Why I Couldn’t Get Undressed on my Wedding Night

Good Girls Guide to Great Sex--AmazonWhen I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, one of the main reasons that I did so was because of my horrible wedding night. I had read some Christian books about how to make sex great right off the bat, and they left me a nervous wreck. I tried to write a book that would help people calm down and relax and just get to know each other, because there are so many changes all at once. And you have a lifetime to get it right!

And as I started talking to other women about what their own wedding nights were like, I found that I wasn’t alone. Many of us had difficult honeymoons. I think we need to talk about this more, dispel some myths, and tell ourselves that it’s okay not to be perfect.

When Emily Weirenga sent me this guest post, I was so excited to run it because I know so many of you will relate. Here’s Emily:

Why I couldnt get undressed on my wedding dayWe borrowed my aunt’s cabin, by the water.

We arrived late with a bottle of wine and I stepped on the back of my wedding dress as we crossed the threshold.

I didn’t see anything but the bed, with its nicely folded corners and my new husband already in his boxers and grabbing us glasses from the kitchen cupboard.

I leaned against the wall, drinking the white, in white, and we were 23-year-old virgins who’d never seen each other naked, had only felt each other’s skin and I couldn’t unzip my dress.

I stalled, pulling out my bobby pins and he helped me, and we made a nice little pile of pins and then he asked if he could help me with my zipper.

And I asked him if he wanted another glass of wine.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make love with him.

It’s that I didn’t want him to see me. All of me.

Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I didn’t like myself.

I didn’t like my skin and I thought maybe if we got the room dark enough first and we could do that every night, till death do us part, and he’d never see my flat chest or my wide hips or my pear shaped body.

I ended up slipping the dress around my ankles and then quickly sliding beneath the sheet and it’s taken me 10 years to learn how to walk into the bedroom naked, with the lights on. To look my husband in the eye, standing there in all of my skin, my stomach stretched with marks from two sons and my chest even flatter than it was before.

I am not beautiful because of my skin, nor because of my husband, nor because of my children, but because of my heritage as Abba’s creation.

But even though I was raised in the church, as a pastor’s daughter, who was baptized by the age of eight and went to youth group and memorized Scripture, I didn’t know that womanhood was something to be embraced. I didn’t know there were two different kinds of pride—a hubris kind of pride, which is a lifting up of the soul in defiance of God—and then, the other. The good kind of pride. The kind that Isak Dinesen defines in her book, Out of Africa:

Pride is faith in the idea that God had when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny.

I thought I was supposed to feel ashamed of my female curves. Of my body.

My mum was insecure and my dad, emotionally absent, so as children, we all battled low self-esteem. We weren’t allowed to watch The Little Mermaid because she had a bare stomach and Mum would get embarrassed if Dad caught her changing. I would be mortified if Dad saw my bra hanging on the clothesline. We thought we needed to be hidden away. Fig leaves, and such.

But Jesus came to change all that.

Jesus came so that shame would go. Jesus came, so that we could know, again, the full idea God had for us when he created us.

I am learning what it means to be a woman —what it means to embrace all of my femininity and to see it as a loving calling. To know the difference between love of self, and loving myself, and to treat myself as tenderly as I would a friend.

My friend, Celeste Steele-Perez, puts it this way: “As I meditate on what it means to be a woman, I marvel. I feel strong… I celebrate every curvy nuance of the feminine mystique. The memory of birthing makes my blood rush with the knowledge that … I, too, am made in God’s image!”

I have partnered up with Dr. Dena Cabrera of Rosewood Institute to write a book which celebrates this very thing: our femininity, our calling as women, and how to learn to love ourselves fully so we can, in turn, love our husbands and our children. It’s called Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy.

I’m excited to GIVE AWAY a hard-cover copy, so please leave a comment below telling me ONE thing you love about yourself, and we will choose a winner at random by the end of the week.

Otherwise, you can pick up your own copy of the book on Amazon (for 40% off!) or at Barnes and Noble bookstores or wherever books and e-books are sold.

