Dave and I first got engaged back in 2009. We had plans to marry the following year, but one thing lead to another and it was late 2011 before we actually tied the knot. While I was frustrated many times over at the circumstances and delay that forced us to hold off, I saw quite clearly on our wedding day the plans God had in store and his reasons for taking us down the [narrow and bumpy] path.
You see, the people we were on September 4, 2011, were very different than the couple we were back in 2009. Our entires lives had changed and together our focus shifted, our priorities changed and we saw marriage for what it truly was intended to be.
Our story is long winded and personal on many levels. But what I can tell you, is that my husband and I have been through what felt like hell and back and that it is only by a divine plan we made it through our first few years dating, then through our engagement period, to our wedding day. All odds were against us. But as I look back now, I see the stepping stones of that narrow path- the mercies and grace He revealed through people, resources and His word. I’m continuously humbled by how God continues to use our past circumstances for good and helping others.
Friends, don’t be fooled. No matter how pretty the picture now, marriage is hard work and you’re bound to hit rough patches through life’s journeys. I’m no therapist, but I can share from my personal experiences the things that have helped Dave and I conquer trials and come out the other side closer, more connected and grateful for each other- the things that gave us hope, gave us perspective and helped prepare us for future turbulence. Because as much as I love the party, and every piece of planning that goes along with it, it’s the integrity of marriage that moves my soul and is the heart of KME.
So today, I want to share with you 5 tools to building a stronger marriage; tools that Dave I personally used and can attest to their power and blessings!
1. The 5 love Languages
I could never understand why so many marriages failed. If we all know it’s hard going in and are prepared and expectant of such a reality, then why is divorce still tabled as an option? Shouldn’t it instead be thrown into the garbage like expired milk?! Perhaps it’s because we’re all such different creatures each with our set of idiosyncrasies, deep held desires and unique needs. We’re bound to be misunderstood, even by those who know us best.
It didn’t take long for us to realize, through reading The five love languages, that this indeed was the key to our society’s high divorce rate. These differences can most easily be explained metaphorically as “different language”- foreign ones that need interpretations, education and practice. And while I could divulge the nitty gritty, it would keep you from reading the book! What Dave and I discovered was a whole new way of loving each other- one that has us both feeling appreciated, understood and looked after!
2. Ten Conversations you should have before Marriage
For two very emotional and talkative individuals, we thought we had covered it all. We listened to friends and scoffed many times at their ridiculous antics and arguments of things we had worked through long ago. Truly we believed we were prepared and had worked out every detail of our picture perfect life. Anyone relate?!
So in turning the pages of this book simultaneously, “The Ten Conversations you should have before Marriage,” and working through the chapters discussion questions, we were humbled and slightly humiliated at our childish attempts to “discuss it all.” This book forced us to ask the tough questions, including what would happen if we had a child with special needs or one of us became paralyzed or had brain damage after a car accident, like this couple. We had never stopped to consider such possible realities!
It was certainly not easy but immensely worth it. I urge you to take the time and hash out these 10 critical conversations to have before marriage.
3. The Power of a Praying Wife/Husband
These books were suggested to us by friends. And truthfully, at the time of their suggestions, Dave and my prayer life was fairly measly. We had yet to understand the privilege and blessings of prayer, let alone start a routine of praying for each other.
But it was through these books and it’s disciplined practice that our hearts softened towards each other. With new eyes we saw each other needs and new empathy and mercy, that we treated and cared for each other willingly. It brought about a compassion we lacked prior and a feeling of unity; walking life’s path together, each of us as the others armour and warrior.
To this day, we continue to pray through these books. I even have a pocket version I carry in my purse, should something arise throughout the day and Dave texts me asking for prayer.
4. Marriage Prep
Honestly, I know that some of you are laughing. “Pre-paritial counselling? !” you say. “Isn’t that what they used to do in the olden days or what you do simply because the church says you have to?” I hear you and I used to think that way also. Honest. Dave and I were hesitant and reluctant to give this shot.
We decided on an intimate 8 week course, held at our home church CAC. And much to our chagrin we truly loved it! We looked forward to the humorous videos and how it so bluntly shared the different stages of marriage life. It revealed how different personalities interact and how to problem solve without reeking havoc on your relationship. We laughed our way through most sessions, while simultaneously hitting on some hot button issues we were able to address and solve with help.
We were grateful we stepped out in faith, despite how uncomfortable and unsure we were, to partake in a trusted pre-marital course.
5. Marriage Mentors
Mentors is a loaded word and to be honest, no marriage is perfect. So I use the term loosely. What I want to encourage you to do is find a couple, much older, who you can trust and feel open to being vulnerable with.
Dave and I have a few of these couples, who we’re able to come to with almost anything. From little to big, we share our hearts with our “mentors”, our frustrations with each other and discuss sometimes vary difficult and touchy subjects. They offer advice from personal experience and are many times the hope that keep us going. They encourage us to push forward through life’s rough patches, never judge us for our weaknesses and assure us we were truly not alone in our discoveries!
Remember though: these folks don’t just fall from the sky. It can take time to develop such trusted and honest friendship. But I promise, with a bit of persistent prayer for guidance and testing waters with conversation, God will bless you with a genuine couple who’ll make you feel at home in your every circumstance- maybe even embrace it!
While they’re no rocket science secrets, they’re honest, time tested tools. And I encourage you to give even just one a shot! What have you got to loose? Only something to gain! And if you feel so inclined, I’d love for you to share with me your favourite tool and how it’s helping to prepare you and your sweety for a lifetime of blessings in marriage.
Wishing you a marriage of perseverance, faith, love and abundant joy, friend!
Photos [top left, moving right] by Elizabeth Messina, Unknown, Paula O'Hara + Mel &Co.