. In fact, in the book, you mentioned that people who are seeking a divorce are often blindsided by the consequences of the decision. You can think it through logically what will happen with the kids, what we do with the house, what, you know, the property split.

Those are very linear, logical things. What is the blindsiding that these couples experience? It's so hard to know what is actually going to happen once the day of separation gets there. So oftentimes when couples are struggling, it isn't a secret to them. Oftentimes I had people who came in and they said, I really just need you to drop the divorce papers for me because we've had the conversations and I'm going to have the kids full time and I'm going to get the house and he's going to get the pension and we've already worked this out. What they didn't foresee is that once the date of separation came and they both understood more about their legal rights and obligations and the reality of the situation sinks in, people make different decisions. And so I found that people were unpleasantly surprised by some of the arrangements that didn't go the way they thought they would go. And hey, let's face it, when a couple is struggling, sometimes one person will say something just to get the other person off their back. Just because I don't want to have this conversation with you right now.

So I'm going to say, yes, yes, yes, sure, sure, sure. But I haven't really thought about it. Let me share a story with you because it relates to children. I received a letter not long ago from a woman in her thirties and she said this in the note. She said, when I was seven, my mom and dad divorced. My dad took me out to lunch and said, it's not your fault.

This is between mom and me and we just can't get along. But don't worry. I'm going to see you two weeks out of the summer.

I'll see you every other weekend. And in the note she ended with, that was the last time I ever talked to my dad. He didn't keep those promises.

He never showed up on the weekends and I never went to his home two weeks out of the summer. And then she just talked about the damage done and the number of relationships she was in looking for love and all the wrong places. It sounded like, but the guilt factor or the impact that that divorce has on your children is so profound.

I agree with you. I think you can't overstate what your children go through. And that's why I'm such a strong advocate for a couple who is struggling as we were so deeply struggling to slow down. Because if you think that you need to separate even for the sake of the kids, I mean, sometimes it can get to the point where it seems like your kids have experienced enough. We got to put an end to this. Slowing down is worthwhile because it is, as you mentioned with this story, it's far better for your kids to still have a relationship with both of you if a divorce needs to happen or happens.

Your children actually need both of you and being cut off from one parent or the other, it causes a lot of pain and grief. Yeah, and I think, say it again, you know, our goal here at Focus is to help you in every way we can to help your marriage survive so that you can thrive in Christ. I mean, we don't use those words lightly and there is a way. You're living proof, the two of you. I mean, you have done it. So we're not trying to dredge up these things in order to encourage people to divorce.

It's the title of your book. Before you split, think about it. Because it's going to be far better for everybody, including your testimony before Jesus, to stay together. And I guess to that pain point, you know, it's the same thing with dieting. I mean, do you get to a point where you just don't want to be what you see in the mirror and you got to say, okay, I'm going to stop eating things.

And just name the pain point emotionally, whatever it is. You've got to get to a point where you say, everything I need to do, I'm going to do to do better. And that is what you've been describing. It's like alarms going off. And I guess, Kerry, you saw this a lot as a pastor too. You saw patterns. You know, Tony's got the divorce court end of it. You're a pastor seeing it happening within the congregation.

What patterns did you see there? Oh, I saw people get to the point where we got when you threw the ring or I was like, that's it, I'm done for those 12 or 24 hours or whatever that was. And I think the hardest part is we're always expecting the other person to change, right? It's like, and I was convinced until that minute that I had some stuff to work on, but it was basically Tony. If Tony could, if Tony would, if Tony could only see herself the way I see.

And you over there are going, if only Kerry could, and if he could only. And honestly, I was probably more culpable than you were. That's what our boys would say. It's like, dad, mom's book is a little unfair to herself and like lets you off the hook. It's like, who gave you a brain? Right. And permission to say that, but they're probably right. And the hardest part, and we've all read this.

I don't think this is news to anybody. It's like, stop focusing on the other person. Start focusing on yourself. So what I would encourage people to do, I didn't do a lot of counseling.

The church ended up getting big and we ended up referring to counselors. But in those conversations, I would just say, what percentage of this can you own? And sometimes they're like, well, nothing. It's a hundred percent her. Do you own 1%, 2%? And then can you own that 2%, 100% of that?

Can you own that? And then as I started to do that and I started to control my reactions, like Tony, it wasn't like, oh, after that cataclysmic day, everything got better overnight. No, it's been a 15, 16, 17 year journey from those moments, but it has progressively gotten better and better and better and better. And the better it goes, it's when like, you know, I'll give you a very concrete example, not that this impacts anybody else, but temperature is a little bit of an irritant in our marriage. So I'm always hot. Tony's always cold. And last night I'm like, okay, the old me would have said, well, we both have a big day tomorrow at focus. We need to have the room at such and such a temperature tonight. I'm like, honey, you just, you know my preference.

