It’s true what they say: opposites attract. While my now-husband likes it cold in our apartment, I prefer the temperature at a balmy 79 degrees. While he watches football, I’m Team Kaepernick. While he munches on healthy foods like whole grain bread and a variety of Vegan treats, I prefer to pig out on junk foods. Still, there’s one thing we both agreed on before walking down the aisle last August: pre-marital counseling.
It not only seemed like the logical thing to do, but necessary. There’s plenty of reasons why the divorce rate is as low as it’s ever been, including couples delaying getting married until they’re older. But it couldn’t hurt that some of these couples undergo pre-marital counseling.
So when my hubby and I went on a search for the right counselor, a few people suggested celebrity wedding officiant, Roxanne Birchfield. The creator of Married By Rev. Roxy, Birchfield has stood between Love & Hip Hop stars Juelz Santana and Kimbella along with couples featured on Married at First Sight.
The former Survivor contestant along with her husband, Rev. Joshua, counsel couples before making that march toward forever and help them as they make one of the most life-altering decisions of their lives. Currently, 100% of the couples that they’ve counseled are still married.
The two reverends met in 2012 on the first day of the Army’s basic training, and after three weeks of knowing each other jumped the broom. Seven years later, the two chaplains not only parent a 3-year-old daughter named Hunter, but also use their shared Christian principles to equip couples with the necessary skills needed to form long-lasting marriages.
Rev. Roxy said that her own parents’ divorce was a major catalyst to creating Married By Rev. Roxy in 2016.
“My parents separated when I was 7 years old and, for me, it has been the biggest pain of life,” she tells ESSENCE. “There is a deep undeniable brokenness that comes from that experience. So…that 7-year-old girl still lives inside and is healed a little more every time one of my couples says ‘I do’ and takes a chance on love.”
One of the best aspects of marriage counseling with Revs. Roxy and Josh is that the couple-in-need is benefitted by having the perspective of both a man and a woman—since we’re distinctly wired and socialized to behave and think differently.
Rev. Roxy says it’s “rewarding” to work in this way with her husband.
“It is a blessing because it brings a perspective different than my own. She can also pick up on things that I might miss and vice versa,” Rev. Josh adds noting that the two have different approaches to counseling, which “improves the quality of the counseling we provide.”
But even though the couple is both available for counseling, don’t think they’ll pick sides when it comes to an argument. So don’t worry, it won’t be girls versus boys or even two against one.
“Sometimes people expect us to support them based on gender,” Rev. Josh explains. “For example, a groom may expect that I support his view or experience based on our similarities as men and the same can be said of Rev. Roxy and the bride. It can sometimes throw the couple off guard [when we don’t agree with them,] but at the end of the day they seem to appreciate that we see, support and provide skills based on the couple as a whole, not just along gender lines.”
What my hubby and I loved most about the process was that it starts with a survey called the Symbis Assessment, an online survey that provides a thorough and surprisingly accurate breakdown of your relationship. By answering some tough questions honestly, you and your future partner get a 15-page report that provides insight on relationship dynamics, mindset and wellbeing. Rev. Roxy and Rev. Josh walk you through the report, touching on everything from sex, finances, communication style and, of course, conflict resolution. They also helped us set measurable goals and gave us some homework.
It also helped that all of the sessions were conducted virtually via GoToMeeting, which was ideal for us as a busy couple who was expecting our first child. In nine one-hour sessions, we not only learned more about ourselves individually, but we also learned more about our unit.
“Marriage counseling isn’t something to get,” Rev. Roxy says of her pre-marital counseling methods. “It’s a lifestyle. To get the most of the experience: surround yourself with people in healthy relationships, pray for your future spouse, pray with your spouse, choose to love and put your relationship ahead of everyone, including your children.”
With their help, my husband and I left the sessions feeling confident to handle life’s inevitable challenges and arguments. And it’s because we took a few hours to invest in our relationship.
“Every marriage takes work, you just have to be willing to put in the effort to make it thrive,” Rev. Josh says.