Is there hope for a dead marriage?


I don’t know which folder this should go in. I have two real issues, my priest and my husband, and I haven’t been able to discuss them with anyone. I guess I’ll focus on the more important one.

My husband and I have been married for almost 5 years. We have a 3.5 year old son. My husband was the ideal man when we were dating. His parents weren’t happy with me, but he still pursued me. I wasn’t looking to be caught, but I was. His cute dimples, his passionate faith, his sparkling eyes, I was sold. His parents threatened to disown him for dating me. They wanted him to marry up to a doctor or lawyer or someone. They also wanted him to marry a Protestant who would want him to spend most of his time with them while she pursued her own goals. They were hoping his conversion to Catholicism was a stage he’d outgrow and dating me obviously meant that wasn’t going to happen. They were vicious. Through it all, my husband-to-be was my knight in shining armor. He defended me, protected me and loved me. I was thrilled to say yes when he asked me to marry him.

Then he decided that maybe his mother was right. He said he loved me, but he didn’t see how it would work. I was devastated. After some sadness and some anger, I prayerfully decided to fight for us. After pre-marital counseling through the church psychologist, many books, and lots of fasting and prayer, he asked me to marry him again. He said he knew he had a lot to work on still, but that he wanted to do it with me. We married in the church soon after. I’ve been waiting since then for our springtime. I’m so miserable. I’ve sobbed myself to sleep every night for months.

He’s built a wall and shut me out, and nothing I do can get in. He ignores me. He refuses to discuss major decisions with me. When he does, it is only a formality because he’s already made up his mind. He’s switched jobs and decided on a new car without me, even against my wishes. I’m not a nag or a shrew. I’ve done everything I can–and I mean everything. If I could do it or offer it, I have. I am pleasant, and I’ve had such hope. Whatever it was he decided on that day 6 years ago has never been reversed.

So one day two months ago we had a huge breakthrough. He decided that he had messed up and he needed some help in getting things right. I prayed with such joy and thanksgiving while he was gone! So he went to our priest and told him the many things he’s done wrong and how he has hurt me so deeply. I expected the priest to guide him through a confession, offer a penance directed to the issue, reccomend certain prayers or saints readings, and to want a follow-up to hold him accountable for it. None of that happened. He and our friend are priests. The priest was dissapointed because he thought our marriage was so strong. He didn’t want to face it. So they went out to eat pizza and the priest said nothing else to him except that he should try to get me to go to a Marriage Encounter weekend. Then they talked about baseball and the priest gossiped about other parish families as if my husband hadn’t said any of it. Since then, my husband’s been completely gone. His appearance, his tone of voice, his stance all say he’s shut me out completely. That one opportunity, and a man of the cloth turned him back to this! I am so angry and sad and dissapointed and scared. I have been fighting for us, praying and fasting, never speaking ill of him to anyone, loving him, and soaking my pillow night after night.

Today I asked him if he’s willing to do anything, any one thing, to help re-establish our marriage. Any little thing. He couldn’t bring himself to answer. He shrugged. He’s moving everything of his to the guest room. It doesn’t seem to bother him. Is this what I have to go through every day for the rest of my life? I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown as it is. I can’t keep this up year after year, pretending to have a wonderful marriage to a nonexistant husband. Is there anything more to do? My knees are worn out from praying. I begged God to tell me why he guided me back to him only to go through this. I had such a sense of dissapointment and He said, “I intended for you to have so much more.” If only my husband would respond to the grace I know God is showering on him… It hasn’t happened yet. I feel like the only thing that can save us is a miracle. Is there hope for a dead marriage?


There’s always hope MissMary. There’s the hope that you had a breakthrough before and he was willing to seek some help from a priest. Neither of you could have known that the priest would let you both down very very badly. But if I were in your shoes I would cling to the hope that he may be willing to try again with another priest or appropriate Catholic counsellor. Choose very carefully.

I am so sorry for what you and your husband are going through. My heart is just breaking reading your post. Don’t give up! You’ve had to fight in the past and as difficult and overwhelming as it may be it seems the fight is not over. I know from your post that you have done everything you possibly could. Just hang in there. Even if it seems like God is not listening to your prayers - He is!

