Before You Say “I Do”

Summer is finally here and you know what that means. At least for our friends and family, summer means lots of swimming, grill outs, graduations, and yes, weddings. Merrill and I were married on a sweltering July day back in 1987; we will be married 32 years on July 24. If you’re married and reading this, maybe you had a summer wedding too. I don’t know about you, but we were such young pups when we got married without a clue of what we were doing when we said, “I Do”. I’m not sure where we would be today without God’s unmerited favor.  I thank God every day for His grace and the blessing of Merrill, our five children, two amazing daughter in laws and 2 ⅓ adorable grandchildren (Yep, another one is on the way). Each one of them is a blessing in my life I do not deserve.

I say all this not just to reminisce but to attack some myths Merrill and I have seen young couples fall for over the past 25 years. Over and over again, couples have fallen into the same traps creating trouble for them years down the road. None of these are easy topics. There are as many opinions as there are words in a dictionary. We could spend days unpacking each one, but in this season of weddings and engagements, I feel like it’s time to do some myth busting about marriage and relationships.


Photo Credit: Olivia Strohm Photography

Photo Credit: Olivia Strohm Photography

  1. “Love is All We Need”-That’s a great title for a movie or love song, but that’s not real life. Without investing in each other and nurturing that relationship through good communication and conflict resolution skills...that infatuation quickly begins to fade away. Why do you think only 2% of new marriages started as high school sweethearts? Love is not a feeling, but instead a conscious decision that must be fed and nurtured. A healthy marriage takes each partner giving 100% to the relationship. Besides healthy relationship skills, the greatest tool in our marriage toolbox is God Himself.  Without the Lord at the center of their relationship, couples are building on sinking sand.

  2. “Time Will Resolve Our Problems”- Sometimes it’s the little things over time that destroy trust and slowly eat away at a relationship. If you and your partner have things that have never been addressed or resolved and they are causing bitterness and anger to build up, it’s time to get some help. Work toward compromise and resolution BEFORE you say “I do”.  Time does not heal all wounds. Over time, it can be the little things that hardened your heart toward your partner. Don’t let things go unresolved thinking they are “no big deal”. If you keep brushing things under the rug without ever dealing with eventually start tripping over the rug!

  3. “My Partner is My Everything”- Putting your partner on a pedestal and declaring him/her to be your world is setting your partner up for horrible failure. God never intended your partner to be your savior...your everything. Your partner IS going to disappoint you. He/She IS going to let you down over and over again. That’s called being human, and that’s why we all need to extend this thing called grace. Look in the mirror. You’re not perfect either and you’re going to need your partner to extend grace to you. We all do.  We’re going to disappoint and let others down. We see couples all the time enter into a relationship with rose colored glasses assuming their partner can meet all their needs. Good luck with that one! That’s not how God designed marriage. There is still a need for outside friendships. There is still a need for alone time, and there is still a HUGE need for God. I tell couples all the time. God is a jealous God, and he won’t settle for second place even in your marriage.

  4. “Living Together Helps Prepare Us For Marriage”-This one depends on what you’re preparing for. If you want to know if your partner snores or is a good cook, maybe that’s true, but if you are looking for a forever commitment, not so much. When a couple chooses to live together before marriage, it can infuse doubt and mistrust into the very core of the relationship. It’s hard to trust someone completely when they have an easy exit strategy. The message living together often sends to a partner is “I’m not sure you’re the one for me”. I want to “test drive” the relationship. Well, test driving is great for cars you want to buy, but we’re not dealing with cars here. We’re dealing with people’s emotions and when we start intertwining sexual intimacy and financial bank accounts together without a forever commitment-things get really messy.  It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. I’m not here to say that couples who live together before marriage won’t last, but I am saying it definitely starts the building process on shaky ground. Regardless of what people may say, Cohabitation is NOT the best way to prepare for marriage.

A healthy marriage is not about what we selfishly GET from the relationship, but what we selflessly GIVE. It’s more about BEING the one than finding “the one”. When we look at our partner and say “I’m ALL IN” and approach marriage as a lifetime commitment through the good times and the bad, that’s when we create a relationship of love and trust.  That’s when you begin to build on a rock solid foundation for your new life together. The best way to prepare for marriage is to pursue God as a couple and get wise premarital counsel.

Many couples spend years saving and planning for their wedding day. Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the United States last year was over $33,000? That is crazy! Couples spend a ton of money and time picking out dresses, flowers and venues. What if couples would take that same kind of time and attention in seeking God as the center of their relationship? Take the time to pray for your relationship, for each other, and for your future family. Statistics show that over 99% of married couples who pray together on a regular basis stay together. I don’t know of anything else that compares to that success rate. Research also shows that 80% of couples that get quality premarital counseling stay married.

So before you say “I do”, take the time to pursue God together. Talk to your priest or pastor. Invest in premarital counseling. Find a Christian mentor couple to walk alongside you. Slow down and do this right. After all, it’s not about one special day on the calendar, but a very special relationship you want to last a lifetime.

Marriage First Aid

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I still remember where I was when I got the call. I was in Orlando, Florida at a ministry conference when one of my key church volunteers called me in tears. He and his wife were in marital crisis. She was ready to leave.  How could that be? They looked like they had it all together. I was with their whole family just the week before. How could I have missed the storm brewing and growing inside their home?

I remember that day like it was yesterday, but in reality it was over 15 years ago. That day is forever seared in my mind, because it stirred something inside that has never left me - a heart for couples in crisis. Working with couples and families was nothing new for my husband and I. For years, we had been working with engaged couples walking alongside them before they said “I Do”. For years, I had worked with families as a teacher and children’s minister. But this was different. This time, I felt ill-equipped and blindsided.

