24 Hours & More: Talk the Talk
Nikki & David were already engaged when they first came to us, but, in a lot of ways, they were functionally married. While they had made a steadfast commitment to living separately & not engaging in a sexual relationship before they were married (a commitment that they successfully honored - yay!), they were nevertheless a family.
Nikki had been entrusted guardianship of her niece and nephew. They were forming a little family trio of their own, and then along comes David, who now has the delicate task of being a fiancé to Nikki, a caregiver to the children - but not a father. The line between “Nikki’s friend David” and “father figure” very seriously and very intentionally began at “I do” for this lovely couple, which meant David spent several months caught in a strange limbo. Teacher, cook, disciplinarian, playmate - but all informally. No pre-established rules or regulations to govern the relationships. These are the rules that we as parents or even step or foster parents can often take for granted.
David was never in the military, but he has that bearing. He’s highly dedicated to decorum and respect, and reacts swiftly and harshly when disrespected. These poor kids were growing up in a difficult and occasionally tumultuous circumstance, and they reacted the way kids often do in those situations - by acting out.
Needless to say, Nikki felt caught in the middle. On the one hand, she understood where David was coming from (for the most part). On the other hand, his execution left a lot to be desired in how he spoke to the children when they were being disrespectful. On one hand, the kids were consistently being disrespectful and egging him on. On the other, they were still just kids, trying to make life work in a situation no kid should have to try to navigate.
Nikki, having grown up in a similar situation, emotionally empathized with her niece and nephew and felt personally hurt by David’s harsh words. David, who came from a strict but very loving home, couldn’t believe that his fiancé would let children talk to him this way. It was stuck in this communication snaffoo that they came to us.
From the outside looking in, it was easy to see that Nikki and David were having two very different, yet equally important, conversations. Nikki was trying to express her feelings about the situation to David. She needed him to understand where she was at, and attend to her heart. David was trying to get Nikki to address the merits of the situation; namely, which behaviors would be tolerated and which ones wouldn’t. It is impossible to actually resolve any conflict while attempting these conversations simultaneously, but it is possibly to push your partner away and stir up tension and anger - which was exactly what was happening to this sweet couple.
Over weekly sessions we were able to walk them through what it looked like to identify their own communication needs, and invite the other into a conversation that would address either their feelings or the the issue at hand in a constructive way. This ultimately led them to cultivate some parenting “ethics” and strategies that allowed them to work as a team and develop deeper intimacy as a couple.
It was an honor to be a part of this couple’s big day (Paul officiating, Carly standing as the matron of honor), not just because we love weddings, but because we were so proud of how hard Nikki and David worked prior to marriage to set up communication structures that would benefit them for years to come. We’ve seen them from time to time in the year they’ve been married, helping to work out kinks in the communication strategy, but they have remained committed to pursuing each other through honest and godly communication in a way that inspires and motivates us.
Being able to effectively talk to your partner about the big and little things, in a way that promotes understanding an intimacy, is at the heart of a healthy relationship. And yet so many struggle with what feels like this “simple” issue because our society is not great at teaching us how to have structured, effective, healthy conversations. In an era of snapchat, emojis, and voice-to-text autocorrect faux pas, we have lost the art of conversation. We love love love helping couples who have “just a communication issue,” because when people are willing to learn to talk well to each other, to resolve conflict and create trust in its place, marriages thrive, intimacy deepens, and the gospel is showcased.
As we hope you know, we’ve officially launched the 24 Story Fundraiser. Just like Mark & Kylie (click here to catch up on their story if you missed it last week), we have no intention of abandoning David & Nikki at the altar. We’ll support them for as long as we can. And not just them, but as many couples as we can. But to do that, we need your help. We’re asking everyone who hears and is moved by these stories to make a small donation to the cause of helping couples honor God with their marriages. All you have to do is make a donation equal to the number of years that you or someone you love has been married between May 1st and May 24th. That’s it! And you can make that donation right here.
We’ll be posting updates throughout the month of May to help you remember, along with some videos of participants, some photos from Mark & Kylie, updates about their new marriage, and giveaways for fundraiser participants! This week, if you donate before 11:59pm on Saturday night, you’ll be automatically entered to win one of these sweet Not Easily Broken Logo bracelets!
We hope that you will support Nikki & David, Mark & Kylie, and NEB this month in this small way so that we can keep telling more stories like theirs. Thank you in advance! This ministry doesn’t happen without all of you.