“With God all things are possible.” ~Matthew 19:26
We are so excited about our newest podcast with Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs as they discuss more than just marriage and dating. Kait’s conversation with Jeff and Cheryl gets REAL on the topics of love, betrayal, infidelity, forgiveness, and renewal of relationships. They speak of their own flaws and weaknesses, as well as the divine forgiveness of God. Jeff and Cheryl are the founders of Hope Matters Marriage Ministries,a 501c3 non-profit Christian organization, that trains others to understand their true identity in Jesus Christ so they can live out an abundant marriage.
Cheryl shares her story of the “perfect marriage” with Jeff that began in 1982. Although the two appeared to be a happy couple with everything going for them (I mean just look at them, they are gorgeous!), there was little emotional connection to sustain the relationship. Over years of not truly communicating together, Cheryl started feeling lonely, unheard, and unknown to her own husband. As they drifted apart, Cheryl met a man whom she felt met some of the emotional needs that her marriage was not meeting.
They were living in Los Angeles and had two young daughters. In 1990, as this affair was beginning for Cheryl, Jeff accepted a position in Dallas and the family moved there. In many ways Cheryl thought that the moves to Dallas could be their fresh new start. Soon after the move, Cheryl ended the affair and the family began attending church. Even still, their marriage continued to crumble and they divorced two years after moving to Dallas. The next 7 years was quite a journey for Cheryl and during this season of discovery, she began to truly know and follow the Lord! As a Jesus follower, she felt that God had put her on a path to RESTORE her marriage one day with Jeff.
Jeff was completely devastated by the divorce. He was caught off guard in many ways because he personally though they had the perfect marriage and had no idea that Cheryl was so unhappy. When Jeff found out about Cheryl’s infidelity, he was deeply hurt and very angry. During their time a part, Cheryl put her heart into knowing herself, developing a relationship with Christ, and serving Jeff as she worked to restore the relationship. It was NOT easy, but with perseverance and surrender and healing time, God eventually brought Jeff and Cheryl back on a path together to restore their relationship. The couple remarried 18 years ago after spending 7 years apart.
Kait asks Jeff and Cheryl to talk about how to avoid getting to a point where you feel the person you are dating doesn’t know who you are or is not emotionally and spiritually connected with you. Jeff tells us how important it is to have an older person mentor you. He explains that he and Cheryl did not have that when they were first dating and it led to a feeling of alienation from one another. They were not talking directly to one another, nor to really anyone else about how they were truly feeling inside.
Not to mention, the two communicate very differently! Cheryl is a verbal processor where Jeff wants to think about a problem before responding and this led to a feeling of disconnection until they began to understand the other’s way of thinking and reacting. As a conflict avoider, Jeff was often afraid to bring an issue back up because he didn’t want to cause additional conflict.
Understanding each other’s family origins - where you came from, how you were raised, what relationship you had with your parents – is essential to a vital and thriving relationship. Jeff did not have a strong emotional connection with his mom so he struggled to connect with Cheryl on an emotional level. Cheryl explains that they were both ignorant of what an emotional connection truly looked like. When they were married the first time, Cheryl admits that she did not even know they had communication problems.
Cheryl and Jeff both believe it is important to understand who you are, who God made you to be, and your various talents and weaknesses. Going into a relationship expecting another person to complete you and meet all of your needs is unrealistic. That person will fail us, they are not superhuman! Sharing your past and the worst of you can be uncomfortable for any of us but it is important to own your story and know deeply and truly that you are a son or daughter of God as you strive to understand your identity in Christ.
As Kait adds, we all have to try our best to be a whole person outside of a relationship, while fiercely pursuing the Lord and always come into a dating relationship with this in mind regardless of any baggage you may have from the past!
When asked about how the relationship has evolved, Jeff explains that having Jesus as the center of their lives changes everything. Cheryl adds that now, when they argue, they both know that they will have to get right with the Lord before coming back together to work through the difficulty. This is something the two didn’t have in their first marriage and it has been a game changer!
During dating and their early years of marriage, Cheryl felt that Jeff was trying to change her instead of learn who she was. Learning intimacy, not just sex, allows us to consider how to pursue another person’s heart. Walking alongside each other in our weaknesses is SO important in a marriage, as we work to understand each other’s flaws and raise them up.
Cheryl speaks openly about irreconcilable differences in divorce saying that she feels as though all couples have something in common even when they say they don’t, because God created male and female specifically even when it comes to body parts to go together (yes she mentions the words penis and vagina!) ! She goes on to talk about our responsibility in relationship to be a forgiver and a reconciler.
Jeff explains that the second time around, when they were re-dating one another, their relationship was not based solely on the physical side as it was the first time. Instead, it was about sharing their hearts and getting to know one another all over again. They had to really work at it and thoroughly learn how to appreciate their differences.
Kait’s reminder to appreciate a person just as they are instead of looking for a way to change them, brought agreement from Jeff. He says, although you cannot change someone, you can grow with them.
Cheryl and Jeff know a thing or two about both endurance and perseverance. Cheryl felt God really impressed on her to restore her marriage, so the two of them could have a second chance to follow Jesus in the marriage. The 7 year process of recreating their marriage was filled with a ton of perseverance and endurance. During this time, it was important for Cheryl to listen to God and follow his will even though she was tempted to stray from the path and, as a single person, considered dating other people. It was through meditation with the Lord that she was able to persevere through seven years of divorce. Cheryl continues to use her quiet time in the mornings to understand how to continue on this journey. Listen in at 34:00 to hear her share some favorite Scripture that leads this walk with Christ!
Jeff reminds us that God is more concerned about your holiness than your happiness. During the years apart, it was clear to Jeff that Cheryl had changed and was chasing after the Lord. Once they each developed a close relationship with Christ they were able to come together in a redeeming relationship.
While dating, if someone is cheating, Jeff says he would advise the other person to RUN! He says that cheating during that time just shows that your heart is not prepared for marriage. Cheryl adds that cheating is a big red flag. In general if you have experienced cheating in your dating relationship this is potentially a VERY good sign the person is probably not yet ready for marriage. **proceed with caution**
Before the end of each show, Kait asks for some dating advice. Today, Jeff’s advice is to date in community, not in secret. Bring your closest friends around you during this time and listen to what your community has to say. Also, have mentors of different ages and experiences to advise you properly and most effectively.
Cheryl’s advice? Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and don’t live a life in secret. We need our community to help us process the deep and dark things in our lives.
Jeff and Cheryl jointly agree that you should not be afraid to seek out counseling! It is easily available and so important to seek direction with important issues. Counseling challenges us but it brings us to places we never imagined. We can find both freedom and healing through counseling.
We hope y’all enjoyed this life giving conversation with our incredibly inspiring friends, Jeff and Cheryl.
With their website HERE
Find them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: @cherylscruggs
Please check out Cheryl’s Podcast, “Thriving Beyond Belief”
Purchase Jeff and Cheryl’s Book “I Do Again”
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