It’s been just over two years since we launched the #staymarried blog. Before that Tony was (and still is) a graphic designer and I was busying myself mod-podging book pages on everything.
Before that Tony and I were church planters, and before that we worked in cubicles, and before that he was in a band and I was a groupie, and before that he drove a popsicle truck and I was a cocktail waitress.
Somewhere in all of those adventurous job descriptions, I also used to oversee small groups for a church in a far off land called Kenosha, Wisconsin. I had the pleasure of training leaders and hosts to coordinate their own groups that hopefully didn’t feel too cult-ish.
I loved that job for many reasons. One of which is the joy I saw as people, who had previously lived their lives without much community, now began to share their lives and struggles and joys with others. Something powerful happens when we put ourselves in a place to see that we really aren’t as alone as we often feel, especially when it comes to issues in our marriages.
Early on we made resources available for free for anyone who would want to take what we are doing here with the #staymarried blog and use it in a group setting. To our surprise and delight, one of our friends in Wisconsin, Jamie, actually invited people into her home and used the resources and discussion questions we provided. How I wish I could have watched them all in action. But, since I couldn’t, I asked her to share her own insights and why she thinks everyone should be a part of a #staymarried group. I’m delighted to let you now hear from Jamie herself…
Top Five Reasons to Join (or Start!) a #staymarried Group
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on an awkward blind date… Wait. Is there such a thing as a non-awkward blind date? At any rate, you’ve probably been there. I’m fortunate to have only had one such experience in my wild single days (staying home and watching reruns of Gilmore Girls is wild, right?), but it was enough for me. I knew in our phone conversations leading up to it that this particular guy and I weren’t a good match, but I also wanted to follow all of the dating advice you get in such situations: Relax. Give him a chance. Don’t be too picky. Don’t assume you won’t have a good time just because he likes ______ (insert annoying sport/hobby).
So, I said yes to a date with him. He was quite a bit older than me, but, hey, George Clooney’s quite a bit older than me, too.
On the phone call before the date, he told me where we were going for dinner. He’d chosen the best – and my favorite – restaurant in town.
Okay. Maybe this will be fun after all.
Then he asked, “So, what are you going to wear?”
Ummm… I wasn’t sure how to answer that, but before I could, he said, “I was thinking a sport coat.”
A sport coat?! Was Alex P. Keaton taking me out?
Okay, I actually love Alex P. Keaton. But, the term “sport coat” immediately took me back to the 80s. I pictured full-on tweed with suede elbow patches, and not in some cool, ironic, hipster way.
I went, the food was amazing, the conversation dull, and I never saw him again. I can’t really complain. If a guy who wears a sport coat (and calls it a sport coat) is my worst blind date, I know I’m pretty lucky.
The point of that little story (besides getting you to read beyond the title) is that sometimes joining a new group can feel like an awkward blind date. Who are these people? Will they like me? Will I like them? Will they be weird? Will they think I’m weird? It definitely feels like a risk.
I happen to think that in the case of joining (or starting!) a #staymarried group, it’s a risk worth taking. Here’s why:
1. You need to be hanging out with other couples who are moving in the same direction as you.
Most people who get married intend to stay married. I don’t think, though, that every couple is on track to actually stay married. Some couples are on track to buy a bigger house. Other couples are on track to raise amazing children. Still other couples are on track to have the most fun on weekends. These may be good things, but in the case of our marriages, they are not the ultimate things.
All sorts of alternate goals and visions can sidetrack our ultimate goal of staying married and developing a healthy, intimate, life-giving relationship. We need to be spending time with couples who share the same goal as us.
Are you and your spouse friends with other couples who are committed to making their marriages last? Do you have friends that you can go to as a couple and be real with about the hard stuff in your relationship? By joining or starting a #staymarried group, you’re creating a built-in support system for your marriage.
