With news that a record number of divorces were filed since the start of 2021, Family and Faith Magazine (FFM) is excited to launch our Happy Marriage Summer Series showing that there is still hope for long term relationships and keeping families together. We begin the series with the inspiring story and insights from lovebirds Andrea and Paul Russell who shared openly with FFM Editorial Director, Shelly-Ann Harris that on August 19 of this year, they will celebrate 34 years of marriage, God willing. Blessed with 4 wonderful children, Andrea is a guidance counselor and Paul works in sales.
Shelly-Ann: How did you know that your partner was the one?
Andrea: I was attracted to Paul’s energetic personality and friendliness. He is handsome too. After praying about him being my possible partner, I felt a peace about him and got confirmations in a number of ways that he is the one.
Paul: I noticed her and was very attracted to her. During that particular summer I asked the Lord for guidance on who would be my wife. I processed what I felt and shared it with my support system and got confirmation before I approached her. We then realised that we were both each other’s one.
Shelly-Ann: As Pastors, you and your husband have been helping other couples to strengthen their marriage – what are your top 3 tips for keeping marriages sweet and strong over the long haul?
Paul & Andrea: 1. Always pray for your spouse and relationship, during the good and bad times. 2. Recognize that the spouse you married is a “good willed person” and has your best intentions at heart. 3. Focus more on your total interactions over the marriage, 85% of the time you interact is usually great. Place less focus on the 15% of the time when your interactions are not positive. 4. Always look for the opportunities to create great memories – after a while the thing that will keep you holding hands and smiling will be the memories of the wonderful moments you created. Finally, it is also very important to practice marriage God’s way (Ephesians 5:25) and to keep the marriage God centered and 3 stranded (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Shelly-Ann: I notice that you and your husband are not only devoted husband and wife but also very good friends who laugh together often, what do you value most about each other?
Andrea: I value the fact that he is a dreamer, forever hopeful and expecting the best. He constantly looks forward to how things could be made better. This is for everything, for the children, our church, the couples we support, the young men he mentors just about everything. He is always thinking, “If this could be done, then you know how good that would work?” He loves to talk and is a funny storyteller. He always has something to share, always remembering something or noticing something the children or the dog does and makes funny comments. You can’t help but laugh.
Paul: Her love for and dependence on God (this inspires me); Her genuine and sincere heart (no guile); and her commitment to our marriage (she’s in it to the end).
Shelly-Ann: What’s one of the most challenging issues you have faced as a married couple and how did you overcome it?
Andrea & Paul: We had a miscarriage early in our marriage, the loss of our first child. I remember Paul pulling off the side of the road soon after it happened and just sobbing, our hearts were so broken. That was very hard for us. We were young and that was our first big challenge. The Lord was the source of our strength in this challenge. He continues to be our strength. He has provided us with family and friends. In every challenge He showed himself in love, through the Scriptures and in the people who surrounded us.
Shelly-Ann: Has parenting challenged or strengthened your marriage? Describe how.
Andrea & Paul: It has done both. It challenged us, as there were a number of occasions, we argued about how a parenting issue should be handled. Yes, some of these discussions happened with the children present. We have reacted impulsively and emotionally and truthfully some decisions made were not the best. These resulted in unnecessary conflicts. Thankfully as the years progressed, we learned and applied better parenting skills.
It has strengthened our marriage in the sense that we realized that we were raising God’s children and as a result we needed to depend on the Lord’s leading to work together as one. With the Lord’s guidance all the provision of resources, love, emotional and spiritual support were made available to us, which helped to strengthen our marriage. As a result, we are blessed with wonderful adult children that we are honored to know.
We have found that faith in God and its expression through marriage, allows couples to experience something that is closer to the nature of God than any other human experience.
Shelly-Ann: Describe the role your faith plays in strengthening your marriage? Do you think marriages truly built on Christ have better outcomes?
Andrea & Paul: Our marriage is built on and thrives because of our faith in the Lord. We make it a point to pray for each other and our relationship. We have chosen to apply biblical principles to our marriage, one of which is the principle of Love and Respect as set out in Ephesians 5:21-28. Marriage is hard and couples will face many troubles, as is stated in 1 Corinthians 7:28. This is true for us too. However, once the truths given in the word of God are applied, they quench the fiery darts sent against marriages. This makes us excited. We have so many testimonies of how the Lord has made provisions, healed, protected, created paths in impossible places during these 34 years of marriage. Faith helps us tap into something deeper than our understanding, keeps us balanced, helps us forgive when we are hurt and can’t see the best in each other. Our faith reassures us that there is beauty and joy in marriage. It allows us to accept that marriage is an instrument and a process for us to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
As a result, we definitely believe a marriage built on Christ will have a better outcome. When couples are taught skills based on scripture and intentionally, deliberately use them, applying selfless love according to 1 Corinthians 13, for example, it is very likely they will successfully navigate the troubles guaranteed to come with marriage.
I would like to suggest to couples to take on a challenge for the next few weeks. Research all the words and phrases mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
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