Secrets to a Happy and Successful Marriage by Tiffany Hopkins
A true story of how one man helps couples turn their troubled relationships into rich, thriving marriages. He shares his personal experiences and the secrets he found that have healed and transformed marriages headed for divorce.
A wedding day is filled with hopes and dreams of the perfect marriage. Friends and family gather to witness the joining of the happy bride and groom as they repeat their vows, “for better, for worse. til death do us part” Oddly enough, even with the divorce rate at a steady 49 percent in America, vows have not been changed to read, “til divorce do us part.” The reason: Couples don’t want their relationships to fail and end in divorce. Men and women want to remain married and keep their commitment. The problem is, most couples just don’t know how to perfectly blend their imperfect selves. Without proper guidelines for a successful marriage, behaviors that breakdown trust and respect of one or both spouses causes hurts and disappointments that seem too overwhelming to resolve. While there are numerous marriage counselors and workshops available for struggling couples, one organization, Christ Quest Ministries, stands above the rest in the success of keeping couples out of divorce court and committed to those wedding day vows. What’s extraordinary is that Christ Quest Ministries not only saves very troubled marriages, but they are known to reconcile couples after they divorced.
Christ Quest Ministries is a nonprofit organization which helps couples heal and transform their troubled marriages into rich thriving relationships. What’s unique about this ministry is that they encourage husbands and wives to learn, understand and practice the little known Biblical principals to discover what God had in mind when He created the marriage union. Many tend to assume that Biblical principles encompass a “wife’s submission to her husband” and “the husband is the head of the household-the one in charge and due respect no matter what.” According to Ken and Nancy Nair, founders of Christ Quest Ministries, those beliefs only convey a very slanted and inaccurate account of what the Bible teaches about the marital relationship. The ministry does not add to or take anything away from Scripture. They simply counsel husbands about their incredible potential as leader of the household through learning to understand their wives. Through thousands of relationships healed and transformed, they firmly believe that a loved and cherished wife coupled with a husband who is committed to being a loving leader of the family, is the answer to the divorce epidemic.
Ken and Nancy didn’t just decide one day to start a ministry to help couples avoid divorce. Their personal hardships during the first 13 years of marriage equipped them with the qualifications and character needed to provide this valuable and rare guidance to others. Theirs is a humble story, giving hope and inspiration for couples who want their relationship to survive and thrive.
While they said their vows in 1959, their marriage really began 13 years later when Ken went through a great deal of self examination because his own marriage was in jeopardy. Ken’s path to where he is today, with a loving marriage and ministry, started in 1972 when he was selected for a choice job with a nationally known Christian organization in Illinois. He moved his wife Nancy and two young girls from California to the midwest, feeling very confident that he had what every man dreamed of, the perfect career and an “obedient” family. He was in charge and on his way to the top, so he thought. He was oblivious to and unprepared for the turn of events and personal challenges that would soon take place.
When Ken and Nancy moved to Illinois, they flew while their furniture and personal belongings were transported out two weeks later, the same time a staff retreat was to take place. Ken assumed that Nancy would be supportive of him going. Nancy, on the other hand, was in a new town with two young children in the middle of a snowy Chicago winter and needed help when the moving van arrived. She was not at all supportive about him leaving her for several days in her new, unfamiliar surroundings. Ken thought he would solve this problem by having Nancy talk with his boss, who held the traditional view that women should stay in their place. They talked but it didn’t turn out at all like he expected…he was not going. Ken was furious.
“The wakeup call came when I was walking home that afternoon” Ken recalled. “I was mortified. I thought, how can my wife embarrass me like this? She’s going to ruin my reputation as a husband who has everything and everyone in the family in line. She’s going to make me look bad in the eyes of my new boss. And she’s ruined my chances of being with the staff on this special outing since she insists that I stay home and help her with moving in. Worse yet, she may ruin my chances of being part of this great ministry. I was so angry with my wife. Why couldn’t she just stay in her place and be a submissive wife?”
