Irish author Bram Stoker once said, “We learn from failure, not from success!” But Doug and Sissy Pitcher have learned from both. They’re happily married – a success story to be sure – but they’ve also experienced the failure of divorce in previous marriages.
The couple is sharing their collective wisdom in their new release, Not Just Another Marriage Book: Explode Your Relationship. It’s a little book with seven big, Biblical ideas on how to create a relationship that is fulfilling and lasting. And it’s making its debut alongside Pitcher Ministries, the couple’s new ministry in support of other couples in marriage.
We sat down with Doug and Sissy to find out more about their marriage and ministry – and where they got the crazy idea to write a book together.
Before you became a success story together, you each experienced the heartache of divorce. Tell us a little about your individual pasts and how you met.
Doug: I was raised in a Lutheran church in Oregon, and then I was born again in my junior year of college back in 1984. But I ended up divorced after 11 years of marriage with two children.
Sissy: I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I had no church upbringing. My mom was Baptist and dad was Catholic, but we didn’t attend either. It wasn’t until 1988 that I accepted Christ. I’ve been divorced twice, blessed with four children.
Doug: We actually met on Match.com, which was a big surprise to both of us. Neither of us were on there for very long. We emailed back and forth for a couple of months and had some phone conversations before meeting face-to-face for the first time.
Sissy: We both knew we didn’t want another divorce. Our eyes were definitely wide open at this point. Early in our relationship, we read and discussed books together about relationships, like His Needs, Her Needs; Love and Respect; Five Love Languages. We spent most of our time communicating with one another and being intentional about our dating process. We dated for about 1 ½ years, and we’ve been married now for 7 ½ years. We’re blessed with a big family of six grown children, four son-in-laws and five beautiful grandchildren.
Doug: We were dating intentionally, although we had no clue at the time that this is what we were doing. As we look back, it’s obvious that God knew what He was doing all along. He’s called us into a ministry that’s focused on the front-end of relationships – which is exactly what we did together. We know how important it is to put in the necessary time before heading to the altar.
How is God using your individual pasts for good today in your marriage and in your shared calling to help other relationships?
Sissy: We’ve both suffered everything that divorce entails. But it’s because of these difficulties that we’re able to be so passionate about doing homework on the front-end of a dating relationship. We have compassion for couples dealing with what we call “damage control” in their marriages, many times because the work wasn’t executed on the front-end. Often, we see things while dating and ignore them or think they’ll get better or act as if they’re not a big deal. But these things often end up being the areas that challenge us the most in our marriages. By the time we get to “damage control,” we’ve often already hurt each other so deeply. The conflicts have become so big that many relationships can’t survive.
Doug: So God has taken our past experiences, combined them with His grace, and called us to reach out to other couples. We’re educating and training them before marriage. It’s truly Romans 8:28 in action. What was meant to destroy each of us, God is using to reach other couples. It’s about being intentional in dating and continuing this intentionality throughout our marriages. It is our passion that couples heading to the altar know that God is the Designer of marriage. He has everything we need to be successful and fulfilled in our marriages. It’s all in His manual, the Bible. Training is the first step – and then applying what we learn is just as important.
How did you get the idea to write a book?
Doug: A little over a year ago, we were enrolled in an online Boot Camp with Kingdom Builders Academy. That’s where God started to bring clarity to us regarding the vision of Pitcher Ministries. We knew we were to reach out to hurting and disappointed couples. During the Boot Camp, we were given a free coaching call. This call proved to be very pivotal for us. The coach said we needed to write a book. We just looked at each other and started laughing, trying not to let the coach hear us. We’d never been writers. We wrote love letters and cards to each other, but that’s it!
Sissy: After composing ourselves, Doug said, “Well, if we write a book, we don’t want it to be just another marriage book!” And the coach said, “That is your title right there!” We kind of looked at each other and thought, not sure about that. After the call, we started talking about what he said, praying that God would show us what to do. We came up with what we thought would be the title and what the book was to be about. It started to flow quickly. The next day, the first chapter was written. We both were in shock. Again, we do not write!
Doug: From that point on, the Holy Spirit truly led us. The book was completed in three months. Funny thing about the title though. The one we came up with had copyright issues. As we were sharing our difficulties with a dear friend and strong woman of God, Barbara Long, she said, “I don’t think that’s supposed to be your title.” We were a bit confused and, of course, were praying as to what to do. The next day, she called and said, “I just want to let you know that God spoke to me last night and said that you two already have a title from a while back.” Well, that did it. Not Just Another Marriage Book was to be our title!
So why isn’t this “just another” marriage book?
Sissy: Because it’s not our opinion on marriage. It’s marriage design principles straight from the original Designer of marriage: God! Think about it this way. If we drive a Lexus, we’re not going to the Ford dealer with a problem. We’re going to the original designer
and manufacturer of our vehicle. Marriage is no different. The Word of God is the “owner’s manual” on marriage. God gave us marriage as a beautiful gift, and He gave us all the instructions we need to let this beautiful gift bless us.
Doug: Unfortunately, we often try to get help in our relationships from all the wrong sources. If we’re not going to God’s Word, we’re not receiving the best remedy for our issues. If we don’t investigate and educate ourselves with the proper instructions, we won’t see our marriages flourish to their true capabilities.
What is the significance of your cover design?
Sissy: Every element has something to do with the message of the book. The man and woman’s hands creating a heart represents love. We might stop and add that only God’s “agape” love will ignite our marriages to the fullest. And inside the heart of love is the cross. As a man and a woman fall in love, they individually need their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a vertical relationship. It is our individual vertical relationships that will help us become the spouses that God designed us to be. And as a couple, we need a relationship with each other, which is a horizontal relationship. When you intersect the vertical relationship with Christ with the horizontal relationship with the couple, you have the cross.
