A Secret to get to 43 Years – Let’s Celebrate …

Next week my wife and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. We generally do not have a big celebration on our anniversaries. On our 25th there was a reception that our kids and some friends did for us. On our 30th, our kids and grandkids (we had 4 at that time, now we have 10) surprised us with a special day of activity and then a renewing of our vows with just the family present. At the renewal each of our kids and kids in law wrote something for us and read it to us. That was a memorable celebration for sure.

There have been other times when the church we were serving did some type of celebration for us. But, most of our anniversaries have found us involved in other activities. For a few years we helped direct a teen camp and it always fell on our anniversary which meant we celebrate in the camp cafeteria. This year will be the 17th in which I have coached a fall sport, which means that many years part of our anniversary was spent at some type of practice. This year will have some of the same. I will have volleyball practice and then we will be with our stateside kids and grandkids as part of a few days together. Maybe we don’t do big celebrations on our anniversaries because we celebrate our relationship often. There are times of cards, flowers, special little gifts, or love notes several times a year.

I think that celebrating is a key to a lasting relationship. Look for things to celebrate and create some things to celebrate. I have always done this, not only in our marriage but also as a pastor, as a coach and as a parent. I love the little celebrations along the way. I am not opposed to a big celebration, but I think too many people only do big celebrations and they miss the joy of the little celebrations all year long.

So here is an early shout out to my wife, Happy 43rd Anniversary (a week early) honey! I love you and I love doing life with you. Here’s to several more years of celebrating together.

Here’s hoping that all of you find something to celebrate today.

 

Dennis

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A Secret to get to 43 Years #7 …

If you are going to make it to 43 years together you better learn to like each other and to like being with each other. This might not sound like much of a secret, or key factor, in getting to 43, but it is a big deal. You love, and choose to love, each other to get to 43, but you must also like each other. Liking each other, and liking to be with each other, is not automatic.

Liking each other has to do with enjoying them and enjoying being with them. To enjoy your spouse, you need to know your spouse. What do they enjoy doing? What makes them laugh? What makes them cry? What are their fears? What is their dream vacation (even if you can’t provide it)? What annoys them?

You need to be a student of your spouse. The beauty of this is that after 43 years I am still learning. We are in a different season of our life than we were 20 years ago, and even 5 years ago. This means that some things change, but the changes are easier to adjust to because of how much we know about each other.

Liking your spouse and liking to spend time with your spouse, does not mean you pretend there is nothing that annoys you, it is recognizing that we both do annoying things and choosing to not let those things disrupt the relationship.

Liking to spend time with your spouse means that being with them matters more than what you are doing when you are with them. Yesterday afternoon, on my day off, we went to a local park and sat by a lake for a couple of hours. We took lawn chairs, a cooler and we each had a book to read. Most of the time was spent reading and some of it was spent talking. What mattered most was that we were with each other. It was a very enjoyable time. At other times we have fished together, or gone shopping, or played a game together. The activity is secondary, being with each other is primary.

Liking each other is a choice. Liking to spend time together requires you to be together and that often requires some planning. Look for what your spouse enjoys and seek for ways to help make this happen. Then seek to join them in what they enjoy. You will notice that you may begin to enjoy it as well. Even if you don’t enjoy the activity, you will enjoy being with your spouse as they do something that they enjoy. This will definitely raise your likeability factor as well.

Being with each other will happen naturally because you are married and living in the same spaces. Being near each other is not the same as enjoying time together. Enjoying spending time together must be a choice. You will spend time together, so enjoy it. Make that choice. Plan to spend time together. There are a lot of things that interrupt and interfere with your schedules, make sure that you choose to spend time together and realize that you like each other and let your spouse know that you like being with them.

Here’s hoping that you enjoy being with your spouse and that this week you create time together.

 

Dennis

The Secret to get to 43 Years (#6) …

Whenever my wife and I have had big decisions to make in our marriage we always came up with what we called our “non-negotiables”. These were items that needed to be present for us to go ahead with a decision. Sometimes these non-negotiables helped us not stress over a big decision because one of our non-negotiables was not available in what was being considered. As soon as we realized that then we stopped processing the possibilities and said no. We knew it wasn’t for us. A secret to our lasting 43 years and still growing and loving each other is our number one non-negotiable, that our marriage would be Christ-centered.

No matter what your belief system is you must decide what matters most to you and your spouse. You need to work on your own non-negotiables. Take some time and talk about it together. Some things on your list will be fluid. Some things will change as circumstances in your life change. One dynamic example of things changing is if you have children. Major changes will impact some things on your non-negotiable list. But there should be some things on that list don’t change no matter what. For us the top of the list not changed.

