I will boldly say that I am an expert in marriage!
Now, before you put your hands on your hips and look me up and down, let me explain.
I have been married for 28 years.
How does that make me an expert? Well, how do you define expert?
A few synonyms for expert include someone who is trained, experienced, skilled, savvy, has firsthand knowledge, and is adept.
Those are only a few and I would say a big ‘YEP’ to all of those.
Now, do I fall short of expert?
Daily! I am still trained, though; I am still adept to stay married. I am honing my skill of humility and learning to be savvy (aka sensible).
An expert is by no means perfect; in fact, it takes an expert to realize this.
I’m just saying I have been in training nearly 28 years with the same person, and I believe I can share my expertise—or ability if that word comes across better.
Having a plan for what’s ahead in the real world is vital for a marriage to be successful.
Let me take you back to the beginning.
I met my husband in the parking lot of the apartment complex I lived in while taking Dental Hygiene at Loma Linda University. It was a Saturday in January 1991, and although I was in Southern California, I wanted to start a fire in my fireplace and hunker down for a night of homework.
I had some firewood in my car and went out to collect it. My fire-making focus was interrupted by someone saying my name. I was brought back to the moment to see a classmate, her fiancé, and friends of his standing on the sidewalk. I acknowledged her and she introduced me to her fiancé, his friend Todd.
Todd had just moved from Oregon to Barstow, CA for a new job and had come down to Loma Linda to see friends and family. After we’d exchanged hellos and nice to meet you, I went on my way.
A couple weeks later that same classmate asked me if I wanted to go to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. I had no idea who he was, as he was just starting to be a popular Christian artist. Other than divine intervention, I am not sure why I said ok. I had never done anything with this classmate outside of school, but I agreed to go. She told me that she and her fiancé would pick me up. When the time came and the doorbell rang, I opened the door to the realization that I was actually going on a date with Todd.
That was January 25th, 1991. We were engaged on May 25, 1991 and married December 29, 1991. Yes, I know what you’re thinking:
You got engaged four months later? Married within a year? Are you crazy?
I already knew which character traits I did and did not want in a marriage partner. When I met Todd I knew he was the salt to my pepper.
Todd suggested and paid for premarital counseling. Seeing as I was in school at Loma Linda University he suggested that we see the University chaplain, who was also a marriage counselor.
To this day I remember key suggestions from those sessions which have proven beneficial. I also credit the examples of our parents’ and grandparents’ successful marriages. Having these examples gave us tools to use in planning ahead for our own marriage.
Ever since I can remember I have found comfort in having a plan. Isaiah 32:8 is one of my life verses; it is even on a canvas in my dining nook to remind my kids before they walked out the door that:
“a Noble Man will have a Noble Plan so that on Noble Deeds he can stand.”
Before we go to college we often plan out our major and the courses that we need to take, before we go on a trip we map out the details down to the articles of clothing needed, and usually before we shop we have a list of what is needed.
So why should our choice of a life commitment with a spouse have less details in planning?
I volunteer at a Christian academy and have been a substitute teacher for the senior bible class from time to time, and one of the topics I’ve taught has been marriage.
Having a plan for what’s ahead in the real world is vital for a marriage to have success. I’m passionate about discussing the importance of knowing what they do and do not want in a marriage. It’s been rewarding to share what I’ve learned either by personal experience, by observation and lots of reading.
When I ask students what they want in a marriage, their lists are long and full of incredibly high expectations, which is great. I encourage them to have strong ideals. However, their lists can sound a lot like ones they might give to Santa—full of things that nobody else can give you.
1. Happily Ever After – like in the movies
2. Will complete me
3. Be my soulmate
4. I want the right person
These are just to name a few.
Then I ask them to write down what they don’t want in a marriage they often get stuck.
Many are so caught up in the fantasy of what they expect from a marriage that they’ve never thought about what they don’t want. I believe that actually putting this into print is vital. I want them to fully grasp the qualities they do and do not want so that they can easily identify good character—in a potential partner and in themselves.
(Next week, in Part 2, I will share the advice from our counselor as well as other practical tips I have learned and am still learning personally and by asking seasoned married couples, reading, and listening.)