It began like most other airplane conversations:
"What do you do for a living?" he asked. "My wife and I help couples to strengthen and protect their marriage" I replied. "Really?" My seat-mate seemed interested. "Yes, we teach skills and attitudes of the heart that couples can use to help themselves and to help others" I continued. Then came his memorable words, "It's really hard work, isn't it?" Internally, I thought to myself, "Yes it is. My own marriage is hard work, and it's hard to help others..."
Still, I wasn't sure if my new friend meant ministry to others or marriage itself. He clarified, "A few years ago my wife and I came to the point of decision about whether to continue or not. I decided that the grass wouldn't be greener on the other side of the fence...that there would be problems in any other relationship I might fantasize about, so I looked at myself, realized that I was selfish, and that I needed to learn to love and to serve. Today, after thirty-seven years our marriage is as good as it's ever been." Wow! I realized that 'on his own' this gentleman had discovered key truths about how to build and protect a healthy and pleasurable marriage. But he wouldn't take the credit.
"I've had some help" he explained. "From the man above, and from someone here. I look to God for my strength, and we went to a counselor. They taught us some things that we continue to use to communicate and resolve conflicts, but it takes willingness to work hard and to not be selfish. I get that strength from God."
Period. End of sentence, end of story. On their own, a couple struggling to stay together found the key ingredients to repair, strengthen and protect their marriage. And what they can do, any couple can do. Are you? Will you?
Where does this story find you today? In the midst of unimaginable marital bliss, the pit of despair, or somewhere in the middle, living in marital mediocrity convinced that it's as good as it gets.
- If your marriage is great, don't take it for granted. The best defense against your demise is a good offense. Actively work on your heart and polish your skills.
- If your marriage is in the pits, take heart that many other couples have recovered from pain and hopelessness. What one couple can do, you can do.
- If your marriage is mediocre, know that as long as flames are flickering that they can be fanned into warmer and prettier flames.
How does this story affect you? What do you think about it? How does it make you feel, and what desires does it awaken?
There might be an idea above that you can integrate into your relationship. Or, maybe you want some assistance. It's not a sign of weakness, but strength when couples ask for help. To many never ask, or ask too late...they ask after their ship has taken on so much water that it's hard to bail it before the ship begins to sink.
Our experience is that 90% of couples aren't aware of the state of the art in Marriage ministry and relationship education. The good news is that there is a body of information and set of skills that proves effective for the majority of couples that use them. Are you willing to learn? Willing to try?
Marriage appears to be under attack as never before. Even our own is under siege as the centrifuge of life tries to throw us apart, and more sinister forces (yes, we believe satan exists) actively attempts to put enmity between us. What can we do?
- Let your challenges be known. Ask for prayer and encouragement from others.
- Get some help. There are many good marriage counselors, and a growing population of Marriage Coaching couples (our ministry, Great Relationships has trained some of them).
- Take heart from testimonies of success, such as above.
Just as physical pain is indication of something wrong, relationship pain or even dullness is a sign that some adjustments are required. How can you adjust?
1. Grow your heart to love and serve.
2. Get skills to convey and demonstrate your heart.
Do you want more ideas? More help? Write or call for a complimentary consulation.
Blessings and hope,
Jeff and Jill