The top of our non-negotiable list is that our marriage will be Christ-centered, that divorce is not an option and that we would be a team. Without these non-negotiable items I am not sure where we would be today. Non-negotiables are not a magic formula, but that are a great foundation. This foundation is what we have built our marriage on and continue to build it today.

What are your non-negotiables?

For us, because the top of our list was that our marriage would be Christ-centered we filter our decisions through the Bible and prayer. This keeps us centered on Christ and keeps our decisions in line with Christ in action and thought. This has made all the difference for us. I would encourage you to consider following this course for your marriage.

We declared from the beginning that divorce would not be an option for us. I realize that making that declaration does not guarantee there will not be a divorce, but because this was one of our non-negotiables we never spent time contemplating it. We both agreed with this declaration. We both had examples of parents who were in it for the long haul. This laid a foundation for us that when there were problems in our relationship we did not consider divorce, instead we worked to resolve our issues.

The other top item on our list was to work as a team. At first, we didn’t really talk about this we just did because it seemed natural and it seemed like the smart way to live. We have been doing it for 43 years and it is still working. This has been true for my time as a teacher and it continues to this day as a pastor. For all the years I have coached, and the three years that she coached, we have worked together. We were a team while raising our children and at each stage of our 43 years we have been a team.

What are your non-negotiables?

It is difficult for me to separate these top items on our non-negotiables. Because we have made our marriage Christ-centered, that has empowered us to not consider divorce and to work as a team. The beauty of our non-negotiables is they have saved us a lot time and worry. There are many things that come to us as options, and most of them we don’t spend time considering because they don’t match our non-negotiables. For each option we start with our non-negotiables, does this line up with our list? If not, then we are done considering it. If it appears to line up with our top items, then we consider it and see it if it matches our other needs. Either way it makes our decisions much easier and less stressful.

What are your non-negotiables?

Here’s hoping that your foundation is solid and that you will be in your relationship for the long haul.

 

Dennis

A Secret to get to 43 Years (#5) …

Another secret/factor to getting to 43 years of marriage is wearing the right kind of glasses. Seriously, what kind of glasses you wear has a big impact on your marriage. Think about it, what is the purpose of wearing glasses? To improve your vision. I realize that it is now trendy to wear glasses that have no power to impact your vision. But I am talking about glasses that impact, influence and even change your vision.

Several years ago, my wife and I were in a store and my wife was searching for something. While she was searching I was finding ways to entertain myself and anyone else near me. (For some reason my wife doesn’t always like for me to go shopping with her.) I saw one of those stands holding reader glasses. Those five-dollar type glasses that come in a variety of magnifications. I put on a few pair and was laughing at how goofy I looked. I put on a pair and went to find my wife to show her and get a laugh from her. After the laughs I turned to go put the glasses back and then it happened. I looked at some signs in the store. I took the glasses off and looked at the same signs. I put them back on and realized I could see letters and numbers much clearer with the glasses on. Shortly after this incident I went to an eye doctor and I have been wearing glasses ever since.

I discovered when I got my glasses that my vision had been impaired. Some things that had been blurry became clear and headaches I had learned to endure disappeared. All because I finally was wearing the right glasses.

Whether you physically wear glasses, or contacts, is not the issue to a lasting marriage. What is necessary is for you to have the right vision of your spouse and marriage. You must view your spouse accurately and I believe there should be a definite rose-colored tint to your vision. I don’t believe you should be blind to reality, but you must have a positive view of your spouse, and your marriage, to make it last.

I don’t mean that you should ignore serious issues. Issues of abuse, of anger, of abandonment and more must be addressed, change must take place and outside help is needed.

I am talking about seeing that your spouse is not perfect, focusing on the positive in them and working to improve your own issues. I am talking about not dwelling on what is irritating. Too often I see, and hear, couples complaining about things with their spouse that irritate them, which results in them missing the big picture. They complain about a toilet seat left up and ignore the faithfulness. They gripe about a less than pristine house and ignore the support they are given. They moan about all kinds of things and refuse to look at all the positives and the possibilities in their marriage.

We need to wear the right glasses in our marriage. We need to see clearly and accurately, but we must have a tint that brings our focus to the positives. We need to put on the glasses that remind us of why we were first attracted to our spouse, beyond just looks. Because looks change over time. My hair is much different than on our wedding day. I have much less of it and what I have left is a different color. My body has changed. If our marriage only lasted the length of time the looks stayed the same, we would not have come close to 43 years. For my wife, she must view me with a focus that takes many other things into consideration and I do the same.

