The following story appeared in the April 16 Idaho Catholic Register.
By Jay Wonacott
The Diocese of Boise Marriage and Family Life recently sponsored a virtual nine-week “Dynamic Marriage” course hosted by Shannon and Shelly Batman, Dynamic Marriage facilitators from Holy Apostles Parish in Meridian. For my column this week, I am including a testimony of the impact this enrichment series had on the marriage of Mary and Mike Wade of Bonners Ferry. Mary and Mike participated in the conference via Zoom.
Mike and Mary, who will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on Aug. 17, met at Lake Tahoe, drawn together by their mutual interest in skiing, mountain biking and exploring the High Sierras. They moved to Naples, a tiny community 11 miles south of Bonners Ferry in 2006, where they could enjoy rural life with their children, raising pets and 4-H animals, target shooting, gardening, and Jay Wonacott completing many chores on their small property. Mike is a contract water treatment plant operator for a private company and Mary is a health resource assistant at Boundary Community Hospital. Their two children are grown.
Mike and Mary are active in St. Ann’s Church in Bonners Ferry, where they have served as Eucharistic Ministers and as members of the parish council and the building committee.
by Mary Wade
After 24 years together, we were both struggling and could not identify the source of what was so wrong between us. We had fallen into seriously bad habits of communication and were withdrawing from one another, but we lacked the tools to turn things around. It was impossible not to push each other’s buttons and our lives had become unloving and confrontational. It seemed as if we were always on the lookout for a chance to attack or defend and felt the other person just did not care. Our marriage was on a course of disaster and needed some sort of intervention.
Enter the “Dynamic Marriage” course! Through this course, we learned about identifying and avoiding damaging behaviors and the importance of meeting the emotional needs that are priorities for each other. Although it seems this should be simple common knowledge, it was not for us, and we needed to learn it.
Our particular class was a small, diverse group. There was an engaged couple, young newlyweds, a five-year marriage, and a few long-timers. Each came to the class with different personal objectives. Over the nine weeks of sharing our experiences, we were able to give and receive support from each other. That mutual support was, for us, a huge part of its success. The effort other couples put into the course work and their steady growth kept us motivated and determined to get the best outcome for ourselves.
At one point, Mike experienced what he calls a miracle. After working through the first difficult session of the course, he felt upset and hurt. One day, while alone at work and feeling confused and frustrated with where this marriage course may be taking us, he prayed deeply for God to show him the way. An hour later, he was suddenly struck with the absolute clarity of the action he needed to take. That evening we refocused on the program and, using the tools of respectful communication that we learned early in the course, we were able to talk honestly with each other and tackle the serious issues on our hearts. We started to heal our marriage from that point forward.
The way in which the course demands participation from each spouse individually and then as a team helped keep us involved and working together to support each other. The well-designed curriculum directed us to look closely at the many difficult issues that we would not have addressed on our own. When we remained focused on the rules of communication, and on reaching out to our facilitators for support, and on sharing with other couples in the class, we were able to make it through the low points and feel strengthened for having done so. Each session brought us closer to our hope of a better marriage. We were committed to making it work. A high point was the realization that we are just as “right” for each other now as we were when we first met and when we took our wedding vows. It had been a long time since either of us had been able to see that in our married life.
In a way, this course reminded Mike a bit of his Marine Corps boot camp: it was not easy and took serious commitment. In a way, the experience seemed to take us apart and then reassemble us into the people we need to be by giving us the tools and training to complete our joint mission of building a happy and loving marriage that will last our life-times.
The importance of prayer throughout the process was vital. We both felt the Holy Spirit guiding and strengthening us, always present in the room as we committed ourselves to the daily course work and sharing honestly with one another. It was so inspiring to see how other couples in the class engaged in daily prayer together with their spouses to increase intimacy and strengthen their marriages.
I am so grateful this course was made available to us and that we had the unique opportunity to connect with some amazing couples in our region via Zoom sessions. The connection and personal sharing by the group members is something we all appreciated after so much isolation during 2020. The course work undoubtedly saved the train wreck of our marriage. We have vowed to each other to continue developing what we learned. With God’s grace, we look forward to celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on Aug. 17 and enjoying a more mature love with a stronger-than-ever, God-centered marriage.
Many thanks to Marriage Dynamics Institute for the Dynamic Marriage course, the Diocese of Boise’s Marriage and Family Life Office for sponsoring it, and to St. Ann’s Parish in Bonners Ferry for posting it in our parish bulletin. We also thank our facilitators, Shelly and Shannon Batman, for their commitment of time, energy and support along the way. Their willingness to participate fully and share openly, along with us, was inspiring and motivating.
To learn more about upcoming Dynamic Marriage workshops, contact Shannon and Shelly Batman at 208-863-8569 or email shelly.batman63@ gmail.com.
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