Meet the Thatchers: Marriage Preparation
We caught up with Liam and Helen Thatcher about all things marriage-related, how they negotiate living and working together, bad hairstyles, and the trouble with clingfilm…
How and when did you both meet, and how long have you married?
Helen: We met at university. I think we first met at Christian Union in the first year, but Liam had a dodgy side parting, so I didn’t take much notice! We became friends in our second year but only started dating when we had graduated and Liam had changed his hairstyle…
Liam: … and once Helen had got to know the real me, rather than just writing me off for such superficial reasons!
(I admit, it was a bad hairstyle!)
We got married in 2007, so we’re coming up for our tenth anniversary in a few weeks’ time. Which makes me feel very old indeed.
How long have you guys been part of CCL and what are your roles in the office?
Helen: We moved to London in July 2009, and we have both worked in several different roles over the past 8 years! Currently I’m the Risk and Compliance Coordinator which means I am part of the finance team, ensuring we meet all the required regulations for our charitable status. I work 3 days a week and spend the rest of my time looking after our little girl Jessie.
Liam: And I oversee various areas of church life, including Sunday Teaching and the Prayer Teams. We’re also both members of the Pastoral Support Team, so we meet lots of individuals and couples, to try to help them through challenges they may be facing.
What is it actually like to work and live with each other?
Liam: Which bit?! The living with, or working with?
Helen: I was deliberately vague…
Liam: Lots of couples say to us “I can’t imagine how you can work together… we couldn’t do that!” But we’ve done it most of our married life, so we don’t really know any different. There are some lovely things about it – being able to have lunch together, or knowing there’s someone at work who really understands you and can tell when you’re stressed.
But there are challenges as well. We first began working together about 4 months into marriage, and we were put one desk apart. That was too close! The lack of separation was difficult, because we would travel to work together, spend the whole day together, travel home together, and then quickly find we had nothing to talk about. I couldn’t even ask “how was your day?” because I knew the answer already. And if Helen’s day hadn’t been so great, it was probably something to do with me!!
So one of the things we’ve really had to work on is making sure we have boundaries about what we talk about and when. Otherwise work, church, marriage, and family life can all get caught up together and it’s very difficult to switch off or get space.
If you could change one of your spouse’s annoying habits, what would it be?
Helen: If I could, I would change all of them, obviously! I think I would probably teach Liam to use cling film more effectively. For some reason it seems to attach itself to him every time he tries, and as a result our food is always poorly wrapped. He would probably argue that it’s a problem with the product rather than with him, but I never have an issue…
Liam: Can I have two? 1) Leaving lidless pens on the sofa. 2) Playing music just slightly too quietly. Whatever volume I put it on, she always turns it down by 2. I’ve learnt that I need to put it on too loud, if I want her to adjust it down to the volume I actually wanted!
What is an unusual fact about your spouse that people probably wouldn’t know?
Liam: Helen used to run a catering team at our old church and we would often cook for weddings, usually for about 150 people. One of them featured on a Channel 4 documentary, which I guess technically makes her a TV chef?
Helen: Liam is very musical and wrote and recorded the piece I walked down the aisle to at our wedding.
What’s the best piece of marriage advice you’ve ever been given?
Liam: I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one piece of advice. But I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned have been to do with communication and expectations. Failing to communicate effectively is one of the biggest causes of marital problems; particularly when people focus on only transmitting facts and fail to communicate their feelings.
We realised early on that each of us came to marriage with particular expectations; things we just unquestioningly assumed were the case. And we were surprised when the other person didn’t always have the same expectation! Learning to see things from the other person’s perspective, be honest about how your different expectations may be challenging, and navigate those conversations with honesty, flexibility and love, has been so important.
Why should people sign up for the Marriage Preparation course?
Helen: Marriage is both exciting and challenging, and it’s great to have some help from those who have gone before. We benefitted from the course all those years ago and we still draw on some of the practical advice we were given.
If you are considering marriage it will be helpful to prepare you for some of the decisions you’ll make in the near future. If you are engaged it should guide you through some of the relational aspects of planning for a marriage and not just a wedding, and if you are recently married it should help you to build a solid foundation on the promises you have made to one another.