By Christine Daniel
When I first met Mark I thought he was James Bond! He picked me up on his enormous motorbike for our first date and underneath his leather jacket he wore black tie. We had cocktails followed by dinner and were the last to leave the Italian restaurant that night. Three years later we were married in a fairy tale wedding.
That feeling was short-lived as we had our first major row on our honeymoon. And then a few months later Mark announced that he didn’t want to be married, and he didn’t want to be married to me!
A little later Mark assured me that he did want us to be married, but a lot of damage had been done. On the surface we still looked like Mr and Mrs Successful: great jobs, nice car, clothes etc. But underneath the smiling veneer we were both very unhappy.
We would argue a lot about small things. Mark would blow up in angry outbursts and I would run away, trying to avoid the painful clashes. The spiral of conflict deepened and our sex lives nose-dived into unsatisfactory functionality. We filled the gap of what was missing in our relationship through ‘affairs’, with our careers and with other people. And so we muddled along like this for seven years until a baby, sleepless nights and postnatal depression brought us to a point of hopelessness.
We started our relationship both believing we had found our soul mate; someone to share our whole life with. But when the inevitable pressures came, we didn’t know how to handle them. We both had loads of training to do our jobs but zero training in marriage.
A period of couples counselling helped us to start functioning again,but it didn’t help us find closeness. It was a while later when a friend invited us to join a small group to talk about Bible-based marriage and relationships. Mark said he’d rather go to the dentist,! I wasn’t too sure either, but we went along anyway.
We laughed a lot as we learned a lot and not just theory but practical relationship tools. I realised that my partner is not my enemy and I changed from being a bitter, resentful person into someone who was free to love again. Mark found new meaning and purpose for our marriage. We both communicated at a deeper, more honest level, and our sex life flourished. Our marriage was transformed!
We’ve had to endure more tough times too: redundancy, a child with cancer, depression, parents dying. Tough times come to all of us and can be the end of relationships unless we know how to respond. Training helps too!
For years we passed on what we’d learned through seminars (www.adaytogether.org) and small groups (www.togetherinmarriage.org). Our past mess had become our mission to help other couples. In 2015 we had a vision to do something with the potential to reach everyone. We pulled together a fantastic team and Toucan was born – a fresh and exciting online experience for couples so that “two can” build a happier, healthier life together!
Cyclists rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats and then London to Paris raising nearly £90,000. We spent thousands of hours of developing, writing, filming, recording, designing, coding and testing Toucan.
Then in 2017 we launched Toucan as a web app with the first modules on Communication and Conflict. Later came Loving with “Money” and “Growing” in the pipeline.
Relationship problems are normal and yet a taboo. Relationship issues and marriage breakdown are a massive problem in the UK, actually in most of the world. We understand the pain! But it doesn’t have to be that way. We know that many couples can help themselves, once given hope, good tools and the power to change.
Our dream is that Toucan can reach and transform millions of lives.