“Along the walk home my anger just grew and grew.” said Ken. “And as I was going over things in my head, I felt as though I heard God ask me, “Do you love your wife?” And I heard myself angrily say out loud ‘No!’ and that’s when I knew something was very wrong with my marriage. That’s when God began directing me and caused me to examine my own thoughts and to measure them up to what I was teaching in the Christian ministry. My thoughts were exactly opposite to how I should have been reacting as a Christian husband and father. In fact, they were also diametrically opposite the purpose of the ministry I had joined – to build Christian families. God had begun stirring things up in me.
“I didn’t share these thoughts with my wife right away. I was there when the furniture came and helped put things away, and she was very grateful that she did not have to go through it alone, but I was angry with her the whole time.”
“Having grown up in orphanages, I wanted a wholesome, rich family life and I thought I was dutifully performing as the provider for my family. I didn’t know about ‘the other stuff,’ “said Ken.
“I expected Nancy to wait on me hand and foot. For instance, we would be sitting on the couch in her mother’s home and I would ask Nancy to get up and get me a glass of water and her mother, who didn’t like the way I treated Nancy, would tell me to get it myself. In defiance, I would firmly insist Nancy get me that glass of water. I really treated her badly.”
“I reached a turning point after we had our children,” recalled Nancy, “He was so harsh and abrasive with the girls. He never had time for them and was very intolerant. It was very tense when he was home because the children were not in a home where they were safe to make mistakes or behave normally because they might bother him.”
“I became more vocal with Ken in defense of the girls and at the same time demanding of the children because I didn’t want him to get after them. I wasn’t the kind of mother I wanted to be because I was afraid for them. I remember telling Ken that I picked him but the children didn’t and he wasn’t going to treat them that way.”
Nancy looked over at Ken after recalling the details of how things were 35 years ago and said “would you say that’s how it was Ken?” With swelling, tear filled eyes, he humbly said, “Yes, that’s how it was.”‘ He expressed his regret for having missed the enjoyment of those tender years with his little girls.
“I was argumentative, contentious and harsh on my wife and children. Nancy had to approach me on a daily basis knowing how I was going to react to what she had to say about anything,” Ken recalled gently. As a result of Ken’s behavior toward Nancy over the years, she had grown afraid of him. Communication and intimacy were shattered. Nancy’s dreams of having the loving relationship she saw in her parent’s marriage was out of her reach. For 13 years she attended Bible studies, read books and tried to find ways to change herself to make Ken happy. Nothing worked. She just gave up trying. So when he began to change, Nancy’s heart was closed to him.
“As a Christian, I considered myself a student of the Scriptures,” said Ken. “However, realizing the condition of my family revealed that something was very wrong. In my desperation, I felt prompted to do something I had never done before: I read the Bible from cover to cover.”
“The six years that followed, God started teaching me some valuable lessons through experiences which caused me severe emotional trauma. I began to understand how my negative character had emotionally affected my wife and children. I also made some Scriptural discoveries I’d never heard of before, even though I had grown up in the church. I discovered that when these Scriptural principles were diligently applied to my life there was an amazingly positive effect on my marriage.”
“Even after learning the Scriptural principals, and because I had treated my wife and children harshly for 13 years, I found I had quite a long way to go. You see Nancy had given up on us. She didn’t trust me or even like me. So not only did I have to change myself, I had to prove myself to my wife.”
“I was nearly through my first read of the Bible when I came across 1 Peter 3:7 which said ‘Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife’ so I thought, ‘okay,’ I’ve got to understand her.”
“I started noticing that when I’d come home she’d say ‘oh, it’s you.’ I didn’t want that to get that response from her when I came home. So, wanting to comply with God’s command that I understand her I started asking her questions like why does she have a rapport with the children and I don’t? Why do people like her and not me? Why can she see how people react to me but I can’t? I think she was quite annoyed when this change came over me. She didn’t know that I was truly committed to changing myself to be the person God wanted me to be in order to have a loving marriage and family life.”
