Category: marriage


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Today we celebrate the Marriage of my best mate Rob Lloyd and his wife Nicky.

We continue to mourn the loss of a dear friend, a husband, a brother, a son, a mentor, a pastor, a worship leader, an ultimate frisbee player, a model of generosity, a voice of reason and hope and faith and so much more. Continue reading

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I have often said that ‘Being Married to the Right Person’ is one of the best things in the World’ and I hold by that.

Not the easiest though. Or the most comfortable necessarily.

A large percentage of the people I know who have gotten married typically go through some kind of marriage counselling or preparation before the wedding day happens. Dealing with conflict and putting a budget together and decision-making and things like that.

Then the wedding day happens and it is like a fairly young child being thrown in to a swimming pool with the genuine belief that it will be okay and pick up swimming. Except maybe with even less supervision or the sense that if something goes wrong there is already someone in the pool or someone more than ready to dive in to rescue.

Kind of like how we put so much focus on the wedding day as if that was the big event as opposed to a huge celebration signifying the beginning of a big event. The wedding is not the thing. The marriage is the thing. And it sometimes feels like we don’t put enough emphasis on that.

The idea of ‘Marriage Counselling’ once someone is married is typically reserved for a moment of huge crisis or last resort.

Marriage, like money or sex, tends to be something we typically don’t speak a lot about, especially when things are a bit of a struggle or really going wrong, even with our closest friends. Because there is a shame factor. If my marriage is struggling then something must be wrong with me. So we tend to walk that road alone and do our best to figure things out with our partner and hope for the best.

What I want to suggest though is that this is a Taboo Topic that could really use a lot more conversation. It needs to be healthy conversation and it needs to be safe for both us and our partner and so we have to be clever about how we go about it.

I also want to suggest that Marriage Counselling within a marriage can be the most helpful thing . It doesn’t have to be only when things are falling apart, but can be a helpful way of helping you as a couple steer yourselves in a healthier direction, by picking up on blind spots that may be causing conflict or by giving you tools to help you to live together in a way that helps you serve each other better. In a way that helps you both to shine.

Let’s be honest – the commitment to spend the rest of your life living with someone else, sharing their space and your money and your bodies and more is an enormous thing. We should definitely be giving it a lot  more attention than most of us do. Learning from those who have successfully journeyed for a number of years and inviting a professional to sit with us and help guide, direct and counsel feel like two very powerful ingredients for a successful marriage.

tbV and I have benefitted from spending some time with an excellent counsellor – having someone who was on both of our sides who helped create a safe space for us to be able to work through some difficult things. Someone who helped suggest structures, rhythms and equip us with some tools to be able to do this marriage thing better. We have seen the results in our relationship.

I can highly recommend it. And am hoping to share some stories here from others who have experienced a similar thing. Don’t wait until you’re standing right on the edge of a cliff before calling out for help.

Taylorraephotography.com

Photo courtesy of Taylorraephotography.com

I’ll be the first to tell you that I suck at marriage. Let me give you an example.

A few weeks ago we were sitting on a bench outside a perfect little neighborhood boulangerie in Australia, eating pain au chocolat in the sunshine when Jonathan told me he was thinking of applying to grad school so that he could potentially start a program when we return from Korea. “What do you think?” he asked me.

Do you know what the first thing out of my mouth was? I’ll give you a hint – it wasnt “I think that’s great and I support you in your dreams of getting your Masters,” and it wasnt “Where do you want to apply? Let’s start thinking about how we could make that work.” It was (imagine this with an extremely whiny voice), “But if you start grad school right away we won’t have time to do any traveling after our contract is over because you will have to go back right away for school, and traveling is basically the entire reason I came to Korea!” I actually said that. While we were sitting on a sunny bench on an idyllic tree-lined street in the trendy part of SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.

I suck at Marriage, but my Marriage doesn’t suck – Lily Dunn

Of course, when I came to my senses later I apologized sincerely for how selfish and spoiled and inconsiderate I’d been. But the point is…that’s still the stupid first thing that came out of my mouth. Everyone knows that one of the first rules of relationships is to show support of the other person’s dreams and goals. But seven years into this relationship and I still can’t seem to manage that simple task. I think we can all agree that this was a fail.

*****

Sometimes I really suck at marriage. I have unrealistic expectations. I am moody and unpredictable. I am unsupportive. I am bossy. I am lazy. I am inconsiderate. I am whiny. I am demanding. I am terribly selfish. Jonathan is mostly perfect, but every once in a blue moon he loses patience with me too. He hurts my feelings. He pulls away because I’ve become too prickly to handle. We are broken people and we fail to love each other well in so many ways.

 And yet, we have an extraordinary, impossibly beautiful marriage.

