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THROUGH THE EARLY STRUGGLE
Paul and Sandy Coughlin were married 17 years ago.
“Paul was the man who struggled hard against being a 'Christian Nice Guy,' ” says Sandy.
Paul defines a 'Christian Nice Guy' (CNG) as a man who is consistently passive, frequently fearful, habitually resistant to making decisions, highly values others’ opinion, unable to say no to obligations, and often puts his wife last. It was a struggle she says that Paul did not face alone.
“I struggled as well, and so did our marriage,” she says.
Sandy, then 28, saw amazing qualities in her husband: his charm, intelligence, and humor were enough for her to never look back. Paul grew up in a home of a confusing mixture of love and abuse.
“I was physically, emotionally, and mentally battered by my overwhelmed and troubled mother, who was battered by a troubled father,” says Paul. “Abuse rewires a kid’s mind much as a hacker attacks good software code and rewrites it. The kid thinks he’s defective and inferior. I entered the wacky world of passivity, a haunted house I’d never intended to roam.”
Paul’s mother died seven years ago, but he harbors no ill-will towards her.
“I knew God had a powerful future for his life, but I didn’t want to run the show,” Sandy says.
Sure she could pay the bills and run the household, but Sandy wanted them to be in it together, to be connected. Frustration set in when she could’t fathom why Paul would not stand up for himself at work. At this time, Sandy didn’t know what a CNG was. He was everything that she learned about in church: that men were supposed to be mellow, men shouldn’t fight or argue, men should turn the other cheek, and not express any negative emotions.
“We struggled with true intimacy,” says Sandy.
She was becoming Mrs. Christian Nice Lady, seeking to keep the peace in their relationship. Then, Sandy says, God got a hold of Paul. And, then in an unexpected manner, Sandy says, God got a hold of her. She learned that her responses to Paul were part of the problem too. God began to change Sandy, and He taught her to be more supportive. Sandy needed to learn to put more trust in her husband.
“My respect for Paul was strengthened as I became able to see his struggles in a healthier light,” she says. “My respect was enhanced even more for Paul when he started being more open and honest, when he began to exert his will and express his feelings. I listened to him more, prayed for him more, and was warmer toward him in general.”
THE POWER OF PRAYING TOGETHER
Paul and Sandy have a strong marriage today bonded by their strong faith in Jesus Christ. Though their lives are busy, both Paul and Sandy work from home but still manage to have a disciplined prayer life, separately.
“Oh, there were times we prayed together,” says Paul. “But not every day.”
“We work together and spend a lot of time with each other,” says Sandy. “But the one thing we didn’t do on a regular basis was pray together.”
So when a producer from The 700 Club challenged them to a "40 Day Couples Who Pray Challenge," they were up for it.
“When Stacey called, we thought, why not?” says Paul.
They both say their lives overall are better.
“I can sleep at night,” says Paul. “I get a real sense of peace.”
Sandy says there is a deeper intimacy they are experiencing when praying together every day.
“I appreciate him more when we pray together because I can hear him get honest and real before God,” says Sandy.
Currently they are in the middle of their '40 Day Couples Who Pray Challenge.'
“The book is doing what is was designed to do: to get us to pray everyday,” says Paul.
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.