Artwork for podcast Detroit Stories
For Better or For Worse
9th February 2021 • Detroit Stories • Detroit Catholic
00:00:00 00:23:11

Share Episode


The story of one couple’s experience revitalizing a failing marriage, and how they’ve become leaders of metro-Detroit’s marriage-saving Retrouvaille ministry.

(0:00) Meet Mark and Betty Squier, a couple on the eve of their 19th wedding anniversary — and on the brink of divorce.

(1:25) Mark tells the story of how he and Betty met, when they got married, and of the five children the two have.

(3:25) Both active in their parish, and with Betty a stay-at-home mom and Mark out working as a police officer, the two began living very separate lives, what Mark calls the “married singles” lifestyle.

(5:37) We learn that Betty has had an affair, and Mark had a hard time forgiving. The marriage encountered more problems from there — Mark had an affair, too.

(7:02) Betty became determined to live a better marriage and family life and began looking for programs to help her and Mark recover. The two eventually chose a weekend retreat that would prove much more challenging than expected.

(10:49) The emotional turmoil from their retreat weekend left Mark and Betty in a state of mental duress, with Betty hospitalized from a nervous breakdown and Mark internally struggling with good and evil.

(11:47) Years later, they began being more civil together, and they stopped talking of divorce. The two discuss learning about self-giving, communication, and love languages.

(16:14) Mark and Betty are approached to help bring a Canadian marriage therapy program, Retrouvaille, to metro-Detroit, and through this process they discover the gift of healing through sharing their story.

(18:09) Mark shares a metaphor of how we can open ourselves up to spiritual healing by “pouring out” our sins and speaking honestly and openly about them. He stresses that we are all still becoming the people we are going to be.

(21:42) Mark and Betty are happily married, loving each other every day and every minute, and recognizing all that the other has to offer.

Reporting by Gabriella Patti; narration by Casey McCorry, production by Ron Pangborn

Listen to ‘Detroit Stories’ on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or Spotify. Podcasts also will be posted biweekly on


Detroit Stories #8 “It Takes Two”

Narrator: It was one month before Mark and Betty Squier’s 19th wedding anniversary that Mark filed for divorce. Mark was having an affair with a woman he met through his work. Betty had had a brief affair a few years before that. And the two were embroiled in the typical shame, resentment and bitterness usually associated with unresolved marital conflict. The truth was, the two had been distant for a long time. Years. They were nearly strangers to each other by this point. They had tried to stick together, to make it work for the sake of their five kids, for the sake of their vows - for better and worse. But the worse had gotten too hard, too ungratifying, too shameful. And Mark was ready to move on. This doesn’t sound like the makings of a great love story – a couple on the brink of marital collapse, entrenched in the mire of broken vows–but this is Mark and Betty’s love story, and it’s a good one.

Welcome to Detroit Stories, a podcast on a mission to boldly share the stories of the people and communities in Southeast Michigan.

These are the stories that fascinate and inspire us.


Mark: We met in:

Narrator: Mark asked Betty to marry him not long after that. He walked her out onto a frozen Lake St. Clair in February and got down on one knee with a teal diamond ring he had designed himself.

Mark: We got married in June of ‘67, less than a year later. We were very young. We were 19 and 21 years old.

Betty: [laughs] Maybe we should start that part over

Mark: Yeah. I got -

Betty: He’s got his facts confused a little bit. I was 20 and you were -

Mark: 18. I was 18, that’s right. And we met in ‘66, got married in ‘67-

[organ music]

Narrator: They married 53 years ago in a humble wedding surrounded by dozens of cousins, nieces and nephews. Betty wore a lace-trimmed dress with long sleeves. They tried to outdo each other in pushing wedding cake into each others’ mouths. And then they both experienced their first airline flight en route to Jamaica for their honeymoon.

Betty: After two years we had our first daughter, a great blessing to us. And then we had four more children after that. The first four children are two years apart and the caboose little boy was born five years after the fourth one.

Narrator: From the outside Mark and Betty kept up the appearances of a model family. Mark was a well-respected police officer and Betty, a model homemaker. They were active parishioners at St. Athanasius Parish in Roseville. Both taught religious education. But there was more to the story behind closed doors. The two were living what they call a “married singles” lifestyle.

Betty: After our third child was born, our lives became very separated.

Mark:A lot of married couples operate that way and we call it the “married singles” lifestyle, Meaning, yeah, they live together, but statistically, they probably spend less than 15 minutes daily talking to each other about anything. And when they do, and the marriage is breaking down, they're only talking about the children, the calendars — all the important yet unimportant things about life. They never talk to each other about who they are, who they've become, and how they feel about their lives.

Betty: Or what makes them happy or what makes them sad.

Mark: And if it goes on long enough, or I guess in our situation, 19 years, you end up realizing one day that you're married to a stranger. You don't know anything about that person anymore, and that can be frightening. And it is frightening.

Betty: Because of me being a stay at home mom and Mark working to support our family, with three children, I was having a difficult time feeling…

Mark: Appreciated?

