Both of us: sharing the story of marriage: Di & Joe van Tienen

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Home > Media > News > Both of us: sharing the story of marriage: Di & Joe van Tienen
Both of us: sharing the story of marriage: Di & Joe van Tienen

Both of us: sharing the story of marriage
Di & Joe van Tienen
Blackman’s Bay, Tasmania. Married 41 years.

Di - My Mum and Dad are from England. Dad was a practising Catholic but he went off the Church. Mum was from a Methodist background.

She and Dad would send us to church, but not go with us, apart from Christmas and Easter, so there was nothing in the home at all as far as prayer or anything like that, but they faithfully sent us and they sent my sister and I to Catholic schools.

I actually went to school with two of Joe's sisters.

I needed a partner for the formal at the end of the year, so in comes Joe to pick up his sisters and I thought, 'Oh, he'll do, I know him'. So I asked him to go to the formal with me.

We started going out. We got to a point where Joe was ready to marry and I wasn't because he'd been my first boyfriend and I'd had no experience whatsoever. So I broke it off with him and he was heartbroken but I just sensed that was right.

I was then posted, my first year out teaching, to Hobart. After we had been six months apart that I heard stories of him going out with other women and I thought, 'I'm going to lose him and I do love him.' So, I asked him out again.

We had possibly six months of courtship. Then I said, 'Is that offer of marriage still open?' We married in the January of '76.

We both gave our jobs up and travelled, an extended honeymoon overseas. It had always been my intention to travel. We came back in December of '77.

We thought we would have a working holiday around Australia, so we bought this little campervan thing and took off.

Up until this time, Joe had wanted children, but my faith background was nothing and I didn't want children because the only experience I'd had was snotty nosed kids.

We hit Queensland and Bowen and I saw this little girl – she was about four years old – and I went, 'I want a child' and fell pregnant pretty well straight away.

We had Martina and the nesting instinct kicked in so we came back to Tassie and we bought a caravan and sat on Mum and Dad’s block until we bought a shack and then we were led to Cygnet.

Up until this point, we weren't church-goers. Having the children, we wanted to go back to church, so we were going reasonably regularly but for me, in a sense I think it was more of a duty.

There was an amazing prayer group down there. There were two women particularly that kept saying, 'Come along,' and I kept saying, 'No,' because the image I had of a prayer meeting or prayer was that you'd be on your knees for an hour and a half saying Our Fathers and the Hail Marys. And the other thing was, I thought, 'I'm not holy enough, I'm not good enough for that'.

And then finally I thought, 'I'm sick of them asking me, I'll go'. And I think that was the real start for me.

I had two children at this stage.

With Martina and Ben, both were emergency Caesareans. They all said don't have anymore, it’s too dangerous.

I really desperately wanted another child. I went into a really deep depression, which lead to a phantom pregnancy where I was convinced I was pregnant. Coming to the prayer group at this stage, I had lots and lots of prayer and so much prayer that finally I came up out of the fear of having another child and all the pressure that was on me.

We had Johanna and we called her Johanna, meaning gift from God.

Three years later, another girl. So four children. These two would not be here if I hadn't come into Charismatic Renewal when I did.

We’re still learning.

Marriage is appreciating the person you've married for who he is. Not trying to make them into who you think he should be, because we are so vastly, vastly different.

Allowing him to be who he is and who God made him to be: that's probably the main thing.

Joe - I'm from a very Catholic background. My mum and dad were staunch Catholics in Holland. I'm one of 13 children. We emigrated to Australia in 1961.

We settled in Launceston. I went to grade six at St Pat's Junior School, and then moved up to Prospect, to the senior campus.

I was held back for one year, mainly because I couldn't pass my English.

They organised dance lessons at the school in Launceston and because boys find it difficult to dance with boys, they organised for the Catholic girls' school to provide partners. That's how I first met her. The first place she asked me out was in the shop of the National Theatre in Launceston.

I knew that Di was the one for me even though she wasn't sure. She threw me over and I was absolutely devastated. I don't think I've recovered yet.

We got married and almost immediately went overseas.

I think it was very good for the marriage. Because you're in such a close environment, you can't just storm out of the house or go down to the pub because your house is the van that we're living in. One way or the other you gotta come back to that van.

And I think the other thing that probably helped us, was we did a thing called "Marriage Encounter" before we left.

Marriage Encounter is a program whereby a couple get to know one another through sharing of their feelings of various topics.

It laid the foundation. I believe we knew each other better than the average Joe Blow.

Marriage: it has its challenges, obviously. And all of that time, those 42 years, are not all rosy. There have been many difficulties that we've had to overcome. I think one of the things that has held us together is both being involved in Charismatic Renewal. Certainly, without that, I don't think I would have been a practising Catholic.

Music's definitely another big piece of glue in the marriage, if you like. For whenever we have our ups and downs, it's usually either the music that pulls us back together or the prayer group that pulls us back together.

Something else that was helpful too was counselling for us both. During our difficult times, she vocalised her thoughts, I didn't. Up until that time when I can express what I think, I’m quiet because I’m still gathering data. So, I got to a stage in our marriage where I couldn't talk at all to Dianne, and so we had to go and seek counselling. Because you needed a mediator, a second person to draw you out, if you like. To explain to the other person what's going on, and to explain to me what that other person was thinking. Since then, I think we've been better. We still have moments.

Mainly, I've come to recognise that my job as a married man is to try to encourage my wife to be the best person she can be in God's eyes, and her job, if she has a job, is to encourage me to be the best man I can be for her and for God, in God's eyes.

This is the second in a three-part series of Tasmanian married couples sharing the journey of their lives together.