Invest Earlier. Invest Intentionally.
Someone recently asked me why Lora and I host marriage retreats, classes and groups. My immediate answer was, "Because we want to encourage couples to intentionally invest in growing intimate marriages." Later, I thought about my response to my friend's question and, while it was a good and true answer, there's even a deeper reason why we host marriage enrichment events.
Let me tell you some of our story.
Our first year of marriage was so much fun and super easy. Lora was in her final year of graduate school and I had just started a new job in magazine publishing. We were involved in serving together and also had time to enjoy each other. Year two was more of the same and during year three we entered a new season: parenthood. Over the next seven years, our other three children were born and we were in full-on daddy and mommy mode. We loved being parents.
At the same time, unknown to us, we were developing some poor communication and conflict resolution patterns with each other. Resentment, bitterness and unspoken hurts were growing and we did not have the tools to talk about any of it in a healthy way. After a few years of just going through the motions and having sideways, unproductive and unhealthy conflicts, we finally reached out for help.
Between a small group of great friends and hours spent with several different counselors over a few years, we developed new awareness, skills and patterns to speak the truth to each other, to move toward each other instead of shutting down and to truly resolve conflict in a healthy matter. In other words, we learned to intentionally invest in our marriage.
I'm glad we did. But we lost a lot of time not dealing with what was going on and we missed out on enjoying each other more fully earlier.
I've often thought about what kept us from engaging earlier. I think it's the same reasons that a lot of marriages don't seek help:
We were unaware. At some level, we didn't realize how serious our negative patterns had become. Neither of us had a great vision for a healthy marriage, so we assumed what we were going through was normal.
We were scared. What would happen if we really told the truth? I was afraid that things might get worst instead of better.
We were prideful. For sure, I was. I often thought "what would people think if they knew our marriage needed help". At some point, my image was more important than I wanted to admit.
We were stubborn. After all, Lora had a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology and I was a pastor who frequently counseled others or was preaching about marriage. I figured I already knew anything that anyone would tell me.
Can you identify?
I have a lot of compassion for us during those years of marriage. I also have a lot of passion to see other marriages get the help they need . When your marriage gets stuck, make the wise choice and get help. There are a lot of ways you can do it: talk with a friend, find an older couple to mentor you, talk to a pastor or counselor, get away for a weekend together.
Whatever you do, don't ignore your marriage. Life is too short and your marriage is too precious. Intentionally invest in it. I promise there's a great return on that investment if you both will.