Ryan and I are coming up on our 15 year wedding anniversary: years packed with happy memories full of laughter, intimacy, service, growth, dreams, wackiness, and adventure.
I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that our journey has also included many dark valleys. We’ve struggled through infertility, the struggle against sin and heartache from the past, intense arguments, pre-term labor, our first baby’s premature birth, power-struggles, name-calling, a 40-day separation, the loss of our third daughter through stillbirth, the stresses of raising children, and unintentionally carrying 2 mortgages at once. To name a few.
Some of our trials were clearly “the two of us against the foe” while others appeared to be “the two of us against one another”. In retrospect, we can see that they were all trials that we faced together against the foe, but some battles are fought face-to-face in order to advance hand-in-hand. To this day, we wear our wedding bands and snuggle up in bed at night only because God is on our desperate, weak, and sinful side.
Today, we see marriage as the miraculous gift it is. We think God uses husbands and wives to change the world, to show people what He’s like. We love that He called us into our marriage and that He has been with us all along.
The blessings and the struggles alike have made us intensely passionate about marriage.
I share all of this to let you know that you are not alone.
If your marriage happens to be new or old, intimidating or boring, weak or broken, you are not beyond God’s ability to teach, heal, grow, and amaze.
Our Top Ten Most Helpful Marriage Resources
Because God is so generously creating beauty in our marriage, we want to share His wisdom, help, and resources with you.
What would we do without the countless friends and family who have helped, encouraged, inspired, confronted, and taught us over the years? We’d be gonners.
From Ryan’s 5 friends who have met every Thursday morning for over 5 years to the Young Wives Club book study that I was a part of 4 years ago. From our own parents to our mentors. From pastors to play-date-friends… a community of caring people has held us together. Our worst seasons of marriage have been when we’ve separated ourselves from community for one reason or another. We’ve seen it time and time again: the first thing to cause a marriage to fall apart is a lack of an encouraging community.
If you don’t have people who will listen to you and, in time, bring you back to God’s Word, who will do your yard work and watch your children, who will ask you to do their yard work and watch their children – get them.
I can’t give you a quick link to people like this, but you can ask God to provide them for you. Find a wonderful church – full of humans who honor God and one another, who read the Bible and help others. (Here’s a great website to help you find a church in your area: 9 Marks Church Search).
#2. This book:
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexity of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Tim Keller
We’ve read this insightful, thorough, not-like-any-other-marriage-book book 3 times: once on our own and twice with other couples. We’ve read so many marriage books, and this is at the top of our list.
It is biblical + thoughtful + relevant + practical + honest + humble = life changing.
#3. A $ course: like Financial Peace University
Years ago, our church provided a 13-week FPU course that has benefited our marriage. It gave us a common ground regarding money, helping us to develop our budget, teaching us a language with which to discuss finances, and giving us the tools to take practical steps towards financial freedom and generosity. We highly recommend (wish we could require) this course to every engaged or married couple. Unlike “just reading the book,” investing your time and attention in a multi-week course like FPU is a game-changer that sets you up for the win.
#4. An online accountability program:
To protect your marriage from the ever-looming temptation of online pornography or countless, unhelpful distractions, consider installing an online accountability program that will send a report of your monthly Internet usage to a friend(s) of your choice.
We’ve used both Covenant Eyes and Accountable2U . They are so much more than online filters (although those can be helpful, too!): the accountability aspect keeps us within the love and support of our most-trusted friends (see Resource #1).
So many people install a program like this after pornography or another online distraction has wreaked havoc on their lives. We want to see more people take the temptation seriously before that happens. We always recommend that every couple seriously consider installing one of these programs right away. It’s worth the investment.
#5. Regular slow-down, stop-everything resets.
Several times throughout our married life, we’ve discovered that our commitments, opportunities, and obligations were wreaking havoc on our family. We’ve had to back out of obligations, say “no” to opportunities, and hunker down at home. Sometimes, that can be quite humbling, but we’ve never regretted it.
I recommend regular re-evaluations of how you are spending your time, energy, affection, attention, and money.
You can read more about our first reset here: How to Get Your Life Back from Distraction, Depression, and Distance
#6. A counseling/ mentoring relationship.
You may be surprised to discover that people in your church or community are trained in marriage counseling.
Marriage Savers trained us to use the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventory and counseling materials to walk with premarital couples as well as married couples.
Over the years, we’ve had the blessing of walking with friends through pre-marital counseling. We’ve walked with other friends through marital restoration. We’ve even had the blessing of walking with friends whose marriages didn’t make it, but the individuals, did. We’ve cherished each person, honoring their story and praying for them regardless of the outcome.
PREPARE/ENRICH will help you:
- Identify strength and growth areas
- Explore personality traits
- Strengthen communication skills
- Resolve conflicts and reduce stress
- Compare family backgrounds
- Comfortably discuss financial issues
- Establish personal, couple, and family goals
Though these programs do not replace pastoral or professional counseling, they can make all the difference in the world for engaged, newly married, or struggling couples. You’ll learn a ton, have meaningful conversations, and develop friendships with other couples that will strengthen your marriage.
#7. This book:
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life – by Cloud and Townsend
In my opinion, Boundaries (or something like it) should be mandatory reading for the human race. Every marriage would benefit from reading and understanding where one person starts and another stops, recognizing the ways we wield power in our relationships, and taking responsibility for our own decisions.
When Ryan and I were on the brink of divorce 11 years ago, I didn’t even know that I had a problem with boundaries. I didn’t know that I misunderstood love, generosity, and responsibility. When someone plopped this book in my lap, everything changed. Boundaries will help you to situate yourself wisely in relationships according to Scripture.
So yes, mandatory.
#8. Something to heal the brokenhearted like On the Threshold of Hope – Diane Langberg
Marriages thrive when a spouse’s red-flag-issue is addressed and healed. Too often, significant character issues, past difficulties, or personal heartaches go unaddressed until they devastate a marriage. We highly recommend asking God to heal your marriage sooner than later. You’ll never regret it.
Unaddressed struggles like previous relationships, affairs, abortion, drug-abuse, alcoholism, and sexual abuse can wreak havoc on a marriage. God is powerful and good; nothing is beyond His ability to redeem.
Regarding sexual abuse, which affects at least 25% of women and men, I highly recommend Diane Langberg’s writing as a place to start. “On the Threshold of Hope offers hope and healing to men and women who have been traumatized by sexual abuse. Dr. Langberg’s insights and the quotations from many survivors assure readers that they are not alone and that Christ, the Redeemer, can heal their deep wounds. Through stories, Scripture, questions, and encouragement, Dr. Langberg walks with survivors on the road to healing through Christ’s love and power.”
#9. Something to share.
Lost Cities, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Music Team
Lost Cities is a fun, 2-person card game, The Chronicles of Narnia is a great read-aloud, and The Music Team is the way Ryan and I serve together at church. These are just a few examples of things that Ryan and I have enjoyed together and that have – in small but sweet ways – made our marriage better.
I encourage you to find simple things that you and your spouse enjoy doing together – a game, a book, a show, a ministry. We’ve discovered that when we are sharing something, our marriage is strong. Come to think of it, we’re over-due to have a little fun around here. I wonder what will be our next adventure? Got any good recommendations?
What’s on your Top Ten List of Marriage Resources? We’d love to know!