The Tune Up

Just like a high-performance sports car, due to the high tolerances in the machining of the engine and its internal parts, it requires more frequent review and “tuning up.”  I learned that as both a husband and a partner in a strong marriage, no matter how good things are going, it can always be better.

A Weekend to Remember

Faith’s Thoughts:

Terry and I registered for an event with the LOVED marriage group at our church. LOVED stands for Living Our Vows Every Day. We planned to both go, but Terry had a work commitment at the last minute which meant that he couldn’t come with me. I almost didn’t go to the LOVED event because I didn’t want to attend a marriage night without my husband. I’m glad I went because that night we won tickets to a Weekend to Remember® event. The LOVED marriage group has long promoted the Weekend to Remember®, so I was familiar with the name. I was excited to win the tickets and very grateful that Terry also wanted to go. It’s important to me that Terry is open to learning and growing as a husband and man.

We originally scheduled our weekend to remember as an anniversary get away in Ponte Vedra, FL. We couldn’t attend during our original date, so we had to reschedule. We ended up attending the event located in Orlando, FL at the Rosen hotel. The hotel and the conference room were great. There are so many couples there at many stages in their marriage and relationship. We learned later that some couples were on the verge of divorce and that weekend would either make or break their marriage. There were engaged couples and couples who were married for 40+ years who attended every year. There was even a couple who were married for just a few hours and decided to spend their honeymoon at the Weekend to Remember®.

The schedule was packed with couples’ sessions, sessions for husbands and wives separately and homework. The homework gave us discussion prompts and we were assigned to write out a game plan for pressing issues. There was an assigned date night. Terry and I went to BB King’s House of Blues which was right across the street from the hotel.

Terry had been married for over 20 years, but not to me. I had been married before and my parents were married throughout my childhood, however I had not seen a healthy marriage up close. When I did see a glimpse of what I thought might have been a healthy marriage, I was cynical about it. That’s why it was important to me that Terry was open to learning how to be married to me. My experience as a single mom most of my life made me very independent and a bit distrusting. Those are not qualities of a submissive woman and honestly, I was okay with that. The “For Women Only” session at the Weekend to Remember® was exactly what I needed. There we learned (or relearned) some things that husbands really need from wives. At the top of the list is: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (in my Aretha Franklin voice). I thought I respected Terry as a husband, but I learned in that session that some of the ways I communicated with him were demoralizing. It certainly wasn’t overt, Terry didn’t even complain about it; but I was convicted during that session to make a commitment to change. What I’m referring to is sarcasm (my second language).  I had to repent for disrespecting Terry with my tone. Even though Terry didn’t complain about my sarcasm, I know it’s disrespectful in nature. I learned in that session that unconditional respect is for men what unconditional love is for women. It’s safety and comfort. It gives you something to look forward to and it makes the place where it’s being given your favorite place to be. I want our home to be Terry’s favorite place to be and I want to be the person Terry wants to be around.

The Weekend to Remember® was exactly what the name says it is. A wonderful, memorable weekend growing closer to your spouse and recommitting to oneness. I hope that Terry and I can attend every year.

-Faith

The Tune-up

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

As someone who has a hidden love of mechanical devices, the one thing that I have learned over the years is that eventually, anything that runs will need eventually need a tune up.  The same thing can be said about a marriage; from time to time, it needs a tune up.  One of the first things that our marriage counselors (Kim and John Freeman) recommended was to participate in a Weekend to Remember® event shortly after our marriage or within the first 15-18 months of our marriage.  They insisted that the event would not only help strengthen our relationship, but it would also help us to see where we were and what we needed to work on moving forward.

I did some initial research into the program and was noticeably impressed on what I had read regarding the curriculum.  Yet, there was a part of me that was saying “I don’t need to do this.  I already know what type of husband I am and what type of wife Faith is.  We got this.”  I think everyone goes through a period of confidence (or over-confidence depending on your point of view) after getting married.  I was very confident that we had what it took to have a lasting marriage and we were still in the honeymoon phase.  All was good…or so I thought.

