Whether you’re single and preparing for marriage, newly engaged, married for two months, or married for twenty years, you can always grow and learn when it comes to the most intimate of covenant relationships on earth: marriage.
How can we learn to know our spouses better – and ourselves? How do we weather the different seasons of marriage? How and why should a single person practically prepare for a spouse?
We sat down with Pastor Matt Dunn to talk about his perspective on the purpose of marriage, how he has grown and thrived in his 22-year marriage, and the upcoming HRock Church seminar, “The Art of Marriage”, from February 24th-25th.
- How have you learned to grow and thrive in your own marriage?
When we’d been married about five or six years, we got to a place where we realized that it wasn’t that we were unhappy, but our marriage wasn’t growing and wasn’t becoming all that it could be. So we began to intentionally invest in our marriage by learning, attending marriage retreats, and reading about marriage and communication. Probably the first thing we learned in that whole arena was the idea of “the 5 love languages” as a communications tool. Like many couples, we discovered that our love languages are perfectly inverted. So my highest love language is Vicky’s lowest, and vice versa. We thought we were doing really well at the beginning of the exercise because they asked if we knew our spouse’s love languages, and we listed them correctly. But then, there was this realization that “Oh you’re completely opposite to me.” We realized, “I do know you, but I didn’t pay attention to how different we are. Now I understand why I want to say I love you using my love language, and you don’t hear it the way I’m saying it. You want to be told I love you with your love language and that isn’t that valuable to me but it’s really valuable to you.” So, it shifted our perspective to think more about each other, and to become less selfish and more other-focused.
- What is the purpose of attending “The Art of Marriage“?
Depending on the stage of life and the stage of marriage that you’re at, “The Art of Marriage” is really getting you to think about the purpose of your marriage. Marriage is not just the convenience of two people sharing a bank account or housing expenses. Your marriage is actually supposed to say something, and “The Art of Marriage” helps you have that bigger picture. It also gives you some quite practical “nuts and bolts” of communicating, including the “5 love languages.” Even in sexual intimacy and romance, the seminar is fairly practical. Normally, most people would come away two or three very practical nuggets of what they can put into practice now.
- What can you expect one of the most valuable takeaways to be from “The Art of Marriage”?
My experience with other people has usually been a sense of relief that whatever you’re going through, you’re not the only person going through it. For example, “We’re fumbling our way through as newlyweds.” That’s okay. Lots of people do that and they’re going to make you feel easier about it, and give you some guidance as to the key things you should be focusing on. Or, “We’ve been together 10 years and there’s something that’s hindering our relationship.” The fact that “The Art of Marriage” covers so much ground makes you feel like you’re not alone in your circumstance. The last session is about legacy. It’s a shorter session but it’s very moving, and it’s about what kind of legacy you’re leaving in your marriage for your children and your children’s children, or for the community around you if you don’t have your own children.
- What can a single person expect from “The Art of Marriage”?
If you attend the seminar as a single, continually ask yourself, “How is what I’m hearing preparing me for marriage?” One of the exercises is to write a letter to your spouse, so you might take that session and make it a prayer instead of a letter. Say to yourself, “This is what I would like to say to my spouse because this is the kind of spouse I’m looking for.” For a single person, “The Art of Marriage” equips you in preparation and understanding of what marriage involves. I think sometimes we can have bit of a fantasy of what marriage is like, and even a distorted perspective of the beginning process of how you adapt to receiving your spouse. For single people, “The Art of Marriage” is all informative. The first half, on Friday evening is most relevant.
- How can the Church model healthy marriage to the world?
When I do premarital counseling with couples now, one of the things I’m pretty clear on is that I’m preparing you for a Christian marriage. Because, the world now has its own various definitions of what constitutes marriage, and why people are married, and what marriage means. If you’re coming to me, I’m trying to help you figure out what Christian, biblical marriage means and looks like. I think one of the biggest things that I’m even now discovering after 22 years of marriage in September is that marriage itself has a purpose that’s beyond what is often talked about. It’s often talked about as the center of society and raising children, which I agree with, but I think there’s a more significant purpose that Christian marriage has. Marriage is supposed to be prophetic. There’s supposed to be something about the covenant between a man and a woman. Ephesians 5 alludes to this, by pointing to the reality of God’s covenant faithfulness to His people.
The Art of Marriage is a 2-day seminar at Ambassador Auditorium, from February 24th-25th, from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. The seminar is open to both singles and couples, and covers a large range of topics over a series of six sessions, including the different seasons of love and how to thrive in each one. Expect to be equipped with practical tools and grow in relationship with your spouse, while learning about God’s perspective and design for a healthy, loving and romantic marriage. Tickets from $30-$60. Join our Facebook event for updates and further information.