Healthy marriages are imperative to the well-being of any community. For this reason, my wife and I, and 41 other married couples involved with the community of G.O.D. Int’l gathered together at the headquarters of G.O.D. Int’l recently to participate in what was has become our annual marriage retreat to focus on strengthening the vitality of our marriages.
While our efforts as an organization are often focused on reaching out to the marginalized both locally and around the world, we recognize that such efforts must begin with our own health as a community, and as families.
The divorce rate in the US is now between 40 and 50 percent according to the American Psychological Association. In light of this unfortunate societal trend, we are working hard as a community to protect this most foundational relationship.
One of the major roadblocks that often results in divorce in our society is the fact that married couples don’t have a healthy network of , friends to turn to when conflicts or seemingly insurmountable issues arise. Struggling married couples don’t often feel safe enough to open up to friends in order to gain another perspective and work through the inevitable conflicts that so commonly emerge within marriages. Because of pride or trust issues, marital issues are too often reserved for the realm of privacy.
On top of this, the Christian culture often pressures us, sometimes subtly, to pretend like things are absolutely perfect in our marriage. And we hide the issues, and put on a smiling face in public. Studies show that, often, married couples have been unhappy for up to six years before they decide to do anything about it. None of us want to get into that kind of rut.
When marriage is the most fundamental relationship in our lives, we cannot afford to be laissez-faire about it. We can’t spend our focus and energy so tirelessly day in and day out to develop competencies and skills to the neglect of sharpening this most central relationship in our lives.
Because of some of these unfortunate realities, one of the major themes touched on over the course of our weekend was the necessity for accountability among marriages. While the idea may seem somewhat ordinary, it is truly an extraordinary phenomenon to watch being lived out on the day-to-day. We emphasized the importance of married couples supporting and trusting one another, and the need to feel safe in becoming more transparent with other married friends. “The marriage retreat brought out the need for my husband and I to have the accountability of friends in our marriage, to help us come to terms with our own marital challenges,” said Grace Aaseby.
As human beings, we don’t always see ourselves well, and have a hard time thinking outside our own perspective. Thus, if we are willing to open up our marriage to the perspective of others, we gain the perspective that can give us a more healthy relationship.
“It has been very beneficial for me to have times like this to connect on a deeper level with married friends and to gain perspective from older, experienced husbands on what it looks like to be a good husband and father,” said Chris Cameron in response to the weekend.
The weekend ended with testimonies of men and women expressing heart-felt gratitude to have friends to support them in their marriage relationship. Others expressed a resolve to move forward in fulfilling their roles as either husband or wife in such a way that their spouse feels supported and excited to participate in raising families and a contributing to a healthy community.