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

No Valentine’s Day? Yep, No Valentine’s Day

Anyone can get flowers, cards or candy for a few days when everyone is expecting it. But, if you get the flowers, cards, candy or make a meal that she loves without asking, it means exponentially more because it comes from the heart rather than from the world.

Valentine’s Day

Faith’s Thoughts:

Terry has been extremely romantic from the beginning of our relationship. I explained in a previous post that I had never been loved on in that way. I didn’t think I liked it. Before being a recipient, I thought flowers were a waste a money since they die. After a few bouquets, however, I loved them! I loved to have a bouquet at my desk at work which reminded me every time I saw them I was loved. When people would comment about them, it made me think of Terry who went out of his way to make me feel special. Once it got close to Valentine’s day, Terry explained to me that he doesn’t “celebrate” Valentines because he expresses his love every day. I wasn’t too disappointed though because I hadn’t celebrated that holiday since I was a kid in elementary school passing out valentines to my classmates. I didn’t hate it though like many single people. Valentine’s Day didn’t remind me more than any other day that I was single. Every morning that I woke up, got the kids up and ready for school (by myself), came home to cook dinner, help with homework, and do all the other tasks which were required of me. I was reminded of my singleness. Surely at the beginning of the month when it was up to me to pay all the bills, I was rudely reminded that I was (very) single. Sadly, I didn’t have an expectation of romance in a relationship. I hoped for partnership and the lack of partnership was the greatest reminder of my singleness, not the lack of romance. So, having Terry demonstrate partnership and romance was more than I could ever ask or think.

Terry isn’t a pessimistic person, but regarding Valentine’s Day, I’d describe his attitude as cynical. Terry explained that he didn’t participate in Valentine’s Day because he doesn’t need a date on a calendar to show love since he shows it all year. He also doesn’t appreciate how things are so overpriced for Valentine’s Day and restaurants are crowded. Some people would say “Would you rather celebrate love one day of the year or every other day?” I think that’s a copout. I don’t understand why the choice has a be so drastic. Some men (especially my husband) LOVE the game of football. He’s a fan from the NFL draft to training camp, preseason football, regular season games, the playoffs, and then there’s the Super Bowl. We don’t have to choose between the regular season and the Super Bowl. We watch them both and during the Super Bowl, we celebrate! We go all out like we haven’t been watching for months. Personally, I think those who are romantic should be looking forward to Valentine’s Day all year. Not because it’s the only day to celebrate, but because they get to really go all out.

I’m new to romance and relationships. I like it more than I thought I would. I look forward to Terry’s sweet gestures, so I don’t want any day to be off limits. Ultimately though, my “love tank” is full. He keeps it full, but I’m not opposed to having the tank topped off. If I must choose between being showered with love 1 day or 364 days, certainly, I’d choose 364 days. But, just as there shouldn’t be a day to dictate when we celebrate love, there shouldn’t be a day when we withhold it either. I don’t need a card, not even flowers, Lord knows I have no desire to wait in line a fancy restraint, but I think Valentine’s Day could be made special without giving into the commercialization of it all.

– Faith

No Valentine’s Day? Yep, No Valentine’s Day

Terry’s Thoughts (T2):

I remember the first time that I told Faith that I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. The look on her face was a combination of shock, disbelief and wonder. She said “Okay…”, but the tone in her voice was like “What do you mean ‘You don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day?’” All the things that I had done for her in the months leading up to Valentine’s Day had her overwhelmed with tokens of love and lots and lots of flowers. Of all the days to give flowers, why not give them on Valentine’s Day? The explanation was simple and yet profound: why wait until two or three days (four if you are married) a year to show someone how much you love them?

One of the things that I learned early on in life was that time is short and fleeting and no one knows when it is time to meet the Master. The event that made me take this stand was the death of my father. He was scheduled to come home from the hospital on a Sunday and had a massive heart attack on the Friday before his discharge date. I was so looking forward to spending time with him again as unlike now where children have more liberty to visit their parents in the hospital, at that time, it was very restrictive in both times of day and the amount of time that could be spent. There were so many things that I wanted to say to him and ask him about when he got home, and I never got the opportunity to say them. I never got the opportunity to tell him that I missed him and loved him. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, he was gone. I vowed I would never have that feeling of not letting someone I loved to know how much I loved them and would not wait until a few days of the year to express it.

To this end, I explained to Faith that I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. I celebrate my love for her each and every day. Why wait when I can show her that I care for her, I adore her and I love her for who she is? Anyone can get flowers, cards or candy for a few days when everyone is expecting it. But, if you get the flowers, cards, candy or make a meal that she loves without asking, it means exponentially more because it comes from the heart rather than from the world. To have the love of your life look with amazement and adoration (as well as her co-workers) when something shows up when she least expects it is priceless. I enjoy letting people know that I love my wife, but I love even more when I do something that shows the world that she is my queen and she shows it in her smile.

One of the things that I enjoy is her smile. I don’t smile a lot, but Faith smiles enough for the two of us. I don’t ever want that smile to go away, so I do what I need to do to make sure that it remains on her face. From little things such as picking up a new lunch bag so that she can stay on track with her program to making sure there is gas in the tank when she runs it down, these are just some things that I do to make sure that she keeps a smile on her face. As the Rude Boys sang “It’s written all over your face, you don’t have to say a word” I want that smile to always say “Terry loves me.” Thus, this is the reason I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Every day is Valentine’s Day for the one that I love.

– Terry

Post script: So, many have asked “Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day this year?” Well, the answer is yes and no. Let me explain: the plan (as always) is to do what I am going to do before the day arrives. Well, thanks to delays in delivery, what I ordered didn’t arrive until Valentine’s Day. So, in essence I didn’t and I did do something special for Valentine’s Day. But for me, every day is a day to celebrate my love for my queen.

-Terry

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