David Let’s pray: Lord, thank you for all those you have gathered in this room tonight and thank you for the story that you are writing in their lives. Thank you for how you have redeemed our marriage and restored our relationship with you. If there is anything helpful in our story, please let it stick with these couples – and if there is anything not from you, please let it not stick in anyone’s mind. Amen.
Hey everyone, I am David and this is my lovely wife Cait. We met each other at UT Dallas in 2010, dated for 4 years, and married in the spring of 2015, so we’ve been married 7 years. I wish we could say that everything has been smooth sailing for us in marriage, but it definitely has not been.
I grew up in McKinney just north of here. As a kid I was much more sensitive than the other boys - I preferred art and nature instead of soccer and baseball - I was different - and this led to the start of a deep insecurity. To make matters worse, I was exposed to pornography on the playground at age 10 which kicked-off a 20 year addiction with with lust, masturbation and pursuing sexual relationships. From a young age my identity quickly became tied up in girls and what they thought of me.
Cait I grew up in a single parent, atheist home with two brothers and a sister. My dad died when I was 6, so growing up I had no idea of what a marriage should be or what it meant to follow Christ. My mom was everything to me - she was loving and the example of the strong woman I strived to be. I was living for myself and had no boundaries. I was prideful, self-reliant, controlling, and arrogant and I brought all of those into my marriage. Security and consistency were big motivators for me in life. I came to know Christ in college, but not much changed in terms of my thoughts or how I lived my life. We had friends who got married before us and I remember them telling us “oh my first year of marriage was the absolute best!” and being annoyed and exasperated because that was not the case for us.
David When I was 15 I accepted Christ as my savior, but my life didn’t reflect any sort of consistent relationship where I was following and obeying Jesus. My need to be wanted and validated by girls continued to grow and I soon started cheating in any relationship that I was in. This pattern followed me throughout college, where a fraternity environment fueled by alcohol and drugs wreaked havoc.
I quit my fraternity my senior year with the hopes of improving my grades and getting a job after school. This is when Cait and I started dating.
Fast forward to two years into marriage: I was in a job I hated and ended up leaving with the goal of us starting our own business. Month after month, I grew increasingly frustrated as our plan started to falter. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my identity was grounded in my career and I was exceptionally insecure with the lack of success. Out of this three things happened - first, I started drinking on a daily basis, often when Cait was off at work. Quickly following that, pornography became a multi-hour, multiple-times a day obsession where I would escape from my insecurity. And third, I became so frustrated with progress on a business that I took $90,000 of our savings and put it into a high-risk asset - all without telling Cait. Aside from concealing this from Cait (which is lying), that investment quickly ballooned to over a $1,000,000 in 6 short months. I thought, wow, I’ve made it. I’m 26 and secured the million dollar dream. What a delusion. What I thought would have brought a ton of peace and comfort actually brought an exceptional amount of anxiety, greed, and arrogance. The asset was highly volatile, and I started to experience suicidal thoughts watching the dramatic up and down swings of our bank account.
I knew I was out of control and needed help. That’s when I started re:generation, which is re|engage’s sister ministry that focuses on care and recovery. Thank God - because that $1,000,000 disappeared just as fast as it was gained - Proverbs 13:11, Wealth gained hastily will dwindle. Without the community of my re:gen group, I don’t want to think about where I would have spiraled. During the year that I was in re:gen I was focused on fixing my porn problem – which, at face value sounds fine – but that’s the problem, God has to heal that. So it wasn’t too many months later that I found myself running back to pornography again as a coping mechanism.
Our problems came to a head during a trip to Austin where I ended up downloading a dating app late at night, matching with a girl, and then proceeding to engage in sexually explicity conversation and exchanging photos. I confessed to Cait two weeks later, but continued to struggle with this off and on for months.
Cait We fought constantly and I couldn’t understand why I married this person. We’d slam doors, I’d run out of the house screaming at him. He’d get in my face; trying to provoke me by begging me to hit him. We were a mess. But he had the porn problem and that was the source of our problems right? But here I am, the sole financial earner in our very new marriage, he’s reaching out to women outside of our marriage, and he’s lying to me about the money that I earned and putting all of our savings into something he didn’t even tell me about. If he didn’t do all that, then we’d have a great marriage. I deserve better.
That’s the lie I kept telling myself. That I was without sin and he is objectively the only one in the wrong. What I didn’t fully grasp was my own issues I would constantly bring into our arguments. I was riddled with pride and constantly thought that I was the better spouse.
I told David we needed to start re|engage and I’d be lying if I said my intention was to fix “us”. I really thought I was coming into this to fix David. We showed up and I remember rating our marriage a 1 at the end of the night. By the time we got into a closed group 2 things happened:
1) Our first closed group meeting was the day before everything shut down due to Covid.
2) And on the way into the closed-group I got a call from my mom letting me know she just got diagnosed with cancer.
I was devastated. I thought the world was completely falling apart around me and I had no sense of stability in my life. I was my mom’s main caretaker and that meant frequently driving her to Houston for her appointments and leaving my very fragile marriage behind for days at a time. Everything was out of my control. My codependency had me a complete nervous wreck because I couldn’t just leave David to his own devices while I was gone for extended periods of time. I actually prayed God would take David out of my life, so I wouldn’t have to feel the guilt of defeat and failure of a divorce. With the pandemic and my mom’s cancer, we were completely home-bound and quarantined. We couldn’t see anyone since she was in two compromised groups - age and cancer. We saw no one. Just each other and my mom.
During this time I held nothing back. He couldn’t run, I couldn’t run. We were forced to face our problems. It was painful. I really did not expect re|engage to do much, however I was at my wits end and willing to try anything.
