April 4, 2018
Joan & David
We are David and Joan Firgaira, we are coming up to 12 years of marriage, we have 5 children, aged between 9 years to 3 months old, four girls with one boy in the middle. We live in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs within walking distance of a primary school and great parks that we don’t get to as much as we should. Dave is a civil engineer who is just starting up his own company, and Joan runs an online wool store, pre-natal classes, is starting a social enterprise for marginalized women in Indonesia, and somehow also manages to care for our kids and the home!
1. TELL US YOUR SIMPLE LOVE STORY
DF & JF: We met through attending the same church, and were cell group leaders so were often at meetings together and easily became friends. Dave was a broke uni student without a car, so Joan would often drive way out of her way to drop him off at home, and it was during this time, and many long conversations, that a solid friendship was built. Two years into the friendship, one late stormy night, we first considered the prospect of what it might be like if we considered dating each other (a concept that on principle and out of love for our friendship we had both never considered ). At first it was weird, and we shut the conversation down, but with further thought and reflection we spoke a few days later and had both come to the conclusion that it actually made perfect sense and maybe the thought of marrying your best friend could actually work.
So we became official and were engaged within 9 months, and married 5 months after that (with a short mission trip to Kenya somehow in the middle of it all)! Someone said to us during that time that “love is a friendship caught on fire” and it certainly was true for us. It seemed so weird to be with your best friend, it wasn’t just the romantic love that the world tells you to look for in a relationship, but it was deeper than that, being founded on a friendship that already was selfless and giving. Then, the real fun began as we started our marriage by being at each others side 24/7 for the first 4 months. We had a 2 week honeymoon within Australia before jetsetting off to Europe for 3 months. Those will forever be some of our best and favourite memories of time well spent.
2. DESCRIBE ONE WAY YOU EACH INTENTIONALLY GROW YOUR LOVE?
DF: I make certain to tell Joan I love her every single day. We stay in constant communication as much as we can through the day, whether its calling her on my lunch break, or sending messages throughout the day, or just spending as much “spare time” as we can muster together, even if it means organising date nights to make it happen if life is otherwise making it difficult. All of the things I do to “grow our love” is made very simple by the fact I already have decided that I am going to love Joan for the rest of our lives. So whether it is giving her my time, or effort to do something for her that she needs or I know she would love, I’m happy to do it.
JF: Dave enjoys things such as board games, coffee and books so I enjoy buying him gifts to support these interests from time to time. And when we are lucky enough to get a quiet night when all the kids have gone to bed, I will suggest that we play a game together as this is one of Dave’s favourite ways to spend an evening. As I am the main cook during the week, I sometimes make simpler meals for the kids so that Dave and I can have something a bit more special once he’s home from work and the kids have gone to bed. Although I do find this a bit challenging as Dave is generally the better cook when it comes to fancy meals but I attempt new recipes to get his tastebuds going. That said, I know Dave loves me regardless and I never have to do any of these things to make him feel loved. We see love as a choice, a choice we made long ago and will not change for the rest of our lives. What we do to express that love changes over time but how much we love one another doesn’t change according to our actions.
3. SHARE YOUR MOST RECENT, OR FAVOURITE GO-TO DATE
DF: Joan and I share a passion for food, so our favorite date would usually mean heading out to a nice restaurant, usually one Joan has had her eye on for a while, and enjoying good food and the whole experience of dining out. So far we haven’t been able to top the experience at Vue De Monde in Melbourne’s CBD! Though I am also a fan of cooking, and a date at home with steaks and homemade bernaise sauce is always a good night.
JF: One of our more recent dates was dinner at Iki-jime, Shannon Bennett’s new seafood restaurant. While it wasn’t fully a date cos we had to bring our 2 month old with us, we enjoyed the fresh food and commenting and critiquing the whole experience. We kind of pretend we are food critics and discuss about the place, lighting, atmosphere, customer service and of course, quality of food. I’m still amazed at how similar we are and love that we get to enjoy good food together.
