My husband, Toben, and I returned from our honeymoon relaxed and ready to move into our tiny apartment on campus. Snow was falling gently outside, and we were snug in our new home, unpacking boxes, listening to music and setting up house.

We reminisced about the wedding as we unwrapped gifts and found a spot for each new item. I couldn’t have been happier.

Until I walked into the bathroom.

Towels and sheets were scattered on the floor and counters in bright, colourful piles – towels and sheets I had already folded and put away an hour earlier.

I took a deep breath. "What are you doing?" I asked, a little hesitantly, hoping there was a reasonable explanation.

"Folding the towels," he replied, without turning around.

"But, Honey," I said. "I already folded the towels."

"Oh, I’m just folding them the right way."

"The right way?" I repeated through clenched teeth. "They were folded the right way. Folded and put away just like I wanted them."

It sounds silly now, but our first big fight as a married couple was about towels. I was devastated. If we can’t agree about how to fold towels, we’re doomed! How will we agree about big things, such as where to live and what to name our children? The honeymoon was definitely over. In fact, it seemed like the end of the world.

They fight like we do

About two years later, we became part of a vibrant community of couples who met each week. As our friendships grew, we realized the difference that an open and honest community made in our marriage.

How does community help? It opens your eyes to see that your struggles and challenges are not so unique. My husband and I were amazed to find that we weren’t the only ones to argue about silly things. Couples in our small group had fought about everything from wallpaper to ice cream. And, like us, they thought it was the end of the world.

Problems don’t seem so impossible to overcome when you realize you’re not the only ones facing them. A community of couples can broaden your perspective and offer support in dealing with common issues.

What can we learn?

Community also gives you the opportunity to see other marriages in action. Being in relationship with other couples has allowed us to see things we want to develop in our marriage and things we want to avoid.

Our friends Doug and Lisa have inspired us to reach out to others by their friendly and easy manner with strangers. At the same time, we’ve sat through awkward meals with friends who bicker constantly, and we have determined we want to keep our arguments private.

As we’ve developed relationships with older couples, we have gained insight and clarity about what we want our marriage to look like in the future. Couples whose marriages have stood the test of time inspire us and give us hope to persevere through difficulties.

New wisdom

Besides showing you other relationships, community allows you to see all kinds of strategies and arrangements that have worked – or not – for other couples. When we first started working and tried to combine our incomes, we had a hard time figuring out how to handle our finances. Should we have separate or joint accounts? Which income would pay for the rent? Which one would pay for groceries? Through community, we were able to see a variety of budgeting options and choose the ones that work best for us.

As we’ve had children and faced new challenges, our group has offered the opportunity to view a host of solutions. Whether dealing with parenting crises or job transitions, we have gained much-needed wisdom from other couples.

So where do you find a community like this? Join a Sunday school class, or invite other couples over for dinner and talk with them about meeting regularly. If you’ve been feeling as though your marriage could use a change of perspective, new insight or practical wisdom, community could be the answer.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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