You just call it. It's your day. And I've gotten much better at deferring, much better at not trying to impose my opinion because I'm a big personality. And I've learned the more I do that, the better our marriage gets. So that's my advice to couples. It's like, what percentage do you own? And that's a really hard message because I'm like, yeah, but you don't understand what she did or how she is.

You don't get it. And I've just learned to let that go. And I'm watching this marriage open up like a flower in spring. Well, we'll be married 33 years this year. And I can't wait for our lunch together, our next dinner together, the next car ride together, the flight home tomorrow. Like it is crazy how much that infatuation I talked about back in the eighties has turned into a beautiful relationship that I savor.

And honestly, you can't replace. You're just like, where do you get that? When you've got three decades of mileage, you've been to the bottom and now you get to experience some of the top. It's like, Ooh, that's pretty good.

But that is from focusing on me. And it's been through fighting for your marriage, which is good. And that's the point of our broadcast today. And there's a little more to come still, but let me just jump in and refer to the book that Tony Newhoff has written.

Jim mentioned it earlier. Before You Split, the subtitle is Find What You Really Want for the Future of Your Marriage. I hope you're hearing hope and seeing hope in this interaction with the Newhoff's. And I hope you'll get a copy of the book before you split. We also have counseling services.

We have Hope Restored Marriage Intenses. We have a lot for you. Give us a call.

800 the letter A in the word family. 800-232-6459. Find more help at the website.

The links are in the show notes. Tony, you stress the importance of forgiveness in marriage. That sounds great. But you also stress justice. That doesn't sound so great.

Hmm. Yeah, that's a dichotomy really. I don't want justice.

I want grace. Well, two things about that. One is the only true judge, the only just judge is God. Although we will try to assume that position. I think as spouses we make that mistake.

You and I have both done it. But yes, the pathway to forgiveness though includes justice. And I think we don't necessarily think about it that way.

What does that look like? That kind of justice and marital sparring? I mean that can be very convoluted I think.

Yeah, we can talk about it in a couple of different ways. So often a couple who is struggling or maybe they're in a divorce process, they want to use the justice system to right the wrongs so to speak. Or validate them. Or to prove that they were morally in the right. It won't morally right the wrongs.

It's not designed to do that. So people who aren't familiar with the family law system would think it's a justice system. Think of justice. Because it's court. Because it's court.

But actually it is just a system and it's designed to help even the score financially and make sure that there's support and keep children from living in poverty and so on. And so I believe having worked in the system, you can't look to the justice system for something that it can't provide. On the other hand, the godly process and concept of forgiveness is so very powerful in a person's life. So whether you're struggling, almost no matter where you're at in your marriage, there's probably some work that you can do on forgiveness.

I would think so. And justice forms a part of it. You know, the three essential ingredients of a real habit of forgiveness, I'll say, are justice and mercy and humility.

And so the justice part of it, meaning that you have to hear the story like you can't enter any process of forgiveness and expect it to be meaningful without fleshing out the story from both people's perspectives. Right. And I think even hearing your story, I'm going back to when you shared that you could still pray and read the word together and refer to scripture. If I would have heard just that, I would have predicted that you would be where you're at today. Without it, I doubt we would be.

Correct. And that's why I jumped on that last time, because it is a profound statement. If you, as a difficult, struggling couple, can actually hang on to spiritual truth in that battle, the likelihood that you're going to come out on the other side okay is probably pretty high. And it did tie into that humility factor. You know, we are selfish, selfish creatures. And, you know, when I talk to marriage experts a lot, and the conclusion that I've come to is that marriage is set up for us to become more like Christ, to become more selfless. And we do not do well with that, generally, unless you go through some valleys, in my opinion, like you guys have, and you learn humility, and you learn grace, and you learn mercy. And man, there's such hard lessons for us. It's horrible. Well, and I think part of justice for me, I don't know whether you define it the same way, Tony, but it's easy.

And depending on your background, a lot of families sweep stuff under the carpet. So that didn't really happen. No, it wasn't that bad. But I think part of our restoration was saying, no, I really did say that. Or you really did behave that way.

And it really was that bad. And I think, but you know, that's the discipline of confession. And it doesn't just say confess your sins to God, it says confess your sins to each other. And I think as we did that, and we kind of realized, because sometimes you'll say, oh, it's okay. And I'm like, no, it's not okay.

It's not okay that I did that or acted that way. And then other times, I'm like, I didn't even think I did anything. Right?

So we still get those moments. You and I are so similar. It's scary. It's like, what do you mean? You're scaring me to death. I just walked into the room and all of a sudden I'm guilty of what? Like, what did I do? But you know, there's your impact of others. I have a friend who says, what's it like to be on the other side of me?