Betty: Yeah, I guess that that's a good word, Mark. I was having a difficult time feeling appreciated and cared for. And then someone showed an interest in me and I ended up having a brief affair at that time. Well, after our third child was born. So of course that got discovered, Mark discovered that, and things were pretty difficult, and so we did our best to accept what happened. Try to forgive and forget what happened, which is impossible, actually. It's possible to forgive, but not to forget.

Narrator: Mark couldn’t forget. And what he thought was forgiveness was actually white-knuckling through a deep wound, suppressing emotions. The more Mark and Betty grinned and bore it like they thought they were supposed to, the stronger the emotional barrier between the two became, and that made the next move so much easier.

[police dispatch]

Narrator: As a police officer, Mark was dispatched to thousands of homes to investigate domestic violence. On one occasion he responded to a home where the violence had risen to an acute level, hospitalizing the woman for days. Moved by the woman’s injuries and circumstances, he chose a strategy and a course of action designed to protect her from future assaults, but it did little to protect him emotionally. For several months Mark was having an affair with the woman he protected before deciding it was time to file for divorce.

Betty: I was so desperate. I was so devastated about our marriage and our family. It wasn't what I had hoped for in our future when we said our vows to each other.

Narrator: Betty wasn’t delusional about their relationship. She knew it had problems. But there was something about the finality of that decision, what they called the dreaded “d” word. Betty couldn’t accept it without a little more fighting.

Betty: I was looking for anything that could help us. And in the church bulletin, I found Marriage Encounter and I called them and they told me, after I shared what was going on with our life, they told me about Look Again, and that we should sign up for Look Again.

Narrator: Look Again was a retreat designed for couples overcoming marital issues with the hope of reconciliation. There were talks teaching various communication methods. And a portion where the couples wrote letters to each other. But this weekend offered, by no means, the seamless reconciliation Betty envisioned. Mark had agreed to the retreat as a sort of negotiating tool to prove to Betty how beyond rehabilitation they were. His commitment to the process was half hearted at best.

Mark: They also taught a program of communication that was like from Marriage Encounter, talking about your feelings through a process called dialogue. I didn't do dialogue very well because I was trying to hide my intentions and my emotions from Betty. And so we were not very successful at all with the use of the dialogue methods. Mostly because of my refusal to participate fully.

Betty: After that weekend, I tried to dialogue with Mark. It's a written — you start with a written letter answering a question about how you feel about that question. I tried to share that with Mark, but I was mostly on my pain.

Narrator: The Squiers’ relationship wasn’t going to be healed in a two-and-a-half day retreat in hotel conference rooms. They needed a relationship overhaul. But something about the weekend had pierced through Mark’s stony exterior just enough for him to make one big decision. He trashed the divorce papers.

Mark: Well when we left the Look Again weekend, a couple of realizations happened for me, first of which is understanding that my wife and my family were still valuable to me...I was able to engage in the hope of what could happen should we commit to improving our marriage. So hope evolved eventually into an operating principle in my life.

Narrator: For Betty, the weekend left her feeling completely disillusioned. The same idealism that was motivating her through this crisis was masking her deep-rooted despair, and with the retreat done, she came to face those feelings. Betty had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital psychiatric ward for five days.

Betty: I ended up going to a therapist — two different therapists. I spent six months talking to a therapist who let me just talk about how upset I was with Mark. And then I finally left that environment and found a different therapist who helped me work on me. In that experience, for another six months, I was able to rediscover who I was, rediscover that I had value, and I became a lot stronger emotionally. But that took some time and some focus on myself.

Narrator: Meanwhile Mark wrestled with his previous resolve to end his additional relationship.

Mark: It set off quite a dynamic internal struggle, you know. Good-versus-evil type of constant discussions in my brain. I struggled the next two years terminating that relationship with the other woman. But I eventually was able to, and we then struggled, you know. The recovery period, the time if you will, where we began being civil toward one another once again.

Narrator: Look Again may have not been the heartwarming reunification weekend Betty had hoped for, but what it gave the Squiers were things they didn’t previously have: a sliver of hope, the belief that maybe divorce wasn’t a given, a few rudimentary tools to start the clumsy communication process. It didn’t get them to wedded bliss but it got them to “civil.”

Betty: Four years after our Look Again weekend — by that time we had stopped using the “d” word. We weren't throwing that divorce word back and forth at each other anymore. We were beginning to heal, able to communicate with each other a little bit better. We had learned a little bit of that from the Look Again program.

Narrator: The problem with a lot of depictions of love in novels, films and music, is that they tend to gloss over what happens after you find love. They give the illusion that the biggest hurdle is simply finding the love of your life. And that the first kiss or the first time you say “I love you,” is paramount to each successive indication of love you will be invited to make each and every minute of life thereafter. Mark and Betty became diligent students in the unglamorous, mutual self-giving that marriage really is. In the thousands of details they learned about each other that had previously gone unnoticed. In the practice of intentionality, learning to not take each other for granted. They developed a few marital practices that they continue to this day. And it wasn’t overnight, as romantic fanfare may have you believe, but minute by minute, decision by decision, they grew closer to each other.

