4 Ways to Build a Strong Marriage Support System

by | Feb 15, 2019 | Marriage, Uncategorized | 12 comments

4 ways to create community as a couple. Making friends as a couple that aren't just there to have fun with, but make real community is so important for spiritual growth and keeping your marriage strong!
Merchandise is Here!

We all need a marriage community–a support system around us of couples our age, and maybe a mentor couple that’s a little bit older, that can breathe into our lives, hold us accountable, and inspire us.

In simpler words, we’re supposed to live in community.

I travel around as a speaker, and sometimes I get to speak in my hometown. Girl Talk is my event that I bring to churches where I talk about marriage and sex and everything in between. One of my favourite parts of the night is the anonymous Q&A, where people write down questions and I get a chance to answer as many as I can in 20 minutes.

Girl Talk--Sheila Answers Questions
Now, throughout the evening people were laughing hysterically and loudly (it’s really a very funny event), and there was one time where people clapped after a particularly funny sequence. But the only time people spontaneously clapped after something serious that I said was something that was unscripted. I was answering a question about what to do if your husband watches porn, and I said something to the effect of:

In churches we concentrate so much on whether or not someone has “said the prayer”, but we do very little to make sure that people are growing emotionally and spiritually. And that needs to stop. We need to be coming alongside our friends and saying, “I don’t think so. That is NOT going to happen anymore.” We need to be watching for friends who are in difficult marriages and going and supporting them. If we’re not doing that, then what is the body of Christ for?

I really hit a nerve with that one, and maybe you feel that longing, too.

You need a group of people that know you and your husband and that you can see on a semi-regular basis and start forming relationships with. We all need friends. Your husband isn’t enough. And it’s FUN to have other adults to get together with!

So let’s look at several different ways you can start to get to know other couples:

Marriage Community Strategy #1: The Marriage Study Group


9-thoughts-study

Here’s the point of this one: you find a group of at least two other couples and you meet on a regular basis to talk about marriage or to do a marriage study. That way you’re talking about some of the hard stuff together, and you have a group of people to go to if you have issues.

My daughter and her husband get together with two other couples every week, and they chose to study my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (and I didn’t even make them or anything!). They’re using the free study guide I have for it (and you can all use that, too!). The only rule they have is that if they’re ever talking about something in the book that refers to sex, they’re no longer talking about Keith and Sheila. They’re Craig and Shelly, for Rebecca’s sake (because seriously, who wants to talk about her mom and dad having sex?)

group-9-thoughts-study

I just want to really emphasize this right now:

All of you young, millennial marriages, can I suggest something? Now is the time of your life when this will be easiest to do. Many of you don’t have children yet. Your schedules are less busy than they will be in ten years (even if you feel like you’re incredibly busy already). Now is the time to create those friendships that will be with you when the kids start coming (if they do), and when life gets more complicated. And if you can create that community now, you’re setting yourself up for those great relationships when you need them.

Are you PeaceKEEPING or PeaceMAKING?

There’s a huge difference between the two. And if you don’t get it right–you’ll never be able to feel truly intimate in your marriage.

There’s a better way!

Marriage Community Strategy #2: The Small Group Bible Study

Many churches encourage people to join a small group Bible study, often based on geography (so people who live near each other meet every week or two to do a Bible study or book study together). Often these studies aren’t based on age, so you’ll get couples and singles of all different ages joining.

I really like this model, because it can help you get to know older couples and mentor couples, and it can help you mentor other couples (if you’re the older one!) or singles. Sometimes I think we divide out too much by age, and then we don’t get the wisdom that people older than us have.

I’ve also been in small groups where it’s all couples with young kids, so that we can pool baby-sitting. That was really helpful at the time, too.

Marriage Community Strategy #3: The Social Group

Maybe you’re not part of a church, or you can’t commit to a regular small group because of work schedules (been there, done that). That’s okay! Perhaps you have a group of couples that you get together with on a regular basis. Camping together every summer, doing holidays with other families you are close with in the church, or having set-aside times where you gather not just to let the kids hang out, but to make memories as a group.

