Today is my 36th wedding anniversary!
Some days it flies and others, not so much. We were asked the question “What advice can you give to other married couples who want to have a long and happy marriage?” and for the life of me all I could come up with was,
As I thought back over that statement I realized that it was more true than I originally thought. I’m not gonna lie, you can’t live with someone for 36 years and not entertain the thought of wringing their neck or finding them a backyard doghouse from time to time– though Bruce will deny this completely.
Loving someone for a loonnnng time isn’t a perfect science, it’s an art form with many do-overs. When you make the commitment to stay married through all of them you come out on the other side with a long marriage. Bruce and I have a family history of long marriages. My grandparents were married 60+ yrs, my parents are approaching their 60th and Bruce’s mom and dad were married 64 years. Our lineage is rich with examples of making it work.
(Brief disclaimer to those who’ve been divorced; there are justifiable reasons for it and I am not unsympathetic)
So I think, the better question to ask is “What advice can you give to other couples for staying married?” The trick in the original question here though was the word “happy”. Couples can be married a long time and not be happy…ever meet them? (Awkward is putting it mildly) So, to that part of the question I have some ideas and suggestions that have helped us through our journey. I’m pretty simple about this stuff, I’m sure others have more detailed and thorough advice (like whole entire books on it) but here are my top 5…
Number 1…Be each other’s best friend.
We’ve seen this in all our family’s marriages, they were best friends. Ladies, don’t run to sisters, mothers, aunties, girlfriends and so on with your troubles, take them to your spouse. As much as you might want to write off the fact that he’s a guy and can’t possibly understand what you’re going through, if you trusted him enough with your fidelity, money, time and affection…he’s the one to trust with your friendship too. Bruce is the first person I tell anything to, good or bad. He’s the one who knows me inside out and still sees me perfect. He may not always know what to do with my emotions but he will always try and he will always love me. I depend on this.
Number 2….Have a great sense of humor.
Life is hard, long and often tedious. I don’t care about that old statement “Life’s too short to put up with…” Nope, it’s not, it’s long. Hard stuff will happen, it’s inevitable the world is fallen and so are we. Illness, financial woes, children, job losses, extended family junk….it’s all part of the package. Having a sense of humor makes the rough places easier to take. There isn’t a day that goes by when Bruce fails to make me laugh and laughter keeps the stress manageable.
Number 3….Create space for intimacy
So many couples today are pressed for time. If they aren’t running kids everywhere they’re in school, working multiple jobs or one that sucks 50+hrs a week out of their lives. They’re volunteering in church 2-3 nights a week and living close to the edge of insanity. If you don’t make time for intimacy it won’t happen, it’s that simple. We did this years ago and it transformed our marriage. Picking a night was hilarious! It had to not interfere with Awanas or favorite TV shows (he had his and I had mine). Be intentional, don’t count on it just happening organically, if it does–BONUS!
Number 4….Have inside jokes, stories and secrets with each other
The culture of a couple is unique to them. What your inside jokes will look like are going to vary from others but they will keep you rooted and give you wonderful ways to remind yourselves that you’ve got their back, you’re listening, you’re on the same page. That wink, smile, laugh or twinkle in the eye will always bring back a reminder that “This one is mine”. Our oldest daughter and her husband have the best couple stories! They win at all the dinner parties. You can see the affection in their eyes for each other every time they’re told.
Number 5….Always remember that you walk with the Lord side by side but apart.
Meaning…his relationship with Jesus is his and yours is yours though, hopefully you both share the same level of commitment. At any given time each of you might be processing or growing at a different pace. It’s not a judgement on either person, it’s simply life. Encourage, help, pray for and support but don’t demand that your spouse is where you are or think that you are farther along than they are. It’s not a competition, it’s a journey and you travel it together, yet independently. You are simply fortunate enough to have a traveling companion for the ride.
That’s my top 5 suggestions to married couples, but if I could just speak to singles out there…
Girls–don’t settle! Stick to your standards and wait for the right guy! Don’t cave to peer or family pressure to marry or date…hold out for the best.
Guys–Man Up!! Take the initiative, ask her out, treat her like the most precious thing you own or desire. She is deserving of everything you have romantically. It’s never going to happen if you don’t reach for it and take a chance.
And Sweetie, here’s to at least 20 more!