You say that your husband once defended you, protected you and loved you - he just needs to rediscover this. I believe he can and that he does want to - as evidenced in his visit to your priest. Do you think someone else is holding him back…his parents for example? Maybe each time he tries to build things back up they are knocking down his efforts? Pray against it. If this is war bring in the big guns…Our Lord…Our Lady…your gaurdian angels…all the Saints. And remember that our prayers are most efficacious at Mass…lay your troubles on the altar with Christ’s sacrifice. I know you are worn out with prayer…hang in there…don’t give up! Ask us to help carry some of the burden. :slight_smile:

I’m gald you found the forums MissMary. :hug3: Praying for you!


Thank you for the support. Another five years of this before he is willing to admit that he’s even done anything wrong… The idea of it is physically exhausting. If only there were some indication that he would come around again, no matter how long it took! I have hope in the Lord and in the resurrection, but I don’t have hope for my marriage outside of the merciful grace of the Lord. I’ve asked him why he’s changed. He just shrugs and says “I dunno” in the way that means “I could have an answer if I cared, but I don’t care so I’m not going to figure out the answer, and even if I had the answer, I wouldn’t give it to you because it would be all your fault somehow.” I am facing the bleak reality that I won’t have the life or marriage I expected or hoped for. I feel like I am grieving the loss of my husband and of my son’s father and future. It is a terrible burden.

I realized that I said above that my husband and his friend are priests. My husband is not a priest. I meant to say that my husband and the priest are friends.



It sounds like all the signs of trouble were there before you married and you chose to ignore them: 1) overbearing/vindictive parents, 2) difference in faith traditions, 3) your h’s lack of independence from his parents’ influence.

It sounds to me like you’ve made a terrible mistake in marrying a man who never really had any intention of defying mommy & daddy. You need a definitive answer from him now on his intention to work on and cure what ails your marriage. Without this commitment…you have nothing together–including a future. I am very sorry for you and most of all for your child.


Island Oak,

The angel and the devil on my shoulder have this fight every day. You say exactly what I think. Then the angel chirps in and says that his parents weren’t a problem in the height of their vileness because he was defending and protecting me. I remember how masterfully and lovingly he handled it and I weep for what I once had. I visited the church we were married in today. All those hopes and dreams placed on that altar, and I replaced them today with my tears and sorrows.

My husband converted to Catholicism before he and I started dating. His parents are nominally faithful Protestants. He has defended Catholicism to them recently and he is a faithful Catholic theologically. The difference in faiths is their issue, not ours. Our priest is encouraging my husband to be a deacon. My husband plans to pursue it. Neither seem to care that I think he needs to be leading his family first and better living out his faith internally.

It is ironic that his parents no longer try to seperate us as they once did. They’ve moved on in life. He did such a great job of setting boundaries that they think our marriage is still going strong and further attempts would be futile. My husband changed somehow that day when his mother told him he had to choose between me and her. It was like that last brick in the wall slid into place. She’s stopped, but he hasn’t changed back. I’ve tried to find any access point to his heart, but he won’t let me in.

I often tell myself that I have nothing here if I don’t have his love. I have found myself despairing frequently lately. Then the angel tells me that I have a son who is just starting to learn what it means to be a man and needs his daddy. I tell myself that I am miserable and lonely, but I am not being hurt or neglected, and neither is he. I tell myself that I have a sacramental marriage and a husband, even if he is doing a poor job at it. I remind myself of how many people would love to trade places with me. I tell myself that my own lack of fulfillment is not a reason to divorce and put my son through the torments of joint custody so I’ll feel more free. Sometimes I get haughty and I decide that I’m not going to let him take away the fact that I’m a mother and wife and I intend to live out my vocation with or without his support. Then he comes home and the entire cycle starts again. I feel like a money grubber or a gold digger, using him to support my staying at home with my son. Or I feel like a babysitter. Replacable. Disposable. Then I start to despair again.