Just spending down time with people and laughing with people forms friendships so that you do have people who have your back–and who will support your marriage. I think because we know each other’s kids so well, too, we really have an incentive to root for each other’s marriages!

Marriage Community Strategy #4: The Service Group

I once spoke at a church in Yakima, Washington, that promoted belonging to a small group. But the way they defined small group was different from how we usually picture it. Basically, you could join a traditional small group, OR you could be part of a service group. If you ran the youth group, for instance, then your small group would “naturally” be the other youth group volunteers.

4 ways to create community as a couple. Making friends as a couple that aren't just there to have fun with, but make real community is so important for spiritual growth and keeping your marriage strong!

I liked that idea, because Keith and I have served a lot in churches, and when we were involved running Bible quizzing, or when I ran a praise team, I was already out of the house one or two nights a week. To join another small group was just too hard. But also, you really get to know the people that you serve with! So to intentionally think of them as your small group is really smart. I knew the people on my praise team so well after seven years, and the people that we ran Bible quizzing with? Well, let’s just say that even though they moved away six years ago, the wife now works for me and the husband, who is a chaplain in the military, is going to do our “remembrance of vows” ceremony at our twenty-fifth anniversary party in a week!

We stayed close, because we did so much together. Youth weekend retreats, battling with church politics, etc. etc. You form a real bond!

I find that the people that I work with become my natural small group and great accountability partners. Here are two women who have worked with me hamming it up at my daughter’s wedding!

You need marriage community--use the people that you serve with!

So there you have it–four ways to really get to know other couples who can support your marriage and hold you accountable.

I don’t care which one you have. Seriously. I think it’s wonderful to be able to study the Bible together or study a marriage book together and pray for each other, but I know from personal experience that I’ve had great, strong accountability relationships with people that I never opened a Bible with, because we were serving together and we knew each other really well. The main thing is that you need ONE of them.

To really form a marriage community, you need:

  • A long term relationship (as much as possible)
  • Accountability awareness (you know you can call each other on stuff)
  • A sense of caring/responsibility for each other

Even after one of my accountability friends moved away, when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, I volunteered to get on a plane the next day (though that didn’t end up being necessary). And when we threw our 25th anniversary party, three couples who were part of that first marriage community we had when we were first married drove several hours to come join us, and my friends Tammy and Steeve (that is how you spell his name), whom we ran the Bible quizzing tournament with, travelled 8 hours to be with us.

Look, I love the fact that you all come here to see what I have to say about marriage.

I really do! And I love the fact that so many of you share my posts with friends.

Online communities are wonderful, and are great resources to answer tough questions.

But they are not enough. 

So let me challenge you today: what marriage community building strategy can you use?

Let’s talk in the comments about what’s worked for you, and what you’d like to try.

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - PODCAST PLUS: Changing the Dynamic in Your Marriage! Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature “Girl Talk” about sex and marriage. And she’s written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Christians Need a Better Understanding of Consent

What does it mean to be "unwilling" to have sex? We're in the middle of a series on the blog about how to dig out of the pit your sex life is in, when one of you, or both of you, keeps digging that pit deeper. One of the big points I was making is that we cannot...

What To Do If You’re a Victim of Marital Rape

There is little more devastating to a marriage than rape. This month, on the blog, we're talking about how to recover from sexual problems in your marriage, and I want to spend this week talking about marital rape. On Monday, I talked about the dynamics in evangelical...

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

12 Comments

  1. Nancy

    I would love to have a group like that. I can’t imagine my husband would open up to anyone. It would be so good for us.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      A lot of times, Nancy, guys don’t open up in groups like women do and that’s OK. But if you get into a group where you can share in each other’s lives, and you become close enough that you can truly trust each other, you may find that he starts talking to the husband in your friend group while they’re just out doing normal stuff like setting up a tent if you’re camping together or going out to grab something for the beach day you’re planning.

      The goal isn’t just to share–it’s to engage and to help each other through life. 🙂 And by doing that, often the sharing comes later more organically. But the foundation of reliability and friendship is built first.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, I agree. Sometimes we set up these small groups and say, “Now you all have to be accountable to one another, and we’ll start off by sharing what we’ve struggled with this week.”

