How one couple overcame testing times – Couples Talk experience

Last month, I tuned into my first ever Couples Talk and was actually really surprised! Surprised at how natural it felt and how life giving it was to sit down on a Monday evening and hear from such a down to earth couple. These guys were well worth listening to! They had overcome some truly testing times in their marriage and come out stronger. 

This was the fourth event in the new FamilyLife online series aimed at sharing inspiring stories, helpful ideas and wisdom from a whole host of couples connected within the FamilyLife network.

I joined in to listen to Karen and Etienne’s story with around 70 others, all in our little zoom boxes, either with video on or off (absolutely no pressure there!), intently listening to what this inspiring couple had to say. 

And what they said…wow…it was raw, draw dropping, astounding, amazing! It was such an honour to hear from this couple who had and are still overcoming some extreme obstacles and experiences in their lives.

It was inspiring to see how open and honest they were about themselves and each other (whilst the other one was sitting right there!); their failings and issues they’ve had to work through to get to this point now. You could so clearly see the results of them learning to communicate and understand each other just by the way they were talking.

Karen said “I’m an interrupter. I’m always thinking I know what the end of his sentence…should be!” and Etienne said, “I learnt I needed to be more intentional in encouraging Karen.”

The whole evening was so comfortable and life giving. There was absolutely no pressure to join in and right from the very start I felt relaxed and able to breathe easy. There were no awkward silences or cringey moments. Everything just flowed naturally.

It was so encouraging and life giving to hear how Karen and Etienne had fought for their marriage, even when they were both at rock bottom and how they had worked hard to lay some seriously strong foundations. They turned it around! And then hearing how those foundations had stood steady after a family tragedy was truly amazing. They said, “If we hadn’t survived the first part, we would never have survived the second trauma.”

Another couple, Mark and Christine Daniel, “Directors of FamilyLife”, were on hand to welcome people and host the event. There was some fun at the start, asking Karen and Etienne quick fire questions to get to know them better. I now know that Karen likes peace and relaxation whilst on holiday and Etienne is much more into adventure! In fact, Etienne likes anything with an ‘ing’ on the end – biking, hiking, anything outdoors. And Karen has now made Coffeeing a thing! 

Throughout the evening, Mark and Christine asked helpful, prompting questions. These questions helped to pull out key topics of discussion and helped the couple to focus in on how they were feeling at certain points in their story.

There was lots of activity on the chat function of Zoom too. At one point, Xander (Karen and Etienne’s son) commented ‘You’re doing great’, which was so lovely to see 🙂 
Other comments included:
“Amazing story, love your family. Such wisdom and learnings this evening.”
“Thanks for sharing! Your transparency, vulnerability and honesty. Wow! We can all learn a great deal.”
“This zoom meeting is truly deeply helpful.”

People were also able to type questions for the couple and these were answered in a Q&A time later on. This time was really helpful to really get to the messy, gritty details of how life was for Karen and Etienne in those difficult times. They answered questions with such realness, honesty and openness; sharing how it really was instead of presenting a neat version of it. 

I was so impressed with their response to the question, “How did you make sure your own needs were met whilst going through this family tragedy?” 
Etienne said, “Ultimately, there will be sacrifice. You sacrifice your personal needs in the short term for the greater gain in the long term.” 
Karen said, “When you’re in a storm you don’t go to a spa, you rescue what needs to be rescued.” 

I loved how they addressed the common phrases of today’s society;  ‘self love’, ‘self care’ and very truthfully exposed these as not an option when you’re thrown into such awful circumstances. Instead, what was eye opening, was how they drew strength from their relationship with God. They talked about how having a faith gives them hope, purpose and a knowledge that there is a greater good at work in their lives. Etienne even said, “It makes life worth living.” Wow!

If your curiosity has been piqued…good news…there are more events like this one coming to a screen near you (probably your laptop screen)! You can meet new couples sharing their stories – with different, moving and helpful topics each time. And it’s bound to be one of the best Zoom events you go to.

Make sure you don’t miss out and keep informed of the latest news and events by receiving our monthly update – Sign up now here

Emma Parkin

July 2020


Karen and Etienne’s full story

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