I feel trapped. I’ll be miserable no matter what, so what is best for my son? Without abuse or neglect, having his mom at home and seeing his dad each morning and night seems like a much better option than single parenting, day care, and joint custody. Then I remember that his parents will pay for a lawyer and will seek custody for him, and the thought of a court deciding such things about my baby makes me want to avoid it at all costs. Plus, if I walk away, I close the door on whatever hope there might be. Then I start to wonder how I can face myself each day knowing it is another day of silent suffering and I laugh at the idea of hope. It is no wonder I’m feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

What is so maddening is that all this could change in the bat of an eye. If he decides that he wants to make his marriage work, he’ll do it. It all changed for the worse that quickly. I keep trying to figure out how to get him to make that decision. Then I realize that I can’t make him do anything and I resign myself to being no one and meaning nothing to him. Then I can’t accept being nothing to my husband and I consider my options again.


There is no way your husband will become a deacon if you two don’t have a strong relationship. Your bishop will look very closely at your relationship because being a deacon has an impact on a man’s family. If it wasn’t so difficult I think we would see more deacons. Find out from your bishop what he expects of his deacons regarding family life and relay that to your husband. If he really wants to be a deacon then he will have to work on your relationship.

It sounds like your husband may be suffering from depression. Have you discussed this with him? At the very least have him take a test online, depression self test. It may be situational depression or a chemical imbalance. He probably feels worse that he’s not your “knight in shining armor” and he knows you’re unhappy. Its not your fault nor is it his. But there is help.

I know that you’re hurting because you’ve lost your romantic vision of love with your husband. But love isn’t only about romance and good feelings; its suffering and putting the other ahead of yourself (keep you mind on what Christ did for us!). You can choose to do nothing and be miserable waiting for your knight to return or you can choose to be strong and help him. You have to be strong for him. He was strong for you, its your turn to support him.


Mary, I am so very sorry that this has happened to you. The way that you present the situation does make it seem hopeless - in other words, that no HUMAN POWER can help you ‘save’ your marriage.

I have a prayer technique that has helped me through hopeless situations. I would like to share it with you. It is called a “Jesus Box”.

I make, out of an old shoe box, a Jesus Box. I decorate it anyway I want, put a slit or hole in the top of it, and keep it somewhere safe where only I can open it and read what is inside.

Then, I pull out a piece (or pieces) of paper and start to write. I do not worry about spelling, grammar, syntax, making any kind of sense, I just write…I pour my heart and mind out onto that piece (or pieces) of paper. I write until I am exhausted and cannot write any more.

Putting the paper(s) on the bed in front of me, I kneel down and say something like this to Jesus:

Lord, Here it is. I am so miserable. I am so unhappy. This is why. I cannot do anything about this, I cannot get him/her/it to be the way I want it to be and I feel lonely,scared, worthless…Lord, I am completely desolate.

So, I am giving this to You, My Savior. I do not know what You have planned for me or how this problem will be solved. I am, however, trusting that YOUR way will be far better than MY way. Here it is, Lord…it belongs now to YOU.

Then I put the folded papers into the box, put on the lid, hide the box and WALK AWAY. I go about my business for the day, doing the next right thing no matter what that is, whether it is laundry or taking the dog for a walk or doing my work or going to Mass or whatEVER.

If I find my mind drifting back to the problem, I take out the notebook and pen and blech it up onto the paper again. I say the prayer again. I put it back in the Jesus Box again. I walk away AGAIN.

Jesus told St. Faustina that the biggest mistake we creatures make is not taking ALL of what we have to HIM…Usually, we THINK we are, but what we are doing is petitioning Him for something (please change my husband’s heart, please help me at my job, etc etc).

I know this probably seems silly, but it has helped me to grow spiritually and I pass it on to you - with love.:thumbsup:


Very good advice. You had lots of romance and knight-rescues the damsel and fireworks. When the dragon is gone, you both may be wondering what comes next? Marriage does have it’s ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and dry periods.

The Marriage Encounter suggestion that your Priest gave, have you scheduled one? You might also look into Retrouville (my spelling is wrong I’m sure…)

I would suggest Matthew Kelly’s “The Seven Levels of Intimacy” - a Catholic author. Seems you both need to - as the book puts it - remember your story.


Hi Mary,

I’m sorry to hear how things are going. I can relate to the family thing with your husband. My husband listens to his too much. I don’t have words of advice, I’m too young and just married last yr. But I did want to share something with you. Have you ever heard of Retrouvaille? I read you mentioned the priest said something about a marriage encounter. From what you wrote here, it sounds like Retrouvaille would help a lot.

My husband and I are of different faiths and it has become a huge problem between us, so big, to the point where we were ready to call it quits, until we found Retrouvaille.

