What married couples badly need from you

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I'll be frank: when my mom first shared her zany idea for my wedding rehearsal dinner, I had my doubts.

She had this idea that since I'm a lawyer, she would go with a courtroom theme.  She would play the judge, and my fiancee and I would have to call "witnesses" to prove that we really should get married.  You can imagine how weird and awkward this could have gotten, but it didn't.

Witness after witness affirmed our readiness for marriage—they described our strengths in detail, helped us laugh at our weaknesses, and honestly assessed the ways we complemented one another. They had no idea how much we needed their encouragement.

We had met only nine months before, and five of those months had been a head-butting, tension-filled engagement. Almost overnight, we had gone from being an infatuated new couple to being amateur wedding planners who were simultaneously discussing topics like finances, living arrangements, children, and whose church we would attend. It was ugly.

But all those specific, very unique encouragements diminished so much of the tension and left us with a confidence we needed for our wedding. It helped us believe that although we had a lot to learn, we had what it took to be the couple God created us to be.

Eight years later, Raquel and I still revisit that memory and some of the specific things that people said about us. The words don't get old; they still give us hope for who we are and who we can be. But these days, although people regularly compliment Raquel and me as individuals, it's far less frequent that others encourage us as a couple—with one exception: Gail and Hall Barr, an elderly couple from church.

Gail and Hall are easy to compliment because after almost five decades of marriage, they still clearly like each other, they have fun together, and they're selflessly hospitable to so many who are in need of a retreat from the stress of living in Washington, D.C. And like the "witnesses" at my rehearsal dinner, Gail and Hall regularly make a point to remind us of our strengths, help us laugh at our weaknesses, and won't let us forget how well we complement one another.

When they encourage my marriage, I involuntarily play their words over and over again in my head. Those words stand like a vanguard at the gate of my heart, keeping my thoughts in check when the burdens of the day threaten to boil over into marital tension.

They remind me that God has built a beautiful home with us and our children, and it needs to be protected from all the forces that try to tear us apart.

May God open our eyes to see the same beauty in other people's marriages and share them as freely as Gail and Hall do.  We all need it so badly.