That's Jeff Henderson. And that's a really scary question to ask. And you gave me very real feedback. But you know, the good news about emotional intelligence is it can be learned. I can be learned that, oh, when I do that, this happens. And so we've removed a lot of the frustration from our relationship.

And, you know, it gets super practical, too. So it took us a while to figure out the five love languages, but mine is acts of service. So, you know, you've learned that if you just emptied the dishwasher, which is not your natural love language, that goes like crazy for me. I'm like, oh, that was amazing. Now I don't have to. That's one thing in leadership I don't need to think about is emptying the dishwasher. It's a small thing, but it's a big thing. And then, you know, your love language is quality time. And for years I was like, well, you know, let's just make this efficient. Can we talk and do this?

Like, do we really have to sit down and be fully focused for two hours? All right. You know, but I'm learning that stuff as we go along. And yeah, we have a friendship now.

That friendship, that spark that started us is back and it's carrying us through. You offer great advice to marriages and before you split. One of the things that you mentioned, Tony, is don't be a victim. I think I understand that, but flesh it out a little for me.

I don't think I spoke to a client who didn't tell me a story about how aggrieved they were by their spouse. You know, that if they would stop doing this, start doing that, it would be so much better. They talked about it in this, from this victim lens.

And Carrie mentioned that, you know, we got into that dynamic ourselves. So I'm speaking about it, you know, putting my hand up, mea culpa from experience. It's almost like you put these blinding prescription glasses on that aren't your own.

You know, all you can see are blurry images. The problem with that victim perspective is that you lose the nuances and the complexity of what's actually going on. So in the rough years of our marriage, when I was, I was exhausted and I felt overwhelmed and I was blaming it solely on Carrie. I said, if Carrie would stop working these long hours and just pay more attention, you know, then I would feel so much better and we'd be better off and our marriage would be better. Whereas at the time, a counselor helped me see that my exhaustion wasn't just Carrie, it was also that I was struggling with my mental health. I was subclinically depressed at that time. I was also socially isolated. I was tending to stay superficial in my relationships. So there was a multifaceted character to what was going on. But with victim lenses, you don't see it.

You have to take off the victim glasses and really have the humility to ask Jesus to shine his light on the darkness in me. What is it in me that I'm bringing into the mess of our marriage? Yeah, no, that is so, so good. And boy, we are right down to the end again. This is great content. I want to ask in that wrap up here, I think, Tony, you have a story about Carrie courageously changing the dynamic and he made a promise to you.

It's probably a good place to land today. What was the promise made? Yeah, in this heated argument, once again, when I was withdrawing, Carrie was standing somewhere else in the room and he walked right over right in front of me. And he looked in my face and I had no idea what he was going to say because I was stewing and angry. And he said, Tony, you deserve better than this. You deserve someone who cherishes you.

And cherishing you is what I'm committing to do from now on. And I was stunned because, you know, I had said the heated words, I was withdrawing and having my own internal tantrum right then at the time. We were in counseling. I was trying to keep it quiet for the sake of our kids, but I was not in a great place. And I hadn't prompted any reason for him to be so generous and honestly courageous. Well, that's beautiful.

And it is a good place to land. We can't cover all the material. What a wonderful resource, though, that you've written, Tony, to help couples really think through.

If they're at that point when they're considering divorce, you're just saying stop and think about it and what a book to get. And if you're in that spot or you know somebody that's in that spot, get in touch with us. And if you can make a donation of any amount, we'll send you the book as our way of saying thank you. If you can't afford it, we'll trust others. We'll cover the cost of it. We'll send it to you.

We are a Christian ministry. That's our goal is to help you and we will do that. And man, thank you. Thank you so much for being with us and for your honesty.

You will help thousands of couples. Thank you. Thank you so much for allowing us to share and for having us. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you for your ministry. Praise God.

Yeah, it is. And thank you for joining in as a listener. And we've mentioned our Hope Restored program a number of times here the past couple of days. We're going to post more information about it at our website. And if you or someone you know is facing a crisis in marriage, let me urge you to check out Hope Restored.

You can find the details in the show notes or call 800 the letter A and the word family. And then plan to join us tomorrow for a practical conversation about how moms can help their young daughters grow up. And I said to her, I want to be the first one to welcome you to womanhood. Your body is going to change. I'm going to tell you a little bit about things you may be noticing already.

And then I just want to celebrate that God made you this way. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Your marriage can be redeemed even if the fights seem constant, even if there's been an affair, even if you haven't felt close in years. No matter how deep the wounds are, you can take a step toward healing them with a Hope Restored marriage intensive. Our biblically based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face challenges together. We'll talk with you, pray with you, and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-19 04:58:44 / 2023-07-19 05:09:56 / 11

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