Marriage is not always the easiest of things. i asked Dannean to share some of the struggles her and Sean encountered as they entered those waters:

About Us

Sean and I are in our late 30’s. We have been married for 9 and a half years and been together for 12. We have three ‘Magnificent Productions’ in the way of two little boys (6 and 4 years old) and a gorgeous little princess (1 year old) who joined our family in April. Oh and let me not forget our dogs; a lion-like Ridgeback who is as gentle as a lamb and a tiny Jack Russell who thinks he is a lion. The 7 of us make a wild, loud, formidable team!

The Start

Sean and I met in 2003. I had just returned to Johannesburg after nearly 2 years in the UK and he had moved to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth to start work as a graduate at Standard Bank. We met at a church home group and in 2005, after a long friendship and copious cups of tea (made by him, for me, at every opportunity), we started dating officially. To cut a long story short, the honeymoon season of dating was short lived for us as the reality of our very different personalities and upbringings became clear. Despite our tumultuous start, we got engaged in June 2006, and set a wedding date for 9 December 2006.

Our Wedding(s)

If you had asked me, after Sean and I got engaged, what my biggest fear was it would have been calling off a wedding. And yet three months before our (first) planned wedding, a day after giving out my last wedding invitation, we “called off our wedding”. Sean likes to add the dramatic element by saying we “called it off”. I like to say, we postponed. But however you phrase it, one day our wedding date was set for 9 December 2006, the next day it was not.

I felt ashamed, scared and betrayed.  We had also recently left our previous church and support network and Sean and I were still very much engaged and committed, but trying to wade our way through turbulent waters. It was hard. It was sore. I was never one to have had my fairy tale wedding all worked out in my head by the age of 5 but still, this was not the way I had envisioned getting married would go.

After receiving some wise council we took a breather from any further wedding thoughts or planning. When November 2006 rolled around we, quite by chance, happened to spend a day at a function in what would then become our dream wedding venue and not long afterward we booked a wedding date for 30 June 2007.

The 6 months between what should have been our wedding date and what was our wedding date were not entirely plain sailing. We had to overcome the concerned opinions of family and friends and I had my own fears to fight too. But God stepped in.  I held tight to His promises when I felt like I was drowning. Promises from the Bible of new wine and new wine skins, about saving the best wine for last (as in the story of the wedding in Cana).  And our wedding day on June 30, 2007 was perfect. In every way. It was a true celebration of what can be overcome and how two very different but totally committed people can be 100% united in love.

The Happily Ever After Part

Of course it would be wonderful to stop here and say that after we married on 30 June we lived happily ever after with no hiccups or hindrances. But that day was truly just the wedding day; the start of our marriage to come, of getting to really know each other and of learning what it means to love and honour each other for better or worse.

Suffice to say it did not take long for Sean and I to see how the differences in our personalities impacted on our daily lives; our day to day decisions, wants and needs as well as our long term goals and plans and dreams.

A short snippet and summary of what I mean by our differing personalities:

Sean- extrovert, visionary, entrepreneur, loves taking risk, low levels of caution, enjoys the unknown.

Dannean- an introvert, prefers to be in the background, prefers playing it safe, very very high levels of caution, like security and stability.

I must add however, that as much as we are on different ends of the personality spectrum in many way, there is an amazing overlap in some areas. We both like to be organised and punctual, we are both good at keeping schedules and at admin tasks.

But yes, with our different personalities outplaying themselves in married life it didn’t take long for us to realise that we needed some outside help. And so it was that a year and a half into marriage we started marriage counselling.

Initially Sean totally agreed to go because he thought that counselling would “fix” me but 6 months in we realised that he needed to be in that counselling room just as much as I did. Marriage counselling was the best 3 year investment we could ever had made in our marriage.  As a wife I was totally blessed to have such a committed husband who, even after realising he needed as much fixing as I did, remained committed to the marriage counselling for as long as it took.

Three years is a long time to have a third person so intimately involved in a marriage and Mandy, our counsellor, was amazing. But for us the true test came when we left counselling and ventured out, once again on our own. I am blessed to say that after 9 and a half years of marriage and after leaving counselling behind 5 years ago Sean and I are happier than we have ever been; we are still in love, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, we laugh (a lot) together and have really managed to embrace our differences and make them work to our advantage.

We are passionate about marriage to this day and about helping other couples navigate the sometimes stormy waters that can rock any marriage boat.  I believe that Sean and I are still a testimony to what it looks like to fight (a good fight) for a great marriage and although we certainly are not experts we have a few things we’d like to share that we feel have helped us immensely in our own marriage journey:

[1] Marriage counselling is not a sign of weakness. In fact it takes great strength, humility and courage to admit that a marriage needs help and to do what it takes to get the help that is needed.  We are thankful that we went for counselling early on in our marriage as this helped us build a strong foundation that we have been building on happily ever since.

[2] Love and commitment are a choice and not a feeling.  There are days when we don’t feel like serving each other, days when we are angry and we don’t feel the love (so to speak) but Sean and I wake up every morning and choose to love each other.

[3] Those who pray together stay together. It may sound clichéd but there is so much truth in this statement and Sean and I are proof of this. It took years (mainly because of some of the hurt I had experienced in marriage before counselling) but in 2014 we started to pray together as a couple every Tuesday night and this has continued to date. We pray for friends, for families, for each other, for our own family and for any other needs that arise. In doing this we feel a spiritual connection and understanding that we don’t often get from our day to day talk time as life is busy.

[4] (One for the ladies from Dannean) Children are an incredible blessing but your husband needs first place. Please don’t get me wrong, I know there are seasons when we have tiny new born babies and they need us more than ever, when kids are sick and we need to be there for them. But what I mean by this (and please understand that I am also a work in progress here) is that my husband should not have to get the leftovers; as in the leftover energy I have at the end of the day (which is almost none!).

Make time for couch time together, even if it means putting the little ones to bed half an hour earlier. Make time for physical love making! The more you do the happier he will be and the more you’ll want to (get creative with when and how). All in all I feel that as mothers we can sometimes behave like our husbands are just there to help bring the kids along and once that has happened the poor men in our lives are rendered useless. As I said, I am still a work in progress in this one but knowing better hopefully means I am doing better too.

[5] (One for the guys from Sean) Guys are practical. We like something as long as it works. If it doesn’t work however, we might respond in different ways. If it’s made in China, we’ll probably toss it. If we can fix it easily because we’ve got the tools, we’ll probably give that a try. If however we really like it, we might take the trouble to swap it out for a new one. Our approach to marriage is often the same.

What we too easily ignore or forget, is where marriage was ‘made’, and how to maintain it, never mind that there’s a pretty comprehensive manufacturer’s instruction manual on it! I’m referring to God of course, as surprising as that may sound. In fact, one of the 1st things I say to any of my friends when they tell me of their engagement, is to strap on their spiritual seatbelt, because they’ve just signed up for one of God’s primary’s on manhood! Which obviously presupposes some time spent studying the subject!

Guys, the bottom line is you’ll never really understand marriage until you understand its primary purpose… And only when you understand its primary purpose, will you understand how to use, maintain or fix it as intended.