I enjoy offering an alternative to formal marriage counseling and a ministry to help couples and individuals prepare for their marriage or regain the relationship they once had in their marriage. Success in marriage has to do more with properly managing conflict not love. Love changes and is not an emotion, although the world tries to make us think it is.
Allow me to share the “Grandma Story” (as it’s affectionately come to be called), because it is a story that underscores the need to deal with conflict as a natural outcome of two individuals seeking to join together in a successful marriage relationship.
It is a story about my grandparents and the Durkac family. It’s a story of inspiration that I often share at my weddings and when speaking to marriage ministry audiences. It is a story of understanding what love is in marriage and what really stands as the pillars to uphold longevity and happiness in any marriage relationship at any stage of life.
The Grandma Story…
“In 1923, my grandmother, Mary, was asked to be the maid-of-honor for her best friend’s wedding. As the wedding approached in her hometown near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mary wondered what the best man might be like.
She had heard that Lou was also a recent immigrant from Czechoslovakia and also an available bachelor, but he wouldn’t be arriving until just before the wedding began.
During the wedding, Lou, the best man, took a liking for Mary the maid-of-honor. The day after the wedding, when Lou arrived back home in Ohio, he wrote a letter to Mary in Pennsylvania, asking for her hand in marriage.
Mary replied by mail, saying “Yes, but don’t you think we should meet to plan a wedding?” They met a second time to plan a wedding. They met a third time to have a wedding.
64 years later, I sat in my grandparent’s living room and I asked them what they believed to be the secret of their loving and lasting marriage?
They quickly told me two things:
First, they said they learned to live by the old adage that said, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”
My grandmother explained “Most couples think the secret to a lasting marriage is in learning to love. We all learn to love. Learning to love is what brings us together, but learning to fight, and learning to fight fair, is what keeps us together. The real secret to a loving marriage is in learning how to fight together. After 64 years, we’ve discovered that it was through our disagreements, when we stuck it out and worked through it, those times made us closer and stronger together.”
The second thing they told me was “We learned to become each other’s best friends by doing everything we could together. When we stood at the altar and said ‘I do,’ we made a commitment for forever, but we lived that each day as best friends, and by the grace of God it has become 64 years of one-day at a time.”
Confirmed by Research…
At the University of Denver, studies found that the major predictor of divorce and marital unhappiness was not disappointments over finances, lack of sexual attraction or lack of love. It was the way couples handle their disagreements and anger, and the way they communicate and fight about their disappointments. According to University of Denver psychologists Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, couples with the best chance for a successful marriage are those who learn to successfully resolve problems when they develop.
My grandmother actually added another reason in that conversation I had, and although it was mentioned as kind of addendum to her point about being best friends and doing everything they could together, it is worth recognizing.
She added, “We stayed best friends in marriage by taking time to laugh.” She shared a story about my father, when he was a young child, and how they saved and scrimped to afford to buy him a good pair of boots for walking to school and getting through the winter. My dad, as a child found a hot steam pipe laid just above the surface of the ground that he decided to challenge with a game of how long can I stand on it before the heat gets too unbearable. My grandfather was more than upset by son’s ruined boots. Then after they all cooled down and were at least thankful he only burned through his new boots and not his feet, they found themselves laughing about what he did. “From that moment on in our marriage,” said my grandma, “we learned that if we don’t take time to laugh, we’d never last.”
The Grandma Story to me, is a story of understanding what love is, a commitment to doing life together, and having a faith that allows laughing ever after!
The Story Continues…
It is interesting that not only did my grandparents meet at a wedding, so did my own parents! My Mom & Dad meet at a wedding where both were guests, and on September 6, 2016 they celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary!
My Dad recently told me that they’ve reached the 64 years anniversary mark, because he discovered the secret of marriage success. So, I ask him, what is that? To which he replied, “Two words: Give In!”
And just in case you’re already wondering about my wife and I – we met and then had a wedding. So as you can see weddings and marriage do run in our family!
Actually, my wife Stephanie and I met online in 2000. We realize that we will not break the 60 year mark before we go to be with the Lord, but we too have the same resolve as my parents and grandparents and know we will both spend eternity together with Him.
Dealing With Conflict…
The best way to handle conflict in marriage is to settle how you will deal with it before you get married. That’s why I do offer premarital consulting and encourage couples to take the 5 Love Language inventory before they marry. At the Conflict Assessment page you’ll find an outline of issues to discuss or consider as you enter into your marriage.
Marriage should be a little bit of heaven on earth. It is given to humanity as the living representation of the image of our Creator, a model of the heavenly union between Christ and the Church.
Marriage is not just a gift to make us happy, but also to make us holy, which it does through its unique character sanctifying relational dynamics of commitment with one different from the other, and the ideal of perpetuating the human family through the ability to procreate and parent through the context that mirrors the image of God through a mother and father, husband and wife, male and female.
However, we are sinful humans and conflicts arise frequently in the best of marriage relationships, so I encourage couples to settle in their hearts and minds to be committed to making their marriage successful.
I am not a licensed or clinically trained counselor, but as a church pastor I am sometimes available to meet with a couple who would like to talk about your current relationship status and improving it or preparing for it. You may also enjoy these Marriage Prep resources: Marriage Preparation • Premarital Counseling • “FORGIVE & LOVE” Premarital Assessment • “PRAYER” Resolution Guide • 5 Love Languages • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 • Conflict Assessment • Marriage Prep Inquiry