Women? We are beautiful. Our bodies are temples. And it is good.

Emily Wierenga(For the book trailer, endorsements and sample chapters, please visit the official book website HERE)
(Originally posted at Prodigal Magazine: http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/my-wedding-night/#sthash.jcml8p9c.dpuf)

Emily Wierenga is a wife, mother, artist and the author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Reader Question of the Week: My Husband Won't Help at all Around the House

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
A reader wrote in recently quoting on of my posts:

“We tend to clean the house when we see what needs doing. Men don’t work the same way. So if you ask him for a specific task, he’s more likely to do it.”

She then added, What about when you give him something specific (like “take out the trash” or “unload the dishes”) and it doesn’t get done until it gets out of hand (and then you end up doing it because you can’t stand stepping over the trash anymore, or having the dishes pile up in the sink)?

I think this is a connundrum many women have, and I’d love if we could discuss how to help! Now one warning: Often when I throw out questions like this, someone will say, “you need to recognize how much he DOES do, how hard he works outside the home, or how much yard work he does, etc. etc.” I completely agree. Many men do a ton of work that isn’t housework, and do contribute a ton of hours to the household.

But let’s assume for a minute that she does, too. And what she is saying is, “I don’t want the house to be 100% my responsibility. I think a person can clean up after themselves, or can contribute a little bit when we all live in the same house.”

Then what?  Any thoughts?

On Hollywood, Love and Marriage

What Hollywood Teaches Us About Marriage

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week, I’ve been talking a ton about marriage and movies on the blog, so I thought I’d summarize in my column. (And if you missed my post on the 50 best romantic chick flicks, you really need to see it!):

I love a good chick flick. Sure, I’ll watch Band of Brothers or Die Hard with my husband, but when he cuddles up and sits through Pride and Prejudice, I melt.

Unfortunately finding a decent movie is often an exercise in futility. Most new releases gross me out. There’s too much horror or blood, and throw in a zombie or two and it’s supposed to be a blockbuster.

Nevertheless, dig deep and you’ll find some gems. And increasingly lately I’ve been discovering that gems in the chick flick genre have less to do with falling in love and more to do with keeping a marriage strong. Hollywood does marriage better than it does dating.

Take the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love, which I thought I’d detest for the first 45 minutes, because it revolves around a younger, cooler guy (Ryan Gosling) teaching an older, just dumped guy (Steve Carell) how to attract multiple women. It seemed so shallow. But the ending is supremely satisfying (and comes with a twist we never saw coming). Both Gosling’s character and Carell’s ex-wife realize that commitment and stability are actually far sexier than living an empty life, a lesson that Carell knew all along.

Or take Hope Springs and Date Night, two movies portraying married couples who have fallen into a rut. The reality of the way the couples relate to each other is just too perfect, and the central message–that commitment matters, and that having someone to walk through life with matters–is beautiful. In fact, most movies that focus on marriage, from It’s Complicated to Couples Retreat to Shall We Dance say the same thing: those flighty feelings of infatuation eventually fade, and life settles into a routine. Will you then commit and keep working at your marriage, or will you drift and lose one of the greatest potential sources of happiness in your life?

Yet if Hollywood believes that the best marriages are those between two people who are committed to work at it–a very intentional approach–why do they portray love as something over which we have no control? A couple is thrown together and they “fall in love”. They complete each other. And these feelings alone should make them want to marry.

Most of my professional life revolves around marriage, as I blog and write books and speak. In the mountains of emails from desperate women I receive every week, one of the most common themes I see is this: My now-husband cheated on me while we were engaged, but we got married anyway. Recently I caught him having an affair. Or: My husband lived with his parents until we moved in together, and now we’re married. I hold down two jobs, and he barely works part-time. But he refuses to do any housework.

Reading these I find myself so frustrated, because the warning signs were there. Why would you marry a total couch potato? Why marry a lying cheater? Because you love him, of course! And love will magically transform him. We can’t ignore those feelings, right?

