It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. Derek Dunn, executive pastor of CHC shares his personal tips for a successful marriage.
|PHOTO COURTESY: Derek Dunn|
How did you meet your wife? What, and how long did it take for you to pursue her and finally win her hand in marriage?
DD:During that time, I was very focused in my ministry and wasn’t pursuing a relationship in any way. However, Kong and Sun had a talk with me and felt it was time for me to consider getting attached and settling down. Back then, Susan was a member in my cell group who had grown into a cell group leader in my zone. When Kong asked me who I thought could be a potential candidate, I immediately answered, “Susan.” By then, we had known each other for five years. She was always passionate for the Lord, and was strong, independent and yet feminine. Sun then encouraged me to date her out to take things forward. We dated seriously for six months and were married one year later.
Were there any significant ups and downs in the course of your relationship? How did you overcome the down times?
As I was not able to converse in Mandarin and Susan’s mom was not apt in English, it posed a hurdle initially to bond with her family. She constantly needed to interpret for both of us and felt strained in the process. Eventually, through my limited knowledge of Malay and Mandarin as well as her simple knowledge of English, we were able to communicate better, and her mother and her family grew to accept me.
For Susan, it was also an adjustment as she was introduced to a different lifestyle and inner circle of people that I worked with amongst the senior staff in the church. As she was not staff, she did not really know the people that I worked with so she had to start getting to know them and learn to build relationships with them.
In our second year of marriage, we experienced a significant up when Ethan was born. We were exhilarated but at the same time it brought a significant down in our marriage, as Susan suffered from post-natal depression during that time. Some unexpected family issues had come up on both sides of the family while she was still coping with the newborn. It was probably the most difficult time of our lives. However, we continued to stand together in agreement as husband and wife. As we supported each other spiritually, this brought us closer together. We worked together to take care of Ethan and proactively do what we could to resolve the issues. It was our strong relationship with God and with each other that helped us to overcome the crisis.
In a world where divorce is constantly on the rise, how do you stay and grow in love?
I think there are three key ingredients that have helped us to have a great marriage. The first is communication— it is the basis of life and the lifeline of every relationship. I think the key to keeping a relationship strong and love alive is not taking each other for granted. Always take time to talk and to appreciate each other. I think the more things you go through together and work through, the closer you get.
The second thing is sharing quality time. In the midst of the busy-ness of ministry, family and work, we have to make time to still “date” each other and to go out alone. I am always thinking of new restaurants or places that we can go to so that we can keep the freshness in “dating” each other. This helps to keep the spark in marriage and romance alive. It doesn’t need to be an expensive place but do something new that you can enjoy together.
The third key is appreciation. Find out what your partner’s love language (words of affirmation, receiving of gifts, acts of service, physical touch and quality time) is and appreciate them by doing the things that make them happy. Their love language may be different than yours and hence may not come naturally to you. Appreciate them and express your love to them by speaking their love language.
Do you have any mottos that you share, or golden words of wisdom that both of you choose to abide by to guard your relationship?
One: Tell each other everyday, “I love you.” Remember to tell your spouse you love them and appreciate them. Don’t take it for granted that they know. Make it a point to verbalized your affections because your spouse would love to hear it.
Two: Never use the “D(ivorce)” word. Disagreements will come at times in a relationship. When emotions are flaring, some couples say hurtful words in a fit of anger, such as, “I want a divorce” or “If you’re not happy, why don’t you just divorce me?” This can undermine the security in a marriage and bring distrust to the relationship. Determine in your marriage once and for all that divorce is not an option and agree never to bring this up in a disagreement or conflict.
Three: Always Fight Fair. Susan and I hardly quarrel. In the early years of our marriage, we agreed that any problem we face is not “her problem” or “his problem,” but “our problem.” We agreed that we would “always fight fair,” meaning that we would not attack each other’s weaknesses or be verbally abusive to each other. Words can be hurtful and some couples attack each other’s shortcomings (we all have them) in a fit of anger. This is unhealthy and can cause couples to withdraw and put up walls so they don’t get hurt again. It is okay to disagree or to express your feelings when you are unhappy, but always fight fair!