Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How To Make Your Marriage Last - Part 1

My wife Jackie and I just returned from a twelve -day thirty-fifth anniversary trip to Alaska.  No, we don't do big trips like that very often but certain special anniversaries have encouraged us to try something a little grander now and then.

How do you have a marriage that lasts thirty-five years or more?  I met a couple the other day who'd been married sixty years!  I felt like a marital youngster at that point.  But I too had to ask myself how will we make it another 25 years if we live that long?  I'm not totally sure.  There aren't any simple recipes, I know that. Everyone's life experiences, personalities and families will bring different dynamics to a marriage.

All I've got to offer are a couple of observations, perhaps even significant enough to be principles, that will at least increase your chances to have a marriage that lasts till death do you part.  Since there are quite a few I'll do some this time and add a few more in my next post.  Here we go:

First, renew your commitment to each other by your actions every day.  Living out a marriage happens one decision, one choice, one action and one experience at a time. Yes, at the altar we make a public commitment but we make private ones daily and those are what keep us going. Choose to love, to act responsibly, to give to the other person over and over. Even in the middle of conflict we can respond in ways that are healthy, positive and godly choices. They're not always easy responses but they must be the fuel for our ongoing commitment.

Which leads me to number two: deal with conflict and deal with it well.  We joke all the time that we've been married thirty-five years (or whatever number it is at the moment) and they've been thirty-two of the happiest years of our lives.  Hmm . . . that means there are three years or so that weren't happy.  Yep, that's probably true  . . . the rough moments came one hour or day at a time.

And maybe the number is more or less for you but there will be conflict and unhappy days. How do you handle it well?  Learn to communicate in healthy ways.  And if you don't know how get some help. Read books or go to some of my earlier blogs on communication. Get counseling.  Don't settle for excuses like, "That's just the way I am, " or "My parents fought this way all the time and it worked out for them."  If your conflict resolution is destructive or at best harmful, fix it.

Also admit it when you're wrong. No one is right all the time and no one needs to be right all the time. Tell the truth, admit your weaknesses . . .it's part of being intimate with the other person.  And learn to listen, understand and be patient.  You must be relentless about getting into the soul of the other person.

A third principle is: make time together a high priority no matter what stage of life you're in. We can argue that having kids or a challenging job or greater family responsibilities won't afford us the time. You can't afford NOT to take the time to be together. Of course it will vary and change depending upon your family circumstances but if you want your marriage to last you cannot let time with each other slide.

Have lunches, do things you both enjoy, find a hobby, talk and take big vacations now and then.  If we don't invest in our marriages we won't see a positive return down the road.  I hope you'll have some twenty-five, thirty-five and longer celebrations of your own.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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