January's 'opening day' of divorce seasonBookmark this
We picture the holidays as a happy time, with families gathered cheerfully around the tree. Reality doesn’t often match the Hollywood image.
For many, the holiday season adds increased pressure to an already struggling marriage. Issues like overspending, along with differing expectations and conflicts with in-laws, can push some relationships to the breaking point.
In fact, the first day children go back to school in January after winter break is “opening day of divorce season,” says Carl Caton, founder of the San Antonio Marriage Initiative (SAMI). “Many hold out until after Christmas, and then they have just had it. They file in January, and the divorce rate peaks in March every year.”
Carl created SAMI 10 years ago to change the narrative in our culture about marriage and to give couples hope. “Never has it been so important to speak positively about marriage,” he says. “We want to share the beauty and possibility of marriage and the impact it has on family and society.”
The good news is that San Antonio’s healthy marriage indicators have been moving in a positive direction. In the past ten years, the divorce rate has dropped 26.5%, despite an increase in the number of marriages.
Carl notes San Antonio’s statistics — 400,000 marriages, 80,000 couples struggling and 9,000 filing for divorce. Of those filing, half of them did so because they didn’t know what else to do, he says. SAMI provides alternatives to divorce, by training and equipping leaders on the front lines of preserving marriages — pastors, counselors, church marriage ministries and “champion couples,” who walk alongside others. Thousands find help and hope through support emails, videos, graphics, communication tools, events, date nights, and conferences that support marriage. SAMI reports more than 1 million people accessed resources through their website or social media pages last year.
“Don’t think you are the only one when you are going through a very difficult season in your marriage,” Carl says. “Couples can feel so isolated and hopeless. The reality is that we are seeing thousands of incredible stories of marriages turned around.”
Currently, SAMI partners with 24 champion churches to provide 200 events a year addressing 70 unique marriage and family topics.
SAMI Board Member and Founder of the California Health Marriage Initiative, Dennis Stoica, says, “San Antonio has more marriage resources per square mile than any place in the United States.” Carl agrees, “A lot of faithful people in this community are stepping forward — it is incredible.” He continues, “We are all working to connect, to be a consistent presence, reminding people that your marriage is worth fighting for.”
Some of those “faithful” are people SAMI calls marriage champions — those who will intentionally use their stories of triumph through hardship to inspire others. Recent studies have shown that millennials deeply desire authentic input from older couples in their lives, but they are wary of revisionist storytelling.
One such seasoned couple, Donna and Robert Lagoudis, lead the marriage ministry at Bulverde Baptist Church. They openly share the story of their rocky start — overcoming differences in religious and family backgrounds, marrying while in college and expecting a baby shortly afterward. Despite their struggles, the Lagoudises found help through a Christian resource that made all the difference in their marriage once they started practicing its principles.
Fast forward 17 years. Donna and Robert’s marriage has gone from barely surviving those first few years to thriving. They recognized they would have benefitted from someone walking alongside them during their season of crisis, and they wanted to be that beacon of hope for others. As they became more involved in ministry, the Lagoudises pursued training through SAMI and became certified in biblical counseling.
“They have used their story more than any other couple I know to make themselves relevant and greatly impact many lives,” Carl says.
“We’ve been through the fire, but we stuck it out,” Donna says. “We are so passionate and so in love and thankful for the miracle that God worked in our lives. If we would have quit, we would have missed out on 27 years of an amazing marriage and ministry. Our marriage gets stronger every single day. And if we can make it, anybody can.”
The Lagoudises would agree with Carl’s sentiment that “the amazing gift of marriage allows us a one-of-a-kind partner to journey through ordinary days, writing an extraordinary story by His power and for His glory.”
Interested in starting a marriage ministry in your church or nonprofit? Contact them today. Start by taking just 30 minutes and find resources and upcoming marriage events on their website. As Carl stated, your marriage is worth fighting for.
San Antonio Marriage Initiative
23995 Bat Cave Rd, Suite 150 | San Antonio, TX 78266
Be A Light.
Visit. Click on the ministry website for resources to keep your marriage healthy. Learn. Train to become a marriage champion. Pray. Pray for marriages to thrive and reduce divorce rates in our city. Serve. There are countless ways to make a difference. Give. Every dollar directly brings help, hope and healing to marriages.