On June 28, 2006, after another heated argument brought me to the point of calling a marriage counselor, my husband forwarded an e-mail to me at work. The subject line read: “Conference Registration Received” and he added:
“You know, Steph, I’ve been trying to figure out what the issues are, what the solutions are to fixing those issues, and I can’t. I’ve been thinking about it all morning … then it pops into my mind … Weekend to Remember! I don’t think either of us have good tools, or know exactly what to do, but I bet these people do at the conference. I don’t think you need to seek counseling, at least not yet. …”
I also don’t believe this is only your issue, it’s our issue together. We will figure this out. I hope this gesture lightens your day and brings a ray of hope and a relief of burden to you.
I started to cry as I read Duane’s e-mail. A Weekend to Remember marriage conference meant that Duane wanted to work on our marriage. So I cancelled my counseling appointment and buckled in to wait for the September 22 conference.
Although Duane and I had been married less than two years, we quarreled about a lot of things. We regularly hurt each other’s feelings, and Duane found himself sleeping on the couch many nights.
We are a blended family, so we’d argue about the way I was raising my children and the way he was raising his. We disagreed about finances, delegating chores around the house, communication (or lack of), and on and on. We argued about big things and little things.
I remember one day when I put all of Duane’s folded clothing on his dresser so he could put them away. He asked why I didn’t just finish the job. To which I responded, “I took the laundry to the laundry room, I washed the clothing, I dried the clothing, I folded the clothing and all you can do is complain. How about a thank-you for all the work I’ve already done?”
We couldn’t stop arguing. We couldn’t ask each other questions without the other person jumping to conclusions about why the question was asked. We rarely complimented each other and often felt slighted.
Despite our challenges, I really wanted our marriage to last—and so did Duane. I love my husband so much but was tired of being hurt by him … and was tired of hurting him. Neither of us knew what to do.
A Ray of Light
Duane was listening to a Christian radio station when he heard an ad for the Weekend to Remember conference and decided to register for it. He knew that both of us lacked the tools to make our marriage work.
When we went to the conference last September, Duane and I needed a cure. And we got it: We learned that God is the healer of marriage. We laughed. We cried. We felt a ray of light come through the clouds and shine on our marriage.
The speakers reminded us that conflict in marriage is inevitable, and they also gave us the communication tools that we needed. We learned how to talk respectfully when we disagree and how to seek understanding.
But the biggest breakthrough for me was when a speaker asked us to hold the hand of our spouse. After asking what we felt he said, “It’s warm, living, flesh and blood.” Then he read Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Wow! That simple reminder has made a huge difference in our marriage. If Duane and I begin arguing, I often reach out and touch him to remind both of us that we are not battling flesh and blood. This helps to refocus our attention so we can remember that we are in this together fighting the same battle.
Before I respond to Duane, I now pray and think about the words I’ll say. I try not to get defensive. I remember that my husband has had a hard life and he cares about me and is doing the best he can. If we need to take a break, we take a break. If we need to agree to disagree, we do that as well. We try to remember that the problem is the problem. We aren’t the problem.
I’ve also learned to lean on God more than I lean on Duane. I fear I used Duane as my crutch when he wasn’t made to handle all of my problems. He’s a “fixer”—so when I came to him with my work struggles, children struggles, ex-husband struggles, family struggles, and house struggles, he was burdened beyond his ability. Now, if I want to vent about my day, I try to remember to preface it with, “I don’t need you to fix this for me, I just want you to listen.” Or I talk with God as I would have talked to Duane.
Duane has also changed a lot during the past year. He is much more patient. He recognizes his problems and admits when he’s struggling in a certain area. He also seems to understand that both he and I bring important gifts into our marriage. He realizes that it’s okay to listen to what I have to say, that he doesn’t have to carry so many burdens around all the time, and that it’s okay for me to help out.
My daughter is like a sponge now—soaking everything in. I recently noticed her casually listening while Duane and I talked about a very important family issue. I think the fact that Duane and I can now have deep conversations about a touchy subject without getting into a huge fight makes a difference. She is learning to deal with people in a healthy way.
Although we still get in arguments today, they aren’t heated like they used to be. We now realize that disagreement is part of marriage, and we do the best we can to resolve issues in a God-honoring way. We’re kinder to each other these days … accepting of each other.
Duane and I believe our marriage is worth a good tune-up once a year. That’s why we’re registered for the upcoming Weekend to Remember in Louisville. There are things we may have forgotten, or new things we may not have caught the first time. We probably remembered the things from last year’s conference based on the issues we had then. This year holds new struggles. Next year will be something else. That’s why we plan to go to the conference each year.
We know we need training. No one is born a perfect husband or a perfect wife. The Weekend to Remember is the training we need.
Reprinted with permission from The Family Room. You can receive the free e-zine by e-mail every month.