Christian Marriage Preparation

In my book, “The Crucified Couple,” I talk a lot about sacrifice. It’s a dirty word in our modern culture. After all, we’re promised “FREE” stuff by our politicians, “FAST” stuff by our restaurants, and “EASY” stuff by our retailers–EVERY DAY!

So when we participate in a Christian Marriage Preparation Program, shouldn’t we expect the same? After all, who wants to talk about sacrifice, work, struggle, submission, or character building?!

We do!

Truth is, most of us know–even deep down inside, that nothing worthwhile comes free, cheap, easy, or fast. I find it ironic that we all talk about “growing old with someone” as the “love of our life,” but we don’t have the patience to do it or to even work to find out how.

I believe God created marriage for several critical reasons:

1. To better reflect his image/nature (Genesis 1:26-27 & 2:24).

2. To teach and prepare us as a bride for Christ (Eph 5:32).

3. To build character. It’s hard, but it produces all the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). And, when we figure it out, it’s a real blessing! Still, most people want “instant pleasure,” and if so, marriage isn’t for you…

But…if you’re willing to sacrifice for it and work hard at it–we can help. I believe your marriage can be awesome! Truly, a “happily ever after,” (instead of a happily never after), scenario.

And, our approach works. I know…I lived it. Eight years into our marriage, we almost blew apart!

I was a young Associate Pastor, new to the ministry, but full of vim and vigor. I was consumed with “dispelling the darkness” and “conquering for the kingdom” so I worked long hours with few, if any, days off. My wife of 8 years was stuck home with a houseful of little kids and her attempts to get me to help were, sadly, often unanswered. I had “more important” things to do after all. I couldn’t be “bothered” with dishes, etc.

What I didn’t realize was that her love language was “acts of service.” Thus, she was feeling unloved, uncherished, unappreciated…basically miserable. That is, I didn’t realize it until one day, I threw a spoon on the kitchen counter on my way out the door and she said, “I won’t be here when you get back!” “You won’t?” I asked, “Are you going shopping?” I was C-L-U-E-L-E-S-S!! “No,” she answered, “I’m going to Canada.” “Canada?” I shouted, “What? Are you visiting your parents? I didn’t know about that?”

“No,” she said with angrily, “I’m not visiting—I’m leaving you. I’ve had it!”

I was shocked. I actually thought she had lost her mind. “She’s too young for menopause,” I thought, “She must be having a Psychotic break.” I was totally blind to the reality of how she felt. I was angry too. “You’re leaving me over a spoon?” I asked! She just glared at me. “Oh my how stupid,” I thought, “I’m doing God’s work here and she’s leaving because I didn’t put a spoon in the dishwasher. Unbelievable!”

To her credit, Karen waited and talked with me. She then patiently delayed her departure as I figured things out. After hours of conversation, I realized that she felt totally hated and disregarded by me. I came to understand her love language and how I had spent 8 years ignoring it. I made up my mind to go “out of my way” to do “over and above” what she asked—aggressively pursuing “acts of kindness”—cleaning, washing dishes, changing diapers—cleaning stuff that didn’t even need cleaning to prove my love for her.

At first, she just rolled her eyes as if to say, “Don’t think you’re out of the doghouse yet pal!” She even pushed back at times as if to prove whether or not I was sincere. Still, now more than 25 years later, I remember the day that the ice I had let form around her heart, melted! I had just cleaned up around the kitchen and was headed out, when she grabbed me from behind. I turned around, expecting to see a frown or to hear a snide remark. Instead, with a tear in her eye, she hugged me and said, “You really DO love me—don’t you!”

Wow…one of the best days of my life. I will never forget the power of love language and the need to fill it.

Nearly 3 decades later, I can say we’ve never been happier and I thank God for the strength to lover her the way Christ loves His Church (Eph. 5:32-33). I can also say that understanding good communication, conflict resolution, reflective listening and other techniques I now teach in marriage mentoring–all these things have helped us be one of the happiest couples I know!

And I know a lot of them. Through counseling, seminars, my books, sermons, and other teaching venues, Karen and I have helped hundreds of couples have a better marriage. We’ve dealt with people in the midst of an affair and even helped people who had already filed for divorce. I personal believe that it’s never really “over,” and there’s always hope for reconciliation–even after divorce! I’ve seen it!

So…can your marriage be awesome? YES! And, if you’re willing to work it through. We’d love to help.

This website is dedicated to giving tons of free advice and information to help you build a stronger marriage. Still, if you don’t find what you need, please hit the “contact us” button and let’s talk! Our prayer is to make a difference with as many couples as possible.

To that end,

Pastor Joel