My husband and I are celebrating forty-nine years of marriage. Yes, we married young. 🙂 No, these are not necessarily our secrets, though we’ve tried to incorporate them into our marriage through the years.
Actually, we could sum up the secret of our long and satisfying marriage in three words: God‘s amazing grace.
But as marriage enrichment leaders through the years we’ve had the privilege of working with many couples. And in his ministry position, my husband has had the opportunity to work with and counsel numerous couples.
What makes a marriage flourish? This list is not exhaustive, but here are seven secrets of a long, grace-filled marriage that we’ve observed through the years: (If you’ve been married over 25 years, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a marriage last. You can do so at the end of this blog).
1. Build your marriage on the right spiritual foundation, with Jesus Christ as the center.
This includes a respect for each other and submission to God. Couples with mutual faith and spiritual goals who pray together do tend to stay together. (Ephesians 5:21, NASB). But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33, NKJV).
2. Seek to understand and appreciate the God-given differences and uniqueness of your spouse.
Couples can spend a lifetime of fruitless, unhappy years trying to change each other to mirror their own personalities instead of celebrating and being grateful for their differences. Men and women are different. In addition, your spouse’s strengths (that you might call irritations) may be the very tool God wants to use to compliment your weakness in that area. You made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex (Psalm 139:12-14, NLT). Love does cover a multitude of flaws! (I Peter 4:8, NASB).
3. Draw the right conclusions about the things that happen to you and your marriage.
Recognize the lies, “It will always be this way,” “Things will never change,” or “I married the wrong person,” and make a mutual commitment to work on difficult issues that may arise. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT). Romans 8:28 is another great principle to help you keep the right perspective.
4. Continually practice communication in your marriage that includes talking–and listening–with a genuine effort to understand.
Practicing “fast-food” communication helps. Think about talking with your spouse like the cashiers do on the microphone when you’re in line at a fast-food restaurant. They repeat your order back to you until they (hopefully) get it right. James 1:19 is a great rule of thumb. Taking the time to truly understand your mate by “drawing out” their thoughts takes it a step further: Counsel in the heart of man [woman] is like deep water, But a man [woman] of understanding will draw it out (Proverbs 20:5, NKJV).
5. Become a life-long a student of your spouse, including learning and “speaking” their love language.
In Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, he shares five ways that all of us best “receive” love: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, and gifts. It’s a fascinating, but rewarding task to discover what your spouse’s love language really is. Chapman’s book is available in paperback, and if you are interested, you can find it here.
There are tons more marriage resources available as well. Consider attending marriage enrichment events often. You never outgrow your need to improve your marriage!
6. Be willing to get help should your marriage “hit the wall.”
Most couples will occasionally “hit the wall.” That happened to us fifteen years into our marriage. This often happens to a runner about halfway through his race. That’s the point where his body is feeling the pressure of the race, and he must make a decision: to quit or to get a second wind and keep on going to finish. Same thing in a marriage. At that point, don’t hesitate to get help from a trusted counselor. We all come into marriage with baggage. Sometimes we need help “unpacking” it. Determine that the benefits are worth the work. Marriage is built on commitment, through the good times–and the bad. Love is patient…love never fails (I Corinthians 13:4, 8, NIV).
7. Have fun together.
Divert daily; withdraw weekly; abandon annually–these were the challenges we heard from a friend early on in our marriage. Take time to get away and nurture the relationship God gave you. No money? Cheap dates with your spouse are plentiful. Be creative, and make it a priority to have fun. Laughter is not only a great healer. It’s also great way to nourish a growing marriage. A merry heart does good, like medicine (Proverbs 22:5, NKJV). Your marriage can become a testimony to others as they observe your relationships and how you respond–in fun times and in hard times.
And yes, that is our picture above. My husband and I decided to make this fun “James Bond” pose while celebrating our 45th anniversary a few years ago on vacation.
No matter how many more years God gives us together, we want to keep working on our marriage. It’s worth the work!
What are your secrets for a long, lasting marriage?
IIf you’ve been married at least 25 years, what are some secrets you can share with us? What are the things that have helped make your marriage strong?