Maybe you’ve been there.  A family member or friend calls you to say, “I can’t do this anymore” or “He/She left”, and you’re left holding the phone in shock. Now what? Often we feel helpless wishing we had a band-aid or some magic words, but we don’t. The helplessness I felt that winter day in Orlando Florida sent me on a quest for truth and tools for my friends and the countless other couples God would put in my path.

If you are reading this today, I’m first here to share with you some truth. There is NOTHING that you or someone you love is experiencing right now that God can not bring beauty from (Isaiah 61:1-3). In 20 years of ministry, I have seen God bring healing and beauty out of the ugliest of circumstances. Adultery, Addiction, Illness, Bankruptcy, Felonies, Abuse….you name it; God can redeem it! Now, I didn’t say every marriage will be restored. Restoration takes two willing partners which doesn’t always happen in marital conflict. But if you are willing to do it His way, God is ABLE! My husband and I host a weekly radio show called ROCK SOLID RADIO and recently did an episode on this very topic. Check it out at or just click HERE

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking it’s already too late. Maybe you and your spouse have already divorced and moved on. God can still make something beautiful out of your pain and heartache if you surrender it to Him. He is still able to do more than all you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). Maybe, it’s not you but a friend, and you have no idea what to say or do. First and foremost, pray for them. Ask God to give you the wisdom and discernment in knowing what to say and what not to say. But what if there was more we could do? What if we had some first aid tools when the bleeding starts to occur?

Just like students in school, it’s important we all have an emergency plan and practice it BEFORE the storm comes. Whether it’s a tornado or fire, students and adults practice the plan AHEAD of time.  It helps take the emotion out of the emergency and allows everyone to handle things in a safe and calm way. What if you and your spouse did the same thing? Sit down with your spouse and go over this together when things are good or when the emotion is out of the conflict.

Get a plan NOW on how you will handle the next storm or conflict that arises. No matter if it’s you or someone you know, there is hope and healing when conflict occurs.  Here are some tried and true tools I believe every first aid plan should include:

  1. Take a Time Out-Don’t try and resolve conflict in the heat of emotion. Take time to cool down. If it is your spouse who is angry, walk away to allow the situation to deescalate. Go for a walk, take a drive, go in your room. Take time to step away from the emotion and calm down with the commitment that you will be back to resolve it later when the emotion has subsided. It may be an hour or a day, but don’t allow the negative emotion to fester and grow.

  2. Initiate a sincere apology-Take the time to reflect on how you contributed to the conflict and own it. Even if you think your spouse was 95% in the wrong, own your 5%. (Don’t tell them you are only 5% in the wrong...that’s not going to help!) After a cooling down period, approach your spouse and apologize for your part of the argument and then STOP. Don’t go on to crucify their response or justify yours. That will only put your partner on the defense and shut down any possibility of healing your relationship. If your partner isn’t willing to apologize, don’t give up and strike back. It may take time for your partner to believe you are sincere and not just wanting to throw them under the bus.

  3. Don’t keep score-Once you have apologized, let it go. Don’t keep bringing up the past and throwing it in their face. If you are a couple that keeps score, you may win an argument but you will lose your marriage.

  4. Daily Investment of Time- I believe many couples are struggling because they have not made their marriage a priority. They’ve put everything in front of their marriage relationship. Work, Kids, Screens, you name it and it has replaced the marriage as the daily priority. Your spouse needs to know that he/she is the most important person in your life. If they’re not….that’s the problem. It’s time to make your spouse a priority. Every day for about 15-20 min, take the time to sit down with your partner uninterrupted and just dialogue. Ask them how they are doing and what’s going on in their world. Compliment and thank them whenever possible. No kids, no screens, no dishes...just the two of you. You will be amazed how esteemed and valued your spouse will feel. You will be surprised how much you learn in just 15-20 minutes. So many conflicts come from a break down of communication. This daily investment would save so many storms from brewing.

  5. Christ Centered Marriage-You want to storm proof your marriage? Take your child off the throne. Take your work off it’s pedestal. Stop expecting your spouse to be something God never created them to be. All of those things...our children, our work, even our spouse make lousy gods. Put Jesus Christ on the throne in your home. Build your home on a foundation that is unshakable and can weather ANY storm. As a couple, pray for each other and for your family every day. The divorce rate for couples who pray together on a regular basis is less than 1 percent. I don’t know of a better way to storm proof your marriage. When Christ is our focus, we begin to understand how to love our wife and respect our husband unconditionally. We begin to extend grace and offer forgiveness, because we realize how WE have been forgiven by our Heavenly Father who loves us and forgives us daily.  

  6. Seek Professional Help Early-Don’t wait until your spouse walks out the door. If you can’t seem to resolve the conflict on your own, seek professional help. Call a counselor. Reach out to a priest/pastor. Contact us at Rock Solid Families for marriage/family coaching. There is help and hope available.

Like I mentioned before, there are no magic words that can instantly repair a hurting relationship.  There is no magic pill you can swallow and heal deep wounds, but there is a Heavenly Father who has given us a way to have all those things we so desperately desire...peace, love, joy, and hope.

At Rock Solid Families, we are here to help you find those things in a Christ-centered home. If we can help you or your family, please don’t hesitate to call our St. Leon, IN office at 812-576-ROCK or contact us through our website at In the meantime, please know that if you’re reading this, we are praying for YOU and asking God to help you build a Rock Solid Family!