The moment we finally decided to go was after we won free admission to an event.  We had talked about it off and on over the past year.  We were originally scheduled to go in April of that year, but due to a last-minute change in the arrangements that we had made for Momma Liz, we had to reschedule for the event in June.  It worked out that the delay occurred in the same month that my mother passed, and we had plenty of challenges that we needed to face in the following months.  These challenges placed strains on our relationship that we did not expect to have to face for years to come.

When it came time to get ready for the event in June of that year, I was ready to get away from it all with my bride and to see what we needed to work on to improve our relationship/marriage.   The event was scheduled for Father’s Day weekend and was located in Orlando.  I felt that our marriage needed the additional attention that the event billed itself to be able to provide.  One of the things that I thought about the reason for going into the event was that we needed a tune up.   Not because we had been married for a long time and began to lose sight of each other, rather because we had been through an extremely stressful period in our lives and wanted to make sure that our “love engine” was still in perfect working order.

Just like a high-performance sports car, due to the high tolerances in the machining of the engine and its internal parts, it requires more frequent review and “tuning up.”  I learned that as both a husband and a partner in a strong marriage, no matter how good things are going, it can always be better.  Boy, was I ever correct in my evaluation of our situation!

We headed to our hotel room, checked in and prepared to go to the event.  The event was located at a conference center in a hotel on International Drive (I-Drive) and was the perfect location to be able to walk or a short drive to anything that we could imagine we could need (or want) to go.  Upon entering the conference center, we recognized that there were couples of various levels marriage.  From newlyweds (there was a couple that had gotten marriage a few hours before the event began) to couples that had been married 40+ years and had been coming to the event for a very long period of time.  There were couples whose marriages were in a state of despair/disrepair and this was their last chance to restore their relationship, to marriages that had been humming along since the beginning.  I knew that we were about to go back to school on how to have a great marriage.

As we went through the various sessions and exercises, I realized that although we had a good marriage, there were things that we could work on to go from good to better to excellent.  I was very surprised that over the course of the entire weekend, that we would learn things not only about each other, but ourselves.  We not only learned that there was so much more to being a great spouse but recognized that our faith in God was paramount to ensuring that our marriage would continue to be the best that He wanted it to be.  By the time Father’s Day arrived that Sunday, we became true believers in the benefits of the conference and made it our mission to help other couples experience the same joy and excitement that we experienced.  So much so, that we created our own group to help couples save on the cost of the conference.

In the end, I realized that no matter how much I had learned and experienced in my first marriage, I would need to refine my skills, faith and belief in God to help continue to elevate our marriage to the place that He wants it to be.  To this day, I continue to tell people how it impacted our marriage and relationship in such a positive manner.  For those who are interested in experiencing the Weekend to Remember®, please go to https://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember/ and search for the event closest to you.  If you use the registration code: 2ndTimeAround, you can save $100 on the registration fee.  Believe me, it is worth the time and money to help take your marriage to the next level.  I promise, you will not be disappointed and you will find your marriage taken to a new level.  If you take your vehicle to get a tune up regularly to keep it running smoothly, don’t you think your marriage is worth going to a Weekend to Remember® to keep it running smoothly as well?

-T

The Wedding Planner, Part 2: The Transition

This was love. This was help, provision and protection.  This was something I never had. This was what it was to have a great husband.  I was ready.

The Move

Faith’s Thoughts:

No one hates moving more than me. In one of my moves, I gave away all my furniture rather than deal with the chore of moving it. Getting married to Terry meant moving in together-which meant MOVING. Thankfully, all the kids had moved out. Nicholas still had a bedroom in the apartment, but he was away at school and it was unoccupied. Terry had a house full of things and a storage unit full of more things. I had an apartment full of things. We were good on things. Moving in together mean downsizing. The process took about a month and a half. While we were planning our wedding, we were also working on the chore of merging households.

There were some improvement projects (read repairs) that needed to be done before I moved out. Both Terry and I are readers who have an attachment to physical books, so we had to merge libraries. Then, there was the “small” chore of consolidating closets. We moved in increments. After work, I would come home, load up things to take to Terry’s house and we would find a place for it. Sometimes, Terry would stop by my apartment to take things to his house. I gave away most of my furniture weeks before we got married. Terry and Davion did the heavy lifting and I had to pack.

