I’m so thankful to have had such a beautiful portrait of marriage to look up to my entire life. My parents are the ooey gooey type, dancing to Marvin Gaye in the kitchen and keeping their regular date night- but they also portrayed what marital conflict looked like and what inviting God to be that “third strand” really meant. I knew from such a young age that marriage took work, but also that marriage was a union I so looked forward to spending my life being sanctified through. I foolishly thought taking mental notes from my parents marriage would give me a leg up on the whole ‘marital struggle’ thing. Then I got marriage and my mental notes all mocked me and the joke was on me because turns out, no two marriages are alike. Who knew! 7 years into oneness with my husband, I’m more aware than ever that I need the grace, leading and example of Christ to help me love my guy the way he intended. I’ve also made it my job to be a student of marriage for the rest of my days. Here are the 7 resources that have shaped and molded our marriage.
1. I learned very early on that 1. Even if you were to mimic every single thing a couple did in their successful marriage in your own marriage, it wouldn’t make your own marriage their marriage. You are you, your spouse is your spouse and you both love and need to be loved in different ways. Like I said earlier, my parents were affectionate, open about their shortcomings, vocal with us about the joys of marriage and lead many godly couples in marriage as well. O grew up with parents that had an arranged marriage after one week of knowing each other. They have a beautiful love and partnership, but he never once saw them kiss, hug, argue or disagree. If you’re guessing this shaped us in a big way-you’d be right. We both had super different views of marriage and thus very different expectations and romanticizations of what our spouse would be like. Couple that with the fact that we spent all of our dating year and most of our engagement year long-distance and you’ve got quite the formula for FUN right there. Enter the book The Five Love Languages. Learning how we felt loved and needed to show love was a game changer for us. We actually read this book while we were engaged and revisit our love languages often to check-in and see how we’re doing. I can’t recommend this book enough for every engaged and married couple.
2.When I came to my dad and told him “I met this guy,” he sat me down and told me to really break it down for him. When I told him a few key factors- number one being that he was 27 (I was 19) and a safety in the NFL (my dad was a professional football player as well) he quickly told me he didn’t approve. I promised him he was unlike all the other guys (the “he’s so much like you!” thing didn’t work as well as I hoped) and explained to him that he loves the Lord more than any guy I had ever met and I really felt that despite the age difference, I still felt like this was the right thing for me. He walked out of the room, shuffled through his office and came back with a giant binder of CDs titled ‘Song of Solomon.’ He said if we were going to start dating, we needed to start this study together. It might sound over the top, but I know the Spirit was moving that day and really put the importance of intentionality on our hearts through my dad’s leading. This study was the best preparation for marriage we could have done and it really set the tone for our relationship long before the I Dos were even a thought.
3.Love and Respect is a book I would consider a prerequisite for marriage. Communication was not our strength in dating. We just couldn’t get the hang of how to lovingly have conflict rather than not speaking at all (O’s old conflict management technique) or talking endlessly and saying things without considering them at all (m old conflict management technique.) This book explains so simply and eloquently how men and women are designed and how that affects how we need to treat our spouse. Whether you’re engaged or have been married for 20 years, the lessons this book are sure to transform your marriage when applied.
4.I truly didn’t know where to begin when it came to praying for my husband. I was 21, none of my friends were married, all the things I heard other women praying for their spouses for didn’t seem to fit my own marriage and I often just wound up saying a generic blanket prayer over his life. This is totally fine! I also tended to pray that he would change (this is less fine) But once I came across the book The Power of a Praying Wife in the first couple months of my marriage, I realized the power of specific, intentional prayer. My book is tattered and highlighted and dog-eared to dust, but it really transformed my thinking and made such a beautiful impact in those early days and will be something I use for the rest of my days.
5. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Francis Chan in person a few times and his passion for the Lord seeps through his pores and inspires me in a way I rarely experience otherwise. It’s no surprise, then, that the book he wrote with his wife Lisa about marriage in light of the gospel, You and Me Forever, is life-changing.
6. Local Marriage seminars are something we have always taken advantage of. Our church puts some fantastic marriage classes and early on in our marriage we always attended a conference called ‘PAO.’ PAO stands for Pro Athletes Outreach and it’s a weekend of incredible worship, sermons and breakout classes for marriage in the NFL. I grew up attending this conference because my mom and dad would often speak at them. Fun fact: in 2006, O was in his rookie season of the NFL. His spiritual advisor from Stanford, the man that essentially led him to Christ, all but forced him to attend this conference instead of going to Brazil with his friends. 16 year old me was attending since my dad was speaking and O came up to meet my dad, noticed me and took a mental note. Two years later, he heard my dads name on ESPN and made it his mission to find me. PAO has had a special place in our heart ever since! All of that to say, learning from couples that have prioritized Christ in their relationship is one of our favorite tools for marriage.
7. Alright. The jig is up…you know where the kids came from. This is probably another topic for another time, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share a book that was such a blessing to us early on in marriage. The phrase ‘the enemy will do everything he can to keep you having sex outside of marriage and keep you from having sex in marriage’ sounded awfully dramatic, but I’ll just go ahead and be the first to say it’s much less unrealistic than I thought. I so arrogantly thought that because we stayed pure in dating and engagement that everything would fall perfectly into place as a giant reward from God (a pretty prideful assumption, I realize that now) But we do have a very real enemy working very hard to make sure this area doesn’t thrive. For me, a cocktail of hormone imbalance, chronic back pain and having my cervix frozen really presented some challenges in intimacy. Our pastor and his wife gave the book Intended for Pleasure to us and it was deeply transformative there in year two of marriage. Its one I’m sure we’ll go back to throughout different seasons of life and while it may make you blush at times, I do know that the title is truer than true.
A little bonus- a book I cannot wait to dig into it ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ by Tim Keller. Many women I look up to list it as their favorite marriage book and this is the year to cover it in highlighter and dog-eared pages.