My point of all this is that you must see your spouse clearly with focus on the positives. If you wear magnifying glasses that only see the flaws, you and your spouse will be miserable, and your marriage will not last.

What glasses are you wearing in your marriage?

 

Dennis

A Secret to get to 43 Years (#4) …

Getting to 43 years of marriage, and to have it still be loving and growing takes a lot of work. There is no magic formula and no one secret, but there are some keys and it seems many people are not aware of them. This is my effort to share some key factors, or secrets if you prefer, that have brought my wife and I to where we will be celebrating our 43rd anniversary next month.

Laughter is said to be good medicine, it is also a secret to get to 43. Where there is laughter there are happy and joyful people. Laughter is critical to get to 43, and beyond. There will be plenty of serious and difficult stuff to deal with, so laugh when you can. It could save your marriage.

I am not talking about laughing to hurt someone. I am not talking about one-sided laughter. I am talking about shared and generous laughter. I am talking about laughing and at yourself, laughing with your spouse and being okay with being laughed at on occasion.

Laughter lightens the mood in most situations. It makes you feel better. Laughter is usually contagious. When someone laughs it quite often prompts laughter from those around them. Sometimes the laughter that is created is simply laughing at the way the other person laughs. Which in turn brings more laughter.

Laughing at your spouse’s groaner of a joke, might be something that must be learned, but it can be positive. My wife has a lot of experience at responding to lame jokes and since I am a preacher, she has heard some of them many, many times.

Laughing together draws people together. Laughing together opens you up and creates an environment where it is safe to share thoughts, dreams, fears and hurts with that person. My wife often says when she is leading a group of ladies that she wants to have them share laughter and tears. When that happens, it has been a good group. But the laughter comes first.

If you want to have a marriage that get to 43, and even beyond, then you must laugh. When two people spend as much time together as it requires to have a lasting marriage, there are a lot of reasons to laugh. We do silly things we do dumb things, we get our words twisted, we forget things, and much more. All of these should produce some laughter.

The couple who laughs together seems to last together. There has been a lot of laughter in our 43 years. When our kids and grandkids gather the laughter is amped up several degrees. Each of our three kids by marriage (our in-law kids) learned very early that if they were going to join this family laughter would be required.

So, laugh a little today, or better yet, laugh a lot today. It could add years to your marriage.

 

Dennis

A Secret to get to 43 Years (#2) …

A major secret/factor to get your marriage to 43 is Forgiveness. No relationship can last, let alone grow, without forgiveness. Forgiveness is much easier to write about, or talk about, than it is to live.

 

In a marriage there are many opportunities for forgiveness. There are also many opportunities for bitterness or withholding forgiveness. When we live together, spend a lot of time together and share life together there are a lot of situations that arise that can allow for being offended or hurt. Being offended or hurt demonstrates why forgiveness is critical to a lasting, loving marriage.

Forgiveness is misunderstood. It is not pretending something didn’t happen. It is admitting it happened and that is was harmful, but you are choosing to forgive. It is not saying that what happened is okay. Forgiveness says it wasn’t okay, but my love for you is greater than the hurt. Forgiveness is not the same as trust. Depending on the depth of the hurt it may take some time for trust to be restored. Forgiveness is choosing love. Forgiveness is also choosing your relationship over everything else.

We must understand that the need for forgiveness goes both directions. Both of you will need to be forgiven and both of you will need to forgive. Forgiveness is not just for the benefit of the one who caused the hurt. It is also for the one doing the forgiving. If forgiveness is not given, then the one who was hurt will become bitter. Bitterness crushes relationships and will destroy the one who is bitter.

A lasting relationship requires forgiveness.

In our 43 years there has been much forgiveness needed and much forgiveness given. If that were not true we never would have made this long.

I have heard people state that someone who have been forgiven often will begin to take advantage of the forgiving partner. I have found just the opposite to be true. When you love someone, and are committed to them and the marriage, you are devastated when you realize you have hurt them. When they forgive you, you become determined to not do things that need to be forgiven. You remember the look of hurt in your spouse’s eyes and you sense the devastation they feel in their heart and you do not want to cause that again.

Forgiveness is best understood by looking at Jesus Christ and how he forgave.

Forgiveness is something that we must continue to learn as we continue to forgive.

Many people mistakenly think that if they can still remember the hurt then they have not forgiven the other person. We remember hurts and we often have evidence of them in our life. But we must take a cue from physical hurts. I have some scars on my body. I can tell you how I got them and about the hurt when the incident occurred. But now, the scars remind me more of the healing than of the hurt. It is like that with forgiveness. As we continue to heal, as we learn more about forgiveness, our relational scars will begin to remind us of the healing more than the hurt.