Doug: If either spouse fails to have that vertical relationship, then all they have is a horizontal relationship. That’s a flat line – you’re dead in your relationship. But when we enter our marriages putting God in the center and allowing His design to flow through the relationship, then our marriages are EXPLODED to eternity! This doesn’t mean we won’t go through difficulties. But it does mean we will have the “owner’s manual” to guide us through those difficulties.
You’ve said that this message is as relevant to you as it is to the reader. Would you share a time in which you applied your learning to your own relationship?
Doug: I’ve learned a lot about the concept of “pursuing.” I’m constantly pursuing a deeper relationship with Christ so that I can be the man that I need to continue to pursue Sissy. I know that as a man I am not able to pursue my wife without the help of Christ. My relationship with Christ is vital to my relationship with Sissy. I haven’t stopped pursuing God, and I still pursue Sissy today. I like to surprise her. So I may just write in her calendar, “Date with Doug,” and tell her she is busy on that day. Of course, she has let me know that I need to make sure she is always dressed properly for wherever we are going! We cannot stop the pursuit and expect our relationships to explode. I pursued Sissy passionately when we dated, and I’m still passionate about pursuing her!
Sissy: I’ve practiced allowing the Holy Spirit to operate, or “control,” my mannerisms. Like the time Doug and I endured 10 ½ months of unemployment without warning right after purchasing a home. Through the Holy Spirit, God gave me the ability to keep Doug encouraged – whether in periods of lots of interviews or in periods of great silence. When I could tell he was feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, I’d suggest that we take a bike ride. He’d get out of the house for a bit and come back feeling more optimistic. We honestly never once disagreed during this long period of time. We were on the same page . . . Not because we’re so great, but because the Holy Spirit was in control! Circumstances like these can either make or break a couple, and it definitely drew us closer to God and each other! Because we are rooted deeply in our faith, God was our sustaining power.
How did you work together as co-authors?
Sissy: Co-authoring this book actually came very easy. We divided up chapters and went at it. The challenge was trying to blend our writing styles into “one.”
Doug: Which is really apropos considering that is what we are doing in our marriages as well “two becoming one.” This is what our ministry is all about, helping a man and a woman become one as they walk together the many years ahead. Just as in marriage, we wanted our individual styles to remain individual, yet complement one another and flow.
What has been the most surprising part of the publishing process?
Doug: Honestly, we were surprised at how easy it was to select a publisher. We didn’t expect to go with the first one we spoke with, which was Stellar Communications Houston. However, it was quite clear that God had all the details worked out for us in advance! We felt we were divinely placed with the publisher, Ella, when she expressed having a heart for our ministry, a kindred spirit if you will. God had already cleared the pathway of publishers and placed us with the one He knew had more than great skills and professionalism – one that had “heart” involvement. When you think of even that, God is always looking at our hearts! He is truly into the details!
Sissy: After our initial call, we were very clear that Ella was to be our publisher! It’s rewarding to be able to work with a fellow servant of the Kingdom. And she adds a personal touch. We haven’t felt distanced in this process. There were a couple of times during the publishing process that she recalled certain things we had written. This was very encouraging to us! It confirmed for us that we did indeed hear from God on this! It was also rewarding to actually see the first draft of the book sent to us. It was a bit surreal that yes, this book is about to be published! Very humbling!
What do you hope readers gain from reading your book?
Doug: The most important idea we want readers to take from this book is that marriage is a blessing. It’s not the “death sentence” as so many refer to today. Marriage is a
beautiful gift from God, and He designed marriage to be a beautiful representation of Jesus coming back for His Bride!
Sissy: We want couples to realize that anything and everything we need to learn or know about our relationships are in God’s manual, the Bible! We want couples to know it is NEVER too late to EXPLODE their relationships for eternity. We want couples to experience God’s love individually so they can in turn extend that type of love to their spouses. And we want couples to know there is no “Plan B” in marriage. God is ready, willing and quite capable of helping each of us if we will allow Him to help us implement His design into our relationships.
Now that the book is released, what’s next for your ministry?
Doug: We’re solely focused on relationships. Our vision is to educate and train couples on the front-end of their relationships. We’re passionate about pointing couples in the direction of dating intentionally. That means no longer dating with our eyes closed, but wide open!
Sissy: As our ministry grows, our vision is to become an added resource for churches, an extension of their ministries. We’ll go wherever the doors are open to reach out to couples, whether they’re engaged or married. We are all about increasing the Kingdom. You might say we are looking for whomever we can grab and take with us! We’re simply walking by faith and in obedience to God’s calling. We do have another book that is to be written as well. As far as the timing, only God knows!
Doug and Sissy, thank you for spreading God’s wisdom. We pray that your ministry explodes along with the relationships around you!
If you’d like to learn more . . .
Ella Ritchie (pictured right) is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a business communications and book publishing team that brings clarity, quality, and integrity to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, or check out the website for more information.
Doug and Sissy Pitcher (pictured left) are blessed by God’s grace with a beautiful union of holy matrimony, even after both experiencing the shame and disappointment of divorce. Together, they share God’s design with other couples through their ministry, Pitcher Ministries. The Pitchers are licensed ministers through The Freedom Center Church in Missouri City, Texas, and are certified “Marriage on the Rock” instructors through Jimmy Evans of Marriage Today. Schedule a workshop or speaking engagement at 281-945-5323 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also “Like” their Facebook page at Pitcher Ministries Inc.