José and Darling Cordero

After tuning up their own marriage, one couple helps others rev up their relationships

When empty-nesters José and Darling Cordero signed up to attended FamilyLife’s 2013 Weekend to Remember in summer 2013, they felt a bit lost. What would they do with the time and energy previously focused on their children? They spent a couple of days of listening to speakers candidly share marriage stories and participating in private activities, such as writing love letters to each other and going on “Date Night.” On the last day, they discovered the answer to the question they had been asking themselves when the speaker exhorted couples to consider their marriage’s legacy.

“I’ve never had anybody ask me about what type of legacy I wanted to leave or how I wanted my marriage to be remembered,” Darling says. But the speaker’s words got them thinking. What legacy could they leave? That’s when they decided to dedicate time and energy to helping other marriages.

“We want to be an example to the younger married couples,” Darling says.

“And give them hope,” José adds. “Everybody goes through things, but if you give couples tools, prayer, and time, it helps!”

Grasping the Tools

The Corderos attended their first marriage class in 2003, after sixteen years of marriage.

“We were struggling and didn’t know what to do,” Darling says. “We went to talk to our pastor, and she suggested that we go to a marriage enrichment class.” The class taught them to use tools to resolve conflict. Previously, during disagreements—what the Corderos call “heated fellowship”—they simply shifted blame instead of actually tackling problems. “We learned that shifting the blame wasn’t going to solve anything and to investigate what really is the issue,” Darling says.

The Corderos' coffee mugs

After seeing the progress they made in one class, their pastor said, “‘You’re not stopping; I’m sending you to another one!’” When the second class ended, the Corderos attended one more. With each class, they gained new communication tools (such as “Don’t go to bed angry,” “Make a plan for when you’re going to resume a ‘heated fellowship’ if you can’t resolve it in the moment,” and “Schedule date nights”) that helped them enjoy their marriage more. They began to feel hopeful about their marriage and decided to dedicate time every year to work on it.

“Marriage is like a car,” José says. “If you don’t maintain your car, change the tires and change the oil, the car won’t take you anywhere.” To the Corderos, marriage classes and date nights became their marriage maintenance. They have attended thirteen marriage-focused classes, at least one a year, since 2003.

On their 25th anniversary, the Corderos’ sons bought them bacon-and-egg-shaped mugs that read “You fit together like bacon and eggs” and a card that said: “Congratulations mom and dad! Thank you for being such great parents throughout the years. I’m so happy that you guys made the decision to stick together even when times got tough. Keep it Up. Happy Anniversary!.” The gift made Darling and José “feel that it was worth the work that we put in,” Darling says.

Ten years later, at twenty-six years of marriage, the Corderos faced a different relationship challenge than difficult communication: the empty nest stage. Their younger son had flown the coop for Washington, and their older son was in the Navy. As they anticipated attending that Weekend to Remember in 2013, Darling and José were asking each other, “What’s next for us?”

José Cordero holds Darling

What was next turned out to be mentoring. The Corderos started a marriage small group at their local church and have mentored younger couples for the past three years. They also lead a local volunteer team for FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember getaway in Austin, Texas. Of the marriage-focused classes, retreats, and conferences they attended, FamilyLife appeals to them most because it “focuses on home building and meets couples at any stage,” according to Darling.

The Corderos meet with couples, listening and sharing what helped them. “It’s very rewarding,” José says. “Some of the people have come back to say, ‘Thank you—we were going through such a tough time, and you came by and listened.’”

Now, the Corderos volunteer at marriage conferences, instead of just attending, to use and share the tools they’ve picked up along the way.

For more information about FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage-enrichment programs, visit Enjoy a romantic getaway at a destination of your choosing.  Use group name Stay2gether and save $100.00 off registration for a couple.

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