“I remember coming home from work one evening and as I passed the kitchen door saying, ‘Hi.’ She looked up just long enough to give me ‘the look,’ “. Ken recalled. “When I asked her, ‘what’s that all about?’ She offered the typical, ‘Nothing!’ When I insisted, she added, ‘I’m in the middle of fix’n dinner,’ trying to avoid answering the question. And, while I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone I counsel today, I reached over, turned off the stove and took her in the bedroom, standing in front of the door I asked her what ‘the look’ was for. Because she wouldn’t talk I tried to guess what the problem was. With each guess she just sighed and wrinkled her face because I wasn’t ‘getting it.’ Then finally, in disgust over my stupid guesses, she told me what caused ‘the look’. ”
“Later, after the kids were all in bed, we talked until about 5:00 in the morning and I knew he was serious,” recalled Nancy. “But it was extremely difficult for me to believe in him. I thought that if this is a game? What if it doesn’t last? It took me somewhere between six and eight years to begin to really open up and trust Ken.”
“By now our third daughter was born. And I was especially grateful that God had been working in my heart. I could have the father-daughter relationship with her wherein I could apply these new principles I’d been learning. I was also diligently working on the emotional healing of my two older daughters. I think the most significant thing I was learning was that everyone has a spirit and it’s so easy to damage it. I didn’t know what I was doing before,” Ken said humbly.
“What I also learned early on is that the philosophy that “the past should be left in the past” is a formula for failure in marriages. Leaving unresolved issues, especially ones where your wife was deeply wounded by former offenses, just means the issue will come up until it’s fully dealt with and the husband fully acknowledges what his behavior did to her. Then there can be genuine forgiveness and healing.
“I was ‘good’ for about a year and a half, just enough time for her to start thinking I was serious about changing myself, when she backed up the dump truck and began unloading past offenses on me. I wasn’t prepared. I thought ‘What’s this!’ What I had to do was realize that she had 13 years of issues to bring to my attention. It was very hard to take but I learned to categorize what she was revealing to me. I had been selfish, irresponsible, immoral and insensitive. After owning up to my own behaviors, I could manage and work on them one-by-one.”
“I could have taken offense to her dredging up past hurts, but they were issues that still caused her pain. I had also learned through Scripture that we can take anything to Christ and if as a husband I am to mirror Christ then my wife should be able to bring anything to me.”
Ken and Nancy’s marriage was unrecognizable to their friends and family. Other couples saw the “before and after Ken and Nancy” and wanted that incredible love they had for one another in their own marriages. Following insistent prompting from friends, he began teaching them about what Scripture really reveals about marriage and how to apply it to their relationships.
One of the beliefs Ken often puts to rest is the thought that men can treat their wives however they see fit and the wife should put up with it. He explained that “being the spiritual leader or head of the household does not mean a husband can be demeaning, harsh or insensitive.” He explains to those he counsels that “being the spiritual leader allows a man to understand that men and women see life differently, just as God had designed. It’s important for men to understand that women cannot shut down their spirit while they can. So men need to learn how to properly care for her spirit that she is ready and willing to give in abundance to him. It’s as if a woman has a pair of glasses that allows her to see things in a man and life that are not apparent to him. She in essence, helps him to become the best that he can be.”
As a result of the positive effects of applying Biblical Principals to other marriages, Ken and Nancy started the Discovery Seminar in 1978. They began teaching married couples throughout the United States how to apply God’s ways to their relationships and successfully avoid divorce. They moved to Arizona in 1981 and incorporated Christ Quest Ministries in 1983. Ten years after counseling and presenting the Discovery Seminar, Ken authored Discovering the Mind of a Woman and Discovering the Heart of a Man. He gives all the credit for the writing of these books to God, who kept His promise to complete the good work He started in him. These books have talked to men and women across the nation, teaching them how to possess the marriage God intended men and women to have since creation.
Today there isn’t anything they haven’t unearthed and worked through. Ken continually works on himself and explained that living a life where you really are the head of a household, the way Christ intended, is lifelong work. And, it’s by far the most rewarding. Ken and Nancy stated that, “We don’t know what your grandest expectations are about marriage, but we do know this, those expectations are nothing compared to what God (the Designer of marriages) has in store for you when you follow His design for your marriage…to be Christ-like.” Ken added that he “never imagined life could be so rich!”