The author Madeleine L’Engle wrote this about marriage: “No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”
No marriage is perfect but it’s being able to love one another in spite of our flaws that makes a marriage great. There’s no magic formula, but here are some challenges premarital classes should include to help out the married-to-be.
1. The live with a newborn and a toddler for a month challenge
Kids change everything. If ever there were a test for married couples, it’s having children. The challenges of having a newborn and a needy toddler around put everything in perspective. Let these couples experience waking up every 2 hours, a lack of privacy, a nonexistent sex life and trying to balance work, family and personal time. True character shines through under stress!
2. Sleep deprivation challenge
This one ties in with the last one but would give married couples a good idea of living with their partner in the real world. Gone soon will be the days of going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at noon. Challenge couples to live for a couple of weeks on 5 hours of sleep and see how they handle it.
3. The in-laws challenge
In laws get a lot of grief traditionally when discussing marriage. While some couples are blessed with fantastic in-laws, others create nothing but drama and stress. Let each individual’s parents come live with the couple for a long weekend and see how they handle it.
4. No technology challenge
Take away cell phones,television, tablets, laptops and all electronic devices for a week. Technology pervades our lives and it’s very easy to become preoccupied or distracted with instant access to communications and information. Give couples the chance to experience life together without any of these distractions.
5. And finally…The no sex challenge
Every marriage already includes this challenge at some point. Kids, work, stress and myriad other factors can make carving out time for intimacy difficult. Good marriages find time for physical as well as emotional intimacy. Marriages that struggle to find that balance usually suffer. There is certainly something to be said for couples that wait to have sex until they’re married for what it requires to build intimacy without the physical aspect. Challenge all couples to go without any physical intimacy for a month and see if they can remain intimate. Good challenge for stress management skills as well!