“The weak link in your marriage is…” our Certified Facilitator and friend Ben said, “and it is serious.” We were on the phone with Ben two weeks ago to debrief our Prepare and Enrich survey results. Prepare and Enrich is a premarital and marriage assessment tool that has helped couples enrich their relationship for the last 35 years.
Before I tell you what Ben said the weak link in our marriage was, let me tell you why we took the Prepare and Enrich Assessment.
Jenny and I first held hands and were officially a “couple” on Valentines Day 1988. There were a couple of messy breakups, but basically we have been together since then. We were married in Redding, CA, on June 20, 1992. So we’ve been together a long time.
Through our marriage we’ve developed a philosophy that a good marriage takes a lot of hard work and upkeep. The way Jenny puts it is “they lived happily every after with a lot of of hard work in between.” The way I put it is that we need to “renew and always be renewing our marriage.” In the Identity Mapping ministry we emphasize that the marriage is the most important relationship, the foundation of the family. And that is deserves and requires attention, work, caretaking. We’ve tried to live that over the last 29 years.
But as I shared in a recent post, Jenny and my marriage was hurting, strained, limping along. So I set as my one goal for 2021 to “love Jenny accurately.” I knew we needed to slow down, focus on our relationship, take time for ourselves. Part of that slowing down was to schedule a trip to Maui with just Jenny and I. Our trip would take place 33 years after we first held hands on February 14, 1988.
I contacted Ben Bryson a friend from college who had served twenty-six years as a pastor and who now lives with his wife in Maui. He set us up with an awesome place to stay. And he shared that he feels God is calling him to a ministry to pastors and their wives, a ministry of encouragement, renewal, counsel and care. He shared that he was a Certified Facilitator with Prepare and Enrich, and asked if we would be interested in taking the assessment. Jenny and I thought that sounded great. And that is why Ben was telling us what the assessment indicated was the weak link of our marriage.
“The weak link of your marriage,” Ben said, “Is the lack of leisure activities that you do together. It’s important not to write this off. This is serious, and it’s something to pay attention to. What do you think about that?” Ben asked.
We both affirmed the assessment. Probably more than most couples, Jenny and I work together on so many things. We work closely in my work with the church. Jenny is my main ally and helper in my pastoral ministry. We work together to care for our kids, and help our families. We work closely in running Sunnyshore Studio, our art business. We both work out of our apartment in Redmond, WA. Basically we do everything together, apart from Jenny’s coaching business. But we don’t take much time just to have fun, for leisure activities, for us. Jenny has been saying for the last couple of years that all we talk about is work and that we don’t have fun together. We don’t have hobbies, adventures, things for just us to do. So when Ben said that we weren’t surprised. We agreed that it was an important issue to work on in our marriage.
Then Ben challenged us. “I want you to ‘Date your Mate.'” He said. He told us that he wanted us to come up with a plan where once a week we had a date. There is a page in the Biblical Workbook for Couples on the Prepare and Enrich materials on Leisure Activities that we will have in hand when we leave for Maui on Monday, February 8th.
This Monday, February 8, Jenny and I will board a plane in Seattle and fly to Maui. We’re spending seven days in Lahaina, near when Ben lives. And then will drive the winding road to Hana and spend three days there. We’re going to unplug from social media, and focus on having fun, on renewing our marriage, rediscovering each other, and entering into the “empty nest” chapter of our married life on a solid foundation.
No matter where you are at in your relationship to a significant other – dating, engaged, married – I encourage you to commit to doing the hard work of cultivating your relationship. I pray that by God’s grace you will “live happily every after with a lot of hard work in between.”