Audrey and Shannon! I met Audrey years ago; she is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. What a gift to reconnect with her and to meet her husband, Shannon, who happens to be pretty awesome. This couple may be young, but they have 13 years of marriage under their belts, two beautiful daughters, and display loving wholeheartedly in such a beautiful way. I was inspired by my conversation with them. Please enjoy.

Woo Forever: Love is?

Audrey: Love is intentional. Love is action. Love consists of the attributes of God, forgiveness, patience and long-suffering, kindness, faithfulness, loyalty, and respect.

Shannon: I agree with all the things that Audrey said. Love is a combining of all of those with so many others and us choosing to do them on a consistent basis without thought of getting anything in return.  I firmly believe that love is not a feeling. It’s an action.

Woo Forever: Did you have any idea of what marriage was going to be like?

Audrey: Not initially. This is why we decided to take premarital counseling to get a glimpse of what marriage might look like. There was a moment of separation during counseling so that we could do personal work on ourselves. We talked about family traditions, differences in our family cultures and blending it all together, faith, finances, parenting, our backgrounds and more. I was 21 when we married so I had to take on a whole different mindset and behavior. It was interesting at the beginning because we had to mature together. I came from a broken home. My parents were married for 14 years then divorced and Shannon had a traditional family with both parents present. I didn’t have a solid view of what marriage might be like but there were many examples around me. I knew I’d desired to build something different from what I’d seen.

Shannon: I had some preconceived ideas based on what I had seen or heard about it but it’s not what I thought or imagined. We did premarital counseling to help prepare us, but it’s a whole different ball game once you’re into it. Growing up, I was always surrounded by marriage activities. My parents were marriage counselors at our church. I’ve found that some of the things that I saw that seemed to be working for them were not exactly for us and that’s fine. It has truly been about blending together what we have seen and learned and making it unique to our marriage.

Woo Forever: How do you think you’ve handled the changes that happen within your relationship?

Audrey: Looking back, handling changes was situational. There were times I responded in immaturity, which challenged me to be better. We’ve had many fights (arguments and disagreements) and some of those times it was not pretty. Some of those times, we’ve even felt we’ve married the wrong person. When you are merging two totally different personalities together, blending to become one…you will want your own way at times and vice versa. I think that’s human nature. Then that’s when you check yourself and remember what your purpose and mission is together. For us to grow up, it truly required prayer, forgiveness, intentional work, maturity and time. Marriage flourishes when you work together. We had to learn to fight to win together. Through this daily process, we’re fully committed to the work in our marriage including the hard times.

Shannon: Because we got married so young we had to go through different things very early on in our marriage. We made a decision at the beginning of our marriage to forgive. We promised until death do us part. We made that covenant. We both had some growing up to do. I’ve had to learn how to step into a leadership role which is a continual growth process. No one person has that altogether when you enter into marriage and no class will teach you how to do that, just offer ideas. When the rubber meets the road (because it will) and life is coming at you fast, I remember my commitment to my wife and what’s most important. We take the lessons as they come to learn and grown from them and keep on moving together.

Woo Forever: What’s been the greatest joy about being with each other?

Audrey: Being in his company. The way he makes me laugh and to see him laugh and enjoying himself brings me joy. We like to do random things. Whether we decide to chill and relax at home doing nothing or going out. Our inside jokes that only we know. The way we vibe, connect and can agree together. Creating memories, sharing hopes and dreams for our future. We have a handshake too!

Shannon: Traveling together. We’ve experienced a lot of firsts together. She saw me panic on an airplane ride (maybe twice) and that was hilarious. We purposely choose to have fun with each other in all that we do.

Woo Forever: What came as a surprise to you?

Audrey: Learning how stubborn and sometimes selfish I can be, I’m still learning. Being married has shown me some of my worst imperfections. I’m continuously learning to follow, serve, honor and respect my husband.

Shannon: Everything I thought marriage was going to be is not actually how it is. The act of truly dying to self-daily that was the biggest surprise. While I knew it was not supposed to be just about me anymore but about us, it was figuring out how to effectively do it on a daily basis.

