Attend an Event to Strengthen Your Marriage

a snuggling happy couple
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Investing in your relationship at a live event strengthens your marriage, connects you with others and even helps your church.

John and Emily are visiting a new church and notice an announcement for a Focus on the Family marriage conference. A friendly couple at the information table encourages them to sign up. So they schedule a sitter for the kids and set aside Friday night and Saturday morning to invest in their relationship and strengthen their marriage.

John and Emily have a “fair-to-good” marriage, they think. They don’t argue . . . much. Maybe they don’t feel as connected as they used to, but with the kids’ activities and their respective jobs, that’s just normal, right? Life may seem a little mundane at times, but compared to some of their friends and co-workers, they’d say they’re doing OK.

At the event, John and Emily enjoy the worship time that starts each session. The speakers — Dr. Greg Smalley and his wife, Erin — are leaders at Focus on the Family. The Smalleys transparently (and hilariously) share about their own relationship foibles, offering compelling illustrations amid the laughter. Some of the concepts are marriage basics that John and Emily realize they’ve neglected along the way. Other insights are genuine “lightbulb” moments for each of them.

During breaks, John and Emily meet several other couples they want to get to know better. There’s also a registration table in the lobby for small groups doing six-week follow-up studies, expanding on the insights they’ve learned at the event. They eagerly sign up for a group near their home.

John and Emily are pleased that they’ve found their new home church. The marriage event has reminded them how much they love each other, and they have strong hopes that they can recapture the spark they felt as newly-weds and strengthen their marriage. It will help to walk the path alongside the new friends they’ve made.

Sure, Friday evening and half of Saturday was an investment. But John and Emily are glad they came.

Healthier marriages = healthier churches

Several years ago, Focus on the Family partnered with Lifeway Research in a study examining how the typical local church is influenced by the relational health of its members. The results were conclusive: As go marriages, so go families, and so goes the church and its impact on the community.

Greg says that when couples aren’t doing well, they’re less likely to be involved with church ministries or serving in other ways; they even tithe less. But when a church invests in the marriages within its congregation, the benefits are multiplied.

“When couples are doing well relationally, they give more, they’re more involved, they’re interacting with other families and modeling God’s design to everyone around them,” Greg explains. “When a church brings us in for an event, it’s saying, ‘Marriage matters to us, and we recognize how important it is. We’re committed to helping you be successful in your relationship.’ ”

Greg also points out that each event is a welcome opportunity to invite participants to step up their overall engagement with the church body.

“During each weekend we emphasize following up in small groups,” Greg says. “Even among couples who haven’t been to church in years, they’re encouraged to take that information and learn together how to apply it.”

The COVID effect

Greg believes that the extra “together time” many couples experienced during COVID-19 lockdowns shone a spotlight on underlying issues that couples were pushing aside.

“Some husbands and wives realized their marriage wasn’t working,” Greg says. “They didn’t want to put in the effort and, sadly, walked away.”

Others, however, experienced a new level of intimacy and connection.

“Some couples rallied around each other, hurt together through the losses and were compassionate with each other,” Greg says. “Slowing down gave them the chance to remember, We enjoy each other, we like each other, and we’re good together.”

Now that life has opened up again, once well-connected couples seem even busier than they were pre-COVID. Greg says he sees lots of parents who feel guilty because their kids missed out on graduations, trips, sports tournaments and other experiences. And now that families are busy with packed schedules, there’s a danger that couples are drifting again.

If that’s you, what can you do now to strengthen your marriage?

In-person energy to strengthen your marriage

Greg and Erin became adept at doing social media livestreams and other digital outreach efforts during the shutdowns. But they believe there’s no substitute for in-person gatherings — and they thrive on the energy of live events.

“There’s something powerful when you bring a bunch of couples together in one spot,” Greg says. “These husbands and wives are around like-minded people — other couples who are experiencing the same challenges.

“When everyone is laughing and learning together, people realize they aren’t alone,” Greg continues. “They’re instantly receiving practical takeaways, and they’re getting a little healthier right then and there. That type of strengthening has so many benefits in a community.”

But Greg does understand the reluctance that some people feel about attending a live event.

“We want to have all the answers. We don’t want to reach out for help, and we think that we have the power to do it all,” Greg says. “Then there’s the humility of coming to an event and saying, ‘I don’t know everything, and I’m going to trust that God is going to use these people onstage to speak something into our marriage.’ ”

Greg frequently advises couples that even a strong marriage requires deliberate, ongoing investments to keep the relationship growing.

“If you say your marriage is valuable, then part of how you honor that is spending time and money on your marriage,” Greg says. “And coming to a marriage event is a great way to do that.”

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