February is the month when our thoughts turn to love…romantic love, the kind that often leads to marriage.
Some have joked that “marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning you have two hearts and a diamond and before long you wish you had a club and a spade.”
Warren and Sue Julien on the other hand, are a couple who view their marriage as a precious gift. For some years now they have been helping people enrich their relationships, by offering and facilitating a course called The Marriage Course.
The Juliens were both raised in New Westminster. They met each other in Grade 8 and although they dated a few times in high school, it wasn’t until university that they began to date seriously.
Sue had her teaching degree when they married, and Warren was attending medical school.
The couple soon started a family and had two children by the time they moved to Summerland in 1982. They had two more children in the years that followed.
This year the Juliens will celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary.
Like all married couples, the Juliens experienced the normal stresses that come with everyday life.
Ten years into their marriage, some friends arranged for the couple to have a weekend away together. They attended something called Marriage Encounter.
“That turned out to be an incredible blessing for us because it was time with each other and away from the regular routines of life,” explained Sue. “It was pivotal for us. It gave us some great tools to strengthen our love.”
That strength was needed, years later, when they faced one of life’s biggest hurdles.
“My husband was diagnosed with cancer,” Sue said. “They told him he had three years to live. That was 14 years ago and he is now cancer free. At that time it was very difficult, but it also drew us closer together. We had to really depend on each other for strength.”
The Juliens believe in the power of prayer and a power greater than themselves.
“Our marriage is totally built on our faith in God…Jesus really,” said Sue. “We can take our worries and concerns and our issues to God and trust that he is going to give us the strength and wisdom and grace to work those things out.”
Sue thinks the pressures for married couples today are “huge.” She said that the busyness of life often keeps couples from having time for each other. Technology keeps them from talking face to face. Families live farther apart these days, so there is no support system in place for young couples.
The Juliens believe that for a marriage to be successful you must choose to love.
“Love is a decision,” Sue said.
A number of years ago they came across The Marriage Course. It takes people through the basic foundations of a good marriage and gives couples practical tools to strengthen their relationships.
“One of the major tenets of that course is having a date night and making that a regular occurrence in your marriage,” explained Sue.
Because of how much the Juliens value this course, they have been offering it to other couples and acting as facilitators.
Topics that the couples explore with each other include communication, conflict resolution, family backgrounds and sexuality. This year there are 11 couples taking part in the course and it is being held in the Fireside Room at the Baptist Church.
“Because we have had an opportunity to have encouragement along the way, we want other people to have that same experience,” said Sue. “We know how rich it is to be in a long marriage, so we want that for other people.”
This couple also think it is important for people to understand that marriages go through a lot of changes and it’s normal for relationships to experience ups and downs. As life’s circumstances change, couples need to be able to give different things to each other.
“It’s a life-long commitment of friendship and love,” said Sue. “It’s a journey and there is great joy in walking that journey with someone.”
This Sunday is Valentine’s Day, when couples the world over will take time to celebrate the love in their own lives, married or not.