What a pleasure having Phil and Jhanelle in the Wisdom Corner. They were so thorough and transparent with the highs and lows of their first year of marriage. Perhaps more importantly, the couple shares about HOW they've overcome unexpected hurdles. Phil and Jhanelle are united as One and are on a mission to create an amazing legacy. Enjoy!
What most surprised you about your individual behaviors in marriage?
[Phil]: The one thing I was most surprised by was my sense of complacency. I (and with my wife) noticed me becoming more complacent as our marriage progressed. The behaviors and sweet gestures that I used to do when I courted Jhanelle, I did less often. Not only had my behaviors changed, but I also noticed that my mindset had changed. I needed to constantly renew my thinking in order to do the things that I used to do. My love for my wife increased over time but my actions were not matching. Now, I am dedicated to doing something each day to make her get those tingling feelings, whether it’s sending a good morning text, buying her favorite snack, or giving her a massage. All of these things are to let her know that she is my queen!
[Jhanelle]: For me, it was my lower sex drive, just to put it out there. We abstained from being sexually intimate in the last year leading up to our marriage and we had grand plans as newlyweds (as you can imagine). However, once we got married, the beginning was actually the opposite of what most people expected. We weren’t intimate as frequently as I thought we would be or by how society said we would be, and I was baffled. We were able to get to the root causes by being transparent with one another and it turns out it really boiled down to 3 major things:
- We were not spiritually intimate. Marriage is more spiritual than it is anything else, so although we were going to church and serving in ministry etc., we were missing a consistent deeper connection with Christ as a unit. We found that the more we read The Word together, prayed and worshipped together (outside of church), the more intimate we became. Also, it was just as important to ensure that we had our own quiet time with God! We found that spiritual intimacy preceded physical intimacy.
- The next thing we found was that we became so good at managing our home that it became really easy to slip into a routine. We would make sure everything was taken of in the home while neglecting what was truly important – each other. So now we make sure we have a date night once a week and we don’t discuss home management issues past a certain time each day.
- Lastly, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be such an amazing wife that at one point being intimate gave me slight anxiety (I know that’s crazy right) and I think that I was infatuated with the idea of taking care of my husband’s needs and managing a home, not realizing the level of selflessness and hard work that came along with it. We both had to shift our perspective of what being intimate really meant.
I kept trying to compare our initial dating relationship with our marriage and realized we are both in completely different places mentally and spiritually, so we had to stop comparing ourselves and adding pressure to ourselves. Needless to say, all is well in that department now! ;)
Now that you have one year under your belt, do you feel that you are truly One? What are some indicators that you are, or are not, operating as a Unit?
[Phil]: Since the first year has finished I noticed that Jhan and I have been on one accord now more often than when we were engaged. One reason is because we communicate about everything. COMMUNICATION IS KEY to ANY relationship. A lot of people think that communication is just having a conversation with someone else. It is wayyyy deeper than that. When you are properly communicating with someone, you are giving them your undivided attention as well as asking questions for clarification. Asking those questions for understanding also lets your partner know that you are really interested and focused on what they are saying. This ultimately builds up trust.
[Jhanelle]: I would say “yes,” I do feel like we are truly One! One of the best things we did was learning how to communicate with one another, and knowing that it’s okay to disagree!
Becoming One isn’t about abandoning who you are and becoming like your spouse. It doesn’t mean you don’t have your own thoughts and viewpoints anymore.
It’s through our disagreements that I actually learn a lot about Phil and his rationale for things. I get to understand his mind and his perspective. We are able to disagree without big fights and arguments, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve done the silent treatment!
Being One for me is being comfortable in one's own lane, which allows each partner to thrive in their strengths instead of criticizing growth areas. In that way, you begin to complement one another. Unstated expectations and stereotypical gender roles can sometimes get in the way of that, but marriage is about being free! We went through this with our budget, where I really wanted him to lead our finances and I used the whole “head of the household” rhetoric (taking God’s word out of context). But the truth is I’m really good at looking at the intricate details of our budget, while he likes the high-level overview. So why force him out of his lane? If everyone is allowed to thrive in their strengths and are encouraged through their “weaknesses” for the betterment of the team--> then that’s a power couple!
Another huge piece is understanding our purpose as a unit. We have a clearer idea of why we were called together and what we need to accomplish. Our purpose is centered around our youth! When you figure out your purpose as a couple and capitalize on each other’s strengths, then you’re both on the same page. We are constantly working towards a common goal, and that keeps us focused!
How did you know it was the “right” time to get married? What factors did you consider before “taking the plunge”?