2. You need time each week devoted to growing as a couple.
I probably don’t need to explain this to you. You’re most likely reading this on your phone while getting ready for the day/riding the train to work/grocery shopping/giving the kids a bath/all of the above. You and your spouse are not going to magically or accidentally stay best friends and devoted lovers in the midst of all of the busy-ness and distraction that are normal parts of our culture. A #staymarried group is a weekly appointment to work on your marriage in the simplest way possible. Michelle and her team do all of the work of researching and creating ideas for you to improve your relationship. You and your spouse just show up and commit to following through.
3. You need to invest in your marriage in the good times.
Maybe you’re thinking, But, Jamie, my marriage is good. You don’t even know how good. He’s the yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly. She’s my rock, my heart, my everything. We could not be any closer.
Awesome. I get it. I’m a newlywed. It’s all butterflies and double rainbows and unicorns at my house.
Just like we’re investing and saving money for the day when things are not as financially secure for us as they are now, we are investing relationally for the day when things in our marriage are not quite as rosy. At some point, bad choices or difficult circumstances will result in challenges that we know we are not equipped to deal with on our own. We want to be as ready as possible for that day. That means reading the blog, putting its wisdom into action, and developing a support system around us through our small group.
4. You need the perspective of other couples.
This has been one of the most fun and useful things about being part of a #staymarried group. Our group is fairly small – 4 couples, including us. In it are two couples who’ve been married a little over a year, one couple engaged to be married this spring, and one couple who’ve been married more than 10 years. We have different personalities and different styles of communicating, dealing with conflict, and staying connected with our spouses.
There have been lots of laughs for the group and “aha” moments for me personally listening to the other couples describe the dynamics of their relationships. Todd and I have gained valuable perspective on our own issues as a couple, ideas for dealing with potential conflicts, an appreciation for the things that are going well in our relationship, and, not least of all, some wonderful friends.
5. Finally, you grow closer as a couple when you have new experiences together.
So, it turns out that doing things together that are new and maybe a little bit outside of your comfort zone as a couple (like the “awkward blind date” experience of joining or starting a group) actually serves to bring you closer together. I was first introduced to this idea in this little video. In it, couples first chat with a researcher about the current state of their relationship, then are assigned to help each other through an obstacle course that they hadn’t anticipated. At the end, each couple is laughing and affirming each other, and during the exit interview, they all describe how much more positive they feel about their relationship than they did when they started the day.
I experience this with Todd almost every week through our #staymarried group. We start out the evening tired and rushed, a bit stressed that people are coming over and the house isn’t perfect, and by the end of the evening, we are relaxed and laughing with one another.
Not married? This is for you, too.
I didn’t get married until I was 38, and there were few things I found more annoying than feeling like I was excluded from an activity with people whom I considered friends just because I didn’t have a spouse. I get it. It’s why my husband and I opened our group up to the singles in our church, too, when we started. No one took us up on it, but hopefully our group at least didn’t pour salt on someone’s wound.
If you love the blog and are single, consider starting a group for other singles based on the principles covered in this blog. I read and loved #staymarried before I even met Todd, mostly because it gave me hope for the possibility of someday having a healthy, happy marriage in a culture that seems to be constantly demonstrating that it’s not possible. It was a way for me to invest in becoming someone who was ready to marry if and when the opportunity presented itself.
So, step out. Take a risk. Talk to your pastor about starting a #staymarried group at your church. Start a group in your city through meetup. Or, just email a bunch of friends and see who’s up for hanging out once a week and discussing the blog. It may be the best blind date you ever have.
Jamie lives in Madison, WI, where she has managed to find a way to get paid to spend 40 hours a week in a bookstore. When she’s not working (or reading), she enjoys baking, doing yoga, trying out new restaurants and bakeries, sharing meals with friends, and cheering on her marathon-running husband.
Jamie has helped us update our resources to offer SIX new sessions. So, if you’ve already hosted a #staymarried group and are looking to do it again with new material, we’re excited to offer this to you. The six new sessions also have fun icebreaker videos right here on the blog. So easy! So FUN! You can check them all out here… RESOURCES FOR GROUPS
The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.
Looking for more about Groups and how community can impact your marriage? Check out these other #staymarried posts.
If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.
Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!
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