Debbie and Nigel did the marriage course over 4 years ago; Debbie shares their story with us. See more about their marriage course experience on Youtube.
"...nearly 30 years since we said 'I do'."
Nigel and I grew up in Christian homes where our parents were faithful to each other and gave us both good, solid examples of commitment to each other and genuine love and care; we are so thankful for this. We were both young when we married having met on a Baptist churches youth holiday back in 1982! We were married in Southport in 1985 and set up home in Suffolk. We soon realized that juggling home, work and church wasn't always easy, plus the fact that we were two very different people by nature; you could say ‘country boy marries a towny!’
Then at a time that should have been one of the happiest moments as a couple (the birth of our first child Joshua Ben) Nigel's mum aged 52 was diagnosed with advanced cancer and given around six months to live. I remember walking round to her ward soon after I'd had josh to see her and she told me the news. There we were together sharing new life with her first grandchild and her telling me the news of diagnosis; 6 months at most. Now we thank God for her faith, but for Nigel especially his whole world collapsed and grief hit him like a wall. Emotionally it was a roller coaster and I tried to be a wife and a new mum, dealing with my own issues as my family didn’t live nearby to call on.
Why do we mention this? Because many things happen that have the potential to make or break relationships, depending on how we view the trials that come into our lives. This became a huge obstacle in our marriage as we dealt with such a huge loss whilst nurturing new life and juggling all the other things too. I found it easier to open up about how I felt and talk to God openly but Nigel was not able to share his pain; he closed up and dealt with life by putting up a barrier rather than facing the deep hurt and loss. He appeared rather detached though underneath I could see he was hurting but I couldn't get near to help.
We loved each other but still couldn't open up together about the grief in our marriage which hovered like a cloud.
We remained busy at church and by now had another child, Meg; we loved being parents! We loved each other but still couldn't open up together about the grief in our marriage which hovered like a cloud. It was just there but Nigel didn't want to discuss it even though it still caused anger and bitterness in his heart. We focused on our children, on church and work but rarely set aside time just to be together. It felt at times like we were two individuals rather than one. I noticed the laughter wasn't in our marriage as often as it had been, our joint sense of fun and humour, once such a great strength of our marriage seemed to have gone. I never gave up on prayer and the belief that God would break into Nigel's heart and heal the hurt both of us were hiding deep down.
Now we wish we had done it sooner!
We would never have thought about going on The Marriage Course in a million years, and that it would have started us both on a journey of personal and mutual blessing in our marriage and God. Now we wish we had done it sooner! We did the course at our previous church where we spent time just understanding, listening, sharing and being totally honest whilst respecting what the other said and why. We had time alone without TV, phone, or children so we were able to focus on each other. Each week we had a beautiful candlelit dinner before watching a short DVD on one of the course topics then sat together, away from others, totally private to discuss one of the topics which included; understanding each other’s needs, communication, resolving conflict, relationships with in-laws, developing greater sexual intimacy and having fun together!
There was repentance and tears, laughter and fun but also a heartfelt desire to see God’s Kingdom come in our marriage.
We had both come into the course with an open mind and heart to see what God could do in our marriage for His glory. There was repentance and tears, laughter and fun but also a heartfelt desire to see God’s Kingdom come in our marriage. We knew that forgiveness healing and restoration was needed for Jesus to be seen more clearly in our relationship.
We saw how selfishness has no place in a marriage. A breakthrough week for Nigel and I was as we discussed family and our own parents! How they influence our expectations and often what we bring to the marriage. I was able to just listen, and hold Nigel as the tears flowed as he let years of bitterness and hurt pour out as he sought forgiveness for how it had affected our relationship and his relationship with God. I found the need to say sorry for not allowing him to share in his own time and nagging him because he wasn't pulling his weight at home! I realized I had become bitter at what had happened in our home because of his mum’s death.
But we are being changed for the better, as we grow closer to God and really work at being the best we can be for each other!
We would both agree that today, nearly 30 years since we said "I do", that we love each other more than ever and there is a deeper sense of commitment, care and genuinely wanting the best for each other. There is greater mutual respect whilst not always agreeing; of course our marriage is by no means perfect! But we are being changed for the better, as we grow closer to God and really work at being the best we can be for each other! Some days we get it so wrong, but we know that good communication is essential.
Please give the course a go! Look at it like a car; we take it into the garage to have a yearly service looking out for areas needing attention. I'm sure we all need challenging to be the very best we can be and with God’s help and a desire in our hearts to be open to this challenge we really can be!
Finally, we found that some of the homework was especially fun. We will leave you to find out which week!
Find out more about the marriage course and register for our next course on our website.