Except that scientists say those feelings last, at most, eighteen months. And then you hit that rut, and you’re in trouble. In dating romances, Hollywood gives us this idea that it’s feelings that sustain a marriage, not the character of the two people involved. Yet if all your friends and family think he’s a lout or are sure she’s flighty, you should likely listen to that–no matter what you’re feeling.

Maybe we need to start applying the same principles to dating as we do to marriage. It’s character that counts, not just feelings. That’s a lesson Jane Austen tried to teach us long ago, and perhaps we could all do with a little more Austen and a little less Zombie.

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Wifey Wednesday: 10 Not-So-Helpful Things To Do for Your Spouse

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment or link up your own posts below! Today welcome guest author, Beth Steffaniak from Messy Marriage, who is a frequent linker-upper to Wifey Wednesdays.

10 Not-So-Helpful Things To Do for Your SpouseRecently I wrote a post about the subject of helping my husband. You can refer to it here, if you’d like.  But the idea got me to thinking … there are lots of ways I can help my husband but …

There are also a lot of ways that I think I’m helping my husband when I’m really hurting him or blocking his growth.

So I’m going to list some of those not-so-helpful ways for you today.

My not-so-helpful list:

  1. When I point out how my husband needs to grow or change before looking at my own need for growth.
  2. When I think that sarcasm is a funny way to get my point (or criticism) across to my hubster.
  3. When I think that suffering silently is an unselfish way of giving to him, when it’s really taking away his chance to minister to a need in my life.
  4. When I bite my tongue before saying my thoughts (which can be good/helpful) but hold onto the resentment that sparked the thought in the first place.
  5. When I think I’m getting to the heart of the matter by assuming his motives, instead of just asking him what he meant or did—then believing him when he tells me!
  6. When I withhold information in an effort to avoid a fight … The end does not justify the means!
  7. When I “guilt him” into doing something for me that might be good/helpful … Again, end doesn’t justify means!
  8. When I vent to God and friends about him, thinking I’m releasing my frustrations and addressing the problem.
  9. When I keep score on how much he’s given to me versus how much I’ve given him, in an effort to “balance” the scales in our marriage.
  10. When I feel like arguing over a matter will convince my husband of the truth my truth, when actually God is calling me to a higher place of grace. 

Now, remember, my list is not exhaustive, so perhaps you could add a few more of your own in the comment section below! If you would, that would be super, fantastic and extra-splendilly-ishesly helpful to me as well!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

Beth H and SBeth Steffaniak is a pastor’s wife, counselor, life-coach and mom to three budding young men. She blogs at messymarriage.com, where her heart is to be “Real, Raw and Redemptive” about the messiness of life and marriage. She believes that God calls us to see the ugly, broken, desperate mess from His perspective—the eternal, unseen, redemptive side.

Now, what thoughts do you have for us today? Link up a marriage post in the linky below, or leave a comment!

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Christian Internet Dating–It Works!

Christian Internet Dating: It works!

I’m a natural matchmaker. I sit in bed at night and obsess over all the single people I know, and who they would work well with.

I’ve even tried to fix some of them up, to rather disastrous results.

I’m just like Jane Austen’s Emma, though with a little more personal self-awareness.

But I can’t help the fact that it BOTHERS me when I know Christian singles who aren’t single by choice. I know that God can be enough. I know that God can give them joy, and can do great things through them, and that their lives can be full. And I know many single people who are quite satisfied that way.

Others, though, really did want to get married. And I think that’s a good thing, and an honourable thing. I don’t like thinking of people being lonely, especially when I know how wonderful a family can be.

I met my husband in university. It was a prime time to meet one’s mate; we were surrounded by single people, of the same age, and we all went to church and campus Christian groups together. Probably about half of my friends married people from university.