[Phil]: Well for me, I could not wait to make Jhanelle my wife. I bought her engagement ring way before I proposed to her. I asked her mother for her blessing and she gave it to me so, the next step was to actually propose. I personally do not think that there is a “right time” but there are some necessary things that should happen before you propose. You should make sure you have a plan of how you are going to provide and maintain a relationship with your soon to be spouse. Always remember that marriage was never meant to be temporary. You have to also make sure you two want the same things in a marriage like kids, pets, housing location, budget or at least agree to compromise. Last, but perhaps most important, you must do premarital counseling before you get married. It will prepare you guys and reveal if you are even ready to be married. It also reveals a lot about your compatibility.
[Jhanelle]: The only thing I would add is that for my ladies- your husband will lead you closer to Christ not further away. We were ready to build our lives together and carry out our purpose. Some people like to wait until they have it all together and have a certain level of accomplishments before they even think about marriage,. However, for us we knew the purpose of dating and courting, so the next step was marriage and there was no need to drag it out. If marriage looks like bondage, a preventative measure from reaching the best you, or the end of your fun, then I would offer up that it’s the complete opposite! I’ve never been more free, constantly striving to higher heights or have had this much fun!
What are your goals as a couple for Year Two?
- To continue participating in classes, events, and retreats that enrich our marriage by equipping with us new tools, refreshing our outlook and in some cases offering up a different perspective. You have to put the work in for your marriage and it will work for you.
- To execute the purpose of our marriage on a constant basis. We love working with youth whether it is coaching them in a sport, mentoring, encouraging, teaching them academically, or even sharing The Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. During year one we even came up with a mission statement for our marriage.
“Our mission is to restore and maintain the family as God has designed it, by inspiring young couples to live Christ-filled lives, mentoring young people in our generation and generations to come by being Christ’s eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet with our lives as living testimonies.” Titus 2:7, 1 Timothy 4:12. Year Two will be devoted to walking this out! We have a few things in the pipeline.
To spend more quiet time with God as a couple on a more consistent basis. This is something we’re currently working on but we have a wayyyy to go!
What else would you like to share about your marriage experience?
[Phil]: Here are some nuggets that have helped me to be successful in our marriage:
- As husband, be a sacrificial leader for your family (physically, financially, and spiritually). Understanding that a part of my role as husband is to cover my wife daily in prayer was huge!
- A tool that has helped us with our finances was going through the Dave Ramsey course called Financial Peace University “FPU”. In that class, Dave puts you through some things (lol) but the teachings will change your lives! Within the same year, we had to utilize the tools from the class in an emergency situation. The class really helped us!
- Premarital classes are a huge lifesaver in your marriage. The tools and tips you get from going through a Christian based premarital course are priceless. We personally went through two different premarital courses which helped us tremendously! You get to unpack yourself and get to know the real you as well as your spouse. You have to be 100% transparent during this time and one thing we both agreed on was that divorce was not an option!
- Understanding ideas and thoughts from your spouse’s perspective. It helps to take a more humble approach in getting to know your spouse.
- Unconditional love is not just saying it but it requires action. It is very easy to say something but to back it up with your actions speaks louder than anything you could have said!
- Romance is huge for your wife! You have to get to know her love languages; yes, there is a love language. Once you know what her love languages are, your romance department will appreciate it.
[Jhanelle]: Man, there is so much I would love to share but I’ll stick with these few points:
- It is essential to surround yourself with a support system that will build your marriage up and not tear it down. You have to be careful with whom you share the intricacies of your marriage, not everyone is aligned with your beliefs or have a vested interest in your marriage. Also, sometimes our friends and family out of their love for us, loyalty to us and desire to protect us can end up doing more harm than good. I have an awesome group of sisters that I am transparent with and it has helped me tremendous.
- As an outspoken person, I’ve learned to pick my battles. There is so much power in our words and sometimes being right just isn’t worth the fight.
- Additionally, let the Holy Spirit lead you! For the women like me with super dominant personalities, if you and your spouse are both submitted to the Christian faith, then trust the God in your husband. Allow him to lead, encourage him, and be his biggest cheerleader when he thrives
- Definitely marry your best friend! Someone who allows you to be completely naked! Someone who you can always laugh with, try new things with and just have fun with! Flirting, teasing, and dating are probably more important now than they were in the courting phase because complacency is real!
- You have to be selfless in a marriage, go above and beyond for your spouse! Love is unconditional; sometimes you may not feel like it but do it anyway. Love goes beyond the butterflies you know? It is a very active commitment to your partner. It’s not based on how you feel at the moment because then your love is conditional. Emotional stability is key(not making permanent/irrational decisions based on temporary feelings).
- Also, if you don’t know your partner’s love language then definitely check out the 5 Love Languages book by Dr. Gary Chapman! That will help you understand how your spouse receives love! No-one should treat your spouse better than you do, or compliment them before you do! You should always be their biggest supporter!
What an inspirational couple to look to when we need a pick-me-up in our own marriages!
Until next time...