Retrouvaille is for couples with serious problems, and I swear, if your husband and you would give Retrouvaille a chance, you wouldn’t regret it.

Check the site out This will show you great communication techniques that could change your marriage forever. I’ve heard of couples here who were even divorced, that went to retrouvaille and got remarried. Please, read the site. Maybe this could help you both work out your marriage. Just to tell you, one couple that went when I attended, was on the verge of divorce and sounded as if they had similar problems as yours, they had been married for 18 yrs and HATED each other (those were their words), they came out as if they were newlyweds.

After just 2 wks of going to Retrouvaille, my husband and I have managed to communicate like normal people and cannot believe the results. We are so different than 2 wks ago. All it takes is determination and to keep attending Retrouvaille until the post-sessions end.

My prayers are with you and your family.


Here are links for more resources to restore your marriage.

**Courage to Love **A twelve step program for couples in troubled marriages. 708.246.4866
Retrouvailleis a weekend for couples with troubled marriages. 1.800.470.2230
**Recovery Marriage Encounter **This special experience, for couples in recovery, is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Open to couples in all 12-step recovery programs, this non-denominational weekend is spiritual, not religious. Jim or Colleen H. 847.695.4855 Jacob or Barbara C. 847.639.4192 Redefining the power of two. Offering proven relationship skills and ideas for couples seeking a fulfilling and long lasting relationship. 847.581.9444 [LEFT]**WESOM **Support for couples affected by infidelity. 773.792.7034[/LEFT]


So he went to our priest and told him the many things he’s done wrong and how he has hurt me so deeply. I expected the priest to guide him through a confession, offer a penance directed to the issue, reccomend certain prayers or saints readings, and to want a follow-up to hold him accountable for it. None of that happened. He and our friend are priests. The priest was dissapointed because he thought our marriage was so strong. He didn’t want to face it. So they went out to eat pizza and the priest said nothing else to him except that he should try to get me to go to a Marriage Encounter weekend. Then they talked about baseball and the priest gossiped about other parish families as if my husband hadn’t said any of it.

In all honesty, I would give this priest a piece of my mind. If their friendship is in the way of this priest giving good counsel, he should be advised of it. :frowning:

Who knows, maybe this priest will realize that what he counsel’s about marriage effects both spouses, if he’s not in the proper position to counsel then it would be advisable for him to recommend another counselor.


This post says all that I was thinking. He gave you the warning before you married, but you chose to ignore it and “fight for us.” Another name for that is forcing the situation. Why do women do this? Why don’t more women hold out for the guy who is DYING to marry them and would move Heaven and Earth to make it happen? We deserve that!

I can offer you nothing but prayers, MissMary, that perhaps your husband will learn to take seriously the commitment he made. But being married to a mama’s boy is just so impossible in so many ways. He obviously does not respect you or value you…if he did nothing would be able to induce him to treat you this way. I sincerely hope that God’s grace and your prayers will help him change.

To any other women reading this thread…cautionary tale! Beware of the guy who is “just not that into you” no matter what the reason. If he’s not at the point where he truly can’t live without you, don’t marry him. Forcing it never turns out well.

Oh yeah, and I agree that the priest is not doing his job. He needs to be reported to his superiors, not only for so egregiously failing to even try to serve your family, but for gossiping about parish families. And, you should try to find another priest to help you with this.


Agree with many posters here - prayers for your strength and courage to get through this. We are so sorry for you both.

Agree with Retroauville - and get your priest to suggest it to him since he seems to be listening to him. And I would talk to the priest too - he should be counseling you both or lead you to some good counseling available locally.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of siblings (yours or his) that you are close to, or even good friends, who can speak to him on your behalf. Good mentors are very helpful and can offer just as much good marital advice that may help your husband.

Good luck and God Bless you both. May St. Joseph watch over your family and bring you peace and comfort soon.


There is always hope. My wife and I were discussing our impending (no way to stop it) divorce when we met the Couples for Christ (CFC). That was 9 years ago…we are stronger than ever now. The children have gotten spiritually stronger through the CFC-Youth and CFC-Kids…God is Good. Not only did he restore our relationship, he has made us a family which lives to serve him … but that’s another story…


Thank you all so far for the prayers and advice. I particularly like the Jesus box.