The emptier the apartment became, the lonelier it seemed. I remember at one point coming home to an almost empty apartment thinking, “If this dude backs out of this after I’ve given away all my furniture, I’m going to hurt him.” That was one of those “irrational fears” which were running rampant during that time. I had developed a strategy to deal with them. I began to rationalize them intelligently. Terry was investing just as much time in this move as I was. He spent Saturday’s painting walls and fixing cabinets in my apartment and helping me deliver the furniture that I donated. He was just as heavily invested in this as I was. I realized I didn’t have to hurt him.

Moving meant changing my address and having my mail forwarded.  Every step was more than a check off my to-do list.  It was a realization that I was about to get married.  It wasn’t just my address which was changing, my life was changing. It wasn’t just my mail being forwarded, I was moving forward. I had peace, but I was scared. I was scared, yet I was moving forward.

Terry demonstrated many great qualities to me during our moving process. He showed me how he was a hard worker. While I was having my bridal shower, he was being a handy man and fixing things at the apartment. He didn’t complain once, although he did make a few comments about the number of clothes that I was bringing to invade his closet space.  He showed me that he could handle stress. We were merging households, planning a wedding, dealing with drama and he was in the process of being promoted at work. He had all that going on, but he still made me a priority. He was sending me flowers and being attentive to my needs. This was love. This was help, provision and protection.  This was something I never had. This was what it was to have a great husband.  I was ready.

-Faith

The Wedding Planner, Part 2: The Transition

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

As we were planning the wedding there was one thing that we also had to plan for: transitioning from 2 separate households to one house.  She was moving from her apartment to what would soon become our home in Palm Coast.  For months, I had been urging her to slowly review what did and did not need to come (as everyone should do when moving) and let me start bringing non-essential items from her apartment to the house.  This was easier said than done.  Having helped many people move (and having moved several times myself) the one thing that I recognized is that when moving, one must declutter before moving to prevent the unnecessary going up and down 2 flights of stairs.  Stairs are NOT a mover’s best friend, especially one who is in their mid-40’s.

So, over the month of February and the first part of March, we talked about what things needed to make the trip and those that needed to either be donated or sent to the great big dumpster in the yard.  Now, this didn’t mean that I had nothing to do on my end.  I had to prepare to make room for Faith in my closet (who has not had to share her closet for years)!  This is a woman whose walk-in closet was larger enough for a person to have a twin bed and still be able to get in and out of.  Oy vey!  One of the first things that I recognized was that everything that she had in the closet was NOT going to make it, so the winnowing process would begin for both of us.

I never had a lot of closet space in the first place, but this was a whole new experience.  The reason for so much clothing in the closet was because Faith didn’t have a dresser in her bedroom and hung just about everything up or had a hanging organizer for the things that couldn’t be hung.  (It pays to be watchful and recognize what can be condensed and what could be relocated to another area.)  As we went through the closet, I noticed she had her books and other material in her closet, which made it easy and convenient for her to get to when needed.  I had several book cases that had space, so my library was about to change to our library and approximately double in size and variety.  The more that we looked over the closet, the more confidence that I had that I wouldn’t have to purchase several chifforobes (if you don’t know what a chifforobe is, look it up) to place all MY clothes in and give up the closet.

As we got closer and closer to the time when she had to be completely moved out, the anxiety level started to increase for the two of us.  For me, it was making sure that everything was moved out in time before the end of the month as we would be on our honeymoon and did not want to pay for any additional days that she wasn’t in the apartment.  For Faith, it was the realization that she was actually going to get married in a few short days and that her life would change forever.  It was a time of great excitement and tension as I looked forward to having Faith and the rest of the family become part of my clan.

As a planner, I plan how things should go and have an idea of how they should be accomplished.  The one thing that I could not plan is how Faith would react to leaving the place that she called home for several years to move over 30 miles further north to a place that she only frequented from time to time that we would call home.  I was not the one who was taking a “leap of faith”, rather it was Faith who was taking the leap.  She was trusting God that she was making the correct decision and trusting me that I would not betray the trust that I had earned.  She was jumping in with both feet into a new world and I had to make sure that she did not regret the decision that she was making.

