A couple of years ago an e-mail circulated among the church leaders here in Shirley. The e-mail briefly described a national charity called Explore that provides couples of maturity, life experience, and some years of marriage to secondary schools as part of their PSHE curriculum (Personal, Social and Health Education). The e-mail noted that a new Explore group was being started locally, and were looking for volunteer couples.
Tam and I immediately made enquiries and made ourselves available. In recent years, we’ve been very open and transparent about the challenges, struggles, and joys of being married to each other, and thought this was a way we could model and influence young people who rarely see couples like ourselves, let alone have an opportunity to questions about their experience. It’s a place where students can ask any question about relationships, marriage, love, conflict and so on that they wouldn’t ask their parent or guardian.
And questions are what the time with students is all about! So yesterday we spent the entire day at a local secondary with three other couples and four advisor-coaches with over 200 Year Ten (14 year olds) students. An initial session with the students by an advisor-coach helped them record their hopes and fears regarding long-term relationships (an exercise the couples also participated in, as you can see from the photo). Then the advisor-coaches helped the students, in groups, to generate questions they were interested in asking.
Having done so, the couples are brought into the class of 15 to 30 students, and the students ask the questions. The couples don’t ask questions or initiate conversation; we only answer questions, elaborating appropriately wherever we can to provide as much information or stories that answer the question (and then some) from our own experience. What are some of the questions we had on the day?
How did you meet? Did you have sex before marriage. Do you argue? Do you have children? Where are you from? Do you still have dates with each other? Do you have an active sex life? Do you still get jealous? Are your children a comfort to you when you have difficulties? Do you get bored being married? Have you ever argued about money? Have you been in difficulty financially? What did you do about it? Do you have any regrets? What’s the weirdest sex position you have ever tried (didn’t answer that one and encouraged the student to move on)?
What are your plans for the future? Do you have a strong relationship? What is your favourite thing about your partner? How do you deal with bringing stress from work into your personal lives? What were your hopes and fears before you got married and were they fulfilled? Did you think you would still be together as partners if you didn’t get married? What is the most important value in your relationship? Do you still feel attracted to each other? Did ever really hate each other during your marriage? How did you propose? Does sex contribute to a good marriage? What’s the most important thing to grow a relationship?
I’m thankful to Explore for thinking creatively on how to engage with students. I’m thankful for those secondary schools who are brave to make this available in their curriculum. I’m thankful for those students are even braver in asking their questions, including the lads who think relationships are all about sex and ask questions far beyond what most couples will answer (yes, we don’t have to answer all the questions!). I’m thankful that Tam and I have experienced grace and forgiveness with one another and from God in a manner that has sustained us for almost thirty years of marriage. I’m thankful for the privilege of sharing our marriage experience with others.
That’s Day Nineteen of ‘30 Days of Thankful.’