Six difficult words to live by…
Story of a couple headed for separation

Silvia and Marco

The temptation to give up lurked round the corner. But Marco and Silvia have always found the strength to begin again. They always found the courage to get back into the game, to believe that all was not lost. And each time a word or phrase would throw light on the experience they were going through: begin again, humility, dialogue, prayer, mercy, and forgiveness, as if it took a lexicon to get out of the crisis and witness that love is not just a feeling, but an interior attitude to be adopted firmly. To do otherwise would be to risk defeat.

The differences between us were evident since our engagement, both in how we approached situations and how we dealt with them. So, things ended, inevitably, in ever new arguments.

With the arrival of our first daughter, the situation gradually deteriorated, not only because we still had different points of view, but at this stage we also lacked the time to be together, caring as we were of the child's needs; and, as you know, haste is never a good counselor.

Often issues remained unresolved and, as a result, they acquired gigantic dimensions. When we, then, tried to address them we would attack each other, anchored in our respective positions and considering ourselves the victim of our partner's behavior.

Over time, the distance between us grew, so that by then we were seriously considering separation.

Silvia: Among the many thoughts and reflections that may surface in these situations, we remembered one thing that the priest had told us just before we got married: "If couples in difficulty would turn to those who married them before hiring lawyers, they probably would not fall apart."

It was one of those evenings, in which we would have killed each other, and yet, inexplicably, we remembered those words and we prayed together, asking the Lord for help.

Sharing and starting again
A few days later we were invited to a meeting for young families, and there we met many couples who, like us, had communication and relationship problems. We discovered that we were not alone! We understood that many couples experienced difficulties, some more some less, because of their differences. However, much depended on how those difficulties were addressed.

A precious gift that has changed our life and changed our family has been that we have begun to meet regularly with a group of young families and to treasure their experiences. The sharing of experiences with other families, in addition, taught us how to grow in our mutual sharing.

A discovery we made can be summed up in two simple words that remain indelibly in our minds:
begin again.

To begin again meant to think immediately how to resolve a difficult situation, to mend our relationship straightaway after an argument. Or again, not to hold grudges, but instead to look for the way of reconciliation, without looking too much at who was right or wrong.

Marco: But to put this into practice is not always easy nor automatic: it’s necessary to leave aside our sometimes unexpressed ideas, to be free of them, to be ready to dialogue, ready to really listen to the other. Only then is it possible to find a common solution, that may no longer be mine or yours, but ours.

The difficulties, and therefore the temptation to drop everything, is always round the corner and we can quickly plunge back into the abyss of misunderstanding and individualism, unable to escape. There was always an opportunity to argue. Beyond this, silence.

This situation led me, once again, to decide to end it once and for all with Silvia. Before taking the last step, however, I had the strength and courage to share this situation with some people including the coordinator of our group of families, with a good glass of wine in hand.

After talking to him about the difficult situation we were living, he asked me to get back into the game, entrusting me to a psychologist who could sustain me in this moment of difficulty. I wavered. Saying
yes meant challenging myself and leaving aside my pride ("I'm not crazy; I am not the one who did wrong!"). It meant trusting, with profound humility, the advice that came from this brother. I finally allowed myself to be won over and I called that psychologist.

After several meetings, the therapist asked me to invite Silvia. I was convinced that she would never accept. Instead, she immediately said
yes and the meetings continued as couples’ therapy.

Together, to rebuild
Silvia: Meanwhile, we had been invited to participate in a "school of life" for couples in difficulty that would last a week and would be held during the summer at the little city of the Focolare Movement in Loppiano, near Florence.

We were ten couples from all over Italy. We were followed by a team of experts who cared for and treated all aspects that can affect the life of a couple, and we were welcomed and followed with great attention by the local community.

Everyone brought their own experience, their emotions, and expectations: we shared them and worked together to rebuild our lives as couples. Everyone, without exception, returned home different from the way we came: full of hope and with an inner strength, a spirit, and an awareness that gave us the strength to leave behind the past in order to begin anew our life as a couple from a different perspective.

We continue our journey with ups and downs, with humility, and with the serenity of being aware that we are fully doing our part: we are continuing the couples’ therapy and are re-learning to live with our mistakes and our difficulties and, above all, beginning again after every fall.

A cry to Heaven, and more

Marco: Recently a new crisis made us slip back into darkness. The psychologist at this point (I think to challenge us) proposed that we separate. But also on this occasion the Love of God was not long in coming. I was now resigned to drop everything. I had made my choice. However, in the evening, I always prayed to the Lord asking that He’d give me a hand, that He’d help me discern the right path.

One morning, going to the office, I met the coordinator of our group of families by accident. Realizing what I was going through, he strongly reprimanded me for not having shared with him that difficulty. That "lecture" and the news of the sudden death of two of our dear friends from Loppiano who had greeted us so warmly and had shared a part of our existence, finally pointed to the path we had to follow: they had given their lives for us. We cannot let them down! We must go on also for them, to bring that seed of love, that they entrusted to us, to fruition. And here we are, still together!

Silvia: What can we give you, then, in light of our experience? It seems that there are some key words that have great importance in difficult times:
trust in God, He will not deceive you.
Humility: if you insist on your position, you will never get anywhere.
Mercy: be ready to forgive each other. We all make so many mistakes!
Begin again: we trip all the time; what matters is to get back up.
Dialogue: confronting one another is fundamental; even an argument is better than silence.
Sharing: alone we are weak and corruptible, together we are stronger; if we share, our burden becomes lighter.

From “New Families”