You are right that mine is a cautionary tale. I had a guy who loved me and would move heaven and earth for me. He was a strong, practicing Catholic. He had such passion and life in him. When he changed, I held onto the guy I had fallen in love with. I based my knowledge of him off of what I had known for years, so I trusted his promise to continue working on himself. I shouldn’t have trusted the word of someone I no longer knew. I should have waited to see him do it. I honestly believe that we would not be where we are now had we married a year earlier or a year later. Some days, frequently now, I believe I would be far happier if we hadn’t married at all.

But now I am here and there is no point in wondering how things might have been different. I can only look forward. I took that online self-test for depression. It gave me an 8 for mild depression. Said I should eat healthy and exercise and if things get worse consult a doctor. My husband took it and got a 3. It said that isn’t associated with depression. He doesn’t have any sense of guilt that is weighing on him. He sleeps well and goes about his life. I sometimes wonder if there is something demonic at work because it seems so unnatural to change so drastically and to have no sense of wrongdoing. The doctor said it isn’t medical.

I haven’t looked into the Marriage Encounter weekend because he and the priest both said it is for me, not for us. My husband would come to support me while I grew. Because of the priest’s explanation to him, I know it will be a failure. I can’t handle that right now. It would really push me over the edge. I also doubt any advice coming from him will benefit us. I haven’t ever heard of Retrovaille or Couples for Christ. I will look into them. I would really like for him to find a strong Catholic married man to be a mentor. I think that would make the biggest difference. I’ve heard of a program called That Man is You that my friend has at his parish. I’ve tried to muster support to bring it to our parish, but it isn’t there.

It use to be if he was late, I could assume his mother had called him and offered him “his favorite” food or dessert if he’d come spend time with her. It isn’t like we weren’t there almost every day as it was. He thankfully saw the problem with that and set boundaries with them, spending most of his time at home. He read a book called Toxic In Laws and saw his mom in it, so he changed what he was doing. He didn’t change most of the acompaning thought processes, but the change in actions was still huge. Now when he isn’t home, I can assume that the priest has called him up and they are working on some project and going out to eat. At least the between three years he was with me and our son! He doesn’t see the parallel. Sometimes I identify with the books and exercises for couples affected by infidelity. I go through so many of the same issues of lack of trust, security, communication. He only identifies the negative of day to day life with me while he goes and spends his fun time with other people. First his family, now our priest. The other night I found him locked in the car at midnight to talk to him! Father called to see how he is doing and ask for some help on a project. Why couldn’t he have that conversation in the house at a decent hour? Is it wrong for me to be jealous of a priest’s friendship with my husband? I don’t even want to go to church anymore over it. The next closest parish is 3.5 hours away, so yet again I’m stuck. I sometimes wish he were having an affair because everyone knows that is bad and there are books and programs available to work through it. There isn’t a book that says, “Don’t let your husband spend time with your priest.” Unfortunately, the bishop is aware of our priest’s struggles and that’s why he was assigned to our little parish. The priest is contemplating leaving the priesthood and the faith. He’s fighting a lot of demons.

Cautionary tale #2: If your priest talks to your husband more than you do, don’t foster their relationship. I thought it was a good thing because he needed that mentor. That’s exactly what he got! Now I know he needs a holy man as a mentor, and a holy mentor wouldn’t treat him like a buddy. Our priest wanted my husband as that holy mentor he is needing, and they were both weak enough that they brought each other down even lower. Sometimes I wish God would whap their heads together and send them back to their respective houses to do what they vowed to do. Why are holy men so hard to come by?


I’m so sorry you two are going through this. Firstly, you are struggling to keep a marriage together and secondly, your husband is subjected to a priest that is, by the actions you describe, enabling the distruction of your marriage.

My prayers are with you.

I still suggest giving the priest a piece of your mind.



I have been tempted to tell Father exactly what I think. The Holy Spirit has held my tongue many times over the last year. I know that he does hear many of the same complaints from other people about his poor counsel, his bad teachings, and his lack of responsibility. I know he is a very weak man who needs many prayers. I also know my witness to him sends a stronger message than my angry words.

