The puzzle pieces (“Who are you?” and “What are you doing here?”) started to align for me as well, once I understood my love language: Words of Affirmation. I thrived my entire life with pats on the back: good grades and the subsequent accolades from my high school teachers; cadet rank and ribbons at The Citadel; a beautiful wife (Jenny) and incredible children (Danny, Hannah and Ethan); marrying Nora and having four amazing children with her (Lydia, Ian, Phillip and Erik); and four promotions and fifteen medals and ribbons in the Marine Corps. I had been seeking the applause from others instead of from the nail-scarred hands.
After attending that first marriage conference, I committed to Nora that until either she or I died, we would attend at least one marriage conference every year. I recognized that I had much to learn as a husband and father in order to teach my sons and daughters what right should look like. I began telling our children, the older ones in particular, where I had messed up and that I was responsible for a host of issues with Nora. I too had brought baggage into our marriage – and I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know the answer to the question: “Who are you?” And as the leader of our marriage and home, I – not Nora – was responsible for both nearly disintegrating.
Nora, from her perspective, felt that community was more responsible for healing our marriage (than was counseling or a conference, though both were critical). One revolving door, Nora sensed, that Satan had us trapped inside was the result of our keeping our relationship and our hearts as islands – where our secret struggles and wounds could not be touched, tended, or healed.
From that point, where I gave Nora my blessing to share our issues and struggles with those whom she trusted in our community, she felt that we were able to begin a journey toward healing through community. Not sharing everything with everyone – but being discerning and seeking God’s help through others’ prayer and counsel. Before either of us would ever have imagined, other couples with struggles more serious than ours began coming to us for help.
A few weeks after the Weekend to Remember conference, I attended a start-up men’s Bible study in our neighborhood located on the Marine base. We studied Every Man’s Marriage by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Those authors clearly explained the biblical concept of oneness between a man and his wife and shared lessons learned from their own marriages – even admitting their mistakes and struggles. I felt encouraged by their transparency and candor.
I wondered, “What specifically will I learn that will help strengthen my marriage?”
To be continued