Monday, April 16, 2012


20 years ago, Eric and I began a very tumultuous relationship. After six years of on-again, off-again dating, we decided to pull the trigger and get married. Our friends and family were a little shocked. We were then, and still are, a very passionate couple and passion often manifests itself in a lot of fireworks. While a display of fireworks can be festive and breathtaking, handling explosives is never a completely safe endeavour.
Over the years, we have cultivated the skill to manage the passion without snuffing it out and yet sustaining as little damage as possible. I write this post on our 14th anniversary – we are pretty sure that everyone who wagered bets against us has lost by now – and I decided to share some of the ways we make it work. As I reflect on the years, there are five commitments that Eric and I make that weave strength into our marriage.
1)   We are deeply committed to each other. We have an unusual relationship because we are both public figures, out speaking to churches – but we do so as individuals and on different topics. On one hand, my husband, the Director of Philanthropy for World Relief Canada, tackles the complexities of international poverty, hunger, and education. On the other hand, I speak and preach at churches on the issues of sexual intimacy. Traditionally, the material that I handle is covered by a) a man or b) a couple, so Eric and I are keenly aware that what I do is counter-culture. Could Eric join me? Of course. He is an extremely gifted speaker and thoroughly knowledgeable about marriage. But his calling is different than mine. His work passions lie elsewhere. And I am deeply committed to seeing him grow and flourish in the area to which he is called. But he feels the same way about me. He is actively supportive of my business – from handling the website, to listening to my talking points as I write, to lending a critical eye to my forth-coming book. Truth be told, we love that we are different. We love that we are called to different areas of ministry. We laud each other’s passions and are each other’s biggest fans. We have a deep, abiding respect for the individuality that we bring to our marriage.
2)   We are deeply committed to our marriage. Marriage is not just a combination of two individuals. It is greater than the sum of its parts. It is its own entity. It lives or dies, it communicates to the world, and it can use its powers for good or for evil awesome. Just as Eric and I are deeply rooted in our understanding of ourselves as individuals, we also recognize that our marriage needs nurturing in order to remain strong. If we are not consciously investing in activities that strengthen our marriage, it will become at risk. We therefore jealously guard our date night, we practice what I preach on sexual intimacy, and we understand that we have a calling as a couple to impact the lives of people around us. Because we are people of faith, we believe that God is in the center of our lives, having a relationship with each of us but also having a relationship with our marriage. We build into each other and into our marriage. Here is a (rather crudely drawn) diagram to illustrate this:
3)   We are deeply committed to accountability. We have a circle of people who will speak into our lives and that of our marriage. Not too long ago, a friend sat with me over coffee and asked some very pointed questions. Let me tell you, vulnerability is never easy, but it is crucial. When I asked her what had given her such courage to probe (our relationship is fairly new), she told me that she had just seen another marriage fall apart while she remained quiet. “I decided that I would never be silent again.” This was extremely convicting to me because I have remained silent at times too – fearful that I would be “interfering”. We all need friends who have the courage to speak boldly into our lives, listen with empathy when we open up about our fears, doubts, hesitations and annoyances, and then guide us to greater intimacy with our spouses.
4)   We are deeply committed to authenticity. We have decided that our marriage is not about looking good. No one can weather years of marriage flawlessly. It just doesn’t happen. But when we pretend that everything is fabulous all of the time, it simply serves to make everyone else around us feel inadequate – because they have ups and downs too. Eric and I do have a great marriage, but it is because we have fought hard for it. There have been plenty of times when we didn’t like each other, we hurt each other, we failed to trust each other and we deeply offended each other. I will, no doubt, piss Eric off in the very near future and he will do the same. But that’s ok because marriage is not always a picnic. Very often, the good stuff is on the other side of the hard stuff because you don’t learn the lessons, work on your character, and become the person you need to be without the hard stuff acting as a catalyst to get you there. Inviting people on this journey with us gives us the space to be real and enables others to be real with us.
5)   We are deeply committed to growth. It never ceases to amaze me that people will skip off to a professional development seminar at work, but never carve out the same time for their marriage. Eric and I went on our first marriage retreat a mere four months after we tied the knot. This is not because we were already regretting our decision, but because we were keenly aware that if we did not continue to grow, we would die. This pattern has continued throughout our marriage. In February, we spoke at the Good to Great conference. Because we were taking the sexual intimacy segment, we were the last to present (you have to build up to sex). As we sat and listened to the other three speaker couples, we learned and gleaned new insight.
I am grateful for the 14 years I have had with Eric. He truly is the love of my life, the husband of my youth. I would not be the woman I am today without him. He saw things in me before I ever recognized them in myself. He has called forth greatness in me. Our adventures in passion continue, but they would have exploded into flames years ago if we hadn’t built those five commitments into our foundation.
ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

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