Woo Forever: What advice would you give to those considering marriage?

Audrey: I love the idea of knowing yourself. Learn to love, accept and care for yourself first. Listen to each other and talk about everything. Talk about your fears, dreams, desires, needs, weaknesses, and strengths. Decide to make communication one of the top priorities in your marriage. Do not compete with one another. Commit to working together as a team. Allow space for each of you to evolve and grow and become comfortable and confident with creating your own family traditions and what that looks like for you and your own family.

Shannon: Be honest and explore everything about yourself first. We have a ton of baggage (good and bad) that we carried while we were single. How do you communicate? How do you fight? Do you scream? Do you yell? Do you curse? What are your likes/dislikes? What are your realistic desires? Explore them all. After that, you can figure out how to be in a relationship with someone else. You have to understand and know yourself.

Woo Forever: How do you get through the hard stuff?

Both: A commitment to prayer, time and forgiveness.

Woo Forever: What lessons have you learned or still have to learn?

Audrey: Even after 13 years of marriage, I’m still discovering layers of him every single day which motivates my deeper passion to know and love him more intently. Honestly communicate my feelings, needs, desires and listen and respect his even if they’re different than mine. Over time, I’ve managed to learn how to balance being a wife and a mom and how this dynamic works for us.

Shannon: How to better communicate with each other. Our communication styles are different. I’m constantly learning how to grow more in attentively listening to Audrey while actively seeking to better understand her. This is something that will be a continued growth point to us maintaining oneness.

Woo Forever: How did you learn to trust each other?

Audrey: First, I believe trust is earned and comes over time since it can be easily mismanaged. Being honest and transparent about yourself, as vulnerable as that can be, you just have to do it. We have regular conversations about real life stuff. We agree to have open access to one another and establish firm boundaries from outsiders. This also means for us, there are no unknown passwords or secret acquaintances. It’s important for us to know who we’re all connected to and how they fit in with us, if at all.

Shannon: We are naturally guarded people, while we want to be as open and honest as possible there is still a process you have to go through of trusting. We had to learn how to be open about everything and to continue that openness while not being judgmental towards each other. We have created agreed upon boundaries that have helped us to maintain openness and that makes it easier to trust each other.

Woo Forever: How do you keep it going?

Audrey: Spontaneity. Unexpected surprises. Giving compliments, touching and affirming each other. Keeping ourselves together and exploring new exciting things together. Maintaining our friendship and laughing as much as possible.

Shannon: Just as Audrey said and finding fun in the little things together no matter what it may be. We are not only husband and wife but best friends and this helps to keep us pushing forward.

Woo Forever: What do you love most about each other?

Audrey: I love his personality and the amazing potential I see in him daily that he may not see in himself. His hard work, natural skill abilities, intelligence, and strength. His love for God. It’s all a turn on. He’s compassionate and very helpful not just to me but also to others. He’s an excellent leader and father to our girls.

Shannon: Audrey is just beautiful on both the inside and out. Her heart for others including our family and me. She always wants to pour into other people and see them strive and grow. Her heart for God. Her passion. Audrey is a great mother. She truly amazes me of how effortlessly she keeps our family together. I really love her ability to plan, organize and make things happen. They’re so many things I love about her; we’d be here all day.

Woo Forever: What’s been really easy?

Both: Laughing and having fun together.

Woo Forever: What do you want Shannon to always remember?

Audrey: We’re on the same team. We fight together and we win together.

Woo Forever: What do you want Audrey to always remember?

Shannon: Whatever we face, we do so together. We push and move through it together. All that happens in life is a point of learning and a point of growth.

Woo Forever: What do you want your daughters to always remember?

Both: They are watching us and forming a lasting opinion on love and marriage based on how we interact with each other. Our prayer for our girls is to be great examples to them and to teach them a successful marriage requires honesty, commitment and selfless love. Our hope is to give them hope in marriage from what they see in us. Trust Jesus and keep Him centered in your life. Love and care for yourself and treat people well. Have confidence in yourself and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t look for validation from anyone, know your own self-worth. Lead and do not follow the crowd and know that you are enough!

