Steve and I met in October of 1969 at what was once called Ferris State College (now called Ferris State University) in Big Rapids, Michigan (U.S.A). I was in my first year of college and Steve was in his second.
We met under unusual circumstances. Steve was a disc-jockey at the campus radio station and was taking his shift broadcasting on the air the evening that I turned on the radio late that night to listen to something to take my mind off of the bad dating experience I had just gone through a little while before. There I heard a voice that I was instantly attracted to and a friendly mannerism that I enjoyed as well.
When Steve asked listeners to call in to request a song they would like to be played over the radio I didn’t think very much about it until he eventually started begging people to call, even offering to reimburse them for the dime it would cost them to place the call. (Phone calls cost a lot less back then than they do today.) It was late at night and he was tired and wanted people to call in for some reason.
I finally decided to call, thinking it would just be a short phone call. Little did I know that I would be calling the man who would eventually become my husband. And little did I know that the phone call wouldn’t just be a quick one, but that we would start talking and connecting in many, many ways. We ended up talking over an hour over the phone after his shift was completed on the air, and agreed to meet the next day at the radio station. And that is how our love relationship began those very many years ago.
Steve and I dated for two and a half years before we married on March 18, 1972. When I look back on it, it’s amazing we even made it to the altar. We argued continually even though we loved each other so much. But we weren’t going to let our differences stop us from marrying because we were sure that we would eventually get beyond “that phase” of our lives and “live happily ever after.” After-all, we were so “in love” with each other that we were sure that our lives together would only get better after we married. How naive we were!
We didn’t have much as far as pre-marriage counseling. It wasn’t quite as common to go through that, back then as it is now. And the little we had before the wedding from the minister who married us, didn’t go very well. We both should have paid close attention to that as a warning sign for problems ahead, but we didn’t.
While we were meeting with the minister for our “sessions” he began asking us some personal questions that I felt very uncomfortable answering —so frankly, I didn’t. I told him that I didn’t want to answer them. The minister tried to persuade me otherwise, but I held my ground stating that Steve and I would just work those out later. What a mistake! And what is also sad is that the pastor went along with this and married us anyway even though it was obvious that we weren’t ready.
Steve and I weren’t good at resolving differences and when something came up that one or both of us had problems with we either evaded the situation until we had to handle it later (but in a less than mature way of doing it), or we fought by screaming and/or playing mind games with one another trying to “win” the argument one way or the other.
We now know that we both came out the losers that way, and so did our marriage. Because if one of us had to “lose” in order for one of us to “win”, then our marriage lost in the end. Marriage is about being a convenantal team —with each other and with God. And when one of us “loses” we all hurt in some way.
For years we fought and immaturely handled our differences. Actually, we never knew another way of doing that. Steve never saw his parents argue or resolve their differences all of his growing up years. They kept that part of their relationship behind closed doors so Steve never had that aspect of relationship development modeled for him. He just thought that differences somehow resolved themselves and never gave it much thought until we started dating.
He and his other girlfriends just broke up when things got too complicated. But then I came along and “challenged” his way of doing things. He loved me and didn’t want to break off the relationship when we disagreed but he didn’t know how to work together with me to resolve our differences in a healthy way.
I grew up in a home where my parents continually fought. I heard lots of yelling and screaming and door-slamming and control games being acted out before me. It’s all I knew. And THAT wasn’t a good model either. But because it was all I knew, I fell into this same pattern of handling my differences with Steve and he fell into the same behavior also.
As I think back about those earlier years, I’m reminded of the parable of the man who built his house upon the sand (which was doomed to failure) and the one who built his home upon the rock (which was a firm foundation). Now that we look back on it, we realize that our home was built upon the sand because when the storms of life started to happen (which they do to everyone) we didn’t have a strong enough base to keep our home from breaking apart.
And the house built upon the rock would have been Christ, and doing things His way. But we didn’t know of His way either because up to that point, we never knew we could have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We didn’t know that God —whose very name means LOVE, could teach us how to love and live with each other in a Christ-like manner, because we had no knowledge of that fact up to that point.
Eventually, after we had our son David and all of the busyness that having a child brings with it, we started to grow apart. David brought such joy into our lives, but life became very busy and we didn’t pay attention to how we were allowing ourselves to slide apart. And then there were all our differences! YIKES!!! We fought a lot, and not in healthy ways!
Then Steve came down with Type 1 Diabetes in 1974. It dramatically changed everything. Steve’s personality changed, our life-style had to change to accommodate his disease, and with everything else — along with, and especially because of, our lack of understanding how to handle our differences and having the skills to work through our differences, we eventually separated. I considered divorce as the only option for us.
BUT THEN GOD… but then the Lord, through many miraculous circumstances led a friend to tell me of Christ’s love and the opportunity to know God in a personal way through Jesus Christ. The Lord spoke to my heart, drawing Him to me and I asked the Lord to be my personal savior. I became instantly aware that the wrongs I had done earlier in my life were sins and I confessed them to Him, asking for forgiveness and asking Him to be my Lord showing me how to live my life in His way instead of mine.
