By Emma Atkins
We found out about Together initially through our church. We then started leading Together groups when we joined the FamilyLife team through our role on the staff of Agapé UK.
Over the course of having participated in and led several Together groups, we have found that our self-awareness (and desire to be intentional about loving each other) has grown. Although it can be easy to assent to the idea of ‘loving your partner’ on paper, the reality of how this is worked through is more complicated and takes time and effort to get right.
A Shot in the Arm
We wanted to lead our own Together group because we had a vision for helping other couples with young children invest in their marriages. We have been in this phase for over six years and understand the value of taking time to check in with your partner and have quality time together in this busy and demanding season of life. We have felt that the Together couple times have injected life into our marriage and that being more unified has made the burden of parenting feel a lot lighter. Together was like a shot in the arm helping us to discover a fresh passion for our marriage in this parenting season.
One of the challenges of leading a group has definitely been struggling against tiredness and finding the motivation to do our couple time or log on to a Zoom meeting, after a busy day. But we almost always feel grateful after we have done it, as the group sessions and the chance to engage with the bigger picture of marriage often gives new energy and purpose for our daily lives. Indeed, Together has been a great, versatile resource for us in this season as we have managed to meet with our group over Zoom, enabling us to connect fortnightly with other couples without the necessity of finding a babysitter.
One of the blessings of running Together has been the chance to engage with couples who are on the same journey. Sometimes, marriage and parenting can feel isolating; it’s great to be reminded that others are sharing similar struggles and to hear their encouragements of where they have found hope or seen progress in their marriages. It has also been a real gift to have this reason to prioritize time for ourselves in the midst of busyness. We have re-connected and found intimacy through the fortnightly couple times in a way that would have been unlikely to have happened without this intentionality. It has enabled us to continue to grow in our relationship and work and getting to know each other; something that is particularly vulnerable to getting sidelined in the context of raising children, but essential to the flourishing of any marriage.
It has been great to hear affirming stories from the group about how they are already practising good habits in their marriages. The couple times have been able to highlight this. All of the couples have said that they feel closer to God and to each other as a result of the course. That is great news!
The Ripple Effect
We were encouraged that one of the couples in the last Together group we ran were inspired to lead their own Together group this time! They have five other couples in their group and have seen some amazing responses from the couples involved (one of the couples even wants to start their own group once the course is finished!) It is great to see this ripple effect and the way that facilitating this course can give others the tools to invest in others who can benefit.
We would like to continue to run groups in the future; they are a good way to serve other couples and help them to place God at the center of their marriages. We enjoy helping couples to think about the unique opportunities for mission that marriage provides.
I would definitely encourage any couples to consider doing Together. You will never regret investing in your marriage! An intimate and healthy marriage is a gift to everyone!
Emma lives and works in Cambridge with her husband Jake and their three young children. They are both part of the FamilyLife UK team.