Holding your marriage together when your kids fall apartWritten by Kathleen Kohler
What's inside this article
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I drove to work. My mind replayed the angry exchange with my husband from the night before.
"Why did you do that?" Loren asked. "We weren’t going to give him any more money."
"But he said he needed gas to go to work," I reasoned. "And he promised to pay it back on Friday."
Loren shook his head. "How many times has he borrowed, promised to pay, but there’s never any follow-through?"
I knew my husband was right, but how could I say no to our 18-year-old son?
At the end of my rope
The scenario was familiar. For the previous two years, our son had led us on a journey through a dark world as he delved into drugs and gang activity – a world we knew nothing about. We didn’t know how to respond. Loren thought I was too soft, and I thought he was too harsh.
Twenty years of a predominantly happy marriage and now it seemed our whole life revolved around our son’s poor choices. This is not how I want to live. I just can’t take this anymore, I thought. Our son’s behaviour had pitted Loren and me against each other. I was sick of the almost-daily arguments. So I decided to check out of my marriage; that evening I would stay with my parents.
An unexpected turn
The morning my decision was made, I walked into work to face the retail public. My heart was heavy all day. Finally, the last shoppers left, and I locked the door behind them. The owner’s wife came in the back door.
"How are you doing, Kathy?" she asked.
She knew about the situation with our son and had prayed for me numerous times. Through tears I poured out my pain. When I finished, she offered some wise words.
"You’re married to Loren, not your son. That’s the relationship you committed to, and when the kids leave home, that’s the one that needs to stand."
After receiving more heartfelt encouragement, I left the store and walked to my car. A huge bouquet of flowers sat on the front seat. The attached note read: "Kathy, I love you, and I don’t want anything to ever come between us, not even one of our children. We can work through this. Love, Loren."
Renewed hope and a plan
That evening, Loren and I talked honestly. We recognized we had to cling to each other and focus on the Lord – and we needed a plan.
Together we made a decision to stop letting our son’s lifestyle run our lives. From that time on, whenever our son asked for a loan, I directed him to his dad. And I trusted Loren to make the right decision.
Then we knelt beside our bed and prayed for each other. We prayed for agreement between us and for strength and wisdom in the days ahead. We also prayed for our son and released him into the Father’s care.
Finally, as soon as we could arrange it, Loren and I took a trip to the Oregon coast, our favourite vacation spot. Getting away helped us rest, refocus and reconnect.
While our son continued his destructive path, we worked to preserve our marriage. This six-year ordeal continued to bring challenges. Often too exhausted to kiss each other goodnight, Loren and I held hands as we fell asleep. We were weighed down by grief and disappointment.
Our son’s behaviour didn’t change; the change occurred in us. We persevered through those years. Today, our son is rebuilding his life. What a tragedy it would have been if we had allowed those turbulent times to destroy our marriage. But because we made the choice to hold on to the Lord and our commitment to each other, Loren and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage this year – as one.
Kathleen Kohler is a writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband have three adult children.
© 2008 Kathy Kohler. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
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