We had the most beautiful wedding venue. My wife had the wedding dress of her dreams. The tuxes were ordered, and all of our security deposits had been paid. Then we cancelled our wedding.
Kyla and I had been friends for two years. We hung out a few times and went to multiple dinners that I thought were dates (only to find out years later she thought otherwise). During those two years, we were long distance and both dated other people. However, we continued to stay in contact and even did a study together called The Purpose Driven Life, despite being 300 miles apart.
Then one day, after she moved back to the Cincinnati area, we met up to get ice cream together and reconnect. Two months later we were dating. One month after that, we were engaged.
Life was great. We were incredibly happy. Our families were excited about our engagement, and the plans for our dream wedding were already in motion. Then, six months into our engagement—and a year and a half away from our big wedding—everything changed.
While everything seemed great on the surface, internally, we were struggling mightily. We found ourselves living together and sharing a bank account. Our relationship was moving at the speed of light. At a time when we should have been incredibly excited, instead, we were on edge and filled with anxiety.
The more we planned for our wedding, the more we grew apart. Daily, we were finding ourselves mad at one another. Seemingly every hour together brought about another random, pointless argument that neither of us were willing to concede. These weren’t rare occurrences, but everyday norms.
If this was what married life was going to be, we both were quickly realizing we wanted nothing to do with it.
We knew something was wrong, but we had no idea how to fix it.
As we were sitting in our church auditorium on the weekend, our pastor was speaking during a series called “Relationships That Last.” During his talk, he spoke to women about the importance of finding a man who respects and protects her. One of those examples was finding a man who was willing to put off his sexual desires to protect her until they were married. Even if that meant protecting her from himself.
That cut through Kyla and I like a hot knife through butter.
Sure, I said I was in love with her, but I wasn’t even protecting her from myself and my own selfish ways. I thought I loved this woman, but I continually put my need for gratification above her heart and well-being.
It was in that moment that it started to become clear what was going wrong in our relationship. I had led Kyla and me down a path that devalued the importance of intimacy in our relationship. And because of that, sex had started leaving emotional residue—guilt, frustration, lack of fulfillment. It made no sense. How could something seemingly designed for pleasure create so much displeasure?
After the service was over, Kyla and I sat in that dark auditorium, distraught. To this day, I feel sorry for the poor prayer team volunteer who came up to us, unknowingly walking into a storm of emotions. But she sat there with us and prayed for strength, wisdom, and vision for our relationship.
At that moment, we received exactly that. It was clear that we needed to either stop in our tracks and turn around (what we now know to be a simple way of understanding something called “repentance”), or end our relationship altogether.
We went home that afternoon and did two things immediately.
We cancelled all of our wedding plans, and we made a vow to stop having sex until we were married.
Now, let me be very clear—both of those decisions were insanely difficult. We aren’t against big weddings, we love big weddings with all the photo booths and dance floors. (Please keep having them and invite us.)
I’m just saying that for us, we were fighting over the wedding, instead of working on our future marriage.
Actually, let me clarify some more. Cancelling a 450-person wedding and moving it up ten months paled in comparison to choosing to stop having sex. To stop having sex with the person you’re wildly attracted to is torture. But our relationship is better today because we made that decision.
Six months after that fateful day at our church, we found ourselves getting married on a public beach in South Carolina with 15 friends and family members. Instead of a $15,000 wedding with 450 guests, we spent $50 on decorations, had a seven-minute ceremony, and went swimming in the ocean with our wedding party immediately afterward. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Then I lost my wedding band in the ocean, but we’ll talk about that some other time.
We didn’t have a honeymoon. Instead, we had a simple hotel room on the beach that night. I remember laying in bed looking at my wife that evening. I understood so clearly why clarity about our brokenness six months prior was so important. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to love Kyla and protect her, even from myself.
In the eyes of society, Kyla and I had done everything right. We were committed to one another, we had steady jobs, we got engaged, we lived together, and we were seemingly happy. Yet we were slaves to our own desires. That is why our love didn’t feel like it was enough. Because it wasn’t.
Having a healthy and sustainable relationship meant we needed much more than just love.
We needed discipline, respect, vulnerability, and patience. For us, that meant putting the desires of God ahead of our own and making that the foundation of our marriage. When God tells us to do something, it’s because he designed everything. He knows exactly how life works best, and he wants that good life for us.
God knows that marriage only works from a place of self-sacrifice and respect. The primary call for husbands in the Bible is to die for their wives the way Jesus died for us. He gave up all his rights and comforts to show us our worth and to restore what was broken. I needed to start practicing that before we got married.
The early years of marriage haven’t always been easy. But we have a strong foundation to fall back on and begin to rebuild. If it weren’t for that moment of clarity in that dark auditorium, we both are quite confident that our marriage wouldn’t be intact today.Written by Grant Doepel on
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