Once we got everything moved, except what she needed for the final week and for our honeymoon, there was a sense of “ok, it’s almost time.”  We were less than a week away from becoming husband and wife and it felt like the calm before the storm.  Most people have heard stories of wedding plans going haywire at the last minute, but that was not going to be the case for me and my bride.  All the major components had been completed and the move had been completed.  I would not allow Faith to get stressed out about small foxes; it’s my job to deal with them and make sure they would not have an impact on our “happily ever after.”  The only thing left to do was to get everyone together and get this marriage started…we just had to wait a few…more…days.

-Terry

The Wedding Planner, Part 1: Culture

‘Where has this place been hiding and why didn’t anyone tell me about this place before?’ I asked myself. Each location had more and more to offer. Some too much, while others not enough. I knew what I wanted in my head and in my heart but didn’t know if they could offer it. Were we in for a HUGE surprise.

The Wedding Planner, Part 1: Culture

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

When we started planning the wedding, my thought was to allow Faith to have control on what she wanted for a wedding and for me to come along and say “Yup, works for me.”  Well, that’s not how it worked out.  Faith is a ‘big picture’ person and knows what it should look like in the end, whereas I am both ‘big picture’ and ‘small details’ type of person.  I know what it should look like in the end, but I also recognize that if all the steps are not done, the big picture will be very, very fuzzy and out of focus.

When we started, Faith had multiple ideas on where she wanted to have the ceremony.  She comes from a large family and wanted to have the majority of them attend, but there is this thing called a budget that prevented us from renting out Daytona International Speedway or the Amway Center in Orlando to hold everyone.  This caused her to have to face the fact that everyone she wanted to invite would not be able to be invited.  My family is not as large and scattered, but there were people that I wanted to invite as well, thus cutting into the number of family and friends that she wanted to invite.  As this was her first wedding (and last), I recognized that she didn’t really understand that everyone wasn’t going to be able to be invited and everyone was not going to attend.  This was going to be hard emotionally on her and I knew I needed to be there to make sure she didn’t get discouraged.

With that, we agreed that I should take the lead in the planning of the wedding.  I didn’t want her to look like the “bad guy” for not inviting everyone under the sun, but at the same time, we had agreed we would not go into debt to pay for a wedding that would only last a few hours and have to pay for it over the next 3-5 years.  We had more important goals in mind: a house and being debt free so that we could pursue the goal of writing and speaking full time.  So, we began the process of selecting a site that would be both elegant yet have the potential to have a large quantity of guest.  Our first thought was the church that we attended and using the chapel.  It was large enough to hold the number of guest that we agreed upon inviting, but also close to where we wanted to have the wedding to accommodate everyone who were going to travel to attend the festivities.  One of the things that we kept talking about was the fact that we wanted to keep the cost of decorating down to a minimum.  I am a minimalist and enjoy simple yet elegant things.  As we started “considering the costs” of decorating the space, it became more and more apparent that it was going to cost more that we budgeted to get the look that we were hoping for.  To this end, we began to open our search to other places.

It was during this time when Faith spoke with someone who told her about attending a wedding at a museum.  Hmmm…a museum you say?  Which one?  My mind began to race.  As a self-professed history and science “geek/nerd”, I thought a museum would be the perfect blend of elegance and affordability.  We could look like a million-dollar wedding, but not have to pay a million dollars.  As we got more and more information about the site, we became more and more intrigued about the idea of getting married at the museum.  It had a planetarium and several other potential places to have the ceremony.  So many options, so little time.  So, we decided to call and make an appointment to check it out.  Boy, were we in for a surprise when we arrived.  We met the person that helped arrange events at the museum and she gave us the grand tour of the museum.  ‘Where has this place been hiding and why didn’t anyone tell me about this place before?’ I asked myself.  Each location had more and more to offer.  Some too much, while others not enough.  I knew what I wanted in my head and in my heart but didn’t know if they could offer it.  Were we in for a HUGE surprise.