*****

We aren’t the oldest and most experienced of married couples. We don’t have a perfect marriage. But we’ve learned some things along the way. We’ve learned we don’t believe in molding our marriage to meet anyone else’s expectations. Everyone seems to have an opinion – that we got married too young, that we should have kids by now, how our home should be run, who should be “in charge.” And we shake our heads and laugh. Because we aren’t interested in what anyone else thinks our marriage should look like. We aren’t interested divvying up our roles according to some chart or in having children based on someone else’s timeline, and we couldn’t care less about who is “in charge.” People say, “You’ve been together since you were nineteen? Aren’t you afraid that you’ve lost who you are?!” And we laugh again. Because we haven’t lost who we are. Together we are becoming the people we are meant to be.

Because our marriage isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about who’s pulling their weight or who’s in charge or who’s loving the best. It’s about heaping grace on one another until our marriage is dripping with it. It’s about soaking in that grace, from God and from each other, becoming so heavy with it that it overwhelms our disappointments, our failures, our hidden ugliness. It’s the kind of grace that changes us.

Our marriage is about understanding that every day of our lives together we are living out a miracle. It’s the miracle we wrote in our wedding vows, “I choose you, today and every day…” The miracle is not just that we fell in love when we were nineteen. And it isn’t just that we made these vows four Junes ago. The miracle is that when I come home from work each night Jonathan wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him again when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two broken, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of love on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for seven years, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

Sometimes I suck at marriage. But my marriage doesn’t suck.

Of course, when I came to my senses later I apologized sincerely for how selfish and spoiled and inconsiderate I’d been. But the point is…that’s still the stupid first thing that came out of my mouth. Everyone knows that one of the first rules of relationships is to show support of the other person’s dreams and goals. But seven years into this relationship and I still can’t seem to manage that simple task. I think we can all agree that this was a fail.

*****

Sometimes I really suck at marriage. I have unrealistic expectations. I am moody and unpredictable. I am unsupportive. I am bossy. I am lazy. I am inconsiderate. I am whiny. I am demanding. I am terribly selfish. Jonathan is mostly perfect, but every once in a blue moon he loses patience with me too. He hurts my feelings. He pulls away because I’ve become too prickly to handle. We are broken people and we fail to love each other well in so many ways.

 And yet, we have an extraordinary, impossibly beautiful marriage.

*****

We aren’t the oldest and most experienced of married couples. We don’t have a perfect marriage. But we’ve learned some things along the way. We’ve learned we don’t believe in molding our marriage to meet anyone else’s expectations. Everyone seems to have an opinion – that we got married too young, that we should have kids by now, how our home should be run, who should be “in charge.” And we shake our heads and laugh. Because we aren’t interested in what anyone else thinks our marriage should look like. We aren’t interested divvying up our roles according to some chart or in having children based on someone else’s timeline, and we couldn’t care less about who is “in charge.” People say, “You’ve been together since you were nineteen? Aren’t you afraid that you’ve lost who you are?!” And we laugh again. Because we haven’t lost who we are. Together we are becoming the people we are meant to be.

Because our marriage isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about who’s pulling their weight or who’s in charge or who’s loving the best. It’s about heaping grace on one another until our marriage is dripping with it. It’s about soaking in that grace, from God and from each other, becoming so heavy with it that it overwhelms our disappointments, our failures, our hidden ugliness. It’s the kind of grace that changes us.

Our marriage is about understanding that every day of our lives together we are living out a miracle. It’s the miracle we wrote in our wedding vows, “I choose you, today and every day…” The miracle is not just that we fell in love when we were nineteen. And it isn’t just that we made these vows four Junes ago. The miracle is that when I come home from work each night Jonathan wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him again when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two broken, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of love on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for seven years, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

Sometimes I suck at marriage. But my marriage doesn’t suck.

[To read more of Lily’s writing, make sure you check out her blog, ‘Such Small Hands: Searching for Purpose and finding Grace’]

Photo courtesy of grainandcompass.com

Photo courtesy of grainandcompass.com

[To read the next Marriage Year 5 post by Lindsay and Nate Brown, click here]

[To return to the beginning of the series and get glimpses from 45 years of marriage, click here]

For this final part of my series on lies I believed about sex I want to talk about the false expectation many people are given that because sex is intended for marriage, as soon as you get married you will be able to fully express yourself sexually without experiencing guilt or shame. Of the four things I touched on in my Relevant article, this was the one people seemed to resonate with the most.

Many of us who were raised in Christian communities heard some version of this line in an attempt to convince us that sex before marriage wasn’t worth the potential baggage. We were told stories of people who had sex before marriage and how this negatively affected their sexual relationship with their spouses. The message was clear. If you don’t wait, you are setting yourself up for heartache in your future sex life. If you wait, you will enter marriage guilt and shame-free and be able to enjoy sex the way God intended.

