Not so long ago, people grew up in villages. For good or for bad, people did life with the same group of people their entire lives. I have some understanding of what it means to grow up in a small community.
I grew up in a small town in Alabama where my dad is a fifth-generation cotton farmer. I graduated high school with 100 people—85% of which I had been in school with since kindergarten. All my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins all lived within a five-mile radius.
But like many of my classmates, I moved away for college, which led me to a series of jobs, none of which have never led me back home. While I have stayed very connected to my family and friends, life is not the same. I live somewhere else. I’ve had to create my own village, which is not always easy for many of us.
And here’s the problem for those who don’t live in a village, we need one. Our marriage needs people who are for our marriage.
Dr. Sue Johnson states the problem this way, “We now ask our lovers for the emotional connection and sense of belonging that my grandmother could get from a whole village.” When we live in a community of two, that is simply too much to expect of our spouse.
We need other people in our marriage, who are for our marriage. So if necessary, we have to construct our own village. Here are three types of people I believe all of us need in and around our marriage.
When we were single, we often had different friends that met different relational needs. One friend was just fun to be with and laugh. One friend would give us a spiritual or relational advice. One friend made us workout on days we wanted to hit them for it.
Then, we got married and somehow felt wrong about spending time with anyone other than our spouse. Shouldn’t we be spending all our free time with our spouse? No. Yes, our spouse should be the most important person on earth. We should never do anything that makes them feel devalued or ignored.
But it’s also healthy when our spouse doesn’t have to be the sounding board for all our problems or playmate for all our hobbies. Time with other people is good for our soul and good for the marriage.
2. Small Groups
Most churches in the U.S. and beyond have some sort of systemic structure to move people from rows to circles. There is just something powerful when we model our life after Jesus by surrounding ourselves with a small group of people we love and who love us back.
My wife and I have been in our current small group for a couple of years. Over the course of our time together, members of our group have experienced parents dying, children being diagnosed with illnesses, adoption of three children, changing of careers, car accidents, undiagnosed illnesses, divorce, and so much more.
So much pain. Yet, so much joy. We laugh together. We help each other with babysitting. We cook for each other. We support each other’s mission trips. We help each other’s businesses and ministries.
We pray for each other. We check on each other. We love each other. This group matters to our marriage, it matters so much. I can’t imagine what the last few years of our lives would have been without them. They are our village and we love them so much.
We need to continue to search out people who are professionals at having a great marriage. Pros help us know what is really happening. Pros help us make better choices, experience something better, something meaningful, something fun, something that helps us to keep the main thing the main thing.
That is why Married People exists. No, this isn’t an ad for Married People—it’s the heart of Married People. Our team believes in what can happen when people pause to get intentional.
We want to be part of your village. And we believe everything we create works better in the context of a village. Think of us as village enhancers. (Sorry, “village enhancers” is the best term I have for now.)
Find Your Community
For many of us, a built-in community is no longer just a way of life. Instead of being surrounded by people, we are now surrounded by careers, technology, and kid’s schedules. If we are going to have a village, we have to build one.
But here’s the great news, building community can not only be rewarding, it can be fun—the stuff life is made of and for. So make sure you are taking time to build your tribe—life and marriage are better because of it. Promise.
Ted Lowe is an author, speaker, and the director of MarriedPeople—the marriage division at Orange. Ted is the author of two books—one for marriage ministry leaders (Married People: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last) and one for married couples (Your Best US: Marriage Is Easier Than You Think). He served for almost 10 years as the director of MarriedLife at North Point Community Church. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with his four favorite people: his wife, Nancie, and their three children.
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