The other half married shortly thereafter, or else didn’t marry at all. Once you’re done university, it gets harder to find a mate. It doesn’t mean you won’t, and I do believe that God can bring the right person along any time (I know two young people in their twenties who met a mate on the mission field–in the middle of nowhere!) But it does get harder, because you’re not in a place where there’s the same pool of single Christians.

I worked briefly after university, when I was married, and my workplace was primarily female. If I’d had to rely on work to find a mate, I’d have been in trouble.

And once you’ve worked through the singles at the church you go to, what do you then do? You can try other churches in your city, but if you’re in a small city, like I am, that gets tough, too.

About eight or nine years ago some of my friends starting trying internet dating services. I was really suspicious at first. What if you meet creeps? How do you know what they’re really like? And aren’t most people on internet dating desperate and pathetic?

But that wasn’t the case at all. Five of my friends that I can think of, off of the top of my head, met through internet dating. And there are internet dating sites like www.eharmony.com.au that gives you the chance to meet compatible Christian singles close to your location without moving from home.

Here are the stories of my friends:

(Names changed) Diane was a 40-something teacher. She met a man who had been divorced because his wife left him. They’ve been married now for about five years and are quite happy.

Amy was also a 40-something teacher. She met another divorced man (he’d been divorced for almost fifteen years after a very brief marriage when his wife left). They’re having a blast.

Lorraine was in her early 30s. She met a guy who lived about three hours away. They married a year later and now have 3 kids.

Hannah was in her mid 30s. She’d dated off and on but nothing stuck. She says she was given six matches, and 3 were creeps and 2 were weird, but the last one was amazing. Great job, great family. He just had never gotten married because he’d been so busy building his business he hadn’t had time to date and the years had gotten away from him.

And Leslie was in her early 30s. She spent six years on the mission field in her 20s, and returned home at 28 thinking it wouldn’t be hard to get married now. But she just couldn’t meet anyone single. She met a man who was a farmer, super busy, and had never had time to meet anyone. She’s a vet, so it worked out perfectly.

Internet Dating

All five couples are Christians and married strong Christians. All still go to church and serve God with their husbands. Two of my friends married divorced men (but their wives had left), and three found men who had never been married at all–no baggage or anything.

Watching them really changed my mind about internet dating. As long as you’re specifically looking for a Christian, and you’re very upfront about issues like, “do you pray? What’s your favourite Bible verse? Where do you serve in church?”, then you’re doing well.

All five did meet some men they really didn’t like, but that’s par for the course, I guess. And their identities were kept private during the initial conversations so that if the person was creepy, you could just ban them or delete them and they couldn’t contact you again.

So I honestly now suggest to people who are single who do want to be married that they try it. Just be up front about who you are and what you want, and be very vocal about your faith, and see what happens. We live in an increasingly fragmented society, and it does get very hard to meet people. But that doesn’t mean those people aren’t there.

If you have friends or family members that are single, then, I’d say give it a whirl!

What do you think? Did any of you meet your spouses through internet dating? Tell me your experience!

For more information on this post’s sponsorship, visit here.

Reader Question of the Week: Why Isn’t My Husband More Affectionate?

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question comes from a reader, who wants to grow closer with her husband:

Is it fair to have ask for and have expectations of our spouse (not referring to the obvious: monogamous, no abuse, love one another, etc.)

Is it fair to ask and then expect your husband to not to look at other women in your presence? My husband is so obvious when he is drooling and seriously cannot seem to stop himself. It has affected my self esteem and I’ve asked him to stop in my presence. We can be in conversation and he has to look away because there is an attractive women. Really?

How about asking/expecting him to share small affectionate acts toward you because you like/need it not because it is his style? I don’t want to keep asking for everything I need/want. It would feel so good to have it freely given. I’m just referring to 1 or 2 times each day.

What about expecting him to take time to call or text you at least 1 time each day to fill each other in? I always have to initiate and it gets old.

Is it fair to ask/expect him to ignore his phone (calls and texts) during dinner or while we are driving in the car together? These are places that I like to share conversation with him. I feel so unimportant when he is on the phone at these times.

