Every marriage has disconnection pitfalls—issues that are sensitive to navigate together because they touch our deepest needs, longings, insecurities, and identity. Danny often says that the top three issues that create friction in most marriages are sex, money, and communication. When we experience fear or pain around these issues, there’s the urge to protect ourselves by creating distance and disconnection. If we disconnect whenever we’re hurting our scared, we end up with dysfunctional relationships that easily break apart.
In our nearly fifteen years of marriage, we’ve had to learn to navigate around disconnection pitfalls like any other couple. We’ve also had the privilege of offering support and counsel to other couples as they do the same. Along the way, we have consistently seen that there are three protective ingredients that every marriage needs to avoid these pitfalls and become resilient to disconnection.
Ingredient #1: Community
One of the first questions we ask any couple who comes to us for counsel is, “Are you in community?” It is our belief and experience that no matter how many books you read or classes you attend, you must plant your life and relationship in meaningful relationships with others. Nine times out of ten, when we have been struggling with a pitfall issue, it’s the people in our community who help us get through it. They listen, share wisdom from their own stories, pray with us, and give us courage us to push through the fear and pain and stay connected.
Newlyweds and/or engaged couples can especially be tempted to get lost in their love and admiration for one another and begin alienating themselves from their community. While having a time to connect and be in love is great, pre-marriage and early marriage are vulnerable seasons in which you need the strength and wisdom of others as you lay the foundation for your relationship. Too many times, we have seen exclusivity turn into a lifestyle of keeping people out, which is a setup for struggle when those pitfalls show up.
Ingredient #2: Asking for Help (Earlier than Later)
Just being plugged into a community of relationships isn’t enough, however. We need to be actively drawing on the strength of these relationships and inviting their input before problems arise. We have watched many couples be surrounded by great people but still operate from the belief, “We can figure this out on our own.” The danger with believing we can do this marriage thing ourselves is that we create an unhealthy reliance on our partner or make them the problem when issues come up. It also means we probably won’t ask for help until the house is on fire.
Ingredient #3: Keep Working on Your Blind Spots.
Perhaps the core reason we don’t pursue community and a lifestyle of interdependence in relationships is that we haven’t fully embraced the truth that it’s the only way we can grow into our best selves.
This is the truth at the heart of marriage. When a man and a woman stand at the altar and promise to love one another forever, they are not only signing up to get to know the other person in marriage—they are signing up to get to know themselves in the mirror that person will be to them. After our relationship with God, this lifelong covenant is the place where our blind spots can be exposed, enabling us to overcome the areas of fear, pain, and insecurities that would otherwise hold us back from a life of deep connection.
However, it is equally true that we all need more than one person involved in that growth process! A couple that seeks growth in community has the best chance of identifying and overcoming their blind spots and avoiding disconnection pitfalls.
Prepare and Enrich
As you may know, Danny Silk recently launched a new-and-improved version of his pre-marriage course, Defining the Relationship (DTR), through Life Academy. Most people don’t know that we had the privilege of being the ones to go through the first DTR classes ever offered over fifteen years ago. That’s right—Danny used his own daughter and son-in-law as guinea pigs!
Even though the new DTR course can be used by individuals and couples on their own, we’re very aware that it’s ideal for them to go through this material with others—a counselor, facilitator, or group—for all the reasons we just discussed. Preparing for marriage is best done in community.
For this reason, we are going to be partnering with Danny to add another level of strength and preparation to couples preparing for marriage. Starting this month, we will be facilitating the Prepare & Enrich (P&E) pre-marrieds assessment and offering pre-marital sessions in conjunction with DTR. P&E was founded in 1980 and has helped over 4 million couples from then until now. This online assessment tool combines the responses of each person in the relationship to reveal their strengths and growth areas.
We are so excited to come alongside couples—as Danny, Sheri, and so many members of our community have and continue to do for us—and help prepare them for the road ahead. We want to be part of building strong marriages and families that will change the world—and we know it can happen if we fight together for a life and culture of connection.