One of my favourite kind of dates, which we tend to have only occasionally, is to attend a music concert together. We were lucky enough to have recently attended one just recently (kid-free) and it reminded me of how much fun we have when we get to enjoy some good music together. Since having kids the dates out have been a bit of a rush though, with having to get back in time for the babysitter to leave. So date nights at home with Dave’s amazing cooking and a good movie on Netflix has become a real winner especially cos I can stay in my comfy clothes!
4. SHARE YOUR BEST PIECE OF ADVICE TO KEEP A MARRIAGE THRIVING
DF: Brutal and honest communication. Better to deal with issues as they come up and quickly get the slate clean. Not easy at the time, but it keeps issues from building and resentment or worry from getting in. Sometimes it pays to take a step back, and just be grateful for what you have. In a busy home with busy lives its easy to feel snowed under and allow stress to build up. Intentionally just stopping for a long hug in the middle of the kitchen (even if the kids try to break in, or are grossed out by it) is more important than all the chores and tasks that need to be done. The reminder to each other that what we have is actually pretty great, and we are doing a good job in our marriage and parenting. Just because you think it goes without saying doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it!
Pray for each other together. Prayer is so key because you get to hear the other persons heart for you, you’re placing the issues in Gods hands, and keeping Him in your home and marriage, and it resets your focus (usually off yourself). Sometimes we have spent hours trying to resolve something and get nowhere, and then it is dealt with by a short prayer!
JF: Through nearly 12 years of marriage, 5 kids and pretty full lives, I can honestly say that Dave and I have had a thriving relationship throughout. We have definitely had our share of ups and downs but the downs haven’t been for long and I truly believe that this has been the case because of some very crucial decisions we made right from the start.
1. There is no such thing as divorce. We said from the beginning that we were going to be together till death do us part so if we have an issue, we better sort it out quick smart so we don’t have to live with it longer than we have to, and the rest of our lives are better for it!
2. Never use sex as currency. Someone told us this early in our marriage and we didn’t fully understand it at the time but now we see the value of that advice. Sex within a marriage should be kept sacred. It’s about giving of yourself to your spouse, the greatest form of intimacy between two human beings. Not to be used as a bargaining chip or a form of control to get what you want.
3. Always be honest. Sometimes our deepest, darkest issues are hard to talk about, even with your closest friend. But in a loving and safe relationship, honesty leads to freedom. Through this we learn to fight together rather than against one another.
4. Always forgive. Sometimes what the other person says or does hurts but it’s no use holding on to it because it brings things to a bitter end. We can ALWAYS choose to forgive and watch new life and new love grow out of seemly bleak situations.
5. Always ask God for help. This is by far the most important. With God, He shows us how He sees the other person and how He loves the other person, so we can too. With God, He is our strength in our weakness, so we have no excuse. With God, all things are made new again. With God, there is more than we could ever dream or imagine.
5. HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN BALANCE BETWEEN BEING A HUSBAND/WIFE NOW THAT YOU’RE PARENTS?
JF: When we were new parents I was told by an older, wiser father in our church that “first you are a wife, then a mother”. While we didn’t fully understand that statement at the time, we have definitely seen the benefit of heeding it. It taught us from the start that our priority should always be each other before the children, and our roles as husband and wife come before our responsibilities as father and mother.
DF & JF: Through the years, as we have expanded our family, how much time we spend with one another and the activities that we get to do together have changed, but the quality hasn’t. We still place just as much value on our marriage as we did at the start and see it as our responsibility to impart this to the kids so that they too can learn about how important having a good marriage is. Not to mention, the security it provides for them to grow up in a loving home!
It comes out in simple ways like making sure we talk/debrief/discuss and the kids, with all their demands, have to wait their turn when we are in the middle of conversations. Parenting, just like how we are already operating as one in our marriage, is also done as one, where we are both responsible for raising, teaching and disciplining the kids and we make sure we are always on the same page. Something we have also started doing in the last few years is including our kids in celebrating our wedding anniversary. It teaches them that our marriage is important, of value and worth celebrating.