Lisa and I recently celebrated our 31st anniversary in marriage. When we decided to get married, numerous “naysayers” said the “odds were against us,” and they were not wrong. On the day of our wedding, Lisa had just turned 16 years of age, and I had been 18 for four days. She was the only “wife” on the school bus as she completed high school. We had less than $300 to our name, and I was only making about $5.50 per hour as a forklift driver in a warehouse. To cap it all off, Lisa had just finished her 10th grade year of high school, and I was a full time college student in addition to my full time job. Looking back over the last 31 years, there have been a few things that have made a big difference in our still being together and deeply in love.
In our wedding vows to each other, we committed ourselves to each other for life, regardless of our challenges or circumstances. All relationships are a challenge, and contrary to popular belief, no one’s marriage is easy. Commitment says divorce is neither a solution nor an option for the challenges we will face. It should never be mentioned as a threat or in jest.
Establishing the priorities of your lives together will eliminate a large portion of the potential problems in your future. Before we were married, we had no official pre-marital counseling, but we did determine that God would be first in our marriage. That meant He would have to be first in each of our lives. That also meant that attending church EVERY week would be a key to establishing that priority. I was not involved in ministry at the time and never dreamed of being a Pastor. We just felt that keeping God first was essential to a successful life. We also established that I would be the primary one responsible for making money and providing a living for our family. She would keep the house, I would cut the grass, and together we would share in the cooking. Each of these fit what was important to us. And while we often help out in other areas, it is a lifestyle that has served us well. Yours may be different, but the important thing is to establish these priorities together.
Almost nothing is more important to a marriage than clear, loving, and honest communication. When we are offended in a relationship, our first defense is to stop communicating. Nothing gets fixed without being realistic about the problems and potential solutions, and discussing them openly. For Lisa, when there is a problem, she will actually talk too much and talk in a tone that I refuse to listen to. But for me, when there is a problem, my tendency is to say nothing, disappear and “steam/pout” for two or three days. We have learned that these tendencies are destructive to that which both of us deeply treasure – our relationship. You can change. We certainly have.
4. Help each other.
Marriage is a partnership between a man and a woman. This means marriage is not a competition.
Through the years, I have learned to help her shop, which is not my favorite thing to do, and she has learned to help me in various areas of leadership in ministry, even though she is more of an introvert and would prefer to work behind the scenes. There is always a sense of “stretching” that is required when helping the people that you love. But it is definitely worth the stretch.
5. Agreement on finances
More marriages fail over the issue of money than any other single thing. There must be an agreement on how money is saved, how it is spent, how it is invested. Before our wedding day, we decided to always give at least 10% of our income to the church where we would attend. It was not only a financial issue, but a spiritual issue as it established God as our top priority in a very practical way. We have increased our giving through the years, even giving over 20% in some years, and we have no regrets in that matter. That is only one of many financial decisions that we have made together through the years that has contributed to the success of our marriage.
6. Privately and Publicly affirm each other.
While joking and laughing together about mutual mistakes and funny stories is part of a strong, loving marriage, there is no place for tearing one another down. Public humiliation, mockery or belittling has no place in a God-filled marriage. Words of affirmation are powerful and so are words of criticism. Affirmation helps produce better behavior while criticism often helps produce worse behavior. Affirmation also keeps your hearts connected and fosters feelings of intimacy, love and friendship. We love to be around people who make us feel better and tell us how “awesome” we are. Public affirmation is also a great safety mechanism, helping to prevent moral temptation and extra-marital affairs. It says to those who are listening, “I am very satisfied in my marriage.”
Marriage is a beautiful thing and an amazing gift from God. Lisa truly does complete me, and it is my intent to??
What are some other keys to a lasting marriage?
What’s your story?