Just like any salesperson, the best was saved for last.  We were taken to the newest building and it knocked me off my feet when we entered the front door.  The space was grand, yet simply elegant.  As we toured the gallery, my head was spinning with all the things that I knew I wanted to see for our wedding but didn’t know if it was available.  Boy, was it available!  From the gilded frames to the skylights to the beautiful artwork, the museum WAS the decorations.  No need to add anything else (in my opinion.)  As we continue to walk around, I could see certain things in certain places.  This was the place!  I didn’t need to see anymore, I just needed to know how much it was going to cost.  Then reality hit…the cost. (Cue the music…) It was the ENTIRE AMOUNT that we budgeted for the facility and decorations.  Well, there goes the hope of cutting down on the cost.  We took the package back with us and told our host that we would contact her on Monday of our decision.  Time was of the essence.  We needed to make a decision and make it soon.

As we talked on the way to lunch, we were both excited about the prospect of being married in such a beautiful setting.  The setup, staffing and tables were included in the pricing and we had access to the entire gallery building after the wedding!  For someone who appreciates both art and education, this was a win-win-win!  As we debated, I explained that with everything that was included in the price, the only thing we need to bring was the food and the music!  They would even allow us to bring in our own caterer (as long as they were licensed and insured.)  Cha-ching!  We both knew that this was the place that we were going to commit ourselves to one another, but I have a hard and fast rule: no major decisions without prayer and waiting at least 24 hours.  So, we prayed about it and didn’t talk about it until the next day (Sunday.)

When we saw each other at church, I knew what the decision was going to be, and I could see it in her eyes as well.  After service, we both agreed that the museum would be our best option and would save our sanity because so many things would be included in the price that we would have either had to coordinate or pay someone to do.  All I could say was that our peace of mind was worth the money.  Sometimes, paying a few dollars more for extra peace of mind is a worthy investment.  With that, the first major piece of the puzzle was in place and now onto other things such as catering, linens, music and centerpieces.  But that is for another time…

-Terry

P.S. For those who would like more information about the museum and all the wonderful exhibits that they have available, please visit www.moas.org .  I am 100% certain that they would enjoy a visit from you and your family.

 

When Terry Asked Me to Marry Him

Faith’s Thoughts:

When Terry asked me to marry him (after I said yes) my immediate thought was I wanted a wedding ceremony. I wanted a pretty dress.  I wanted my friends and family there to share my joy. I wanted my kids to be a part of my ceremony. I wanted something simple, but I also wanted it to be memorable.  The first few folks that I told that I was engaged were Davion, Nicholas Jr., and Faith De’Yanah (Princess)-my wonderful children. Davion immediately said he wanted to walk me down the aisle and give me away.  I knew I wanted Nicholas to sing and he gladly agreed.  I wanted Princess to be a bridesmaid, but she wanted to be a flower girl, so I had a 16-year-old flower girl. My kids were genuinely so happy for me, which really blessed me. They could tell how happy I was which in turn made them comfortable.

Terry and I had already talked so much about marriage and neither of us wanted a long engagement. I had spent years thinking I’d never heal from divorce, years fearing that no one would love me, more years thinking I’d never be able to trust and years thinking it would be hard to find a man who treated me as well as God treated me. After 17 years of “thinking”, I wasn’t about to spend more time than necessary planning a wedding day. Terry proposed in December, we were married in March.

I wanted a simple (small) wedding with a pretty dress, but there was a large problem with my small wedding plans. My large family, my large church family and my large group of friends and supporters (my village). Trying to figure out who I could invite from my village was torturous. Then Terry had the nerve to want to invite people too. Thankfully, he’s an only child. I don’t think our invite list was ever 50/50. I think we started at about 70/30. Terry knew that was stressing me out; he was so gracious.