Mark: The antidote for the married singles lifestyle is a commitment to daily communication and closeness. Doing — being together every day for more than 15 minutes. Just being with each other can be such a cure for the married singles lifestyle. We pray together daily. We reflect with gratitude on the events of the day as we pray together each night, holding hands. And the praying together helps to fortify the closeness of the marriage. You know, it helps to strengthen our marriage. I had learned what Betty's love language was, it was acts of service. And I thought, Oh, well, she's, how is that going to help me? You know, I want to buy her roses and flowers and give her gifts. And she doesn't, and she does reject them. But, and I was, —

Betty: I don't tell you to take the guests back.

No, no, no. She complained, “I don't need a dozen roses. Just one. Don't spend all that extra money.” [laughs] And the interesting part though, is, I took an inventory of all the things that I could do that would be acts of service for Betty. You know, things like, if I got up last in the morning, I would make the bed for the day. Or at the end of the day, if I take the last shower, I'd be the one squeegeeing the walls instead of her, I would set up the coffee pot so that it would be ready for us in the morning. And I would always scrape her windows of the car and always put gas in her car. And so it was interesting as I completed this inventory, I noticed I had about 80 little things, acts of service, that I could do for Betty that helps her to feel loved by me. And when I first did that list, I had a bad attitude and I thought, “Okay, this will get her to love me back. This will get her to praise me and thank me.” Well, that really wasn't forthcoming. And then they had to shift my attitude: I'm not doing it to get reciprocal praise. I'm doing it because I love her. Once I made that leap in attitude, every act of service became a joy.

Betty: Mark’s love language is physical touch. So I've learned to spend — more often, I will hug him and kiss him and be next to him touching. And he appreciates being touched.

Mark: Yes, holding hands.

Betty: And we hold hands, wherever we go. One of our favorite places to hold hands is at church.

nadian priest during the late:

eekend in the Detroit area in:

Narrator: It seemed implausible having a couple fresh on recovery to start sharing their story. But this is exactly the type of couple Retrouvaille thrives on. The session leaders are all graduates of the program, and share before and after stories, much like Alcoholics Anonymous. Attendees are there to see reunification is possible, even if it’s not pretty. So when the Squiers got a letter inviting them to share their story, it was an answered prayer, a confirmation that they had made progress. And sharing their story seemed to be a crucial step in their marital formation, a grounding experience that let them hold on to their past without letting it define who they were.

Mark: Can I give the wineglass symbol? Yeah. All right. I will. I'll give you a metaphor for that. Take a wine glass or a glass glass and fill it with water. Okay? That clear water represents your spiritual nature when you came to earth. When you were born and proceeded into life. Choices, bad choices especially, like envy, greed, anger are like adding a drop of food coloring to that water. They're like anger, a little drop, a red. Cowardice, you know, refusing to do what was right, drop of yellow. Envy, some green in there too. How about sadness, let's put a little blue in there. And so, as you go through life and experience these emotions and bad decisions, you've transformed your glass of water, goblet of water into a dark fluid. That represents the quality of our spiritual nature without forgiveness. So as a Retrouvaille team, um, almost everyone else — back up, almost everyone seems to say, “God, please come into me and transform my life.” That’s where this goblet image comes in. As we present our life to the attending couples, it's like we pour some of our spirit out onto the table, that dark water. And it leaves open space in the complex, you know? Less dark water. And now the Holy Spirit can come into us and occupy the space that we provided them. By telling our story, honestly, sharing our sinfulness honestly, we've emptied some of that sinfulness out and now the Holy Spirit can come in and occupy it. And it's done over a period of time. It transforms that image of the dark water into clear water once again. That process is what keeps me coming back to share my story because it is not exhausting, it is fulfilling. It's energizing. And it's at that time when I feel most forgiven for my sinfulness, is when I publicly confess my sinfulness.

Betty: I’m sitting here smiling at him. It’s a really clear image, I agree with it completely.

Mark: I've learned to redefine the hard times as, those were experiences meant to prepare us to becoming a Retrouvaille team. And that's one of the axioms that I want to bring to everyone's attention is, you’re still becoming who you will be in the future. You know, you have today to be your best person, but your best person today is the result of all those past experiences. And those experiences are just that. They don't need to be judged as good or evil, the need to be seen as preparation for who you are today.

Narrator: The people Betty and Mark are today are a happily married couple in their 70s, 53 years into marriage. They share the joy of 11 grandchildren together. Mark calls all 9 granddaughters “princess.” Every year they hold a week-long day camp with the kids they call Squier Spy Camp where they teach the kids wilderness survival skills. They pack their home with children and grandchildren each Christmas and Easter. This past year they started family-wide Zoom calls complete with PowerPoint presentations and computer games. And every single day, they clasp each others’ hands, look each other in the eyes and communicate. It doesn’t matter that they spend nearly every waking moment together, that it would seem like there is nothing new to report. Mark and Betty know differently. That in each person you vow to love there is infinite capacity for learning, discovery, sacrifice and drawing closer to Christ.

Detroit Stories is a production of Detroit Catholic and the communications department of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts.




More from YouTube