Yesterday, couples across this country got engaged, married, and professed their undying love for one another. And then, today, some of them woke up and thought, “What’s next?” Sure, there is wedding planning, honeymooning, back to life as usual, with the candy that has been eaten, flowers in the vases, knees iced and feet soaking after all of the dancing. But really, “What’s next?”
Last weekend Reggie and I attended Family Life ‘s Weekend to Remember conference and I have been posting about it all week because it made such a significant impact on my life and how I approach marriage. See, Reggie and I attended this conference while we were engaged. And I highly recommend that. We took notes, did the assignments, and felt prepared and equipped to go into marriage. We still quote sayings we learned. For example, when one of us realizes that an argument is going downhill, we remind the other that “I am not your enemy.” Stops us dead in our tracks. But, back then, we were enthralled with one another, still starry-eyed, looking out for one another’s best interests and focused on pleasing and encouraging one another. We were in the middle of wedding planning, excited about the future, and did not think that some of the things they talked about would apply to us (after abstaining before marriage, there would be times afterwards when we would not want sex? Really???!). But, 8 years and 3 children later…
Let me tell you. Family Life knows what they are talking about. They can answer the question “What’s next?”. The conference covers the gamut, from identifying 5 threats to marriage to learning how our different communication styles can make communicating frustrating (he ‘lands the plane”, I ‘enjoy the ride” when telling a story- I often ask him to tell me the “girl” version of a story if I want details …see, I did it then :D). There are sessions on what it means to be “one” in marriage, intimacy, conflict resolution, how to thrive, how your marriage affects generations to come, and even one session when the men and women separate to address issues specific to husbands and wives. There are personal assignments, couple projects and a built-in date night (conveniently placed after the talk on intimacy). Thoughtful, engaging, thorough, well-organized, and beautiful. And the resources to help you after the conference are plentiful. It is not a one and done situation if you do not want it to be.
But, we have all attended conferences that leave us inspired, but very little change occurs afterwards, for various reasons. So, how has it made a difference to me?
Yesterday, my husband took our son and went to do laundry, then went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for me. He returned with a different jelly than I would buy, and I almost told him. Almost. Two weeks ago, I probably would have, but, “Often the difference between a successful marriage and mediocre one consists of leaving about three or four things a day unsaid.” – Harlan Miller
Y’all. He did the laundry (which he does all of the time so I don’t have to lug everything to the laundromat), then went to the grocery store, while using it as an opportunity to spend some quality time with our son. And I was about to criticize a jelly choice? Girl, please.
We attended a celebration of marriage at our church last night (great food, live music, dancing and child care?? Yes. Please.) After arriving at home, he took his clothes off, laid them on the bed, and began the process of putting our children to bed, because this is his special time with our children. I came in our room, noticed his clothes, and the “old me” would have 1.) complained or 2.) left them right where they are. But I remembered that acts of service is one of his love languages. And I gladly – yes – gladly, hung his clothes in the closet, and had more joy and peace than if I would have been ornery. But, you know what? After thanking me, he politely asked me where to put the basket of shoes I left out. Yeah. I would have blown it.
I am sure there are many more seemingly “small” incidents throughout the week I could recount, how he encouraged me when I criticized myself, how we intentionally prayed more than our cursory “Lord bless…”, how we realized that even though we both forgot to write our Valentine’s Day letters to one another, there is always tomorrow, since we will still love each other tomorrow, so neither of us (mainly me) needs to be offended (or stressed).
Yes, I would say that this conference was well work the investment. There were couples from all walks of life – pre-married, newly married (3 weeks in), young marrieds, empty nesters, and one couple who was 48 years strong. But all striving for the same thing.
It’s funny, ironic. We began this year saying that the last 2 years of our lives have been about survival, and this year we want our lives to be characterized by thriving. That is the focus of this conference. That marriages would not just survive, but thrive. I’m ready. Are you?
If your marriage is doing well or struggling, if you are new in it, or well-seasoned, go. This is what’s next. Please. Go. Family Life hosts them in various locations throughout the country and different times of the year. It is so worth it. You – your spouse – your family is so worth it. Please. Go.