I’m not saying that this isn’t true to some extent. I’m incredibly grateful that my husband and I haven’t had any sexual experiences apart from one another. I think it’s a sweet and sacred part of our relationship and I love knowing that it is something we two have uniquely shared only with each other. But in many cases, our hyper-vigilant attitude towards pre-marital sex is very hard to shake once we’re married and it can take a great deal of time to get over the emotional barriers we put in place before marriage.

My struggle with guilt and shame wasn’t because I went into marriage believing that sex was dirty. I had been told since I was a teenager that sex was intended to be a beautiful thing. But when you spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it or being afraid of it, it’s hard not to let those experiences override simple statements like, “Sex is intended as a beautiful thing.”

If you think about it from a basic psychological standpoint, it makes no sense for us to expect people to be able to make such a huge change all in one instant. Many Christians have spent years – from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day- focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then suddenly, in the space of just a few hours, they expect to be able to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that –but express it freely with another person.

Many of us have programmedourselves to feel guilt towards sexual feelings – this is how we keep ourselves in check throughout our dating relationships. But that “red light” feeling we train ourselves to obey doesn’t always go away just because we’ve spoken some vows and signed some papers. I have always enjoyed having sex with my husband, but it still took me several months to stop having that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling every time we were together.

As bizarre as it seems, I was actually embarrassed that I was no longer a virgin. Even though the whole reason for being a virgin was to enter marriage as a virgin, it had become such a crucial part of my identity that it was hard for me to give up. I had to tell myself over and over, “It’s ok. You aren’t supposed to be a virgin anymore.” But there was a part of me that was sure people were looking at me differently. If losing my virginity before marriage would have made me “like a piece of chewed up gum”, unsuitable for my future husband, how was losing my virginity to my husband supposed to feel different? Wasn’t I just my husband’s chewed up gum? (This is one of many disturbing and objectifying analogies I’ve heard before about why it’s important to save yourself for your spouse.)

Not everyone experiences these feelings,but for the many people who do, it is terribly isolating. Because, once again, we are experiencing something our churches and communities never acknowledged as a possibility. And we feel alone and broken and filled with a profound sense that this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.

Several people commented on my original article to say, “This is why you shouldn’t wait. Why would anyone want to live that way? It sounds like this totally ruined your ability to enjoy sex.”

I would say to those people that the problem isn’t with the waiting. Waiting, in and of itself doesn’t cause any of this. The problem is this huge gap between how we talk to teenagers and young adults about sex, purity, and abstinence and the expectations we put on marital sex. My husband’s and my difficulties in our sexual relationship stemmed largely from taking what we’d been taught about sex as teenagers and trying to apply it to a marriage.

The problem is two-fold. First, I think our churches need to re-examine how they communicate with teenagers and young adults about this (which I touched on in Part 2) and secondly, churches need to find a way to address the gap between “Don’t do that,” as a young single person and “Sex is the greatest” as a married person. In many churches, there is no mature discussion of sex directed at adults and no conversation whatsoever about how we move from the way we treat sex as singles to the way we’re meant to treat sex as married adults. By not addressing it, we act like this transition will happen naturally, leaving a lot of people isolated, hurt and confused when it doesn’t.

We need to start doing the hard work of addressing these issues instead of ignoring them.

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]  

 [To catch up on the rest of this series, click here]

jackie

We got married on the 28th of November 2009.
Best decision ever.

Seriously.

We have both loved being married and will often wonder how we got to be so blessed.
There were a few things we decided on early in our marriage that has made a world of difference, and we have practiced them ever since.

Firstly… We decided to never leave the ‘honeymoon stage’. Everyone around us who heard how happy we were kept saying things like “that’s so sweet… You’re just in the honeymoon stage.” As though there would be a time when suddenly we didn’t love each other so much and wouldn’t have such fun being married.

The honeymoon stage ends because you choose to not see the other person like that anymore. We decided early on that we will actively choose to be madly in love with each other every single day. We climb into bed every night snuggle up and say to one another, “I’m so grateful for you. You rock my world. I love you.” Or something equally mushy… And we mean it.

The second thing we decided that in communication, if something could be taken in two ways… One of which isn’t so nice… Then we choose to hear the nice version. We believe that neither of us ever wants to actively hurt the other. So if something hurtful was said it was either done by mistake or out of a place of tiredness or personal hurt. This prevents so many arguments before they even start, and allows for gentle conversations of “you said this and it really hurt me…. Are you ok?” Which is a very different angle to accusation.

Lastly, we keep no record of who does or gives what. We actively try to out-give each other, and graciously accept what the other does for us. With both of us working full time and with a baby now, this is especially true. It’s never a case of ‘well I did the dishes so you must…’ Rather we see what needs to be done and both do it so that we actually get to bed… sometimes before midnight! Tim’s mantra (a bit tongue in cheek) is “Happy wife, Happy Life!”

