The joy, pain and challenges of marriage

Strong marriages form the bedrock of any strong community; however, no one said marriage was easy. Keep The Faith spoke to two Christian couples at different stages of their marital journeys, who shared about their marriages, the challenges they face, and how their faith in God helps them overcome them.

Lloyd and Dorothy Dwyer

Lloyd and Dorothy Dwyer are both Christians, and part of the pastoral and leadership team at Junction Community Church in Wandsworth, south west London. Lloyd is also a qualified trainer, and Dorothy co-runs a loss and bereavement group. They’ve been married for 30 years, have three adult children and are also foster carers.

When you meet Lloyd and Dorothy Dwyer, you are left with the strong impression of a couple who love God, each other and their family, and who have a strong desire to serve others.

The couple met as non-Christians in a nightclub in 1980, started going out two years later, and got married on 1 December 1984 – six weeks after their conversion to Christianity.

Lloyd reminisced about their first meeting. He shared, “At that time, we were both in the music world and part of the London soul/funk music scene. Dorothy sang, and I played saxophone. We felt a strong connection to each other and, within a very short time of dating, began living together. It’s only when we had our 25th wedding anniversary that our children got to know these details, and we told them ‘Don’t do what we did’!”

The couple lived happily together for three years but, when they became Christians, both felt convicted to get married. Dorothy shared how they got converted: “In the autumn of 1984, we visited my mother, a serious Christian, who was always praying for us. For some reason, Lloyd was drawn to a Morris Cerullo book, which he borrowed and read. I was curious and read it, too. He says he got saved on the last page; I got saved on the first page. We immediately knew we had to get married, and did so six weeks later.”

Unlike some couples, who live together before getting married, the couple found the transition to married life easy. Dorothy explained, “When we got married, not only was marriage new, but we were both new people. We had already spent years of being a couple as part of the ‘showbiz’ scene. I explicitly heard the Lord say that we should ‘come out from among them’, and it was easy for both of us to immediately turn our backs on this lifestyle, as God made a way. The first year of marriage was very much about getting to know the Lord, as well as getting to know my new husband.”

Almost everyone is agreed that having children definitely brings challenges to marriage. Lloyd and Dorothy seem to have navigated the new experience well. “The first child is a shock, as your couple relationship changes,” Dorothy recalled. “It’s true that the man can feel left out, as the new mum is preoccupied with the new baby. There’s no more popping out to dinner or a concert, like before. However, the blessing of children can also bring you closer together. Both of us had to change to accommodate our new status as parents. We also believe in mentors, and always surrounded ourselves with like-minded friends and parents that we have learnt from.”

Living in an age where Christian marriages seem to be under attack and increasingly ending in divorce, Lloyd and Dorothy’s marriage has remained firm and has stood the test of time. When asked why they’ve remained together, Dorothy replied, “We always say God knew what He was doing when He put us together. Our main connection is the Lord Himself. Lloyd once made a deep observation about wedding vows. He said that when you say your vows, it’s not just before the congregation. Through the minister, you are promising the Lord to honour and respect your wife. And the whole ceremony is a contract with the Lord. When we both have this perspective, this is the tie that binds.”

And it’s obvious that the couple’s faith in the Lord has been at the centre of their relationship since day dot.

Keep The Faith had to ask them for three tips they’d give to couples looking to get married and to those who are already married.

Here they are:

“Make sure the Lord has made the match. Don’t get married under pressure. Someone we know told us that as they were walking up the aisle, they knew it was wrong. That marriage did not last.

Make your marriage spiritual. Pray, do Bible study and share testimonies together. As Christians, we can talk about anything, but we always have a God perspective. This is also a way of checking in with each other spiritually and emotionally.

Work as a team, and never make unilateral decisions that can affect your family without consulting your partner. Make sure that the decisions made are covered in prayer.”

Married-couple

Pastor Gbengá and Selone Ajewolé

 Pastor Gbengá Ajewolé serves as Senior Pastor of The Rock Church in Bethnal Green. He and his wife, Selone are one Christian couple, who have decided to share the secret of marital love and their wisdom gained over the years, in their co-authored book, The Colours of Love, which covers everything people want to know about love and relationships, singleness, marriage and overcoming problems.

The couple are in a great position to do so. They have known each other for 15 years; been together for 14, and been married for almost eight years, plus they are always either preaching about marriage, or giving people advice about it.

In fact, they were inspired to write The Colours of Love together, because people constantly turn to them for dating and marital advice. Pastor Ajewolé, affectionately known as Pastor G, shared, “In a counselling and pastoral capacity, we have been a natural source that individuals gravitate towards for relationship advice. We felt it necessary to counteract the negative examples of love in society, with the blueprint provided by the Creator of love, thus The Colours of Love Relationship Manual was birthed.”

As well as focusing on helping married couples, The Colours of Love also seeks to address the concerns of Christian singles, particularly those on the search for a marital partner. It’s a known fact that Christians face challenges, which Pastor G outlines: “The three main challenges are: a lack of guidelines on how to build a sustaining and fulfilling relationship; finding a partner who values and practises biblical principles of waiting for marriage before having sex, and the fear of approaching the age by which one ‘ought’ to be married, therefore causing them to pick an unsuitable mate in order to not be ‘left on the shelf’ or satisfy mounting family pressure.”

Other challenges young single Christians also face is the temptation to live together before marriage and pre-marital sex. These are issues that Pastor G and his wife, Selone, occasionally deal with pastorally and, when they do, biblical rinciples are what they espouse. He explained, “When issues pertaining to co-habitation and sex before marriage arise, we use the Word of God as our reference. If society on the whole had listened and adhered to biblical principles in waiting for marriage before engaging in intimacy, we could have avoided people – young and old – mistaking sex for love, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, emotional hurts, soul ties, and so on. As such, we highlight the benefits of doing things God’s way.”

One thing about Pastor G and his wife is that they are not frightened to be open and honest about their lives or relationship. Selone even admitted she was initially fearful of marriage. She explained, “We have been married for almost eight years, and it’s the best decision we have ever made! I used to be scared of marriage but, at age 23, Pastor G simply depicted life as a journey, which he would like to go on with me, and navigate together. Personally, a journey to me meant that the road was bound to be bumpy, but that I would have him in my corner, to laugh and endure with me as we navigate life’s tricky pathways. We decided to share our lives together simply because we make each other better than we would be on our own.”

And, like any other couple, as much as Pastor G and Selone love each other, they do face challenges, which they overcome by applying the principles of their faith, such as being slow to anger, and dealing with disagreements swiftly. Pastor G explained, “The main thinking behind our approach to challenges is that there is no back door or exit and, since divorce is simply not an option, we think very carefully about what we say and do. Also, when life has thrown devastating curveballs our way, we have found the best remedy to be cleaving to the Word of God, together.”

As you can imagine, Pastor G and Selone are great advocates for marriage, and would recommend it to all believers who are lucky enough to find someone to share their life with. “No relationship is perfect but, in the second chapter of Genesis, God talked about creating a helper that is just right for Adam; that’s what your spouse should be there to do and be: help, not hinder you. As such, don’t be terrified of getting married; however, equip yourself with the tools and concepts from The Colours of Love Relationship Manual. Invest wisely in getting married, staying married, keeping your marriage fresh, and experiencing heaven on earth in your relationship and home.

Visit www.coloursoflove.co.uk for more information about the book.

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