The Friday before this past Valentine’s Day, my wife and I attended a two-day marriage conference. We’ve attended several of these sessions throughout our soon-to-be 16 years of marriage, and I’m always fascinated by the responses I get from both men and women when we tell them about these marriage meetings. For the most part, women who’ve never been to one tend to be more interested and intrigued to hear details about the sessions while the guys could not care less and want nothing to do with it.
This disconnect is profoundly sad because it’s the responsibility of both participants to make a monogamous relationship flourish or flounder.
My wife and I view these moments as opportunities for marriage maintenance, in much the same way you do minor repairs and upkeep around the house – with an ever vigilant eye toward anomalies that might hint at a larger underlying problem or issue.
What’s interesting is that I personally know several guys who balk at the idea of attending this type of “needless, touchy-feely” meeting thinking that their marriage is fine and doesn’t require any maintenance at all.
Yet these are the same guys who religiously self-change the oil in their car; rotate their tires and inflate them with nitrogen for peak performance; while regularly washing, waxing and buffing their “ultimate driving machine” with an organic cotton diaper.
While it’s great having a well maintained, high performance vehicle that’s safe and admired by others – isn’t it at LEAST that important to have a peak performing marriage that turns heads as well? If men gave their marriage half the time and attention they gave their vehicle they likely wouldn’t have to worry about who gets the car during divorce proceedings.
But women are part of the equation for a successful marriage as well, yet by the time the guy catches a clue that something’s wrong with the relationship she has totally disengaged and all of his pleading to fix it often goes unheeded.
That’s why these conferences act as a check-up for your relationship, the same way you regularly have your hearing screened, eyesight checked, teeth cleaned and cholesterol composites reviewed.
The best of these marriage events are sponsored by http://www.familylife.com/. They’re not spooky or mystical and they don’t force you to share your deepest secrets – or anything like that. It’s like any other conference or convention you might attend except you’re focused on your spouse and your relationship.
There are usually video modules that you watch; workbooks that you follow along with; modest written exercises that help your personalize the insight you’ve gleaned for your specific situation as well as private time for you and your spouse to discuss the concepts you just learned about.
Here’s sample of one of the discussion starters from the workbook we used this last session titled “The Art of Marriage.”
Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before Marriage by Dave Boehi
1. You are about to learn a painful lesson – you are BOTH very selfish people. This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy, hazy days of courtship but it’s true. This realization usually shocks couples during their first years of marriage.
2. The person you love the most, is also the person who can hurt you the deepest. That’s the risk and pain of marriage. While the beauty of marriage is working through the pain and hurt, resolving your conflicts and solving problems together.
3. Marriage is not all about you. It’s not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It’s not about getting your needs met – it’s about going through this life together and serving each other.
4. You can’t make it work on your own. It’s obvious that marriage is difficult – just look at how many couples today end up in divorce. To make your marriage last for a lifetime you need to rely on God for the love, wisdom and endurance you’ll need.
5. Never stop enjoying each other. Always remember your spouse is your ally – not the enemy and that marriage is a gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 states, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” (NASB).
Don’t be afraid to stretch outside your comfort zone and consider a faith-based marriage conference – it might just save your relationship.
Tor Constantino is a communications professional with more than 20+ years combined experience as a print/broadcast journalist and a Fortune 500 corporate public relations professional.
He holds an MBA degree from Rochester Institute of Technology as well as a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
He and his wife have been married more than 16 years and have two daughters.
In his spare time, he is a college-level business communications instructor; has a rapidly-growing readership for his daily blog http://www.torconbooks.com; and he's an avid runner who has completed several marathons.