Chapter 17: The Fight of My Life

This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.

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Chapter 17
The Fight of My Life

       My boss and good friend arranged for an attorney and bail and flew up to see me. I was despondent. I had no idea how to go on.

       The first moment of clarity hit me in jail; I realized my best thinking and very best intentions had brought me to where I was right now. No one else had done this; I had. I had always tried so hard to live a decent life and be kind to people and be “successful”, and yet here I was. I had worked so hard to support Kay and the girls, probably even too much so. What on earth had happened? Maybe I needed a brain transplant.

       Looking back, I think it was worse than even needing a new brain. I was going to need a complete overhaul from the inside out. Everything I had clung to, I was going to have to let go of. It was going to have to be a whole new ball game.

       I would have plenty of time to think about it. Kay wanted a divorce, and the legal proceedings began; yet I knew she loved me and I knew I loved her, even if that love was so tarnished that we wanted to throw a shoe at each other.

       Everyone around both of us was saying it was over and advised us to let it go. Her friends thought I was bad for her and my friends thought she was bad for me. All of my friends told me to move on; one of my Christian friends even shocked me and told me I should go sleep with someone to cushion the fall and help me break away from Kay. Even our marriage counselor (who had also married us) thought we should throw in the towel. (I stiffed him on his final invoice, by the way; I guess maybe I should clean that up.)

       I thought, Have you all lost your minds? There is a family at stake here. It staggered me, though, how many people thought a divorce would immediately remedy this whole thing. I still can’t believe I got advice like that; it was horrible.

       I thought about it for about thirty seconds and decided, I don’t know how, but I’m going to get my girl back.

       Anyone of you reading this, if you’re in a distressed marriage or just not feeling fulfilled, please listen closely. It’s real simple to fix; all you have to change is everything! Throw the kitchen sink at it, throw the whole house at it. It is so worth it, I promise, and it’s doable. If my marriage could be saved, given the depths that Kay and I had taken it to, I would submit that just about anyone’s marriage can be saved. But saving my marriage required a completely different approach than what I had been doing, and that’s what yours will take, too. Here’s what I did…

       I knew first of all I had to get sober, and I took the appropriate measures and sought out the support to do that. That was absolutely paramount, as everything else would unravel further if I had one more drink. This also made quitting smoking a lot easier. With this restraining order, I knew I’d get only a few opportunities to let Kay know I meant business about straightening me out.

       I also started praying a lot.

       The first answer to prayer came from a chance meeting with a guy I’d never seen before nor have I seen since. I was telling my sad story in an alcohol-related support group; and after the group broke up, this guy pulled me aside and said, “I can relate.” He had a very similar story to tell me, where his wife had chucked him out of the house. He elected to go to rehab, and one of the rehab workers gave him advice that saved his butt and mine, too, it would turn out.

       The rehab guy had told him, “If you want any chance of getting her back, you better make it all about her.” He went on to tell me that the advice had saved his marriage. He had in fact started making it all about his wife, and several things happened as a result. First, it took all the conflict out of things; there can be no conflict if someone places himself at the service of another. The other thing that happened was that his wife responded to it.

       When you hear the truth, it just pierces your heart somehow; and this pierced mine. I knew he was right. I knew I had to make everything all about Kay if I wanted another chance with her. This guy was the only one around who gave me any hope of a chance. All others told me things that just didn’t feel true, but in a couple minutes on a chance meeting, this guy changed my life. I had prayed for an answer as to how to get my girl and my family back, and this guy popped into my life.

       A few days later, we had a court hearing discussing temporary arrangements pertaining to money, residency, and visitation of my daughter. I had prayed and prayed for God to show me how I could make it all about Kay, while trying to stay married, as clearly her will was to be divorced. I had no idea what I was going to find when I got to court, nor did I have any idea how to respond. I just showed up. I chose to not even hire an attorney, as that would just be engaging in the fight.

       Even given the very difficult circumstances, it was great to see Kay; I hadn’t seen her since that horrible day. I could tell immediately that she had dispatched her attorney to get as quick a divorce as he could. Obviously this wasn’t a good sign, but I just kept praying.

       Anyone that’s been in a courtroom situation surrounding a divorce knows the drill. All the lawyers are working multiple cases, and there’s the dance of negotiating going on between the lawyers while the parties sit and wait and bite their nails.

       I think Kay’s lawyer showed up expecting a fight from me, but I calmly revealed that I was sorry for what I had done and was working on an alcohol addiction. I also told him I’d do anything I could to help Kay.

       Believe it or not, the guy bought it; I guess because it was true. He seemed to back off a bit. I think he actually felt we had a chance if he gave us some room, even though it was against his own interests financially.

       We were finally called into a conference room with Kay, her attorney, myself and a social worker to discuss and hammer out the temporary arrangements. I agreed to everything Kay wanted and just sat there and privately prayed.

       She told me she thought it was in all of our best interests if we were able to quickly divorce. I prayed and prayed and said to God, Give me the words.

       I looked at Kay and said, “If you want a quick divorce, that’s fine. I’ll give you whatever you want, but I’ll show up right after the divorce courting you.”

       Kay sat back and looked flattered and smitten and surprised and scared all at the same time.

       It took her a minute to compose herself, and she said, “Phil, do you need anything out of the house?”

       I said, “Yes, I need a few pictures of the kids and a picture or two of you.”

       Again, she sat back in her chair and didn’t know what to say.

       I said, “I need something to look at until I’m courting you.”

       She looked shocked, and at this point the social worker hurried us along to finish our business. We agreed on all the temporary arrangements and the judge signed it and we were out of there.

       In addition to my encounter with the gentleman who told me to make it all about Kay, I had gone back and listened again to a CD series about marriage that my church had put out. It’s actually an incredible series called iMarriage by Andy Stanley, and I highly recommend it. My pastor’s take on marriage was that shortly after we’re married, our desires turn to expectations of each other, and then let the conflict begin. His prescribed answer was plain and simple — humility. Humility rang a chime for me, as it was exactly what I had been told to do by my buddy in the support group — make it all about her. And in my first encounter, humility had worked.

       I had been unable to talk to Kay prior to this, but now that we had had our first hearing, I could contact her. I decided to try humility a bit more. I called Kay and humbly apologized for everything I had done, not only recently, but throughout our marriage. I told her I had not put her first, and that I was very sorry. I got specific and told her several things I knew I had done that were not good to her.

       She listened, and I could tell she was hearing me from the heart. I told her I loved her and wished her a good night.

       I was very depressed and lonely for her through the Christmas holiday, but I spent Christmas with the kids, and I called Kay a few times and tried to be all about her.

       The first glimmer of hope came on New Year’s Eve. Kay called and wished me a happy new year. I knew at that moment I had a shot, and it was humility that had bought me the shot.

       In early January, against the better counsel of many, she agreed to a date. I took her to a restaurant we had been to on one of our early significant dates. I was so thrilled to have time with her; it was indescribable. We talked and went places that were familiar to both of us and had a terrific day together. It was very tough to say good night, but I had to.

       I could tell, though, and she even said, “It may be a long road back.” It was okay with me. I was not about to lose the love of my life because of impatience.



Next: She Had to be First, Period …     


Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at or by phone at 678-429-0901

Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.

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