I seem to set myself up for disappointment and yet I feel that I’m not asking for too much. When I ask for these things, he can deliver for a few days but that is it. These few things are really important to me and definitely affect how I end up communicating and feeling toward him. Please share thoughts !?!

What do you think? How can she effectively communicate and grow closer with her husband?

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Reader Question of the Week: Family Time

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question comes from a woman asking for your input in her family time situation:

I work full-time now and my husband stays home with the kids. When I get home, he immediately wants to head out to spend time with his buddies. He’s tired of being around the kids all day. So he’s out almost every night. I think that we should be a family and do family things. What do I do to get him to understand this?

What do you think? How can she communicate this?

Reader Question of the Week: Weighty Issues

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it.

This week’s question comes from my Facebook page, where a reader asks:

Help! Over the last few years my husband, who used to be in great shape, has gained about 60 pounds. I’m not attracted to him physically anymore. I try to keep in great shape, but he doesn’t make an effort. What should I do?

What do you think? Any thoughts for her?

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Will You Still Love Me If…?

'Session - Ana y Hugo - Palermo - Buenos Aires - Argentina' photo (c) 2010, Emiliano Horcada - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Today, we welcome guest author, Jamy Whitaker, who shares about acceptance in marriage.

As women, we long to be wanted and accepted. However, many times our insecurities seem to sabotage us. The lies that we are not good enough creep in. Then one day that special someone comes into our lives and we feel that sense of being chosen and accepted.

Whether you are a newlywed or have been married for several years, I am sure that you would attest to the fact that your insecurities do not disappear as soon as you say, “I do.” In many cases, our insecurities are actually heightened. We start to wonder; will you still love me if I gain weight? If I lose my job? If the house isn’t cleaned? Or if dinner isn’t perfect? The list can go on and on. I know these things can run through women’s minds because they run through mine.

After my first husband left me with three small children, I was almost overtaken by the shouts of my insecurities, maybe if I was thinner or the house was cleaner or the meals were gourmet then he would have stayed. What was so wrong with me? It wasn’t until later that I realized it did not have anything to do with me. The void he was trying to fill could only be satisfied with God.

Fast forward. God brought an incredible man into the lives of my kids and me. He met everything I could have ever hoped for and more. It wasn’t long before we were married and all a family. No matter how incredible my husband is, the voices of my insecurities starting rising to the top; He can’t possibly love you, you’ve been divorced, You aren’t good enough to keep your first husband what makes you think this one will stay?

When these thoughts start creeping into your mind, the first thing you need to do is take them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). You cannot let the enemy get this foothold in your mind. It can lead to destructive, self-defeating thoughts and a downward spiral in yourself, which can affect your relationship with your spouse. Do not let these thoughts and feelings go unchecked.

I recommend having an open and honest conversation with your husband. He needs to know what is going on in your mind. Your husband, like mine, can reassure you that these are not true and where improvements, if any, need to be made. Communication is the key in a healthy, strong marriage.

After having a conversation with your husband, start working on replacing Satan’s lies with God’s truth. I will start you off with one truth you can claim; as soon as we call upon the name of Jesus, we are accepted by Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). As Christians, we are set apart to have a relationship with Christ. Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus has the distinction of being an accepted child of God.

Whether we care to admit it or not, being accepted is important to us. The feeling of acceptance can also be present within marriage. The key is not to get hung up on being accepted by people. Do not let this mold and shape who you are around your spouse. By doing so, you are simply putting on the mask of acceptance. He is accepting who you appear to be, not who you really are. Our Heavenly Father has graciously bestowed acceptance upon us. All we need to do is call upon His name.

Our acceptance is also seen in Acts, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21 NIV). Look closely at the wording of this verse; it says everyone. Not just the good ones, or the ones who have it all together or dress a certain way or fill in the blank, but everyone.

