Holly Willmarth

“Make time for date nights.” Todd and I have heard this bit of marriage advice over and over, but we’re terrible at it. We always have been, even when we were actually dating. We work opposite schedules, and we’re great at letting chores intrude on time that was supposed to be sacred. Todd kept a log of stuff we did together when we first met. It’s really sweet to read now as we approach our fifth anniversary, but there are plenty of entries like this: “Met with Realtor. Spread 5 cubic yards of topsoil. Rented dumpster.”

In any case, we were excited when another couple invited us to join them last week for a play, ’Til Death: A Marriage Musical. The story is a collision of two couples, one married for years and on the brink of breaking up, the other honeymooning and sappily starry-eyed. The music is great (thanks, Michael Pearce Donley), and the rapid-fire jokes poke fun at Disney movies, Lord of the Rings fanatics, online dating profiles and natural-foodies. The production has a large dose of wisdom along with the humor, and it offers relationship advice (make those date nights a priority) without preaching. As we left, we found ourselves talking about marriage, which led me to e-mail couples from church to ask their advice and favorite books for engaged or married couples.

We’ll share some responses this week and more in a later post. Enjoy. And if you want to laugh really hard at the phrase “goat placenta” and hear love songs composed in Tolkien-esque languages, go see ’Til Death. It’s playing just a few more shows this week and next at the Art House North in St. Paul. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/959172.

Thoughts from Pastor Nathan and Stephanie Dickerson, married nearly 15 years.  



  1. Pay attention to your family of origin.

When I first got married I did not realize how much my own parents’ marriage would shape my expectations of our relationship. I am often not even conscious of having these expectations, but they are certainly present in my marriage. So, what I have come to learn is that I need to pay attention to where I have come from, but I also need to be willing to “leave & cleave” by consciously allowing our relationship to be different from the one modeled by my parents.

  1. Own your stuff!

Another big thing that I have learned is to apologize for what I have contributed to our conflicts, and to not qualify my apologies with excuses (i.e. “I am sorry for… but you did…” Instead, I need to own what I have done, without excuses. I have learned that when I do this, it really helps to lower the temperature in our conflicts, and it helps us to move toward resolving our fights much more quickly.

And from Stephanie:

  1. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help when you are struggling in your marriage.  I made this mistake early in our marriage and wish I hadn’t!
  2. Don’t put your marriage on autopilot. It will not thrive or survive if you do — another mistake I made when we started having children!


Also, these books have helped us tremendously:

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.

* Both books do a great job revealing just how much we have absorbed the cultural expectations and assumptions about marriage and how God has a different purpose for marriage.

Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley & Susan Blumberg

* This book is super practical — especially in addressing communication patterns (we laughed out loud at how accurately they depict the way couples argue), conflict, problem solving, and physical intimacy.