Deciding to take a marriage course as newlyweds may sound a bit backwards. What issues do you really have to work through so early on? What tests has your relationship truly faced?
At the end of last year, my husband Joel and I decided to take part in The Marriage Course that Connexus Church was offering online. We not only took part, but we actually hosted the night! You read that right … exactly one year into being married, we were asked to host The Marriage Course.
Committing to participate in and hosting a marriage course with only 12 months together under our belt meant we didn’t really have heavy stuff to work through (thanks to our supportive, healthy families and pre-marital counselling for that!). But, as a couple, we’re committed to continuing to do the work to make our marriage better and better as time goes on.
Who’s relationship couldn’t be better, right?
Thankfully, the value of the course wasn’t reliant on our limited marriage experience for it to be helpful. Quite the opposite actually.
Here are 3 things we learned from The Marriage Course that we’re looking to keep at the centre of our relationship as we grow.
1. A shared framework for having important conversations is … important.
Now, I know some of you reading this may roll your eyes in reading this next sentence. But hang with me.
To this point, Joel and I haven’t really had any major disagreements or arguments. I know. Seems so cliche. Young love.
But … hear me out.
This is not to say we haven’t had important conversations that have been difficult.
Communication in marriage, or any relationship really, can quickly become complicated. Different perspectives, different understandings, different experiences. Different people engaging in communication mean differences will be present.
But one thing Joel and I learned is that when we have a shared framework for difficult or important conversations – we’re more likely to make progress.
Creating guidelines or boundaries around what kinds of conversations we’ll have when, where, and how, can set us up for success in these kinds of conversations. Questions that were helpful to us in establishing this framework included things like:
- What time of day is best for us to have this conversation? (After work and before dinner is likely not going to set us up for success.)
- What means of communication is okay for this conversation? (Over text is not ideal – we miss so much in tone and body language.)
- Who can be present when this conversation is had? (Is it okay if someone else is in the room? Or is this one that needs to be just between the two of us).
That is not an exhaustive list in any way … but it’s a helpful starting point. And that’s exactly what was provided to us in the communication week of the Marriage Course. A starting point for identifying and naming the framework for important conversations that worked for us.
2. The power of Love Languages is not in knowing them, it’s in showing them.
If you’re in a relationship currently, or if you’ve followed along with any relationship series at Connexus in the past – hearing about the 5 Love Languages (from Dr. Gary Chapman) is likely, not new. It wasn’t for Joel and me either.
But! If you’ve never heard of Love Languages before, or never worked through one of these assessments – I’d recommend this resource to start. Love Languages are so helpful in all relationships too, not just romantic relationships.
When we were dating (and I mean early on in dating … so I guess you could say I was a little presumptuous in doing this) I asked Joel to do a number of different personality assessments – and Love Languages was one of them. So, we’ve talked about them a fair bit in preparation for marriage and throughout our first year and a bit of being married.
As much as we knew what our love languages were for each other, we hadn’t spent nearly the same amount of time talking about how to show them to each other.
The practice of showing Joel I care for and love him means I need to speak his love language – not mine. Seems so simple, right?
So simple, and yet so helpful understanding each other and showing each other love.
3. Being intentional about setting aside time to date each other will keep us connected.
Setting aside date nights wasn’t a specific “session” of the Marriage Course, but it was a practice that was incorporated into the completion of the course. It’s something Joel and I have heard talked about time and time again – in pre-marital counselling, in messages at church, or even in different books we’ve read. But since it’s just two of us, it’s not something we’re always great at. Because, well … isn’t it always date night when it’s just the two of us at home?
Here’s the thing. Being home together and being intentional about being together is not the same thing. Yes, we make a point of eating dinner together as much as possible but, so do a lot of roommates. And we’re not roommates.
This is a clear distinction that was highlighted for us in the seven weeks of participating in the Marriage Course. Setting aside intentional time to be together, whether at home or out, is integral to building a stronger connection over time.
Are we great at it now just because we took the course? Not always.
Was it helpful to be able to experience the value of weekly, intentional time set aside to connect in conversation and without interruption? Most definitely.
It’s like the lyrics from the Joni Mitchell song “you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone”. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. But now that we know, and we’ve seen the impact that consistent, intentional time can have on our relationship, this is something that we’ll continue to make a priority.
If you’re like us, and your relationship is pretty good but could always be better, I’d encourage you to check out The Marriage Course this Spring. Head here for the details to get you and your partner signed up.