The relationship between Sean and I, like all couples like to affirm, is unique. We got married when I was 21 and he was 24, he had just returned from a working year in Norway and I had just completed my first year in theology, he was bearded with scruffy surfer’s hair and I was clean and caffeinated.

People said things would change, that living together would be a huge adjustment and that the first two years of marriage would be the hardest, but to be honest none of that really phased us nor was it our experience. We spent more time with singles than we did with other couples, we had numerous people staying in our home for extended periods of time and our weekends consisted of late night movies, sleepovers on the floor and Catan. All of that changed when we moved to PE…

Port Elizabeth is a beautiful place with beautiful people, but it is very different from life in Cape Town. Making new friends who you can share life with is difficult, especially when all your time is engaged in work and ministry – and so it seemed that year 3 would be the one to introduce new challenges and trials into our relationship.

Evenings with friends and Catan sleepovers were exchanged for early nights in watching Modern Family and finding new 2 player board games (it must seem nerdy but Carcassonne is pretty good). Communication became more important than ever and keeping peace in the home (the virtue and the plant) became more difficult. We would get into arguments about silly issues of no consequence and things that really mattered were sidelined and ignored.

I remember hearing of how a few young couples got divorced that year, and feeling sore and sorry that such brokenness would come from love relationships. Consequently, it was on my radar of common occurrences in the world and so it worked its way to the forefront of my mind as something we could never let happen. Strange isn’t it, having a goal stated in the negative: not to get divorced. The more I thought about it, the more it worried me.

And then it occurred to me that so many people view marriage like this, “staying together equals success, divorce equals failure!” Unfortunately though, there are so many other worse ways of failing in marriage, and the only way we will notice them is if we change our goal of marriage to something far more positive and infinitely more important – glorifying God!

We don’t stay together so that we don’t get divorced but rather we are together to glorify God. Divorce is not the ultimate failure but rather withholding God’s glory in the way we live out our marriage is failure. It means that our marriage becomes so much bigger and so much more than just Sean and I; our entire lives, the way we interact with one another, share life with others, model marriage and love, teach forgiveness in how we forgive, display love in the way we act, and acknowledge God in all we do – all of it contributes to the success of our marriage because it is in how we love and treat one another in community that we can give God glory.

Practically it means that we need to help one another be the best God-followers we can be, encouraging good practices, helping in love to iron out bad character flaws, and growing in a deep understanding and love for our Lord Jesus. For me it has meant being more supportive of Sean’s out-the-box ideas and hobbies and trusting him to make decisions I might not agree with. For Sean it has meant giving up his time and weekends without complaining to support me in the time-consuming ministries I am involved in. I have had to work on my willingness to be intimate; Sean has had to work on the way he communicates love to me. There are many character flaws we face every day, but it is the goal of glorifying God and not ourselves or each other that helps us to change and be better.

And so for us, we are not working toward a long term future goal of 50 years together (as wonderful as that would be), but rather we are working toward a very imminent reality that we can glorify God today in our marriage and make year 4 a success every day!


Sean is an engineer concurrently working and studying towards his PHD in renewable wind energies at NMMU. His interests also include surfing, kite-surfing, RC planes and designing interesting things with his best friend Greg.

Jade is the associate youth pastor at Trinity Baptist Church and spends most of her time teaching the Bible to teenagers and young adults. Her interests also include music, media and coffee

[To read the next story of Marriage Year 4 with Emma and Willie Cocklin, click here]