Marriage Resources

Refresh Your Marriage Retreat

So many couples today in our area live at a frenetic pace of life with work, family, sports, activities, interests, etc, which often demands a significant amount of their time and energy. If couples are not careful, they can drift into a “roommate marriage” while getting caught up in the whirlwind of activities.

This retreat offers couples an opportunity to disconnect from this fast-paced rhythm of life, and refresh, reset and reconnect with God and one another.

Join Bob & Karen Donovan as they share their insights from their 49-year marriage and their 45 year journey with Jesus.

Retreat Speakers: Bob & Karen Donovan

When: Tuesday, August 20 (6:00PM dinner) to Wednesday, August 21 (4:00PM)
Where: Trinity Retreat Center
Cost: $189 per couple (includes 3 meals and 1 night lodging) 

Making Your Marriage a Fortress- Seminar

Marriage requires couples to work and invest in their relationship continually. One of the greatest challenges couples face is life’s inevitable storms, which will come. In this seminar, Gary Thomas shared his insights and experiences as he has guided couples successfully through the storms of life over the years.

This seminar is based on Gary’s book, Making Your Marriage a Fortress. Gary alternates between storytelling, teaching and practical application to help couples be prepared for life’s inevitable difficulties.

The seminar is available for you to view on YouTube.

The mission of Black Rock Marriage Ministry is to:

engaged and seriously dating couples create a solid foundation for a lifelong Christ-centered marriage

encourage and support existing marriages to reflect God’s intention for marriage through all life stages and seasons

marriages that have been struggling or broken


Pre-Engagement & Pre-Marriage Preparation Program

Thinking about walking down the aisle? We want to walk with you on your journey towards the altar! If you are seriously dating and considering engagement or are already engaged, we invite you to join our 8-week pre-engagement and marriage preparation mentorship program.

This mentorship program will also lead you through a process to help you assess your relational strengths as well as areas to work on. Our hope is to equip you for the adventures of marriage and help you and your significant other evaluate whether now is the time to take your relationship to the next level.

Preparing for Engagement / Marriage Mentorship Program
Rolling Enrollment.
Please contact Sarah Harwood at to sign up.

Preparing for Re-Marriage

More than 80 percent of divorced people in the United States will remarry, and based on numerous research studies, anywhere between 50% – 70% of remarried couples will divorce again. Since this is such a significant challenge for couples considering remarriage, we offer a program catered specifically for couples hoping to remarry. It helps couples place themselves in a position to beat these percentages, and identify if they are ready to remarry.

The overarching goal of this approach is to develop a mindset that a successful remarriage is one whole person entering into an interdependent relationship with another whole person. We hope to help couples considering remarriage understand the significance of this type of relationship. The four main topics covered are:


  • Are You Ready for Remarriage?
  • Finding the Right One – Avoiding the Wrong One
  • Establishing the Right Foundation
  • Evaluating Your Relationship


Black Rock Church wants to help each married couple learn how to invest and strengthen their most important human relationship in their lives.

What Is In Your Marriage Toolkit?

Every married couple HAS a marriage toolkit, whether they realize it or not.  Not being aware of your marriage toolkit just might be undermining your marriage and preventing you from having a stronger and healthier marriage.

What you may not realize is that you likely have two marriage toolkits.  You have an unhealthy / negative toolkit and a healthy / positive toolkit….. Which one you are using?


Selfish Tool

Me first. My way. Most of the time I am right.  When I hear something you say, my first reaction is to consider how it affects me not how it might benefit you

Complacency Tool

I call this the stealth marriage killer.  Basically, you sit back and do nothing to invest, grow and strengthen your marriage.  You become complacent and lazy regarding doing ANYTHING in an intentional way. Don’t schedule date nights, don’t sit and talk about your relationship, don’t plan getaways, don’t check in with your spouse to see how YOU are doing as a couple.

Escalation Tool

Because each one of us are IMPERFECT and often make mistakes, it is common for us to approach one another in an awkward or harsh way at times.  Couples do this.  What tends to lead to high conflict is not the way we approach our spouse in a conversation, but rather HOW we RESPOND to one another when approached in a harsh way.  How we respond to one another often dictates how the conversation goes.  If my wife comes to me and harshly says “sit down, we need to talk now”, I have a choice to make.  I can respond back harshly, I can withdraw, or I can take a deep breath, realize that something is bothering her and sit down and listen to her.  In that moment we can choose to ESCALATE the conversation or DIFFUSE the conversation.  Escalation occurs when spouses respond back and forth negatively continuing trying to outdo one another.

