We all need a marriage community – a support system around us of couples our age, and maybe a mentor couple that’s a little bit older, that can breathe into our lives, hold us accountable, and inspire us.
In simpler words, we’re supposed to live in community.
I travel around as a speaker, and sometimes I get to speak in my hometown. Girl Talk is my event that I bring to churches where I talk about marriage and sex and everything in between. One of my favourite parts of the night is the anonymous Q&A, where people write down questions and I get a chance to answer as many as I can in 20 minutes.
Now, throughout the evening people were laughing hysterically and loudly (it’s really a very funny event), and there was one time where people clapped after a particularly funny sequence. But the only time people spontaneously clapped after something serious that I said was something that was unscripted. I was answering a question about what to do if your husband watches porn, and I said something to the effect of:
In churches we concentrate so much on whether or not someone has “said the prayer”, but we do very little to make sure that people are growing emotionally and spiritually. And that needs to stop. We need to be coming alongside our friends and saying, “I don’t think so. That is NOT going to happen anymore.” We need to be watching for friends who are in difficult marriages and going and supporting them. If we’re not doing that, then what is the body of Christ for?
I really hit a nerve with that one, and maybe you feel that longing, too.
You need a group of people that know you and your husband and that you can see on a semi-regular basis and start forming relationships with. We all need friends. Your husband isn’t enough. And it’s FUN to have other adults to get together with!
So let’s look at several different ways you can start to get to know other couples:
Here’s the point of this one: you find a group of at least two other couples and you meet on a regular basis to talk about marriage or to do a marriage study. That way you’re talking about some of the hard stuff together, and you have a group of people to go to if you have issues.
My daughter and her husband get together with two other couples every week, and they chose to study my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (and I didn’t even make them or anything!). They’re using the free study guide I have for it (and you can all use that, too!). The only rule they have is that if they’re ever talking about something in the book that refers to sex, they’re no longer talking about Keith and Sheila. They’re Craig and Shelly, for Rebecca’s sake (because seriously, who wants to talk about her mom and dad having sex?)
I just want to really emphasize this right now:
All of you young, millennial marriages, can I suggest something? Now is the time of your life when this will be easiest to do. Many of you don’t have children yet. Your schedules are less busy than they will be in ten years (even if you feel like you’re incredibly busy already). Now is the time to create those friendships that will be with you when the kids start coming (if they do), and when life gets more complicated. And if you can create that community now, you’re setting yourself up for those great relationships when you need them.
Marriage Community Strategy #2: The Small Group Bible Study
Many churches encourage people to join a small group Bible study, often based on geography (so people who live near each other meet every week or two to do a Bible study or book study together). Often these studies aren’t based on age, so you’ll get couples and singles of all different ages joining.
I really like this model, because it can help you get to know older couples and mentor couples, and it can help you mentor other couples (if you’re the older one!) or singles. Sometimes I think we divide out too much by age, and then we don’t get the wisdom that people older than us have.
I’ve also been in small groups where it’s all couples with young kids, so that we can pool baby-sitting. That was really helpful at the time, too.
Marriage Community Strategy #3: The Social Group
Maybe you’re not part of a church, or you can’t commit to a regular small group because of work schedules (been there, done that). That’s okay! Perhaps you have a group of couples that you get together with on a regular basis. Camping together every summer, doing holidays with other families you are close with in the church, or having set-aside times where you gather not just to let the kids hang out, but to make memories as a group.
Just spending down time with people and laughing with people forms friendships so that you do have people who have your back–and who will support your marriage. I think because we know each other’s kids so well, too, we really have an incentive to root for each other’s marriages!
Marriage Community Strategy #4: The Service Group
I once spoke at a church in Yakima, Washington, that promoted belonging to a small group. But the way they defined small group was different from how we usually picture it. Basically, you could join a traditional small group, OR you could be part of a service group. If you ran the youth group, for instance, then your small group would “naturally” be the other youth group volunteers.
I liked that idea, because Keith and I have served a lot in churches, and when we were involved running Bible quizzing, or when I ran a praise team, I was already out of the house one or two nights a week. To join another small group was just too hard. But also, you really get to know the people that you serve with! So to intentionally think of them as your small group is really smart. I knew the people on my praise team so well after seven years, and the people that we ran Bible quizzing with? Well, let’s just say that even though they moved away six years ago, the wife now works for me and the husband, who is a chaplain in the military, is going to do our “remembrance of vows” ceremony at our twenty-fifth anniversary party in a week!
We stayed close, because we did so much together. Youth weekend retreats, battling with church politics, etc. etc. You form a real bond!
I find that the people that I work with become my natural small group and great accountability partners. Here are two women who have worked with me hamming it up at my daughter’s wedding!
So there you have it–four ways to really get to know other couples who can support your marriage and hold you accountable.
I don’t care which one you have. Seriously. I think it’s wonderful to be able to study the Bible together or study a marriage book together and pray for each other, but I know from personal experience that I’ve had great, strong accountability relationships with people that I never opened a Bible with, because we were serving together and we knew each other really well. The main thing is that you need ONE of them.
To really form a marriage community, you need:
- A long term relationship (as much as possible)
- Accountability awareness (you know you can call each other on stuff)
- A sense of caring/responsibility for each other
Even after one of my accountability friends moved away, when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, I volunteered to get on a plane the next day (though that didn’t end up being necessary). And when we threw our 25th anniversary party, three couples who were part of that first marriage community we had when we were first married drove several hours to come join us, and my friends Tammy and Steeve (that is how you spell his name), whom we ran the Bible quizzing tournament with, travelled 8 hours to be with us.
Look, I love the fact that you all come here to see what I have to say about marriage.
I really do! And I love the fact that so many of you share my posts with friends.
Online communities are wonderful, and are great resources to answer tough questions.
But they are not enough.
So let me challenge you today: what marriage community building strategy can you use?