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Two weddings and a miracle

When Irene Barnes divorced her husband Pete because of his drinking, she never expected that Mothers’ Union would play a part in them getting back together

03 Jan 2015

Pete and I got married in 1977 when I was 18 and he was 29. He was such a quiet, shy, kind man who just wanted to look after me, and we were very well suited. We did have problems having children; we were married for seven years before we had our daughter Verity, and I had had two miscarriages in between. Our son Adam came along three years after that. But otherwise, we were happy.

The problems started when Pete was made redundant. He was out of work for quite a while and when he eventually found work, he was made redundant again, ever so suddenly. It hit him hard and he went into a deep depression. That’s when he started drinking. As the years went on, he was drinking more and more, and he really changed. He even got into trouble with the police a couple of times. Then one day when Verity was about 18 and Adam was 15, Pete attacked Adam and I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s the final straw.’

We divorced in 2004, but there was always contact between us. He jokes now that the washing machine kept us together because he used to come round and I would do his washing! I wanted to look after him because he was very ill; his liver was bad and he had developed epilepsy because of the drinking. Then I found out I had a heart problem. Pete was really upset and said, ‘I can’t lose you.’ At that time I was looking for a place to live because the lease on my flat was up, and he suggested moving back in with him. I said I couldn’t, not if he was drinking. And he said, ‘I promise I won’t have another drop; I want to look after you like you looked after me.’ That was in 2007 and, with the exception of one relapse caused by stress when I was very ill in hospital, he hasn’t had a drink.


My health continued to be bad, and one day I went into heart failure. He was so shocked, and said, ‘I want you to marry me.’ I told him that as a Christian I wanted to get married in church. He agreed and we went to see the vicar, Mark Ireland, at All Saints Church in Wellington. Pete started going along to an event where people could ask big life questions, and after that he did the Emmaus course. And he decided, yes, I do believe and I want to be baptised!

We started to organised the wedding but as the date came nearer I realised that, even though we only wanted a very small reception, we were never going to be able to afford it. I wrote to Mark to tell him that

we’d need to delay, and that’s when his wife, Gill, who is Mothers’ Union’s Branch Leader, emailed to say that the Mothers’ Union branch had offered to do our wedding reception! They also ended up paying half of the church fees.

I joined Mothers’ Union for myself not long after the wedding and now I help out, sending out the anniversary of baptism cards, and I’m also one of the team that go to Oakwood Prison. Being a member has made a huge difference in my life and in our life together. It shows you better family values, and I’ve found that Pete and I are able to talk more. Before, if a situation came up with one of the children, for example, we would just pass it off and not say anything about our feelings, but now we can talk about things. We use the prayer diary quite regularly to pray together too.

I’m so grateful that Mothers’ Union helped us out when we really needed it, and that I found such a great group to be part of.