You probably haven't looked at your marriage as a story. But it is. Now, it could be a story that bores you to tears. Or it could be a story that fills you with dread and regret. Or maybe yours is a story which is perfectly fine.
But guess what? Without knowing what makes a great story, at best, you're overlooking the good parts. At worst, you're letting your story become badly written without your input.
What‘s so special about a story?
Remember the last time you read a great book or watched an awesome movie? Did you re-read or re-watch it? Maybe you told other people to read that same book or watch that same movie? That power to compel us to retell and relive a narrative reveals why stories are so special.
Because a riveting story opens your eyes to the world and to yourself, it changes you.
Your Marriage is one of the most important stories in your life
If you're engaged or already married, what's one story that you're likely already being asked about? Your engagement story! If you're dating, you've probably been asked, "How did you two meet?" The quality and vividness of those stories matter. That's one of the reasons couples put so much attention to their engagement: it's a story they will come back to again and again, whether they are telling it to themselves or to others. A good story can help remind a couple why they are together.
But if story is important before you get married, shouldn't it be even more important throughout your marriage? After all, whatever your marriage's life stage, you're already in the middle of a story.
What happens if you don't appreciate and shape your Marriage Story?
Have you ever watched a bad movie?
Most likely, you've long forgotten all about it. You certainly don't tell people to go and watch it. It likely didn't change your life. You don't go back to rewatch it when you need inspiration or entertainment. In fact, if the movie were bad enough, you may have even left in the middle. Or considered it a waste of time and money.
This can also happen with your marriage if you aren't aware of and engaged with its story.
Without your own narrative, you will conform to the patterns of every one else, and may find yourself like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
A great story, on the other hand, is like an anchor for your soul. It can make a reality what is hoped for. It can give you certainty for the things you cannot see.
Why are bad stories written?
Granted, a marriage is far more complex than a story. However, knowing some of the reasons bad stories are written can help you to avoid challenges in your own marriage.
A skillful storyteller knows that every good story has certain "sign posts" that help captivate the reader. Bad stories miss those signals, often called "beats."
Because you are both an author of and also a character in your marriage story, those sign posts really matter. There's a saying: "The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness."
Without knowing those sign posts, you're writing and walking in the darkness.
"To forget your story is to forget who you are as a couple and why you're together."
Your Marriage Story
Now you know how bad stories get written: by not knowing the key beats in a good story. In effect, the writer is flying blind.
You've also learned that troubled marriages are a lot like a badly written story: they both can feel flat, boring, forgettable, a waste of time, or leave you anxious and depressed.
Is it possible, then, that knowing what a good story is can help you to better appreciate and author your own marriage story? That instead of flying blind till you get to the end and realize you've missed out, you go all in fully informed and intentional?
"To write your best possible marriage story, you should know, study, and borrow from a great love story.
For most people, finding that story is the hard part."
Your Marriage Story
Share a Common Purpose
When you share a common purpose, you can navigate life's surprises together with greater clarity and unity.
Heal a Broken Past
When something in the past finds meaning, even redemption, as part of a much larger story, it can often heal.
Revive a Flat Relationship
If things feel "stuck", building a shared story can help find the missing "chapters" that can engage both of you.
Conflict comes from a number of differences. A shared narrative unifies, rather than divides.
Strengthen Your Family
Whether you are dealing with in-laws or your own children, developing and sharing this story brings cohesion and connection.
Building a story now prepares you for potential challenges you may face in the future.
The first step to discovering what makes for a great Marriage Story is to know where to look.
The first place to start looking it for the right kind of story.
There're all kinds of stories: drama, mystery, horror, comedy.
But what kind of story would you want for your Marriage Story?
A Love story.
What I did is I looked for a love story which was not only the most widely read love story ever. I looked for a love story which actually caused people who read it to fall in love.
After I describe the key elements, I'll share with you part of this story, but first, let's look at the key elements:
Don't the best love stories also seem to combine a sense of adventure? Whether it occurs during in a storm at high sea or while racing through outer space to defeat an evil empire, the adventure takes the story and relationship to another level.
Do you know the element of adventure in your marriage and how can you inject more of it in your life?
A love story where the two main characters don’t change how they see themselves, each other, or the rest of the world would feel pretty flat. Great stories contain a revelation, often more than one, that transforms the characters.
Do you know how and where to look for revelation in your own story?
If a love story were all roses between the couple, there wouldn’t be any conflict. Not only would that be boring, but it would be unrealistic. But if they stayed in conflict, soaked in bitterness and revenge, it wouldn’t make for a good story.
Do you have a compelling and convicting model of true forgiveness to write this chapter in your story?
Love stories always face a moment of loss. It’s the point where the relationship seems to die. Where hope fades. Putting this moment into the bigger story not only helps you see the way out, but to appreciate it.
Many amazing stories have redemption at its heart. Often, one person redeeming the other is the spine of the love story. In other instances, the relationship, itself, is what redeems one or both of the characters from a pain in their life.
How deeply is the redemption 'beat' woven into your own marriage story?
Maybe they don’t literally come to life as Neo does in the Matrix after a kiss. But a love story has something once “dead” come back to life. Your story can have the same if you know to look for it and see that as an essential beat.
Even though love is about two people coming together, great stories are also about freedom. It could be freedom from social convention, family expectations, personal baggage, or even physical imprisonment as in the case of many fairy tales.
How are you experiencing freedom while being knit together in your marriage?
Here is the big idea: the best way to write your own love story well is to study and model another great Story.
In fact, those seven key beats to writing your marriage story came from studying a love story that's been read by millions of people.
This story not only made them feel loved, but also made them fall in love.
Now, that must be a pretty great love story. But before I tell you the actual story, I know that some of you won’t believe it's true. And that’s okay. That’s not required for you to reap the benefits so your marriage can be as strong as possible.
Access course videos, worksheets, and community on any device, at any time
Whether you're studying with your spouse, or you are part of a small group, you can access the content anywhere and anytime, without time limits.
Your Marriage Story will grow, change, and deepen over time. The lessons you learn will take on new meaning as time passes.
Both entertaining and educational, the video, audio, and printed content will help you in whatever stage your marriage is in.
Are you get to know each other during the dating phase, why not begin to understand each other's stories together through this program?
As you prepare for marriage, knowing where you are going and if you have the same 'vision' can be much easier now by sharing what makes a great "Marriage Story."
If you have been recently married, your Marriage Story has already begun. Take the time to see both the good and the bad now as part of a larger story that will unfold.
Married with Children
Married couples often find themselves mired in the tactical busyness of life, but lose a "true north" which gives them resiliency, priorities, and meaning. Knowing your Marriage Story can bring spark you may need now.
If you are reflecting on your life together after a full and busy season, now is the time to put together the "story" you can tell each other and share with your loved ones.
If you want your congregation of pre-married and married couples to have a powerful connection between the Gospel and their own marriages, this program can help without requiring extra staff or a large number of volunteers.