I Need to Win Tool

This is a tool that is often used when couples try and resolve conflict.  First of all, conflict is normal for married couples.  There are some negative ways to resolve conflict and positive ways.  Needing to WIN is one of the worst ways to resolve conflict.  Rather than seeking a WIN WIN. This tool combined with the Selfish and Escalation Tool are a very dangerous combination.

Blame Game Tool

This one, the spouse takes NO OWNERSHIP for their part in the problem.  They are a victim of circumstances, they blame the conflict and problem on their spouse, or someone or something else. It’s always someone else’s fault.


New Year New Attitude

New Years Resolutions?

I am not sure how you feel about making New Year’s resolutions.  To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about them either.  In fact, according to research most New Years resolutions fail, and in reality, most resolutions fail to make it past the end of January.

However, there is something to be said about taking a deep breath and stepping back from the frenetic pace of life and trying to focus or refocus on what is important to us, both individually and as a married couple.   A new year can be a new opportunity.


I had the privilege of working alongside of Pastor Dan McCandless for a number of years (and yes, I miss him dearly right now since his move).  Dan always said, “more is caught than taught” and I was on the receiving end of some important Christ-centered growth lessons by “catching” some of his life-giving practices (a Marjie term that Dan stole).

Several years ago, Dan was telling me that he and Marjie started to develop a “theme” for each new year.  For that particular year it was “choosing to be unoffendable”.  I had never even thought about anything like that before.  It made me think about how “offended” I find my mind going in very random situations. 

In any event, I began thinking about doing something like that myself.  I spent time during my morning quiet time to pray and listen to what God might have to say to me, and sure enough something came to me.

My 2021 Theme

“To joyfully serve my wife and family”

Now that might sound like an easy-peasy theme, but for a self-centered only child like me, it was a real challenge.  The challenging part was not so much the “serving” part, but rather the “joyful” aspect of this. 

You also must understand that my amazing wife of 46 years, Karen has as her number one Love Language “Acts of Service”.  Since it is really important to her, I try to make it a priority to do “Acts of Service” things around the house…. but joyfully??

I remember one specific time where she asked me to sweep out our garage because it had leaves in it.  I opened the door and looked at the garage floor and to my eyes, it really did not look that bad, in fact it still looked rather clean to me.  But as my family often points out “its not about you Bob”.  I grabbed a broom and remembered my 2021 theme and joyfully swept out the garage.  This actually worked as I found myself being joyful doing this task.

Marriage Application

Having a strong and healthy marriage is so much more about doing the daily mundane tasks than it is about the larger grander things.  Marriage health is actually nurtured when we have our hearts and attitudes in the right place, as Paul says in Phil 2:3 “do nothing out of selfish ambition and vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.”

My wife and I also have had a “marriage theme” that has guided us over our 46 years Romans 12:10 “outdo one another in showing honor”.  Do we actually do this all the time?  No, but we try.

As you begin 2022, maybe you can adopt a Col 3:2 approach “I will set my mind on things above, I will not dwell on earthly things”.

What do you individually or as a married couple want to set your eyes on in 2022?

Happy New Year!

How to “Affair-Proof” Your Marriage?

I think most couples believe that as long as my marriage is strong and healthy, we will never have to be concerned about having an affair.  This actually is a myth and just might be influencing couples to have a false sense of security.

Affairs happen to couples in distress as well as with couples with strong marriages.  There are often many complicated factors that contribute to a spouse having an affair.  If you want to protect yourself from infidelity, it might be good to think about the following suggestions:


Affairs can happen to any couples IF they are not careful.  If you think “I can never have an affair – it can’t happen to me” you are believing a lie and might be susceptible to having one.  You actually cannot completely “AFFAIR-PROOF” your marriage.  Affairs, both physical and emotional can begin to develop and are very hard to resist, once you are down this path.  So – BE ON GUARD AT ALL TIME!

  1. Define “INFIDELITY” in YOUR relationship

Does an emotional affair, a physical affair, one-night stands, pornography use, sexting, intimate texting, private messaging feel safe to both of you?  We often assume that our boundaries are universal, but what feels safe or acceptable varies widely from one person to another. Decide what is acceptable to both or you

  1. Pay very close attention to “THE LINE”

Affairs rarely start with a single decision.  People who have had affairs look back and in retrospect can see where they crossed the line.  Pay attention to where “YOUR LINE” begins.  Keep in mind that the more intimate your conversations become, the more at risk you are. 