Woo Forever: Do you have pillow talk?

Both: Yes. However, Audrey is a night owl and I’m a morning person so we have these stimulating conversations at the most random and awkward times.

Woo Forever: If you had to choose a song for your partner what would it be?

Both: Change Your World by Anthony Hamilton and Moment in Life by Musiq SoulChild but there are so many songs we could choose from.

Audrey: I’m Yours by Brandy

Shannon: Beautiful by Musiq

Woo Forever: What role does friends and family play in your relationship?

Audrey: I think it’s wise to be very selective in who you choose to invite in your marriage. When we’ve needed support, encouragement or prayer, they’ve played a significant role. However, it’s been equally important for us to establish firm boundaries even for our own protection.

Shannon: We have a great boundary system set-up with our friends. We have a set of friends that are accountability partners for us. Family can be challenging at times because of the support we offer each other however we agree that we won’t allow anyone to be intrusive into our marriage.

Both: We are both family oriented people. It’s important for us to love and enjoy our family and friends so we spend time with both. This may mean I need a girls’ day out and he needs to hang with his boys. Giving each other some space is healthy and important to us. We can’t be up under each other all the time.

What do you know for sure about love?

Audrey: Love is selfless and sacrificial.

Shannon: Love is a choice.

What do you want your ‘Happily Ever After’ to look like?

Audrey: Traveling the world together! Being free to give back generously. Settled into our porched home cracking jokes and reminiscing about the life we’ve built together. Watching our daughters grow into respectable, healthy, thriving, God-fearing women.

Shannon: I want us to be sitting on the porch when we are old and still being able to laugh together. If we are able to do that it would mean we’ve conquered and endured. Also, I want to take what we know and pour it into others. We have daughters and prayerfully future sons’ in-laws and younger couples to pour into. We will still be choosing to love.

Audrey and Shannon’s final thoughts.

Both: If you have children, make time for one another, away from the kids. Laugh, play a lot and date your spouse as often as you can. As equally important as it is to continually date each other, date yourself too. It’s important to maintain your individuality as well. We’ve managed to create time for ourselves and our personal well-being. Maintain unity in your relationship with God and remembering to keep Him at the center/core of your marriage.

Audrey: One spouse cannot build a marriage alone, work together as a team to build your marriage. Don’t take your spouse for granted and don’t take advantage of your spouse. Winning together is better than keeping score. Pray daily together, shield and cover your spouse. Make prayer a fence in your marriage. Water your own grass and do it daily. Realize you cannot change your spouse but accept each other’s flaws and differences. Your spouse is wired remarkably different from anyone else and understand he/she is capable and enough and worth it. Do not compare your spouse to someone else or compare your marriage to someone else’s marriage. Forgive daily and allow room for mistakes and refrain from talking negatively against each other. It’s much easier for you to forgive your spouse but that doesn’t mean others will. Not everything is worth a fight; be patient with one another and learn to pick your battles. Have fun together and be uncontrollably passionate and intimate with each other. Enjoy your spouse!

Shannon: Marriage much like life is choosing. We make choices everyday about what to wear, what to eat, and what we listen to. We have to choose how to love, who to love and do so in the manner in which the person is able to receive it. I need to know how my wife needs to be loved. Don’t assume you know it all or have arrived. Continue to push and move forward together and take life as it comes. You’re going to be faced with challenges big and small, just know that God is way bigger than any of them and commit to working through them together. I believe like Audrey said earlier, we’re on the same team, we fight and we win together. I’ll even add, if we lose, we lose together. We stay together, win or lose!

Woo Forever’s final thoughts.

It’s so great to see Audrey and Shannon very happy. As my great grandmother would say, “It does my heart good.” Thank you Audrey and Shannon for sharing a part of your story with us. May your story continue to be as beautiful as the both of you are. I appreciate the legacy of love and faith you are creating for your daughters and those who are connected to you. Love is a choice. Woo Forever.