We had to grow into it but we started identifying problems in our marriage: I recognized how much James 1:19 plays a role in my day to day life, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God”. I didn’t fully grasp how angry I was, how quarrelsome I was towards David. I was blind to my own faults. Blind to how much I disrespected him with my words, my body language, and my thoughts about him. God tells us in Ephesians 5:33 Men love your wives, and wives respect your husbands – this isn’t what comes naturally to us in moments of frustration or when we least deserve it. When I stopped focusing on what David did wrong and started focusing on how I could better respect and serve him is when my heart started to soften towards him. He didn’t deserve it, just like we don’t deserve God’s grace, but I knew something had to change.
David I still remember our first night in re|engage. I was terrified. I knew we needed help but I didn’t want to be vulnerable with others. I am SO glad we stuck with it though.
It was about halfway through re|engage that we started to see transformation in our marriage and in our relationships with the Lord.
Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Despite the trouble and heartache that Covid brought for many. We are thankful for how God used it as an incubator to slow us down and force us to focus on our relationship with Him and with each other. I was furloughed from my job, Cait started working from home, and that left us stuck having to face and process each other’s pain. Daily, we had to reconcile with each other and work together through our problems in real time. One of the key things we uncovered is how we are wired in completely different ways: I’m way more extroverted than Cait. I’m also way more of a feeler and external processor - Cait on the other hand is more guarded and an internal processor. This time forced us to see eye to eye and to gain a mutual understanding for each other.
During re|engage we also uncovered a few nuggets of wisdom that we now live by:
We do not do well with back-to-back social engagements. I am a social butterfly and say yes to too many things, often booking up every moment of our weeks and weekends - leaving little room for rest or time to connect in our relationship.
Cait And I am not wired that way. Being an introvert, I have what we affectionately call “a tiny gas tank”. I get easily overwhelmed and frustrated without sufficient time to process by myself and recharge. This seems so straightforward, but was a critical friction point that we both had to take ground to understand and see each other eye-to-eye on.
2) Intentional connection
Tying into the first point, we learned we need to take the time to intentionally connect with one another in a meaningful way. I don’t tend to just open up and share my feelings.
David So once a week we sit down for what we call “green chair time” - where we sit in our favorite two green chairs and we have a series of questions that we ask each other to help open up and communicate. We talk about our wants, desires, fears, sins, shortcomings and pitfalls. We also dig in and ask what went well the week before, build each other up, and how we can serve each other throughout the upcoming week. It’s a safe space for us to air out anything that might have start to develop into resentments. It’s a lot like gardening - weeding the garden is not a once a year activity. On top of prioritizing and syncing our emotions during our chair time, we prioritize seeking the Lord, praying together daily, and finding moments throughout the day where we can connect. When we put all of this into practice, it makes it very difficult for selfishness to take root.
Cait 3) Recognizing our own faults.
I put the blame of so much of our marital struggles on David because it was a tangible sin. There were pinpoint moments of sin that were easily defined - cheating via apps, lying or concealing information. Those are moments we can specifically recall an action taking place and say A+B led to C. But sin isn’t so linear. It’s not always an off/off switch. My pride may not be a well defined box, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t there or it isn’t ugly or just as destructive. I had to learn to identify how my pride was appearing and then address that with God and David on a daily basis.
So where are we at today? Today, I don’t know that our marriage has ever been in a sweeter spot. And almost every month I say that: “It can’t get better than this” and it does. I still have my issues with pride and codependency but I now seek God to understand when I’m about to escalate and how to take a step back and seek mutual understanding rather than fighting to be right.
David I 100% agree - we are by no means perfect, afterall, we are two sinners married to each other and that results in conflict and trouble still. However with Christ in our relationship and as our savior, redeemer, and advocate, our relationship continues to grow in new and dynamic ways. Just the other day we both were talking about how despite us both gaining 30 pounds since college, we’re more attracted to each other now than ever before. We prioritize creating a safe space where we can be vulnerable with each other; this looks like us actively and considerately addressing issues, thoughts, and emotions before they ever develop into resentments or bigger problems in our marriage. I can honestly say that Cait is my best friend and I truly view her as a teammate in life and not a source of resentment anymore.
Cait We’re still learning more and more about each other despite being together for over a decade. We’re intimate in a way that I never thought possible physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most of the time we can now laugh through our conflict - which is such a strange and beautiful departure from slamming doors and throwing verbal punches at one another. We now serve in Merge, Watermark’s premarital ministry for engaged or dating couples, and when we tell our tables about how our marriage was and they can see the same early struggles within their relationships they ask us “how did you do it?” “how do you have such a great marriage despite all the struggles and infidelity” - People want to hear the silver bullet, but the only silver bullet is God. It is by His grace and transforming love that we are now free to share that love with others - including our spouse.
David If we could leave you with any advice as you go through re|engage, we would encourage you to do the following:
Confess Early: Proverbs 28:13 says, Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way and confession is one of those. When you confess, you’re living in the light and putting your trust, control, and circumstances in God’s hands and not your own. He is much more capable than you are. Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus says: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. We see that God cares even about the mundane details of your life like the hairs on your head that He created - how much more will He show his mercy and grace in the midst of confession?
Don’t Miss this Moment: This ties to point #1. You’re in an incredibly unique season of life going through re|engage. This is the time to take ground. A book I was recently reading painted the Christian life as one that increases in two things: yieldedness to God and collaboration with God. Both point towards giving way to God and collaborating with His design for life on a daily basis.
Cait 3. Third - don’t give up. No matter how dire the circumstances or how much those around you tell you you need to get out, Christ can redeem your marriage and it’s a truly beautiful sight to see. Galatians 6:9, And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. God is in the midst of writing your story. Keep asking Him for help and drawing the circle around yourself - fix everything in that circle and watch what God will do.
David Thank y’all for your time and listening to our story.