When one – either the husband or the wife – leaves their marriage emotionally and spiritually, that marriage becomes just as defunct as if one of the spouses had physically died. At best, the partners live alone together. At worst, the marriage becomes a living hell. Some couples eventually separate but never divorce. Others divorce with rancor and a bitterness that lasts a lifetime.

The first morning of a five-day MAKE IT OR BREAK IT retreat, Margie said to Tom, in front of the two of us, “I don’t want to try anymore.”

After a minute of uncomfortable silence, Tom replied, “Please let’s not stop the process. Laura and John can help us. If we’re gonna come apart then let’s try and do it well.”

Margie snapped curtly, “Fine.” A few moments later she added, “…but when you betrayed us – let’s call it what it was, when you cheated on me and slept with another woman and lied about it, something died in me. I can’t resurrect it. And even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.”

Tom said, “Maybe there is nothing I can do to change your mind, but I want to try.”

After a long, long pause, Margie said, “I don’t know…you wanted this week. If I can’t do it…will you let me go?”

Would you believe that the couple we’re calling Tom and Margie are still together? Well, they are. Their MAKE IT OR BREAK IT retreat was the turning point. Before our very eyes, they vowed to begin a courtship. That courtship led to their reinventing their relationship. They began to practice the “Golden Rule” of relationships: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. How long did it take Tom to woo and win Margie back — how long for her to be able to trust enough to risk the possibility of being hurt by him again? In their case, more than six months but less than a year. A year after their retreat, they said new vows to each other in front of their parents, children, and other family members and friends. They reported that there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. They believe they are well-married for the long haul now.

We think so too. Recently Tom send us an email message that said, in part, “…and even if it had gone the other way [sometimes it does!], I’d still say that the MAKE IT OR BREAK IT retreat was the best investment we ever made.”

WHEN THE VOW BREAKS, Part II: But the Affair Was Just Emotional!