My Outlook on Marriage - Happily Joint
Maxine Chang was born in August Town, St Andrew, but spent most of her childhood in Marlie Hill, Manchester, attending Holmwood Technical High School before migrating to the United States at the age of 15. Married to Ken Reyes for 20 years, they now split their time between serving in the United States Army, raising their daughter, and helping other couples make their relationships resilient through their online (Instagram) community - Happily Joint.
They told Outlook that the concept came about on their 15th wedding anniversary and their renewal of vows. "We had a well-planned weekend celebration. We had friends that travelled from Hong Kong, Jamaica and across the USA to celebrate with us. They had so much fun that they suggested that we meet every year for a reunion. We wanted to ensure happiness was included in the name and a word that represented connection and bonding. We decided on Happily Joint. Connecting couples through interactive workshops and fun retreats - an environment where we learn and connect with other like-minded couples," said Maxine.
The couple hope to maximise longevity in relationships, and their programme provides a guide that all couples can identify with. "Whether you are dating, engaged, or have been married for 50 years, Happily Joint can benefit your relationship. We utilise the teachings of 'relationship resiliency', which is being able to identify friction points in a relationship, understand the reason behind them, and find the best means to resolve them. Overall, our mission is to connect couples closer as they journey through the joyful, yet sometimes difficult road of life as husband and wife."
For this week's My Outlook on Marriage, we got some expert advice from the couple as they tell us how they make it work.
Maxine Chang and Ken Reyes were teenagers when they met in 1996. "Although we glimpsed each other at basic (army) training in Texas, we did not get an opportunity to talk. We spotted each other again at our next training site at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi," Maxine told Outlook.
Ken remembers every detail of their first encounter. "I met my lovely bride at a Special Olympics event that was being sponsored by the United States Air Force. I saw this amazingly beautiful young woman surrounded by several men who were all competing for her attention. I knew I had to meet her. I found a reason to be within earshot, and worked my way into a conversation. She started to take command of a large group of airmen by telling them, at the top of her voice, to get into formation for accountability. Her tenacity reminded me of my mother, who was an army leader at the time," he said.
Maxine said that within a month, she knew that he was right for her. "We met with simple conversations and no physical intimacy. He supported me when I made my studies a priority - he was there through the entire process. You never know that someone is the one until you have lived with them for a while, and get to know them better day in and day out. We were so young and took a chance at love. I left after my training and we decided to date long distance for one year before getting married."
20 YEARS STRONG
Added Ken: "I quickly concluded at the end of her six weeks of technical school at Keesler AFB that I did not want to let her go. When she got orders to live in Japan, I pleaded my case for her to get out of that assignment and stay with me here in America. She took a big chance in loving me and I am forever grateful for the trust she placed in me."
In the two decades that they have been married, Maxine said that she has learnt that you can't express love halfway. "You have to go all in. When we first got married, I was hesitant to love him the way I should, mainly because I was scared of being vulnerable and possibly getting hurt. He convinced me that he was there to keep me safe and love me the best way he knew how. We are both believers in the Word of God, so that helped me to open up."
Maxine said that one of the most important gifts the relationship has given her is "having the freedom to be yourself and do the things that you are passionate about with the full support of your spouse".
Ken agreed. "Having a partner that will stand with you against all of life's challenges is the most important thing about marriage. Walking with you in faith and always having your best interests at heart can only be found in a spouse," he said.
Below, the couple outline five tips for a successful marriage from their upcoming book - Happily Joint: The Secret to Relationship Resiliency.
1. Do not try to control your spouse.
2. Communication is extremely important.
3. Date your partner often.
4. Balance your work and home life.
5. Strive to stay healthy together.
DECIDING WHEN TO HAVE CHILDREN
Maxine and Ken were married for 11 years before they decided to start a family. "We wanted to do everything we could to have fun with no regrets," she told Outlook. "Our peers did the opposite, and we learnt from many of them to wait and enjoy each other first before becoming parents. When it was time to start a family, we had a plan. We knew that we were ready and embraced the privilege when we became parents. Now, we still enjoy each other's company and spending quality time with our daughter, who loves spending time with us."
Said Ken: "With a busy professional life and the responsibilities of raising our daughter, I would say the best technique we used to find time for ourselves was to keep our immediate family small. Having only one child frees up a lot of time for us to spend together."