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  • Writer's picturePeter Nittler

The Art & Science of Making Marriage Flourish

It was the very beginning of 2016.


Our fingers were still getting used to the rings.


We still had the tan from our tropical honeymoon.


And as we walked into FBC’s marriage seminar, I couldn’t help but feel like a rookie showing up for the first day of training camp.


My big fear was that my enthusiastic bubble would be popped. That my levity would be crushed by the weight of “the old ball and chain” rhetoric.


The speaker? A pastor and MFT by the name of Tim Dakin. Underneath his name tag he should’ve written: Tim Dakin: the paramount of wisdom and wit. It became exceedingly clear that any fear I had walking through the door was entirely unfounded – this was a pure delight!


And, as someone who speaks as a major part of my job, I know how rare it is for someone to remember anything you said 6 years later, a year later, a month later, a week later, a day later! And yet, much of what Tim shared that day made its way into Katie and my personal marriage vocabulary.


A quick example: the idea of positive and negative sentiment.

Tim had us imagine two vats of water. One was full of crystal clear, beautiful water; the other was full of murky, muddy, disgusting water.


“Think of the clear water as something called positive sentiment” he said. “Positive sentiment means that, on the whole, both partners feel good about the relationship and respect each other.”


“Now, think of the muddy water as something called negative sentiment”


You probably don’t need me to spell it out for you – it’s basically the inverse of the positive.


Now imagine dropping one little drop of muddy water into that crystal-clear vat. What’s going to happen? One little drop of negativity (I showed up later than I said, I was inattentive to a want/need) will be so diluted by the default positivity, you’ll barely feel it.

But, add one drop of clear water to the muddy mess? You’ll barely feel it! In fact, when in negative-sentiment, one might read a positive gesture in a negative light: “she’s just giving me that gift because she feels guilty”.


So brilliant. So simple. I love this idea! I think about it all the time!


What’s with all the reminiscing?

We’re having another Marriage Conference at FBC. And because the last marriage conversation was so important to me, I want to offer a hearty invitation to you to join us for this one.


Here’s what I want you to know:


First, this Marriage Conference is is centered on the research-based findings by The Gottman Institute. Gottman research is not faith-based, and while First Baptist Church of Davis is hosting this conference, there will be a culture of respect and openness for the entire spectrum of diversity in our Davis community. All couples are welcome.


This conference is applicable for partners who are not married, those contemplating marriage or engaged, those needing better conflict management tools, all the way to couples who have been married for a lifetime. In short, everyone.


Second, we often get fooled into thinking that the soundbites from the speaker are the best parts of these events. Those are great. But the real magic happens because of our intentional choice to turn our attention to marriage. Most of the benefit will be squeezed from our expectant and humble posture, not from a brilliant one-liner.


And, hopefully, when you squeeze that sponge, the water will be running just a little more clearly.


Peter Nittler

College Pastor



PS: If you are visiting this post after this conference, you can always check out our upcoming special events for more enriching events, and reach out to our Marriage Ministry Consultant: Olivia Wingate olivia@fbcdavis.org

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