If my husband would put his priorities in order and tell him so, it would be the witness our priest also needs. There is something about it coming from another man that makes it different and admirable. I just read something on the Couples for Christ website in dhgray’s signature. It said that the condition of families determines the condition of society. I know that Pope Pius XIII said the same thing. My husband has the opportunity to live out this truth. He hasn’t decided to do it so far but if he does I know it will create a dynamic change in our house and our parish.


Hi MissMary,

I am praying for you guys and your situation. It reminds me so much of what my dh and I went through when we were at the 3 year mark of our marriage. I am the convert and the one who let her parents get in the way of the marriage. It got so bad for us that my dh moved out for a month. Thankfully, we were both too bullheaded to pursue the big-D. The threat was thrown around enough.

There is hope. Please do not despair. Loving your husband is a decision. It sounds like you are doing an excellent job of it. From your posts, I wish I were able to exhibit patience and kindness like you do.

I agree with the advice of Retrouvaille. We haven’t done the program. Somehow, God miraculously put us back in the same chapter of the same book as far as our marriage goes.

The only other advice that I could offer is to have mass offered for your husband and your marriage. Get the holy souls praying for you, too. They have been so good to us and to all who remember them.

Like I said, do not despair. That is the Enemy working on you and your dh. God is allowing you two to be tested in this way to help you strengthen your faith and marriage. If you give up home, the Enemy will win this little battle.

God bless you.


Dear MaryMac,

I am so sorry to hear of the challenge you are facing in your marriage and with your pastor. Please know that while reading your thread, I have already sent prayers up for you.

While everything I have learned about Retrouvaille tells me it would be excellent for you and your situation, I would recommend that if your husband is reluctant but is willing to go to Marriage Encounter, I’d go with him to Marriage Encounter and to do so immediately. I have heard of many a spouse going to Retrouvaille with no intention of getting anything out of it, only to find that they come away changed in the way the deal with their spouse. Retrouvaille is an evolved form of Marriage Encounter designed for couples whose marriages are in serious trouble, so if you can get those results from one, you might well get similar results from the other.

Also, from what you describe, while I can appreciate the extreme sadness you must feel at being emotionally abandoned, it sounds like there is still some healthy communication between the two of you. Build on this while it’s still there and get to Marriage Encounter now. Don’t worry that his expectation is that it’s just for you. If he was smart enough and willing enough to be sufficiently honest with himself that he recognized that his mom was toxic to your relationship, trust that he will be equally able to see how this friendship is preventing him from being open to you emotionally.

In the meantime, pray that God will soften your heart towards this priest of yours. He is a sinner, just like the rest of us, and perhaps even a weak priest. You may have an opportunity to help him reclaim his priesthood. If you can find your love of him as a priest you may be able to have a conversation with him in charity that will help him to see how his failure to counsel his friend when he actually took the risk of opening up to him was a serious situation. As a priest, he is in a unique position to have an impact on the marriages of others, and in this case, it was someone he claims to care about, his friend. And he let his friend down when he failed to recognize that this was not a “hey bud, what’cha think, my wife’s unhappy”, but rather a heartfelt cry for help, from someone who has hidden his pain for a very long time, and finally, in a moment of desperation reached out for help from a trusted friend.

If you can find it in yourself to connect with the Christ that resides in this priest, and stay focused on something you love about him while you are talking to him, he should be able to see the truth that you share with him about how he has let you down. But if you don’t flood this conversation in charity, starting from you and remaining in you, it will have little likelihood of going well.

To further increase the odds of it going well, I’d suggest you do a novena, with gentle fasting before taking this to the priest. There are many excellent novina’s available, perhaps one to St. Joseph would be appropriate as he is the Patron Saint of Fathers and Husbands.

I will keep you in prayer.

God Bless,



I would like to suggest that you make that 3.5 hour trip monthly for Confession. I don’t think that you should confess to your priest, given the circumstances. I would also suggest you seek counseling for yourself. I am a therapist, and I hear a lack of self worth and self care in your messages.You need to focus on yourself and your son now. You can’t change what your husband is or is not doing. Pray for him and pray that God’s will be done for both of you. Don’t ask God to “fix” your marriage or your husband, just pray for His will. Put yourself and your family completely into God’s hands. Romans 8:28 tells us that “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” You can’t do better than to trust it all to the Father and begin to put yourself back together.


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