The first thing my friend told me was that I needed to go home to Steve to try to work things out. I told her that seemed ridiculous since he wasn’t any different and our problems wouldn’t go away by my just going home to him. But the Lord prompted my friend Jessie to tell me that even though Steve hadn’t changed — I had; and God would show me how to live with Steve in a different way than ever before. I needed to start reading the Bible, with God’s Holy Spirit opening my eyes up to new ways of living, and trust God with my future.
What’s especially miraculous about all of this is that before that day, I didn’t believe the Bible was true. She said to just take it by faith that it was true and eventually I would see it through God’s revelation. And so I did. THAT’S what’s so miraculous about all of this. I was never much of a “faith” person before. I needed to have everything proven to me. But somehow, I had changed and I knew this was the right thing to do. So I did it.
I moved back home, concerned that Steve would ask me about God because all of a sudden I was reading a Bible and day by day, I was changing by what I was reading. I didn’t know what I would say to Him if he would ask me anything. But my girlfriend Jessie assured me that I would know when it happened. And two weeks later it did.
Steve sat me down and asked me why I was so different. He saw the changes and like the changes and was attracted to the changes. In all of my stumbling and bumblings in what I told him, the Lord used it to draw Steve to Himself and that day Steve knelt down and asked God to forgive him for the wrongs he had done and asked Christ to be his personal Savior. His life has never been the same— in a positive way.
I’d love to say that day ended our contentiousness with each other. But it didn’t. But it was a crossroad point for us —a beginning that we could either embrace and learn God’s way of relating to each other as a team or we could ignore the Lord’s promptings, and do things our own way (which had failed miserably in the past). We decided to do things God’s way and become students of Christ and students of marriage from that day forward.
And that continues to be our stance today and our continual goal for our future.
As we now look back, we can see how much pain we could have avoided if we would have had a different beginning to our marriage. We wouldn’t have avoided every disagreement, but we would have been better prepared to work through them in a healthier way if we would have learned certain life skills to know how to bridge our differences in respectful, Godly ways.
And then there are certain values and character traits we should have been SURE of before we married. We assumed too much and that could have completely finished our relationship if they wouldn’t have been there. That was a foolish mistake. It’s one that too many couples make, only to find out that their foolishness comes to haunt and doom their relationship later. It’s one that Steve and I want so desperately to prevent couples from making.
Lastly, there were questions we should have asked each other before we married that could have prevented so many heated arguments and others that we could have worked through in more mature ways, with a spirit of being a team —rather than opponents. Going through those questions together would have given us less to work through in our relationship after the wedding so we wouldn’t have been so overwhelmed with the adjustments we needed to make after the wedding.
Some people can argue that living together before marriage would bring a lot of that up. And in the human brain, that makes sense. But when we “put the cart before the horse” as the old saying goes, and we live together before marrying, our human logic falls short. When we go against God’s way of doing things, there are prices to pay. The higher divorce rate for those couples who live together before marriage, than those who don’t, is just one of those prices.
Committing ourselves to do the extensive marriage preparation work that is necessary before the wedding —mastering certain relational communication skills and also asking each other important questions is so beneficial to building a healthy marriage —right from the beginning. It’s so much less damaging for your future.
“The goal of asking questions is not to see if you both pass the test. Your first and major purpose is to improve your relationship by discussing what is important to both of you. Tell each other what drives you up a wall and be honest enough to acknowledge potential trouble spots. Practice the art of healthy dialogue before marriage and you will find it easier to do so on the other side of the altar. Openness, disclosure, and sharing are difficult for some, so you need to learn to express yourselves as early as possible.” (William L. Coleman, from the book, “Before the Ring”)
Steve and I asked each other many questions before marriage, but we missed some of the most important ones for building a good solid marriage from the beginning. We’ve since, made up for lost time and opportunity, but at a HUGE price!!! It’s a price we pray you never make. Please learn from our mistakes and start your lives off together with the best start that is possible.
It won’t prevent you from going through some very tense times when you marry. But you’ll have a much stronger start with the potential for less heart-ache and wrong-doing and causing damage to your relationship (which to some couples ends up being irreversible).
Make sure your marital relationship is built upon the solid Rock of Jesus Christ in total commitment to each other, and your future marriage. And put the work into learning the life skills you need to before your wedding day so you approach your marriage in a mature way. Marriage is for grown-ups that are willing to do what it takes to make their marriage work best for the sake of each other and for the sake of God’s kingdom.
And don’t neglect asking each other every question that you possibly can and should ask, so you know where each of you is coming from on important issues that pertain to living together in marriage. That way you will KNOW if you are best suited for each other to marry and you will know where each one of you is coming from relationally and what differences you need to figure out how to bridge to make your marriage one of partnership and teamwork.
Our web site has a lot of tools to begin the process and recommended resources to help you all the more. Keep in mind that God, whose very name means LOVE wants to teach you how to do love each other and live together in peaceable ways. Take advantage of all He can do for you and all that is available for that mission.
Marriage is a mission that is too important to put any less than our all into it. The rewards are awesome as we participate with God in this sacred partnership.
This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.