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Married in Ministry: How to Go the Distance!

  • Name
    Dan Reiland
She was 22 and I was 26. We were both clueless but head-over-heels in love. Patti and I got married on June 27, 1981, and just celebrated our 34th anniversary over dinner at Maggiano’s. The chef came out and talked to Patti in order to prepare the perfect pasta according to her design! We’ve been in full-time ministry for our entire marriage. Two kids, three states, four mortgages and several sets of braces later, we are still in love. Candidly, that’s not easy. No marriage is easy, but ministry brings with it a set of unique pressures that if not navigated well, you can lose your way. Far too many of my colleagues are no longer married or in ministry. Our marriage is far from perfect, but it’s really good. My desire is to encourage you with a few things we’ve learned along the way.

1) Let it go.

When we were young marrieds, I was the one who thought everything had a place and it should be in it! Patti was more, let’s say, “a free spirit.” She loved all her junk drawers because, as she would say, “I never know what I might find in them!” Today, Patti is our super-organizer and our label-making queen, and I can never find my other sock. Little things cause little squabbles. Little squabbles turn into big arguments. Let it go. Your relationship is more important than whatever the argument is about.

2) You are responsible for your own happiness.

No one makes you mad, and no one makes you happy. You choose your own emotions. Yes, I know, you can drive each other nuts at times. But you still choose your own inner state of emotion. It’s important to be loving, kind, and do things to surprise and delight each other. But humanity will eventually find its way, and when it does, you have a choice in how you respond. James 4:1-2 says we quarrel and fight because we don’t get what we want. Mutual voluntary submission is the key! (Ephesians 5:21)

3) Enjoy the intimacy of prayer.

Patti and I don’t pray together every day. We focus on our personal prayer lives first, and don’t often have time for both. But we have enjoyed powerful prayer together thousands of times over in our 34 years. Prayer is more intimate than sex. It just is. There is a spiritual bond through prayer that is indescribable and tends to make your relationship indestructible. We have prayed for everything from issues of spiritual warfare to healing for our children. We also pray for each other, and I’ve learned it’s very difficult to remain angry with someone you pray for consistently.

4) Family is a big deal.

My parents divorced when I was eight. There is no question I wish they had stayed together, even if just for my sister and I. Make family fun, not perfect. Family is messy; that’s OK. Fight for time with each other. Talk often. Texting is OK, but face time is needed. My family has read and discussed books together for years. It’s a great way to make time for meaningful connection. Create traditions and memories. Laugh often. That’s one of the things I love about Patti. She makes our family fun. She laughs easily and makes the holidays really special. And now, when she puts 3,000 lights on the tree, I just smile.