Loving my husband until death do us part has required (at times) hard work. We prepare for storms in our relationship by declaring that divorce is not an option for us.
Setting aside February as a month to read marriage-building books or attend workshops has also helped us stay together for 27 years.
We got an early start this year by going to He said, She said: Communication that Builds Intimacy in Marriage, a workshop led by Ed Welch.
Welch is faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation in Philadelphia, and he holds a doctoral degree in counseling and psychology.
Welch began the conference at Sovereign Grace Church in Apex on Jan. 24 and 25 by encouraging the 200 couples who gathered to consider their marriage as an institution created by God. He challenged us to create a mission statement that answers the question, Why are you together?
Sharing openly from his own 33-year marriage, Welch often paused to find his wife, Sheri, in the audience to help clarify something he was saying or ask permission to share a story from their life together.
Words for their marriage statement of purpose included partnership, friendship and sex.
The word sex drew a few gasps from the audience.
Welch said sex was out of their marriage vocabulary for about 15 years.
Like a food you have an allergic reaction to, I wasnt allowed to say the word, he said.
Although Welch, who has authored several books on relationships, depression and addiction, didnt offer their completed statement, he did share a few examples to get us thinking about what we may want to include.
Heres one I liked: To love deeply from the heart so that our children can say in 20 years that we watched our parents grow in love.
The next part of the workshop focused on the mechanism for change and the need for prayer in our marriage.
Welch suggested we be bold in our declarations and post the statements on Facebook, asking our neighbors to pray with us and for our marriage.
If its not framed as a mission statement and shared with others, it will crumble, he said.
The last part of the conference focused on really listening to our spouse when they share their joys, dreams, fears, sorrows and anger.
Welch suggested limiting angry words that tear apart a marriage.
I was inspired by our fellow participants who shared their thoughts on the conference. Joy and Dan Pike, longtime Cary residents who have been married for 16 years, came to learn how to keep their marriage a loving one.
This conference has challenged us to look at the way we communicate, share and love while keeping God at the center and focal point, Dan Pike said.
David Fisher and his wife of 17 years have six children and dont often spend time focusing on their relationship.
We were reminded that God is with us, even when marriage feels like a wilderness, he said. We left feeling renewed hope that our marriage will grow in Gods strength.