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The Ruggerios

The Ruggerios: Learning to Trust Again

By Julie Blim, Zsa Zsa Palagyi, and Renelle Richardson
The 700 Club“I know that a lot of people think that the wife knows, but truly I did not know. He was a very flirtatious man. There were always incidences that would make me wonder, but Steve was a charmer. He would always smooth things over.”

For years, Laurie Ruggerio’s husband Steve lived a double life. At home, he played the provider. At parties and as a military man on the road, he played the field.

Steve confesses, “I hung out with a lot of single guys. Everyone was looking for women. There I am. There was nothing keeping me back, even the fear of getting caught.”

Steve and Laurie started out as high school sweethearts, immersed in the party scene. This free-spirited lifestyle continued for a few years after the two married -- until their first child came along.

Laurie says, “I immediately grew up. Having a baby will definitely mature you, and unfortunately, it didn’t do the same for Steve.”

Steve recalls, “I didn’t see that as slowing me down. I wasn’t going to let it, because it was all about Steve. It was fun. I wanted to have a good time. While I love sitting here and talking with [my wife] and playing with our baby, there was still this call of my friends saying, ‘Hey, we’re going out. You coming?’”

Steve couldn’t resist, so he’d join them week after week.

“That is when I began to return to the Lord,” Laurie says. “I wanted guidance in raising my daughter. I started going to church. Steve went with me, but we were the first ones out the door when the service was over.”

Laurie resented Steve’s choice of partying over parenting. It led to a vicious cycle of arguments, make-ups, and lies that Steve told to hide multiple affairs.

The Ruggerios“It was like living on eggshells,” Steve says, “’cause you never know what’s going to be said or what kind of hole you’re going to have to dig yourself out of. Living two lives like that, eventually the line that divides the two becomes very blurry, and two lives begin to mesh together.”

Steve remembers when the trouble began. He’d been on the phone with a woman he was involved with.

“It was one of those situations where I couldn’t get out of it. I couldn’t lie about it anymore,” Steve admits.

Laurie says, “I was devastated. Yeah, I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I cried out to God and I said, ‘I can’t make my marriage work and feel like this. I can’t even function as a mother and feel like this. Please, if at all possible, can you please take some of this pain away?’ And it was amazing because He did. It was gone. I totally forgave him. I never brought it up. We went on. I thought things were going to be wonderful from that point on.”

But they weren’t. Even though Steve and Laurie went through counseling at church and Steve apologized for cheating on his wife, he couldn’t break the pattern. He continued going out with the guys, drinking, and getting into one affair after the next….

“I wanted both. I really did,” Steve says. “In some twisted way, I thought I could have both. I just figured this is who I am.”

But Steve’s double life caught up with him. When his lies and denials stopped working, Laurie found out he’d had another affair.

“I became angry with myself for not seeing it [and] at him for doing it,” Laurie says. “I was angry at God for letting it happen. The emotions… You just can’t really describe them, because you still love this person. You can’t go one minute loving him and the next minute not. What happened to the person that had been with me all these years?”

When the truth finally came out, Laurie discovered that this and the other affair she knew about were just two of many Steve had.

She says, “I couldn’t understand how he could do something like this to us, to the kids, to everybody. Our whole family was devastated. There was no hope at that point at all.”

So the couple separated, and Steve moved out.

Steve says, “I pretty much started falling apart. It was literally the beginning of the end.”

If it hadn’t been for a neighbor who referred Laurie to a pastor willing to help and her openness to try, the Ruggerios would have ended up divorced.

“I was thinking, ‘Help? Are you kidding me?’” Steve says, “I was like, ‘I can’t believe that you would even stay.’”

It was a long, hard road out of the pit Steve dug, but the couple chose to make the journey. For Laurie, the key to restoration would be forgiveness.

Laurie says, “Humanly, it’s impossible to forgive that, but I just told God [that] I’m willing. I’m willing to forgive. You’ve got to help me. You’ve got to do it.”

For Steve, it was surrender to God. He says, “I never really had given my all to serving the Lord or seeing what He could do. It was always someone else’s God. I never forget when this one guy said, ‘We want to pray for you.' So, I stood up, and they prayed for me. At that point, I fell to my knees, and I didn’t care about anything else -- nothing else. I said, 'I don’t care what happens with my career, with my friends or what anyone found out.' I didn’t care. I wanted this freedom they were talking about, and I wanted my wife.”

He adds, “I read Ephesians 5:25 where God says, ‘Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church,’ and I said, ‘I don’t even know what that is. I don’t even know who You are.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m going to show you.’ That began a process of literally dying to who I was and a new person being born, a new way of thinking, a new way of communicating with my wife. Every day from there on to today, He began to show me what it meant to truly love your wife, to truly serve her, and through that, the person who I was still trying to survive was being starved. I was choosing life, choosing Christ, choosing my family over that life, and I began to change. I began to feel free for the first time.”

But wholeness in the marriage didn’t come overnight.

“We did a lot of crying,” Laurie admits. “I think we cried for two years straight. We spent a lot of time talking, asking questions, seeking God, praying, and more crying. There were times when I thought, ‘What are we doing?’ I remember about a year and a half into it I said, ‘You know what? I don’t blame you if you go, because this might be as good as it gets. There’s this deep sadness underneath. Even if we laugh or have a good time, it’s always there. It’s always there. I didn’t really trust God enough or have faith that He would restore that.”

But Steve did.

He says, “God gave me a promise. If I changed, if went after Him, He’d save us.”

Laurie adds, “It took me I think five years, and when we renewed our vows is when I finally told him that I trusted him.”

“She looked me in the eye and said, in front of everybody, ‘I forgive you.’ After the wedding, Laurie said to me, ‘You make me the happiest woman in the world.’ I said, ‘You know what? I’m not done.’ I feel like 20 years were stolen from me, and I got a lot more to give.”

Today, Steve and Laurie say they have their priorities straight, and in turn, they have a healthy marriage.

The Ruggerios“I [tell] Laurie, ‘Don’t put your faith or trust in me. Put it in my relationship with God.’ As she sees He and I get closer and closer together, that’s where she finds any trust and faithfulness,” Steve says. “I would never think that I’ve changed on my own. I haven’t. All the trust I have now is in my relationship with the Lord and what He’s done for me and my family. This is so far more than anything we could ever imagined.”

Laurie says, “There’s no marriage that’s beyond God’s help. There’s no marriage that’s beyond God’s repair. There’s nothing beyond God’s reach. Truly nothing is impossible with God.”

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