  1. Continue to Grow and Invest in your marriage – Keep It Healthy

Always be intentional about growing your CONNECTION with your spouse.  Keep talking and communicating with one another, date nights, have fun… Turn towards one another not away from one another

  1. Be honest with your partner. If issues in the relationship are building for you, raise them.  Address your individual challenges if you recognize that you struggle to bring forward things that are important to you.   When you present the issues gently and with respect, framing that over time something—or things—are having an impact on your sense of closeness or engagement or safety, you give your partner a chance to respond.  Relationships can get mired in silence that leads to resentment when you hold back when it matters.  If you’ve tried and don’t feel heard, be honest around how this is impacting you and your engagement in the relationship.  Seek help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in relationships if things are not going well on your own.  Pay attention to whether you’re beginning to lean out and, if you are, speak up

If you would like to discuss this topic in more depth, please reach out to Bob Donovan at

Strengthening Your Marriage Tools
Marriage Assessments
Resources & Websites


  • Gary Thomas “Lifelong Love” Conference videos 

Sessions 1 — Worship Your Way to a Better Marriage Watch Now
Session 2 — Sacred Journey Watch Now
Session 3 — Sexual Saints Watch Now
Session 4 — Journey Toward Love Watch Now

  • Art of Marriage 
  • Sacred Marriage
  • Staying In Love is Harder Than Falling in Love
  • I-Marriage


  • Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas

  • Married Sex – Gary Thomas

  • The Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller

  • Fighting for Your Marriage – Markman, Stanley, Blumberg

  • Rethinking Sexuality – Julie Slattery

  • His Needs Her Needs – Harley

  • For Men Only – For Women Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

  • Closer (A Devotional for Married Couples) – Jim Burns

  • The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted – Gary Chapman

  • The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman

  • A Lasting Promise – Scott Stanley

  • The Mingling of Souls – Matt Chandler 

  • Two as One, Connecting Daily with Christ and Your Spouse – Selena Frederick


Marriage Life Coaching
Many people immediately think about counseling help for a struggling marriage. And in some cases that is an appropriate source of help. However, in other situations what a couple needs more is coaching rather than counseling. Marriage Life Coaching looks like the following:
• Defining specific relationship goals to focus on
• Developing a roadmap or plan to achieve goals
• Holding the individual or couple accountable for progress and follow up
• Providing structure, encouragement, and support

Bob Donovan, Marriage Director for Black Rock Church is a Certified Life Coach. He may be able to help you, as an individual or a couple to get unstuck and begin moving on a pathway forward. Contact Bob at for more details on getting started.

Professional Christian Counseling Services
Black Rock does not have a licensed Christian therapist on staff; however, we do offer a list of possible resources on our Care & Prayer page: Click here.

The Smart Stepfamily - Living Free Support Group

This group gives couples 7 essential steps to blended family success and provides practical solutions for stepfamilies. Most typical marriage education programs and ministries aren’t enough for couples in stepfamilies. Since being married and in a stepfamily is a “package deal,” tools are needed for both the couple and the package. Smart Stepfamily deals with issues such as co-parenting, stepparenting, ex-spouses, expectations, finances, loss, spiritual shame, and more.

Click here, to view upcoming groups.


Every marriage goes through challenging seasons. But often, that is just what they are seasons.  If you are in one of those difficult trials and you are wondering if your marriage is beyond repair, please do not lose hope.  Reach out and get the help you need.  Black Rock Church has the resources to help you at your point of need.  For more information and to talk with someone, contact Bob,

Marriage Moments Videos

Marriage Moments Ep. 6


What is marriage? What does that mean to you? Hear from our Marriage Director, Bob, on his definition of marriage, talk about it, and see how you are living that out.

Marriage Moments Ep. 5


If you were honest with yourself, would you say you expect your spouse to meet all of your needs? Find out in this video, where you should shift your expectations. 

Marriage Moments Ep. 4


How do we ensure that we are living life as husbands and wives without regret? Find out in this video.

Marriage Moments Ep. 3


How do you have a WE marriage instead of a ME marriage? Find out in this video.

Marriage Moments Ep. 2


What do you do when you and your spouse are spiritually incompatible? Find out in this video.

Marriage Moments Ep. 1


Are you seeking to grow in your marriage? Are you hungry for wisdom in how to walk out being a loving husband or wife? We’re so excited to introduce Marriage Moments with Bob Donovan, our Marriage Ministry Director at Black Rock!

This week Bob shares a story of a surprising turn of events at the latest Men’s Weekend where he’s been doing a marriage seminar for almost 10 years. Listen as Bob shares some key takeaways from his friend on four simple ways to grow in your marriage.