We realise, reading back over that, that it sounds awfully starry-eyed and idealistic…. Maybe we are still in the Honeymoon phase! But by God’s grace we will work exceptionally hard to stay there because it’s worth it. Before we got married we were told over and over how much hard work it was and how much you struggle with each other and how difficult it was… To the point where we wondered why anyone would want to get married!!!

While there is work involved it is work that keeps us happy and in love and having fun – and what could be better than that?

[To read the next Marriage Year 5 post by Lily and Jonathan Dunn, click here]

alexaandcharles

Things that I wish I could say to my single friends….

When I saw Brett request this I thought “pick me pick me”!  Then I started thinking about how to write this with honesty & candour but in a way which honours my husband, marriage and my friends.  I am so aware that I am still VERY new at this – Charles and I only got married 6 months ago (on the 9th November to be exact!).

  • I still need my girlfriends and my husband his mates!  Yes, we have entered into a new way of being, of living, of relating to others but I realised very quickly that people were “giving us space” to settle into being married.  4 weeks after getting married I had a dramatic declaration moment (read this as:  I wept and stated): I was missing my girls.  My husband needed guy time, I needed girl time – we are both aware that we can’t be everything to the other and are okay with that.

 

  • Please give us choices as to whether we are available or not – rather than assume not.  Rather than “giving me space” because I am married – which I value that you are considering, please still give me choices as to whether I can participate or not.  I nearly missed out on what has been one of my BIG adventures with girlfriends based on an assumption.  So grateful that I was given the choice after the friend realised this- but with the freedom to decline (This adventure had cost implications which needed to be budgeted for – and we could budget for this since we knew we had to!).

 

  • Everything is negotiated: This has been the hardest thing about getting married for me; my space isn’t MINE – I can’t control the noise, the different way we do things or the fact that our schedules are different which influences sleep, wake up and other stuff.  This is the part of marriage that has revealed my selfish, frustration and struggle to adapt at times!  In honouring Charlie, I can’t always express what details of the negotiation are– this doesn’t mean I am excluding you from my life.  When I do share this stuff it is really okay for you to express that being single is easier some days or to remind me that actually I chose this in choosing to get married and even though it’s hard would I choose to have my single status back – no.

 

  • I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be single BUT that doesn’t mean that I pity you, think that I am better than you or that I am trying to marry everyone around me off.  It also means that it’s okay to say THIS IS HARD and I will still get it.   One of my biggest bug bears was married people telling me repeatedly how hard marriage was when I expressed feeling loneliness rather than solitude.  (I got married at 39 – being single wasn’t an intentional choice for the most part – getting married was)

 

Most importantly I guess I wish I could tell my single friends how much I value and want them to be a part of my story; that at times I am less available than before for very practical reasons often and I know this is hard – I feel like a bad friend some days.  I want my single friends to know how much I love connection time, giggles, chats and tears time too.  I want them to know that it’s not about the SMug *smug marrieds club* or the singles club and that there is ALWAYS room for a cuppa tea on the couch (sofa) and a chat – some days we will need to negotiate the time though ;)!

Alexa and Charles Matthews met at church in Jozi– which still shocks Alexa as she thought that this may happen in her 20’s but really didn’t expect it to in her late 30’s!  18 months later, on a rainy day and with a lot of adventures in life (including long distance skype dating and relocations to Cape Town) & love –  they got married. 

[For some other thoughts on what other of my Married Friends would like their Single Friends to know, click here]

[For many other thoughts and stories on all sorts of relationshippy things, click here]

 

Lushaneandmarco

When I was young, I always dreamed of being married & having children.

Today I am a proud wife & mother of 2 beautiful boys. Its is only by the grace of God that we are now able to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary on the 1st May 2014.

As with any marriage, there are many challenges and yes most of them not easy, but even though we were caught up in our problems at those times, GOD was ever present.

We believe that things happen for a reason and so many times we look back and say to each other: “Wow, so that’s why that happened!”

When our beautiful sons were born we thought goodness this is what we always wanted but the scary part is that we thought that we didn’t have to keep learning things and school was over for us, but we were wrong! It only just began…haha. From ABC to projects…how nerve-wrecking, challenging and yet exciting to see the joy on their faces.

A wedding takes time to prepare, cost a pretty penny and only lasts for a day. A marriage however requires patience, love, kindness, forgiveness and best of all lasts a lifetime! And on the plus side it is so much more rewarding to have GOD in the centre of it ALL!

So this is to the partner God has picked out just for me; amazing, kind, loving & the best father our sons could ever ask for! Thank you for travelling this journey with me, I’m having the time of my life on this rollercoaster…yeah!

[For the next post in this series on Marriage through the years with Richard and Wendy Sumner, click here]

[To return to the start of this series and take a look at Marriage through many years, click here]

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