The North Shore's relationship reverend
Rev. Ed Hird has stood at the altar to wed more than a hundred love-struck couples over the past three decades. For the bride and groom, it’s a blissful, photo-album moment in time.
Statistically speaking, however, Rev. Hird knows many of the couples will end up losing that loving feeling: 37 per cent of B.C. marriages end in divorce, according Statistics Canada’s 2008 numbers.
And that’s a trend the energetic, sneaker-wearing reverend hopes to reverse.
Later this month Rev. Hird and his wife Janice will be leading a four-session marriage workshop in North Vancouver.
“We’re hoping it will be helpful to strengthen marriages,” says Hird, who is doing the workshop as part of his doctor of ministry thesis project on marriage.
Marriages, he says take work. Lots of it.
“A lot of people put a lot more effort into their golf swing than their marriage. People have the myth that marriage is easy. Why should it be easier than any of the other important things we do?”
And while some naive newlyweds, especially grooms, think that once they’ve made it to the alter they’re done, Rev. Hird cautions that that’s actually just the beginning. He should know, he’s been married for 35 years. “The marriage relationship is challenging but worth it. I would say to [newlyweds] don’t believe the Hollywood myth that it’s natural, it will just happen. There’s a lot more to healthy relationships than good intentions.”
And like golf or skiing — two of the reverend’s favourite sports — marriage takes practise, patience and dedication. Especially if you end up in a bunker.
Even healthy marriages will have struggles, he says, which is why couples need to have the willingness to work on it.
Rev. Hird’s marriage is no different. Fortunately he married “an amazing loving wife,” who put up with certain personality traits — self-centred, insensitive, he admits — early on in their marriage, before he had a chance for some self improvement. “It’s all about the relationship,” he says.
His wife Janice says the marriage is “very good because he’s willing to listen and change if he has to.”
Just like Red Green, jokes Hird, referring to the Canadian comedy sitcom.
Through the years, the Hirds have learned to decode each other’s love language. For instance, for Hird’s wife, the language of love involves “acts of service” — something as seemingly unromantic as taking the time to make her a healthy lunch. “That makes her feel loved.”
But Rev. Hird, on the other hand, prefers affirmations from his significant other — like, say, if she comments on the latest story he’s written. “I’m a words of affirmation person.”
Of course, in today’s 24/7 wired world, its harder than ever for couples to share quality time, even when on vacation. Hird says this is particularly true on the North Shore, which has a high concentration of successful professionals who don’t have a lot of energy left for their marriages by the time they get home from work.
“How do you make time for each other?” says Rev. Hird. “[There’s] tremendous pressure on couples these days.”
But that doesn’t mean your marriage needs to be a negative statistic.
“It can work with basically the willingness to actually work on the relationship.”
The Hirds’ free workshops are open to any couples who live or have lived on the North Shore and who have been divorced, separated or widowed. “Unless you get help, the divorce rate increases (in your second marriage),” explains Hird. “If you don’t learn from your experience, you repeat it.”
But his sessions aren’t meant just for those who are encountering a thorny patch in their marriage.
“[The workshops can] make good marriages better. You don’t have to be having challenges to find this helpful,” says Rev. Hird, who is also a prolific author and blogger.
Rev. Hird says the sessions work to help couples rediscover mutual strengths, celebrate their differences, resolve conflict and find a balance between closeness and personal space.
“[We help the couples] rediscover their story. Every marriage has a story,” he says.
Rev. Hird is energized by “passion for helping marriages,” which he’s done a lot of at his church for the past 25 years. In one case, he remarried a couple who had been divorced for six years.
And while Rev. Hird enjoys performing marriage ceremonies, strengthening marriages seems to bring him just as much joy. “It’s worth it.”
To register for the free marriage workshops (May 16, 23, 30 and June 6, from 7-9:30 p.m.) contact the Hirds at 604-929-5350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.