We’ve been friends for a long time. We met in the seventh grade and started dating during our senior year of high school. And after more than 17 years of marriage, we’re still best friends. We agree on all of the major issues such as faith, raising our two children, and finances. We also enjoy being with one another—whether we’re at home, shopping, or at work. (John is a Doctor of Chiropractic in private practice in Flanders, N.J., and Kristina is the office manager.)

Despite our good relationship, something was missing in our marriage. Although we loved each other deeply, the busyness of life seemed to always put our marriage and romance on the back burner. We felt like we were okay because we had a solid faith. But the fact was: We didn’t take time for “us” because everything else always came first.

Low expectations

That all started to change when we attended our first Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway in 2007 as group coordinators for our church. At the time, we were leading six young couples through a study in The HomeBuilders Couples Series® (FamilyLife’s small-group Bible studies). Frankly, we weren’t expecting much from the conference for ourselves because we knew that we already had a good marriage.

But that weekend was truly amazing. It brought our marriage and relationship to a level we never knew existed.

At the conference we were reminded that we were special gifts from God to one another. We took time to reflect on our years together and remembered why we fell in love. As we shared all that we meant to one another, we realized that we let our expressions of affection get hidden under layers and layers of busyness.

One of the projects was to write a love letter to each other. At first, we felt a little uncomfortable doing this. But as we got going, the words just flowed and buried feelings welled up inside each of us. When we opened our hearts, it was as though we were reunited emotionally and spiritually.

John grew up in an alcoholic home where positive emotions weren’t expressed and praise wasn’t given. Because of this, he learned to conceal his emotions to the point that he was literally unable to cry. When we shared our love letters, God blessed us with a time of intimacy and weeping in one another’s arms. We were overwhelmed with feelings of love and thankfulness for our marriage, family, and faith.

It was such a blessing for us to share our deep love for one another. Although there was great joy and gratitude as we read our letters, there was also some remorse in John’s heart for not expressing his feelings in the past.

Back on the home front

When we returned home from the conference, we were better able to handle life’s hectic schedule and challenges. Although all is not perfect, we now recognize our blessings more than ever. John gives more compliments and has turned off the television. He also is a better listener and realizes that intimacy is an environment that has to be created. He’s spending more time getting into the kids’ world and prays with the entire family.

Kristina has also turned off the TV to make more time for John and the kids. She’s trying to take the focus off of herself and onto Christ. She’s more sensitive to John’s needs and is really making an effort to let him know that she loves and accepts him as God’s gift—that her love is not based on his performance or provisions. Today, she makes it a point to let John know that she is his biggest cheerleader.

Our kids, Michael (12) and Maria (11) have seen our acts of service to one another increase since attending the Weekend to Remember. More importantly, they’ve watched us grow in patience and joy. We’ve been more tender towards one another, and we don’t hide the fact that we sometimes face troubles, as all couples do. When troubles come, we now openly seek God’s help. We pray that our love and commitment to one another will give our kids a godly example of marriage.

We left the Weekend to Remember on an incredible high. We rededicated our lives to God, to one another, and to raising a godly family. That shared weekend experience has helped us when life has gotten hectic. Our marriage has become deeper and richer in love and commitment. We now not only understand, but also embrace our God-given strengths and weaknesses.

Remembering our special time together at the marriage conference still brings us joy and peace and draws us closer to one another and to God. It was truly a Weekend to Remember—one we nearly missed because we almost let the rest of life take top priority. We almost didn’t take the time for “us”!

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