Janet & I just celebrated our 40th anniversary on July 16. At dinner, we talked to our waiter (who was probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s) and when he found it was our 40th, he had a amazed look on his face and said “I hope my wife and I can make it at least 10 years”.
As I thought about his words and the surprised look on his face, I tried to think about the things that have helped us get this far. A couple years ago I posted 10 things that can help your marriage, so this is a re-post of some of those. This isn’t “pie in the sky” kind of stuff because we’ve had our share of ups and downs, and times when we didn’t feel close at all. But here are a few of the things I thought about that have helped us.
- Forgive each other. There are times when we’ve hurt each other and gotten ticked off and said things that we shouldn’t say, but we’ve always come back to the fact the we’re not each other’s enemy and we need to forgive each other just like Christ forgave us. We’ve both made a personal decision to trust and follow Christ, which influences every decision we make.
- Take regular breaks from the routine. Marriage can easily become routine and difficult; especially during the child raising years. We determined years ago that we’d strive to have a regular date night away from the kids. We also decided to try and take a vacation together at least once a year without the kids when possible. Yes, most of our vacations in the child raising stage were family vacations, but we tried to find ways to get away by ourselves. Even if we weren’t able to get away for a week, we at least tried to do something special for a few days every 5 years on, or around, our anniversary. We often had to celebrate “around our anniversary” because many of them were spent at Youth Camps when I was a Student Pastor
- Give each other space. It took some time, but we’ve both grown to the point where we’re good giving each other some space; which includes short periods of time alone or away from the family. For me, I get recharged in nature or away from crowds and where there are few demands on me. Janet likes to be with people and do things. We trust each other to spend some time away; for me it may be a spiritual retreat or hunting trip. For her, it usually meant going somewhere to be with her family.
- Develop great friendships. We developed great friendships with people who were moving in the same direction as us. Friends who wanted to grow in their relationship with Christ too. That made it easier to talk to our friends and keep each other accountable since we’d built relationships of trust. We also learned the value of consistently being in a small group designed for spiritual growth with friends and people we trusted.
- Be on the same page. We decided that we’d always strive to be on the same page when it came to discipline or making decisions that concerned our children. We didn’t air our differences in front of the kids or let them play us against each other, but rather had a unified front in what we decided.
- Realize some expectations won’t be met. We had to grow to the point of understanding we are very different (not wrong – just different) and always will be. 40 years into our marriage – we’re still different! Our responsibility is to try our best to meet each other’s needs and guard our hearts against being selfish. That’s a whole lot easier to write than it is to do. This also means we realize some expectations we had coming into our marriage were unrealistic and we had to grow through releasing these.
- Recognize marriage is a journey. There are ups and downs, hard times and good, times of prosperity and times of want. It’s a journey, an adventure, and we’re in it together for the long haul which means we’ll walk through a variety of things that are good and bad along the way. In the bad times it’s always unwise to make life-changing decisions; especially decisions that are emotionally charged.
- Remember our impact on our family and others. There’s a type of inbuilt accountability for us because we value the example we set for our children and grandchildren, as well as our extended family, friends and others. This doesn’t mean living a life of hypocrisy, but the desire to set a good example means we strive to work through the problems and issues we face and are honest about our struggles. Note: that doesn’t mean airing all our dirty laundry; it just means we’re real people like everyone else and we realize we have a responsibility to those who are watching our example.
- Handle Finances Well. We made a decision when we got married to do our best to handle our finances in a way that honored God. We continue to practice tithing to the local church, giving over and above the tithe to build the church, and we continue to support a variety of missions and several children in foreign countries. The only way this has been possible was by building margin into our finances. We learned this the hard way by making a number of mistakes, but over the years we learned to limit debt (we’ll be totally debt free this year!) and be on the same page in how we give. We also learned the blessing of generosity!
- A common commitment to Christ. We’re both committed to growing in our relationship with Christ even though we mess up time after time. Striving to keep Christ as the center and Lord of our lives and home has helped us through tough times when it would have been easier to give up. This commitment includes a consistent commitment to involvement in our church, serving in ministry, staying connected in a small group through our church, and having a regular time alone with God in the Bible and prayer. This is one of the key reasons I believe we’ve been able to work through the difficult times and remain committed to one another. By the way, learning to work through difficulties and hurts in a local church is part of the journey, but being connected and involved in a local church is crucial to your marriage and family!
PS#1 – Yes, the photo in this post is from several years ago! Ha!
PS#2 – Some books / cd’s I’d recommend: His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, Fighting For Your Marriage by Markmum, Stanley & Blumberg, The Book of Romance by Tommy Nelson, Marriage is a Covenant by Robert Morris.