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Archive for the ‘Premarriage’ Category

Two couples sit in a living room.

One couple sit together, touching and exchange glances often. They talk over each other a fair bit too, apologizing for finishing each other’s stories. They seem more aware of each other than their company. They are (no surprise here) dating. You know, the stage where “ignorance is bliss”.

Across the room the other couple also sit together but slightly apart. Affection isn’t easy to detect and there’s a level of disinterest in each other’s sentences. Their conversation is perhaps more polished but you’re not sure if they’ve looked at each other since they sat down. This couple, you guessed it, have matured. They sport 10 years of married “bliss” together.

Now, conventional wisdom would have us listen to the “voice of experience.” It would have us turn to the 10-year couple and ask, “How have you done it? How have you stayed together and learned to live in this relationship?”

In response we might hear about the importance of tolerating each other no matter the hardship, and how they’ve learned to handle both joys and disappointments. We’d learn how idealism fades into reality and how the couple across the room will see how it really is in due time. We’d grimace at the list of things they’ve given up trying to change about each other in order to keep the peace.

However, unconventional wisdom would have us listen to the “voice of those experiencing.” It would have us turn to the dating couple and ask them, “How is it done? How do you see enjoying each other and learning to live in this relationship?”

In response we would most likely hear how they have high expectations of their future together and we would see how they make generous excuses for the faults they see in each other. We’d learn how their idealistic thinking about love actually frames the way they treat each other, and becomes self-perpetuating. We’d smile to see that neither of them can think of anything they wouldn’t change for the sake of the other’s happiness.

From our vantage point we get to see things critically. We get to pick. Do we follow the wisdom of those who have what we want or do we listen to those who have let it slip? Do we accept a fundamental shift in thinking to return to what love can be, or do we justify our lack of it and roll our eyes at what we had?

The most important question for you is, which couple are you becoming more like?

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Where we live, it’s really cold outside. The temperature “high” today is an unseasonal -28 degrees celsius.

It’s the kind of weather that makes everyone try their hardest to stay inside. If they have to go out, the focus is getting into a warm vehicle or back inside. Children are bundled up to the hilt, and some schools and work environments have shut down. The snowplow workers were working hard last night. Some inner city organizations have been in a flurry of activity to provide shelter and food.

I write this sitting in our home where the temperature is conveniently heated to and optimally held at 22 degrees celsius, thanks to our furnace and the extra insulation we put in our roof last summer. It’s bitterly cold outside, but in here we’re nice and warm.

The contrast in temperatures between the outside and inside remind me of an analogy we use in our pre-marriage coaching. We call it the House of Marriage. We explain how the walls of a House of Marriage will keep a couple in maximum comfort and happiness while protecting them from the storms of life and the “outside,” destructive elements. Our society seems to have a few of those.

In your House of Marriage, the walls of your house are the values and beliefs you hold most dear regarding marriage. These beliefs encase your relationship and will determine the quality of life lived inside them. And on days when the storms may rage outside your marriage, you’ll be especially thankful for their protection.

Right now this weather makes me specifically glad for the walls of our physical house. It’s not like I think about them much: they’re just there, day in and day out. Our walls are stuffed with insulation that allows for a dramatic difference between the hostile temperature outside and the comfort within.

Defining your walls, or establishing your beliefs about marriage, can provide a tremendous amount of security and comfort, particularly in a world outside where having a great marriage is somewhat counter-cultural. Beliefs such as: marriage is forever, marriage involves generously serving each other, life issues are meant to bring you closer together instead of driving you apart, are examples of strong “walls.” Sometimes, structural changes need to be made before a House of Marriage will be fit, or safe, to live in.

Have a conversation with your spouse about your House of Marriage. Write down some beliefs and revel in the security there. Where we live, in today’s society especially, it’s really cozy in here.

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We always present couples preparing for marriage with a challenge. It’s a challenge we received in our pre-marriage coaching that we decided to take, and it’s this: no PJ’s, no TV, for a year!

The couple always laughs, and then they sit there a little puzzled while the implications sink in. We smile and nod, that’s right, “No PJ’s, no TV, for a year.” The looks on their faces often betray their thoughts, “But we’ve always worn pj’s and we’ve always watched TV!”

To live a year without these should not be seen as an impossible challenge but as an offering of love – simple, yet profound. It gives back to your spouse things that you have kept exclusively to yourself.

Take off the PJ’s: The practice of regular, routine nakedness offers “you” consistently to your mate. Not in an overt way, but in a way that lets them know that you are there for them, waiting for them, and available to them. It’s a wonderful gift, particularly from the girl to the guy – something that is covered and secret to the rest of the world is made accessible just for him.

Turn off the TV: It’s not so different an offering, is it? The habit of uninterrupted time and space also unveils you for your spouse from a cloak that can keep them at arms length from experiencing you in a greater way. Without TV there remains the much needed alternative, especially in early marriage, of talking and getting to know each other. It’s a wonderful gift, particularly from the guy to the girl – a private connection with each other that is made accessible just for her.

Newlyweds, if this is you, I hope you consider our advice here. Take the opportunity to break long-held patterns of single living in order to create new ones better adapted for couplehood.

In the case of those of us who have been married a longer time, realize we have this same pattern-breaking ability and potential. We also can reform our habits and routines to be more conducive to establishing intimacy in the middle of our everyday lives.

So, newlyweds or established couple, here’s the challenge for you today: turn it off and take it off, for a year.

We dare you. We’ve never looked back.

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