The identity of being accepted makes me think of young children. For the most part, children do not see fat or thin, pretty or ugly, smart or dumb; they see people for whom they really are inside. Our Heavenly Father freely gives this same kind of acceptance to us. God graciously extends acceptance to anyone who calls upon His name. We might as well take down the mask we are hiding behind because God sees us and accepts up just the way we are.

Once the lies have been replaced, you will be a healthier and stronger partner in your marriage, which in turn will grow. This is not to say that dealing with insecurities is a one-time thing. Satan knows our weaknesses, but we need to be on guard and ready to disregard his lies and replace them with the Truth.

JamyThe issue of our insecurities is addressed in my book, Get REAL: Stop Hiding Behind the Mask. For more information, please check out my website, www.jamywhitaker.com, or my facebook page, www.facebook.com/AuthorJamyWhitaker.

Jamy Whitaker graduated with a degree in English from Indiana State University. She lives in Indiana, in a picturesque, rural setting, lovingly referred to as Whit-Akers, with her husband and five children. Visit www.jamywhitaker.org to learn more about Jamy, her writing and speaking.


Sliding vs. Deciding

Sliding vs. Deciding: Cohabitation vs. Marriage
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s talks about cohabitation and marriage, which love story will last?

There’s a quaint line in Taylor Swift’s song Love Story when Romeo kneels down, pops out a ring, tells Juliet he “talked to her dad” and now it’s time to pick out a white dress.

That courtship ritual may have been quite common just a few decades ago, but today’s mating habits are far less traditional. Modern Romeos and Juliets date for a bit, then start sleeping over at each other’s places. Eventually she puts a toothbrush and a change of clothes at his place. Soon she’s only going home to do laundry or to purge the fridge of rotting food, and it occurs to them, why don’t we just move in together?

So our intrepid couple does. It saves money, after all! They may even decide to spruce the place up, buying furniture on a “don’t pay for 12 months” sale. They get a dog. They start spending holidays with each other’s families.

Several years into this arrangement one of them gets antsy. Perhaps they have children together, perhaps they don’t. But one of them needs more. One of them needs commitment.

And so they have The Conversation. And they decide that they should tie the knot.

Our culture tends to believe that this order of things is a good idea. If you live together you will be able to tell if you’re compatible enough to get married. In fact, getting married without living together first seems irresponsible!

Research, however, shows that this hypothesis, while sounding smart, actually doesn’t work. Galena Rhoades’ study of 1000 married couples published in the Journal of Family Studies found that those who cohabited first were far more likely to have problems in their marriage and report less marital satisfaction. And the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States found that roughly half of couples who cohabited before marriage reached their tenth anniversary compared to 70% of couples who didn’t live together first.

Why the difference? I think it stems from how the relationship begins. Our threshold for deciding whom to date or whom to live with is quite a bit lower than our threshold for deciding whom to marry. But once you’ve been living together for two years, and you’ve got the dining room set, and you’ve got the dog, it becomes harder to split up.

Instead of deliberately deciding to get married, you’re sliding into marriage. And it often fails. In fact, couples who were already engaged before they cohabited saw far less of a difference in divorce rates than couples who cohabited before they committed to getting married. It’s the sliding instead of deciding that’s the problem. A good marriage requires commitment first.

That’s why cohabitation isn’t a trial marriage; it’s completely different, because you can’t, by definition, have a trial marriage.

A marriage says: I commit to you. I will work to ensure your happiness. You will become my priority. A “testing” cohabitation says: I will see if you make me happy. I will be judging and watching you. I will see whether you measure up. In marriage, the other person is your priority; in a testing relationship, you are your priority. And marriage only works if both parties put each other first.

Marriage is not based on seeing if someone measures up to make you happy; marriage is about giving of yourself and committing to one another. If you start off a relationship testing, you’re going into marriage with the wrong attitude.

A happy marriage isn’t about testing or convenience or saving money; it’s about sacrifice and commitment. And you can’t slide into that; it has to be deliberate, or it isn’t a love story that will last.