Sunday, June 26, 2011
We have usually enjoyed celebrating in pretty simple ways each year - a quiet dinner, a weekend away, tickets to a concert. We've never needed a lot of fancy things. We're still wearing the same rings that we put on June 26th, 1976. Jackie is wonderfully creative so I've enjoyed many handmade cards and gifts. She unfortunately is married to a not so handy person so I buy the classic card or small gift punctuated by a song I've written now and then for extra special years. I can write music, but my presents never equal hers!
We did celebrate twenty-five years with a dream trip to Austria and Switzerland and just returned from an awesome land/cruise to Alaska for thirty-five. At this point in life we're thinking we had better do a few more bigger trips or we're going to run out of time to finish our bucket list.
However, whatever ways you and your spouse choose to celebrate anniversaries I want to challenge you to in a sense celebrate your love every day. No, not with chocolates, roses, trips or concert tickets. But more with little, thoughtful acts of kindness and love that let one another know again and again they are loved and special.
And usually couples sort of develop and negotiate these over time and they differ from marriage to marriage. For example, we often sit together on the couch with my legs on hers or vice versa. We surprise each other with a treat we know the other person likes. We do something tangible that the other person might not care to do - put gas in the car, iron a shirt, or kill a spider. Those are all little touches of love.
As a pastor I'm busy a lot on weekends but as much as possible I try to sit with Jackie during one of the services unless I'm teaching. (I'm teaching on our anniversary today by the way - what else is new?) We make one day a week available to each other to just be together, often doing something special, sometimes running errands. The point is that it's just us and it reminds us of our commitment to each other.
We say "I love you" a lot and speak with respect even when we have conflict. We try never to talk negatively about the other person outside our home. We try not to let irritations simmer. We say thank you and I appreciate all you do and that sort of thing in everyday moments.
We've been far from perfect all these years but we do know this, marriages hang together for long periods of time when love is expressed is some way most every day. What little loving habits do you have or could you develop?
You'll have to come up with what works and impacts each other best in your relationship. But don't merely wait for the big days and the major anniversaries. Yes, plan for those, celebrate and have fun. But share some of your love every day and you'll more likely celebrate more and more of those major milestones together year after year.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Brag about your spouse to others. No, don't make things up. But be sure to speak well about your mate to your friends, relatives, neighbors and associates. I regularly hear about people who tell jokes, gripe and make fun of their husband or wife to others. And now and then when you both agree there's a funny story to be told about the other that's fine.
But our speech about our spouse needs to affirm and build up the other person even when they don't hear our comments. I'm pretty sure that many people say negative things about their spouse so that they themselves won't look so bad. That's a crummy excuse and our resulting words end up hurting the other person and destroying trust. Speak words of life and tell the world about all the great things your mate is and does.
Keep learning more about intimacy of body, soul and spirit. I've spoken on this in other posts so go to the index and click on "intimacy" for more. However, intimacy of soul and spirit takes much more intentionality and practice than the physical part. The interesting and important thing is that all three areas complement one another. As we develop all three we help all three.
Serve others together. One of the best ways to develop intimacy and grow your relationship is to serve, do projects and help others together. Working as a couple helps you bond and gives you something special to talk about later. And if you become involved in an endeavor that is ongoing it becomes both of your passions and you enjoy it together. Serving especially helps you grow stronger even in the middle of struggles.
It shouldn't take the place of working on your problems, but serving can help growth to speed up.
Don't allow your relationships with your kids to become more important than yours. Our kids are important and should be one of the loves of our lives. Ours are. I would take a bullet for either of them, their spouses or our grandkids. I couldn't be prouder of them all.
But we've tried to both teach and model for them that our marriage and their marriage is always more important than their parenting. We're to love, protect and provide for our children but one day we're to set them free to live, lead and love on their own. And during that whole process we're to model what a healthy marriage is all about. And healthy marriages don't live vicariously through their offspring.
Healthy spouses keep loving each other, working at their relationship and thereby teaching their kids to do the same.
So do you want to keep your marriage for a lifetime? I would guess you do. It's work, it's not easy, but it's worth it. Happy anniversary . . . whenever it is.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
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.