Are You Ready to Dive Deep in Your Marriage?
By Mark Pyatt

My wife, Angie, and I had recently booked a vacation. It was a first for us. We’ve been married 17 years and for the first time it was just her and I, without the kids, by ourselves for 7 days. We had taken weekends and short trips but his was a first and long, long overdue. We were so excited!

As we were booking the vacation, we discovered that there will be an opportunity to go diving. I was excited about diving, but I have to admit the thought of being under water between 50 to 90 feet was a little unnerving. As we investigated we found out we had a couple of options, we could get a resort certification that would last for a few days, or I could get a full certification prior to us leaving. We decide the safer option was the full certification. My wife was just too uncomfortable with a half day of training, ok, to be honest I was too and it gave me good reason to spend the additional money for the full training and certification.

I got my books and studied. A buddy of mine joined me and we went through the classes, the test and on to the pool dives. After the first day of pool dives, I was still very uncomfortable, the mask was awkward, and I couldn’t get used to the regulator. I didn’t tell my wife, but I was kind of worried about going diving. Then on day two it all came together, I made a few adjustments that helped me to get really comfortable and back to being excited about the upcoming vacation. I called my wife on the way home, sharing my excitement and she said, “Hearing your confidence makes me feel better about you doing this.” Later that afternoon we talked about that, and I explained how the training is teaching me to avoid problems by checking and double checking the equipment and gauges for yourself and your dive buddy. The rest of the training was learning skills to prepare for worst case scenarios like; What if your respirator gets knocked out of your mouth? What if your mask gets knocked off? What if you run out of air? These scenarios go on and on and on. My buddy and I had a plan for everything and in the event something happens we should be prepared. The goal of all of this training is to help you remain calm in the event of a problem and correct it, instead of panicking and swimming for the surface. (which can be VERY dangerous). Now with this training we were ready to move to the open water for more training.

One evening after one my training dives Angie and I were talking about my experience and it dawned on me, there are some correlations between the dive training I was receiving and good relational advice that we teach at NIM. We all head into relationships thinking about the excitement and beauty of what is to come. Never taking the time to realize there are some real pitfalls in relationships and I don’t care who you are, if you’re married or planning to get married, at some point you will experience some relational struggles. Too many couples today aren’t prepared, they panic, and they swim for the surface ending their relationship…trying to get a breath of fresh air.

Here are some practical dive tips that can help couples have more success in their marriage:

1. Get Training and Be Prepared
In Diving – You need training to acquire both knowledge and skills. You need to know what equipment is necessary for a safe dive, know how to use the equipment, read the gauges, and know the warning signs of dangerous conditions. You start by using the equipment in a swimming pool, and learning the skills of correcting problems under the water, so it’s not life threatening if you make a mistake when you get into deeper water. Then, once you get more comfortable, you move to the open water for more training.

In Relationships- This is really unfortunate, but many parents aren’t actively teaching their kids to have good relationship skills. Angie and I are constantly talking with our kids about their relationships and relationships of those we see around them. We also talk about the consequences of bad relational choices. It is our sincere hope that our kids will avoid some of the heartache, and baggage their parents brought into our marriage by things they can learn from us now as well as develop some really good relational skills.

If you aren’t married, don’t wait, start learning now. We know that individuals with a healthy relationship with God, self, and others have a better foundation for a successful marriage. Start training now; grow in each of these relationships now before you have someone else in your life.

If you’re already married, start learning now. Go to seminars, read books, join a small group. Whatever you do, find a way to learn some skills to help you in your relationship. Understand your fear dance*, your core fears*, your spouse’s core fears and the most effective ways to break the unhealthy cycles that can damage your marriage (*These are NIM concepts available in the DNA of Relationships or the DNA of Relationships of Couples).

2. Have a Plan
In Diving – Before you dive, you and your dive partner discuss the details. How deep is the water, how deep will you dive, how long you will dive, what are the surroundings and what are the conditions of the water.

In Relationships - Have a plan to have a healthy marriage. What are the things that you are committing to do for the health of your marriage? Plan date nights, have devotionals together, pray together, be intentional.

3. Anticipate Troubles
In Diving – You always dive with a partner. You also check each others equipment to make sure all the gear is there, attached properly and is in working order. Then you always stay close to each other throughout the dive and are there to assist in the case of an emergency. If your dive partner runs out of air, you’re there as an alternate air source and visa versa.

In Relationships – We should have friends around us that we can trust. Make sure you are ready to use them as a resource to support you during difficult times. Too many couples try to go it alone. In our Intensives we commonly hear couples say, the people in our church, our friends, think we have the perfect marriage. What a shame that we have created an environment where it’s difficult for people to share their struggles with one another, even in our churches. This isn’t easy, and if you have more than one or two couples like this in your life you should feel very fortunate.

Now I am not a counselor, I’m more of the finance and operations guy here at the ministry, but I work with a group of marriage counselors, that in my opinion are some of the best world. However, as good as they are, each of them will tell you that over time their own marriages have struggled in one way or another. The difference is that they have trained and learned useful relational skills; they have a plan and know what to do when conflict arises; and they have people around them that provide love, support and sometimes an objective viewpoint. In diving, at some point if you dive enough, trouble will arise. In your marriage, you have two people and at some point conflict will arise and how you resolve it will determine the amount of damage to your relationship. The real question is, “Will you be prepared for it?”

By the way, the diving was amazing! I have gone to new depths and discovered things that I never knew existed. My prayer for you is that you’ll invest in learning what it takes to dive deep in your marriage, and prepare you for the adventure of a lifetime. God has some amazing things in store for you and your spouse that He would love for you to discover!

Mark Pyatt
National Institute of Marriage

Author's Bio: 

Mark has been involved in this ministry since it's inception in November of 2003. He was the Chief Operations Officer for the Smalley Relationship Center and worked along with Bob Paul and Greg Smalley in the launching of the Smalley Marriage Institute, now known as the National Institute of Marriage. His primary responsibilities at the National Institute of Marriage includes; Operations, Finance, and Donor Development.

Mark attended Northwest Missouri State University and graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute, in Dallas, TX. He developed his financial and operations skills through a 16-year career in hospitality that included seven years at the distinguished Anatole Hotel in Dallas, TX and over nine years at Bass Pro Shop's, Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Missouri. Answering God's call to join this ministry team was an answer to Mark's prayer to use his gifts for eternal purposes, he is blessed to be in a ministry that is making such a dramatic difference in the lives of couples.

Mark and his wife, Angie, have been married for over 16 years, and live in Branson with their daughter Nicole and son, Andrew.