Pastor Ken Hinkley and his wife, Linda. Submitted photo.

Dixfield Pastor Ken Hinkley has written and published several books about relationships and spirituality, including a book of poetry titled “The Journey of a Heart.” Today he talks about his book “It’s Not About Me: A Guide to an Amazing Marriage,” and about relationships and marriage. He and his wife, Linda, have been married for over 40 years.

Name: Ken Hinkley

Age: Almost 70

Town: Dixfield

Job: Pastor at the Dixfield Common Baptist Church, leads the ministry at the Carthage Union Church, author and so much more.

The title of your latest book is “It’s Not About Me: A Guide to an Amazing Marriage.” What does “it’s not about me” mean when it comes to having an amazing marriage? The book attempts to counter the idea that marriage is supposed to fulfill me — my desires, my hopes and my ideals. To reverse that is to apply yourself to the desires, hopes and dreams of your spouse or, ideally, to those of you together. If both parties are investing in each other, both of them are the recipients of tokens of endearment, making the relationship one of joy and peace.

Did you come by some of what you’ve learned about marriage through problems in your own marriage or mostly from observing or counseling others in their relationships? Experience is one of the greatest teachers any of us will have if we are willing to learn. In our marriage we have chosen to please each other as much as possible. We learned early on that when we act selfishly it creates conflicts. As I have observed other marriages and talked to a lot of couples I see the same thing being played out. Most differences, arguments and conflicts can be traced back to a selfish motive, thought or action.

In my book I mention several examples of this, both positive and negative. Every case study presented is based on my observance of real people, either personally or through anecdotes provided by others. The names, of course have been changed. Do a quick observation yourself of a couple who are arguing. You will see exactly what I mean. The argument, I can almost guarantee you, started because one of them either wanted their own way or tries to persuade the other of a point of view that is not readily accepted. In either case, someone is acting like they must get their way or there will be a fight.

How do you and your wife, Linda, ensure that your relationship is a happy one? By doing things that please each other. The things we do, the places we go are almost always discussed and decided on as a couple except when we want to give a surprise. For example, I know there are certain foods she loves and some that she will not eat, so when I do the shopping, I try to buy at least one that I know she will love. When deciding on things to do together, we each make suggestions that we feel the other will appreciate or want to do rather than things we would do on our own with no regard to the other’s feelings. Recently we were deciding where to spend our anniversary vacation and we both wanted to go somewhere with an outdoor atmosphere, not a busy tourist attraction. After one of us brought up the idea of where we should go we were both on board rather than either of us offering a different option.

What’s it like being a pastor in a small town like Dixfield? How do you stay involved and in touch with the community during the coronavirus pandemic? I love being a pastor here. I have met so many wonderful people. Any ministry has its challenges, but that comes with the territory. As a part of my teaching I challenge people often to be involved in civic affairs. A good teacher practices what he preaches, so I volunteered to be on the town Planning Board. I also stay connected to the community through our food pantry, by attending public meetings and other events. During this pandemic I write notes every day to people to encourage them and let them know they are not alone.

You mention in your book that there may be times when people should say no to volunteering. Please explain why. Anyone with a mind to be helpful will find no shortage of opportunities to be involved in the community. The danger I see of that infringing upon a marriage is that a person can spend so much time volunteering that the spouse or family can feel or actually be neglected. For some people, the volunteer position can become obsessive because the need is so great and the individual’s need to find fulfillment takes over. When a person spends as much time on committees or boards or is involved in activities that consume most of their waking hours that may be too much. Marriage and family should take priority over any other commitment. Unless our God-given responsibility to relationships maintains its rightful place in our lives, there is risk of separation and loss of those relationships.

For couples, what are some tips you’d recommend in order to keep love alive? 

Tip#1: Consider your vows unbreakable.

Tip#2: Say “I love you” often, even if you don’t feel like. It will grow on you.

Tip #3: Be considerate of your spouse’s ideas, feelings and decisions. Be aware that his/her past is different from your own and may reflect on or influence the way that person reacts to situations.

Tip#4: Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, do not let relationships with other people make you feel jealous or threatened. We all need friendships and outside involvement.

As a pastor, how might you advise a couple that is having problems handling their finances, especially during the pandemic? That is a tough one because finances are one of the triggers for disagreements which can lead to serious issues. How any couple handles money should be a long-term plan, not a day-to-day decision process. If they have a good working financial plan, even the disruptions brought on by a disaster will be weathered. It may not be easy, but it can be handled. I have a specific plan that I share with anyone wanting counsel in this area.

For those who may want to follow up with me to discuss anything we have talked about they may contact me here at my office. My email is [email protected] or call me at 207-562-7470. There is no fee or cost for this except to possibly lose some anxiety or some bad habits.

One of the subjects in your book is “vacations.” At the end of the chapter in the “Pause and Reflect” section you ask readers this question: “How can your knowledge of God or the Bible guide you in making decisions relating to a family outing?” How would you answer this question? There are many opportunities for vacation plans. If a couple is trying to honor God with their lives it automatically rules out many of them because they know God would not be pleased with such activities. The planning process should be made together. One spouse making all the decisions may make for an ugly outing. Disappointment leads to all sorts of negative results. Believe me. I have been there and done that.

Other things readers might want to know about me: If they visit my Facebook page they will find that I write poetry and post one every week from my collection. I also post a comic, “Pip and Squeak,” trying to inject a little humor into our lives and to lighten the atmosphere a little bit.

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