Initially, I was very adamant about wanting to get married in a church. I didn’t want it in a large sanctuary though. That felt too detached. We explored some options at churches, but I wasn’t in-love with any.  While trying to find venues for my wedding in Florida, my daughter and I were also planning her sweet 16 in Georgia. Terry and I traveled to Georgia to check out some venues for Princess’s party. While in Georgia, I started up a conversation with a stranger (as I often do). She was visiting Georgia for a friend’s wedding where she was a bridesmaid. I inquired where the wedding was being held so as to check out the venue for my daughter’s party. She told me that the wedding was taking place in a museum. I didn’t know that museums hosted private events. Well, turns out that 16-year-old girls aren’t so interested in having a party in a museum, but I found it quite intriguing for a wedding. When I returned to Florida, I reached out to the Museum of Arts and Science to inquire about their wedding packages. To my surprise, the rates were not as pricy as I had thought. I shared my information with Terry who was immediately fascinated as well. We both love history and art so we planned to go view the museum.

The wedding coordinator at The Museum of Arts and Sciences at Daytona Beach was very professional and thorough. She also had very high ratings and high praise from previous brides. From our first conversation, I knew I was dealing with someone who knew what she was doing and operated in excellence. The museum offered many options for the ceremony. First, we viewed the planetarium. I liked the idea of the planetarium. It was different and would definitely be memorable. The planetarium engineer showed us the lighting variations and the options for the starry night we wanted on display. Terry asked him to show us the night of our first date. Although it was special sitting under those starts with such a loving and thoughtful man, I realized how impractical it would be to get married under the stars. To really appreciate the planetarium, the lights had to be low. I feared tripping and I was worried about our how our photos would show up in such dim light. Next, we viewed a few other galleries in the museum. The galleries were well lit, open and beautiful. I could see myself getting married there, but there was more still to show.

The final stop on the tour was the newest addition to the museum: The Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum of Art. When I walked in, my heart was filled! I had found my venue. The building was stunning! Natural light poured into the gallery from every angle. It felt open, it felt simple and it was certainly memorable. The second half of the building was a 2-story gallery with an open stair case which made a lovely wedding backdrop. That was my venue!  I was in love! I could tell Terry liked it too, but we had some things to discuss before we could sign the contract. We would have to revise our guest list.  At that point, we were about 80/20 with 80% of the guest being mine. So, deciding on the museum meant making more tortuous cuts to my portion of the guest list.

– Faith

Marriage Counseling: How We Got to Look at Each Other Without the Rose-colored Glasses

I look forward to the day when we’ll look back at our “beautiful day” (the wedding) and say, “It’s also been a beautiful life as man and wife.”

Pre-Marital counseling

Faith’s Thoughts:

It was important for me that Terry and I go through premarital counseling. I’ve been a big advocate of counseling since my divorce. I was 21 with 2 kids and pregnant with my third child when my divorce was finalized. I was working full time and I didn’t have any friends whom I could confide it. I had friends and family, but I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to share with them what was going on in my head. I tried to keep it all to myself. I tried to manage motherhood, pregnancy, divorce and a demanding job all by myself. I wasn’t managing any of it very well. Actually, I was cracking. I was horrible to work with and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t much better to live with. I worked with mostly men and I remember one telling me, “I’m not your ‘baby daddy’. You can’t keep taking this out on me.” That was harsh, but it helped me to realize that I wasn’t managing this situation.  It was getting worse and I needed help. I took advantage of my company’s EAP program and I was connected to a counselor. Those sessions of counseling were so impactful! Some of the tools I learned in those sessions, I still use 18 years later to help me manage tough situations. There have been other occasions throughout my life when counseling was very beneficial for my children and I. Whenever the situation called for a professional, I called a professional (no shame). Many people place a stigma on counseling, but I’m so thankful that I had it available to me and I didn’t have to try to figure out those tough seasons with (my) limited knowledge.

When Terry proposed to me, I let him know how important pre-marital counseling was to me and I was so thankful that he was willing to go. I didn’t know if Terry was just doing it because he knew it was important to me or because he knew Florida offers a discount on marriage licenses if the couple completes pre-marital counseling. At one point, I feared that Terry wouldn’t take pre-marital counseling seriously because he had a successful marriage for over 20 years. I thought that he would think he didn’t have anything to learn. I remember our first “spirited fellowship” came because of my fears. We had a homework assignment to do for our session and I felt that Terry was rushing through it. Instead of saying what I feared, I just got angry and shutdown. Thankfully we had homework to do for counseling, so we had to talk it out.

