Something for the Soul: Working at marriage – An encounter I’ll never forget

November 2009 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

By Winnie BoltonWinnie Bolton

Ask any married couple and they’ll agree marriage is hard work. There are compromises, communication challenges and never-ending responsibilities – especially when children are involved. Yet in our society where almost half of all marriages end in divorce, it seems as if the work isn’t getting done.

If a marriage is going to be fulfilling, it has to grow with patience, respect and truly listening to each other no matter how many years a couple is married.


Because the listening is critical since we are constantly changing and expanding. It’s human nature.
We are never what we used to be if growth is taking place.

There is a worldwide marriage encounter movement that helps couples to reconnect and strengthen their love. It is conducted by many faith groups in various dominations. It started in Spain in the 1950s and after coming to America in the 1960s, became really popular in the 1970s spreading across our nation.

I had been intrigued by the movement and wanted to participate but the opportunity never came about until the mid-1980s. By then, Tom and I and had been married more than 30 years. Still I wouldn’t give up on going to a marriage encounter if only to find what I missed. I’m sort of that way when new adventures are taking place.

The key to these encounters is that any emotional baggage carried from previous relationships or your own child-parent baggage with its unmet need is worth consideration.

The couples we encountered were not there because they were failing in their marriage but because their marriage lacked something. They weren’t sure what it was but at the week’s ending they felt more open minded, less opinionated and more willing to discuss opposite viewpoints without holding on to the “I am right attitude.”

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have boundaries, because we do. Respecting boundaries is one of the important ways couples remind themselves that they do not have the same identities. But there are similar threads that weave through both.

The ills of society can be directly traced to the home, but so also can the solution. If we want a peaceful, loving community then we must work for a loving family and it also starts with marriage and the partners’ relationship with one another.

Tom and I were the oldest couple at the marriage encounter. Most couples there had been married less than 15 years but we didn’t feel a bit out of place nor did we have all the answers. In fact, many couples said they wished their parents would make the effort to attend an encounter.

The weekend at times was humorous but mostly about falling in love all over again, deeply and unselfishly, the way marriage is meant to be: a true blessing from God if we remember to include Him in our marriage.

On the last day of the marriage encounter, Tom asked the leader to give him some time to speak of our 30-plus years together. Instead of his delightfully clever humor for which he was famous and which I was expecting, he instead spoke of the love we found in the most unexpected circumstances. It brought tears to my eyes hearing the depth and breath of the jewels he found in our marriage.

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