Dating Strong: The Beginning of Your Love Story


My friends Carl and Susan Orthlieb met in college. After graduation, they moved to her town, where she lived with her parents and he rented an apartment from her dad. Her home life was highly dysfunctional, and neither of them told her parents they were dating. Susan felt like they were living a lie, but what could they do? She became desperate to escape her family, and Carl came to the rescue. They decided to move in together.

Two years later when they got married, both of them found it difficult to tend to each other’s emotional needs. Carl was unable to hear Susan’s heart because he had no internal framework for dealing with her dysfunction and emotional outbursts. Susan struggled to express her feelings and was frustrated by Carl’s lack of empathy. Her frustrations turned to rage, which caused Carl to retreat even further. 

“The first sixteen years of our marriage was like a roller-coaster of heated discussions, spiteful words, blame, tearful apologies, regret, and torment,” Carl told me. “Susan was angry and aggressive, and I was withdrawn and passive. On the inside we were both dying.”

But the Lord is faithful even when we are not. Susan found comfort in Bible studies, and as Carl began to see her grow as a Christian, he became curious and started attending church with her. He slowly learned how he could care for her and her emotional needs. 

Today, 30 years after their marriage began, Carl and Susan are helping lead Relate 20/20, a ministry that helps married couples connect and grow. They’re dedicated to changing lives by revealing, restoring, and reviving relationships. God redeemed the beginning of their story.

How Marriage Began

The beginning of something often sets the tone for everything that follows. 

As a relationship mentor, I love the story of creation, the beginning of our history. For me, it is the first breath of God’s gift of love to humanity, and it shows us what He intended marriage to look like. A husband and wife are not two separate people trying to survive with each other; they are one flesh living in intimacy.

God built Adam from the earth and breathed His own Spirit into him to give him life. The birth of mankind was an intimate act—our frame took form at the Creator’s fingertips and we breathed His breath. 

When it came time to create the woman, again God acted intimately. He molded Eve from Adam’s rib. Her existence was intimacy itself; she was an actual part of Adam, flesh of his flesh.

Even the assignment God gave Adam and Eve had intimacy at its core. He told them to multiply and fill the earth. To do what God had given them to do, they had to become one flesh in every way possible—body, soul, and spirit. The act of lovemaking, of physical intimacy, is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

Choose to Begin Strong

How something begins is very important. You don’t have to start your future marriage in heartache and pain. Instead, you can embrace life and choose to become the one for your future spouse right now, even if you don’t know that person yet. Becoming the one looks like growing healthy, learning who you are and what you want, and discovering how much God loves you.

A threefold cord is hard to break, as Scripture says. When your “cord” is God, your partner, and you, something powerful happens. You will walk in blessing even in the face of difficulty. 

No matter where you are in the dating process, choose to put God at the center of your relationship, and one day you will have an amazing and loving marriage.


For more information on sex, marriage, and finding the person who is right for you, get a copy of Salomé’s book, Becoming the OneClick here to learn more.