I remember when I sent the email to request the pre-marital counseling. I was nervous. I knew some people had reservations about if Terry could be ready to take such a big step so soon with me. I wasn’t sure what response I was going to get. I did not want to make a hasty decision. I recognized my need for wise counsel concerning the matter, but I really wanted to share my engagement news with someone who would gush with me instead of taking a deep breath and then sigh. Kim did not take a deep breath nor sigh. She was honest and insightful and helped me to be more at ease. She assured me that this process wasn’t to beat neither of us up about our decision but to help us to build on a solid foundation. Kim spoke about marriage with an excitement that I had either never heard before, or (always) ignored before. It was very refreshing and helped to ease me nerves about this role I was preparing to fill. WIFE!

I really enjoyed the format of our counseling. We started with a compatibility assessment. Our counselors went over our results. We were assigned a book/workbook to read, discus, and complete homework activities. Some of the activates included a family budget, holiday planning, family planning. The book challenged us to ask tough questions and discus tough issues. We were forced to spend some time out of our “love bubble” and talk about the issues which can cause division within marriages. The book we used had a section added to every chapter for those who were remarried. There are special challenges for those remarrying and our pre-marital counseling book encouraged us to create a plan for success for those challenges instead of hoping our “love bubble” was strong enough combat the inevitable. The pre-marital counseling tasked us to create a game plan for our life together. Some things that I had previously thought were small like “how much we’d spend on gifts for family and friends?”  I’ve learned that even things like the price of a gift for someone else could lead to big arguments if there are strong opinions on the matter. The pre-marital counseling encouraged us to talk about expectations about intimacy which can surely lead to discord if not addressed. Because I’m a divorcee with minor children, the book encouraged us to create a strategy for communicating with my ex-husband and what role both Terry and I would play as it relates to the kids’ needs. Those were things Terry and I had already discussed, but the pre-marital counseling challenged us to think about things which we had not previously considered. I learned that I still have much to learn. I learned that submission is not a prison of do’s and don’ts. Submission is a beautiful protective shield.

I am learning that a marriage relationship can help sharpen and mold both husband and wife into better versions of our previous selves. Pre-marital counseling helped me define my role and better understand Terry’s needs. Our pre-marital counseling was about 6 weeks long. We were in the midst of wedding planning, working and all sorts of other responsibilities, but counseling was a priority. Terry made it a priority. We would read and do our homework during our lunch break and discuss the chapters after work. We were choosing caterers and figuring out our household grocery budget. More than focusing on the wedding day, we focused on our impending marriage. The wedding day was beautiful! The memories will last a lifetime, but our lifetime will be made up of days, dilemmas, discussions, decisions, do’s and don’ts. Strategies we learned during pre-marital counseling and tips we pick up along the way will help us get to our goal of a lifetime of happiness.  I look forward to the day when we’ll look back at our “beautiful day” (the wedding) and say, “It’s also been a beautiful life as man and wife.”

-Faith

 

Marriage Counseling: How We Got to Look at Each Other Without the Rose-colored Glasses

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

Marriage counseling was something that I had already gone through once before and had a good idea of who I was and what type of husband I would be to Faith.  Because we had been so upfront with each other in the beginning, I had a very good idea of the type of person that she was and my expectations on what type of wife she would be for me.  We talked about EVERYTHING.  When I mean everything, I mean everything from finances to education, children, past relationships, etc.  Neither of us wanted to go into a relationship with any hidden agendas or secrets about their past and we did a good job talking about things that we thought needed to be addressed based on our previous relationships.

Although this was a good start for us to get an idea if we should move forward as rapidly as things were progressing or should we slow things down, we knew that marriage counseling was something that we needed to go through.  I have always looked at marriage counseling as an opportunity for an independent third party to look at the relationship that I was in and say “Hey, you two SEEM to be ok in your relationship, but have you thought about this and how it could affect it?”  I have always been open to evaluation (whether self or third party) and welcomed the opportunity to “show my stuff” to others of how great a husband I would be to Faith.  Part of me wanted to go in and say “See, I told you I am going to be a great and wonderful husband to Faith.  Now you can tell everyone I was right.”  Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.

