Dolores Hardin would go to any length to save her marriage. Would her husband agree?
Al Hardin wanted a divorce, but worried it might hurt his reputation.
"I just couldn't go out and get a divorce in 1980," says the CEO of a nationwide company. "It still had a major stigma. I could have a divorce as long as it wasn't my fault."
He and his wife, Dolores, separated, though.
She tried to win her husband back by flirting with other men, but it didn't work.
"He didn't care," Dolores says. "If he lost me, he had more to gain down the road.
"Cosmopolitan, New Woman and Gloria Steinem didn't have any answers for me. Every time I did what they said, my head was just pushed down into the mud, and I was suffocating."
She tuned into a Christian radio station, to which a former housekeeper listened. One day she heard how to surrender control of her life to Christ.
"I prayed that the Lord would be my Savior and heal my marriage," says Dolores.
But Al was ready to divorce.
Dolores made an irresistible offer: If they stayed together, she would do anything he wanted as long as it wasn't illegal or immoral.
She would finally allow him to be the leader in the home. He accepted her back with 2 conditions. First, she had to keep her bags packed. Second, she had to leave if she ever failed to follow his leadership.
In the following weeks, Al tried to drive Dolores away.
"One of the rules was she couldn't call me at the office," Al says.
Then he left on business trips without telling her. Yet when he returned, she'd lovingly greet him with, "I missed you this week."
Delores also had to ask for permission to use the phone, go grocery shopping or leave the house.
"I just wanted to make her miserable," Al says.
She found strength by attending a weekly Bible study, which Al allowed.
"Every week, I could just have a love affair with the Lord Jesus," Dolores says.
By the end of that year, Al had noticed a change in her: "I was attracted to her again, and I was seeing things that I didn't know could exist."
He decided to attend Dolores' Bible study. He sat in the back corner. The third time he invited Christ into his life: "I first fell in love with Jesus Christ, and then I fell in love again with my wife."
That revolutionized their marriage. But a year and a half later, they realized they needed to learn what a godly relationship between a husband and a wife ought to be.
Dolores heard on the radio about a marriage conference conducted by FamilyLife, Cru's ministry focused on building godly marriages.
"It was a door-opener for things I didn't even dare to crack," Dolores says.
She and Al were able to verbalize feelings like never before. The one-to-one time during the weekend was particularly important as they discussed and cried their way through different hardships in their relationship.
"That conference changed our marriage," Al says.
"FamilyLife was an asset on the journey to the tremendous marriage that we have today," says Dolores.
The Hardins have now been married for over 34 years. They continue to build into their marriage and those of others. They have even hosted a FamilyLife marriage seminar for employees at Al's company, and sent their son and his wife to a conference. Al says the conferences "built into our lives, so we can take what we learn and build into others' lives the same way."