When we met, we had both been married previously. Leslie had been married for sixteen years to Jim, Randy twenty-four years to Diane. Jim had passed away four years before from Melanoma, skin cancer. Diane had died very recently from lung cancer.
We had both had very successful, fulfilling, happy marriages. The loss of our spouses was devastating in so many ways, but as God brought us together, we felt fortunate to have found love again.
With the blessing of our families and our five children, we married, thus blending two broken families to love one another.
We thought that because we had navigated marriage successfully before, we knew what we were doing and pretty much had it figured out!
Boy, were we naïve!
We had such a desire to really blend the family into one. Our children were all teens to college age and as we sought to create this one big happy family, the kids were not at all shy about telling us all what they thought we were doing wrong, and how they thought we should do it. It was a daily challenge to try and meet all the needs of this large group.
As we had each married a new spouse completely opposite in personality from our first, we found we had a lot to learn and relearn about this marriage thing! We have taken marriage classes, seminars, and attended retreats over the years, each teaching us ways to better communicate in relationship with this new personality.
When we began to attend Pulpit Rock Church last November, we were eager to meet new people as well as continue to strengthen our marriage. We saw Jim and Mary Williams’ marriage class and immediately signed up!
As we delved into our family backgrounds, we learned how each of us became who we are as a result of our family upbringing. We took time to examine our own needs, which we often overlooked as we focused on our kids, learning that identifying personal needs isn’t selfish. Rather, as we understand our own needs it allows us to open our hearts to look at the needs of our spouse. God intends for us to be a vessel He uses to meet each other’s needs. But when you are each starving inside, you don’t do a good job of focusing on the other. Communicating needs in a way you will be heard and loved was something we were sadly lacking. We looked at the games we each play, Leslie saying “everything’s fine”(when it clearly wasn’t) and Randy refusing to be blamed for anything!
A primary lesson we are practicing is to extend praise and encouragement and grace to each other. We are both pretty goal oriented and focused on the project at hand. If a bathroom needs remodeling, floors need tiling, cabinets need hanging, a house needs painting, we are an indomitable team at accomplishing these tasks. Noticing that Randy needs a hug and a word of encouragement, or that Leslie needs to be appreciated and affirmed are areas where we were pretty weak. Feeling taken for granted left us each hungry for praise, love and intimacy.
As we have progressed chapter by chapter through the Intimate Encounters marriage workbook, we are learning how to see each other’s needs and better respond. Instead of reacting and often causing an argument, we can now see behaviors are often masking unmet needs.
It has been refreshing to share with other couples on the same journey. Meeting others who are committed to God and their marriages gives us strength to continue even when it may be tough.
Intimate Encounters has given us skills and tools to continue growing our marriage in the way God intends.
Now, with our children all married and raising our 18 grandchildren, we are seeing how our relationship can be a legacy to them. Our kids are watching, and our heart’s desire is that they see an example of two lives committed to God and each other.
Mary and Jim Williams will lead a 10 week class on Sunday mornings at 9 AM, starting September 22nd. The class will cover the book Intimate Encounters. Couples will enhance communication skills and develop a plan to encourage lifelong intimacy in marriage and family. This class is for those who want to work on improving their marriage relationship, those who are hurting in their marriage and need tools to bring healing or those who would like to consider using it in future ministry opportunities.