I knew our counselors, John and Kim Freeman, from another wedding I was a part of a few year before.  They were very personable, and we got along very well from the beginning.  A few months after Mia passed, I saw them coming out of service and Kim said, “Don’t make any decisions for at least a year.”  Ha!  Too late!  Faith and I had already started getting to know one another and I knew that she was the one that God had placed in my path.  She was my “good thing.”  Faith had a relationship with them as well as set up the counseling sessions.  When we first met, they were very upfront with their initial reservations about my decision to move forward.  I respected them highly for making their reservations known upfront and even asking how we reached this point.  The one thing that I have not been afraid of is the truth.  If there is something that you want to know (that I don’t mind sharing and isn’t out of bounds), I don’t mind telling people about it in a one on one situation.  Many people make assumptions (you know what that can make of a person) rather than asking and the Freeman’s asked and they got the truth.

During our first few sessions and assignments, I said to myself “this is a breeze.”  I was wrong again.  We delved into some topics that Faith and I either didn’t think about or didn’t spend a lot of time talking about as we had already ‘thought’ we knew what our past mistakes were and had vowed not to make those same mistakes again.  Now, I know some people are reading that previous statement and are saying “but you said you had a good marriage prior to your wife passing?”  Yes, I did, but there are always things that you can look back on and say to yourself that if you had an opportunity to improve the marriage, you would either not do something or do something better.  If you think you are perfect, then you should be standing outside waiting for that heavenly chariot to come pick you up and take you onto Glory.  We had an opportunity to review our past relationships, our role in them and have in depth conversations about what was good, bad and ugly and our responsibility in creating that environment.

The guide/workbook that we had to read and the assignments that we had to complete were very thought provoking and made us both take a long hard look at ourselves and the future that we had planned on having with each other.  Although it did not discourage us as we had done a LOT of praying and talking to each other, I recognized that it was important for our relationship foundation be shaken now to see what falls off before taking our vows than to be sitting with them after the wedding and saying, “I didn’t know she was like this!”  This was the beauty of the relationship that we developed with our counselors.  They challenged us to challenge our relationship and ourselves to make sure that we weren’t doing things “on the rebound” or “loneliness” as some people thought we were doing.

By the end of our sessions, we had a deeper appreciation of who we were as a couple and individuals and what things we had to commit to on a daily basis to ensure that our relationship would not become boring and stale, rather full of energy and love.  Our love and devotion to ensuring that we would not make the same mistakes from our past and our commitment to each other were so evident that our counselors believed that we were in a good place to move forward with our desire to become husband and wife and were pleased to give their “seal of approval.”  I recognized the tests and trials that we had to undergo and appreciated the ferociousness and dedication to ensuring that we had a strong and solid foundation to have a successful marriage.  I came out of the sessions being thankful that there were people like John and Kim who were called to help strengthen marriages by challenging couples to do what is necessary to be a success.

Too many times people think counseling is for couples that have things that are going bad.  We learned that counseling can be used when things are going good as well.  I compare it to getting a tune up before problems start arising in your vehicle.  Sometimes, replacing that older spark plug with a new and improved version can make that engine run smoother than ever before with more power and better efficiency.  Even replacing the wires with newer wires (lines of communication) can make those spark plugs run more efficiently as well.  There are so many things that counseling can do when things are good, that it can reduce, if not eliminate the need for counseling if things go bad, because you have been proactive and don’t allow it to get bad in the first place.

So, with that in mind, if you are in a serious relationship and are seriously contemplating marriage, counseling (especially by John and Kim) would be the start of a positive self-evaluation of your relationship and where you are headed.  It is far better to slow down and make corrections at the beginning of a relationship than it is to be fully committed and trying to salvage a relationship after damage has been done.  We evaluated our relationship, our faith in God and each other in regard to our impending marriage and recognized that we were hearing from Him and that He did place us together.  Now for the most intriguing part of this journey: planning the wedding.

-Terry