Florence Chadwick is one of the most famous woman swimmers in American history. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. In 1952, she attempted to become the first woman to swim the 21 miles across the Catalina Channel from Catalina Island to the California coast. On the day she attempted this feat, the ocean was ice-cold and the fog was so thick she could barely see the support boats that followed her in the water. In addition to the cold water and fog, she was constantly surrounded by sharks. Hour after hour she swam. Americans were watching on television and members of her support crew fired rifles at the sharks to drive them away.
After swimming for fifteen hours, she was so overcome by fatigue and stress she asked to be pulled from the water. Her mother who was in the boat beside her encouraged her to continue because she was so close to the shore. Finally, her team pulled her out of the water, less than a half mile from reaching her goal. At a news conference the next day Florence said, “All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore I would have made it.” Florence Chadwick had lost hope and quit. She confessed that had she been able to see through the fog, she would have made it.
This story reminds me of the feedback I receive from my marriage coaching clients. “The number one thing that you did to help me save my marriage was, you gave me hope. You gave me hope when everyone else told me to quit. Thank you. We are reconciled and our marriage is better than ever. I am so glad I did not quit.” I have received more phone calls, emails and testimonies with these words than any other comments about my services. My number one marriage saving strategy is always the same. Regardless of the cause of the marital conflict, regardless of what has caused the couple to end up in my office, regardless of how bad things look in the moment, the number one marriage saving strategy is the strategy of hope. If I can convince someone not to give up on their spouse, they have a much higher chance at reconciling.
It is hard to hold on to hope when everyone else is telling you to throw in the towel. It is hard to hold on to hope when you can’t see the shore. The problem with losing hope is that when we have lost hope we either quit or we sabotage. When we believe that our current situation is permanent or too pervasive we tend to lose hope. To fight this sense of hopelessness, I have my clients read testimonies of individuals who were in similar situations and who now have great marriages. Reading stories of people who have successfully saved their marriages gives people hope. I also point my clients towards their faith. Many of my clients are Christians. As a Christian we believe that our God is a supernatural God who performs miracles everyday. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, can he not certainly heal your broken marriage. I know that He can, because I see people holding on to hope and saving their marriage weekly.
Two months after Florence Chadwick lost hope and quit, she tried again. This time she did not lose hope and became the first woman ever to complete the swim. Her time was 13 hours and 47 minutes breaking a 27-year-old record by more than two hours. She is now remembered as one of the greatest female swimmers of all time. Today, regardless of where you are in the marital journey, I want to encourage you to get your hopes up. Don’t give up. You may be closer to your breakthrough than you ever imagined. Maybe it is time that you try again.