        That’s rife for abuse and all kinds of bad things.

        Real accountability grows out of doing life together, so the more you can build consistent friendships, the more accountability will grow naturally, as it should.

        Reply
  2. Greg

    My bride and I started attending church through the invite of a friend of hers from work. Shortly after, we joined their small group: a collective of parents of young children—husbands and wives/moms and dads together—studying the Bible, diving into faith-founded studies on a host of topics, including marriage, parenting, prayer, deepening our own faith. We call our group a Life Group—we’re a Bible study group, a marriage study group, a social group, a prayer circle, and a service group, and having been together for probably 20 years, we’ve shared births, deaths, graduations, kids spreading their wings, and see empty-nesthood approaching on the horizon.

    I posit that it’s possible to have a group be more than one thing, and it’s all the more vibrant when it is. I cherish my brothers and sisters in Christ in my group.

    Reply
  3. Kate

    Remember, Sheila, everything you write on this blog is also preparing and giving us single people ideas for our future marriage. I love these suggestions! I Pinned it and one day i’ll come back to it when i marry, Lord willing. I can also use some of these ideas to incorporate in my singleness too. Thank you! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so welcome! Glad you’re here!

      Reply
  4. Natalie

    I hope I can find a group that falls into one or several of these categories in the next several years. It’s just hard when you move around every 4-7 years. Right when you’re in a good groove and have made strong friendships, it’s time to up and move again. And to make matters worse, the couple’s, women’s and men’s Bible studies and marriage groups at our church are all from 7-9pm pm on various weeknights, which doesn’t work when you have infants and toddlers who need to go to bed around 7/7:30pm and won’t do so with a babysitter. In our area, I think largely due to the industry that dominates this area, that seems to be the norm too, so it’s not like we can go to another church’s groups.
    I’m looking forward to the next phase of life when the kids can talk and reason with adults and are more okay with babysitters so that my husband and I (but mostly me cuz he has work friends while I’m a SAHM) can finally go to those groups and join those communities.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is hard when the kids are that age! For a while we hosted a small group at our house that met over the dinner hour. We just all threw in money for pizza that night so it wasn’t a big expense for anyone, and not a lot of work. Then we hired two babysitters to watch everyone’s kids in the basement. That worked. But it can be tricky!

      Reply
    • Greg

      Natalie—
      It is tough when the kids are that age. And moving every 4-7 years definitely exacerbates the situation. We were blessed to be invited to a group that meets as families—husbands, wives, and children all around the same age. We even had a couple of births in the group—my youngest son included. This allowed us to not only share and lift each other up as we shared our struggles and joys with that stage of life, but it allowed us to share child care as well. The older kids looked out for the younger kids, the infants were passed around the “aunties” and “uncles” so that mom and dad could get a break. We also encouraged date nights: on a meeting night, one family would bring their kids by and the group would take care of them while we shoo’ed the couple off to go enjoy a night out together.

      Does your church have this kind of group in its small group program? If no, are there enough families in a life stage like yours where a group can form?

      Reply
  5. Flo

    After moving to the town where we live now, we became friends with several couples of good people, and that became our small support community. We meet for small dinner parties, talk on the phone, help each other in any way we can, and so on. It is great! The really weird thing is: none of them are people we met through church… We met all of them in other, accidental ways. At church there wasn’t much possibility for discussing with each other, and also people there seemed more negative, judgemental and closed… Isn’t that strange and sad?

    Reply
  6. Bethany

    This sounds wonderful. My heart longs for this kind of community. Unfortunately, we’ve only had one truly mutual friendship, where I am friends with the wife and he was (they had a falling out) good friends with the husband. Every other “mutual” friendship has been HIS friends, and I try to connect with the wife, which usually ends up being shallow and awkward. He has shown zero interest in doing the same for me, so my marriage support is a small group of godly women. I would dearly love a multigenerational group of amazing couples who truly care about each other and everyone’s marriages.

    Reply
  7. Ayanna

    Yes!!! Having couples around that love, support, encourage, and can speak truth in love over you and your marriage is so important.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *