By Sheila Jimenez
Jose and I had planned to get married in November of 1997. However, when I found out that I was pregnant we moved the wedding up to July. That caused a big problem: Jose couldn’t get out of his apartment lease.
So for the first two months of our marriage, it was me, Jose, and his two roommates. Living with my new husband and a couple of other men was one of the most difficult and embarrassing situations of my life.
After a couple of months, Jose and I moved into a house. I thought, At last we have a place of our own. But soon after, my mother moved in with us. She had been physically and emotionally abused by her second husband and we feared for her life. Jose and I thought the extra person in our home would be a temporary situation. Instead, it marked the beginning of years of extended family living with us.
There were many frustrations that came with a crowded house—frustrations that neither Jose nor I verbalized. The problem was that we didn’t know how to handle conflict. We were both nonconfrontational. We had each learned as children to be quiet … to keep the peace. But keeping the peace was destroying our marriage.
If Jose and I had not gone to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway and followed it up with a Bible study in FamilyLife’s HomeBuilders Couples Series®, I don’t think we would have continued being married.
Not what I signed up for
Jose and I look at life very differently. I am artistic by nature and would rather be gardening or decorating the house instead of cooking or cleaning. I’ve never been able to see myself following a schedule—especially the same schedule every day.
Jose, on the other hand, is more structured. He likes dinner served at a certain time. If he came home and dinner had not been started, instead of complaining to me he’d just prepare it.
By year two of our marriage Jose and I rarely communicated about anything that really mattered. We existed in the same house; we lived in different worlds. I said to the Lord, I don’t know why I married Jose. I know that I am supposed to be obedient, Lord, but this marriage is not what I signed up for.
A biblical foundation for our marriage
I began praying and praying. I begged God to give Jose and me something that we could apply to our marriage. About the same time my name was entered into a drawing that a local radio station had for a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference. I won! I knew that God had heard my prayers.
Neither Jose nor I knew what to expect at our first Weekend to Remember, but we went with open hearts and open minds. We each realized that our marriage was in serious trouble. We were determined to put into practice whatever the speakers would tell us.
The conference gave us a biblical foundation for our marriage. It taught us how to fight—how to properly talk about the things we didn’t like about each other. We discovered how to communicate disappointments with love and respect … how to share our frustrations instead of bottling them up inside.
Applying biblical principles to marriage
After the conference we led a small group through Building Your Marriage, one of the Bible studies in FamilyLife’s HomeBuilders Couples Series®. Through it we learned many practical ways to prevent isolation in our marriage.
In the past, if Jose or I saw something that needed to be done (i.e., preparing a meal or cutting the grass), we’d just do it to keep the peace. That changed after attending the Weekend to Remember and going through a HomeBuilders study. We now talk with one another before jumping in and grudgingly taking action.
For the first year after the conference, if Jose and I started having problems in our marriage we took out our conference manual and Building Your Marriage. We would again begin to apply the principles they contained. I’d remember that my husband was on my team—he was not my enemy.
Despite the progress in our marriage, we had setbacks. We got drawn into some family problems and neglected our own relationship. By year seven, Jose and I once again needed help. We went back to what had saved our marriage: We pulled out our Weekend to Remember manual and our copy of Building Your Marriage and re-read them together.
God impressed on our hearts that we had to confess any hidden sin. Jose confessed a struggle with pornography—one he had even before we married. I was shocked.
Although I felt betrayed, I made the difficult choice to obey God and continue the marriage. And God began to heal our relationship.
After much prayer, we decided to move to Memphis, Tennessee, even though we had no jobs there, no family, no friends. Shortly after we arrived, we received an e-mail saying that FamilyLife needed some volunteer help promoting the Weekend to Remember there. Jose and I decided to help out. After all, we loved FamilyLife. We loved to be around people and couples. We had had a great experience at the conference and in a HomeBuilders group.
Eventually Jose and I became city ministry directors for FamilyLife in Memphis. We saw HomeBuilders as a conference follow-up. We knew how God had used it in our own marriage.
We’ve now led several HomeBuilders groups. The transformation that we have seen in ourselves and in other couples has been amazing. At the end of our Building Teamwork in Your Marriage study, we asked the husbands and wives to wash one another’s feet. There were so many tears. One wife felt unworthy for her husband to wash her feet. When he did, he said that he had to take care of her as a gift from God.
After being in Memphis for five years, Jose and I are moving again, this time to Puerto Rico. We can’t wait to see how God will use us to strengthen marriages there as we continue being FamilyLife volunteers.
Today people look at our marriage and tell us, “Your marriage is perfect.”
“Oh, no,” we say, “but when something arises we now know how to handle it correctly and biblically.”