This article is the 40th in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.
Five months pregnant, Sonia Fernandez sat in the Flamingo Mexican Club in Chicago, Ill., waiting for her husband, the club’s lead singer, to get off work. Suddenly, Sonia looked up to see a waitress standing in front of her. “You are so pretty and nice,” the waitress said. “I don’t understand why your husband is cheating on you.” They had been married a little over a year.
Sonia immigrated to America from Colombia in 1965. Her husband, Frank, immigrated from Mexico. They fell in love in 1971 at that same Flamingo Club. A year later, they married.
Seven months after Sonia heard of her husband’s affair, she was on a plane with her two children heading back to her parent’s home in Colombia. Melissa, her newest baby, was only 3 months old and Randy, her son from a previous relationship, was 6. From that day on, forgiveness would be her biggest battle.
In the two months the couple were separated, Frank called for her to return and she ignored him. He persisted. He loved her and his family too much to live without them. “I did not want my children to see their father with someone else,” Frank said. “And I will not make excuses for my actions.”
“I thought to myself that even until the day I die, I will never forgive,” Sonia said. But despite what Frank had done, she still loved him and wanted her kids to have a father. “I told him I would go back but that he could never cheat again, and he didn’t,” she said. The Fernandez’s renewed their vows in the Catholic Church in 1982.
Though Sonia deeply loved her husband and saw blessings in their marriage, she found herself still hurt, years later, harboring pain and unforgiveness in her heart.
It was not until four years ago when her mother encouraged her to see a Christian psychologist that Sonia recognized her bitterness.
“My psychologist told me that during our first sessions, I was closed to sharing my heart and my husband was at the bottom of my priorities,” she said. “By the end, I was like an open book. God was my first priority and my husband the second.”
Three children and eight grandchildren later, Frank and Sonia Fernandez still live in Chicago.
“It seems like couples these days do not forgive easily,” said Sonia. “Their kids are the ones who suffer. Your spouse is not your enemy and when you say your vows, you are committed for life. You are supposed to fight for each other, not against each other. It is not always easy, but it is so worth it.”