Keep forgiving if you want your marriage, and your relationships to last and to grow, it is not optional.

 

Dennis

A Secret to getting to 43 Years …

As I shared in my post on Friday, there is no “one” secret to get to 43 years of marriage, and especially 43 years of a loving and still growing marriage. But there are some key factors, or secrets if you prefer, that can get you to 43, or 33, or 23, or 13 or to whatever is your next milestone. These factors/secrets may be able to restore a vibrancy to a passive marriage. They might be able to repair a wounded marriage. They maybe able to begin resurrecting a seemingly dead marriage. Or, they maybe able to give you some guidance as you begin a marriage.

For us, we will reach 43 in a few weeks, there has been some trial and error to get to this point. My hope is that some of what we have learned might help you, or someone you know.

So, here goes …

Commitment – no surprise with this factor/secret. We all knowingly nod our heads and say “Of course”. We all acknowledge that it takes commitment to make it 43 years, or even 13 years. What we too often miss is that commitment is simply a concept, the real issue is to act on that commitment. Many athletes say they are committed to win, but will they do the work in practice and offseason to win. That is when you move from the concept of commitment and begin to live the commitment. Many of us say we are committed to get in better physical condition and lose some weight, but how many of us follow through and do the work for more than a week.

Active commitment is not simply gritting your teeth and muttering “no matter what stupid thing he/she does I am going to stick it out”. Active commitment goes way beyond this level of hanging on in spite of your spouse.

Active commitment is being committed to the other person. Committed to loving them, no matter what circumstances come your way. It is being so committed to loving them that you choose not to get offended easily, because you love them too much to let an offense be a deal breaker. It is being committed to them and learning to love them. I loved my wife when we got married, but I didn’t know how to love her very well. I know her so much better now than I did when we said, “I do”. That knowledge helps me to lover her better than I did in the beginning.

Active commitment is being committed to having the best marriage you can possibly have. Your spouse has flaws, and you have flaws. We must remember that our spouse must deal with our flaws while we are dealing with theirs. In my case I am aware that my wife has a lot more to deal with because I have a lot more flaws than she does. Active commitment is understanding we are not perfect, but that we can have a good, very good, great or awesome marriage even with our flaws.

Active commitment means being committed to Christ first. I am a believer in, and follower of, Jesus Christ. My first commitment is to Christ. That commitment lifts my marriage as well. Because a follower of Christ loves and loves with the love of Christ, that includes in our marriage. As a follower of Christ, I know that means that my marriage and my relationship with my spouse is a big deal and that giving up on it is not to focused on.

Active commitment means being committed to those impacted by my marriage. That means my children. That means the spouses of my children. That means my grandchildren. That means my in-laws. I must consider that what impacts my marriage impacts all of them as well. My wife comes before all of them, but because of my commitment to her all of them matter and I must be committed to all the others as well.

How is your commitment? I am not asking if you say that you are committed to the marriage and to your spouse. I am asking if your commitment is active? Does your spouse know you are committed by how you act and what you say? Do the others who are impacted by your marriage know that you are actively committed?

If you want to have a marriage that lasts and grows, you must be actively committed.

 

Dennis

43 Years to the Marriage You Desire …

In August of this year, my wife and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. That is kind of a big deal. We have a very good, maybe even great, marriage. We get asked often about the “secret” to a lasting, loving, successful marriage. There is no “one secret”, but there are a lot of factors that have gone into our story.

For the next few weeks I will put up one post per week that covers one of our “secrets”. I am coming to you as one who has figured out how to have a marriage that lasts 43 years. In fact, our marriage is better, much better, now than it was in our first few years of marriage.

Am I an expert on the institution of marriage? No, and yes. No, I am not an expert on all marriages. Yes, I am an expert on our marriage. I am a student of our marriage, and a student of my wife. That is a factor in how we have made it to 43. So, I will be sharing mainly from our experiences in our marriage. If what I write can help you in any way, great. If what I write doesn’t help you then I hope that it might at least entertain you a bit.

One of the “secrets” I will be sharing will be about “Wearing the right kind of glasses”. You are intrigued, aren’t you?

Why I am doing this? As I stated earlier, we get asked often how we have done it, and what our secret is for a lasting and loving marriage. A sad thought is that a 43-year marriage is not more common in our culture. My prayer is that 43-year marriages would happen more often.

I am taking a risk, because I am posting this without my wife’s knowledge. But I will cover why that is okay in one of my later posts.

My goal is to post on Wednesdays for this series. See you next week.

 

Dennis

10 Things I have Learned (But not mastered) about Marriage …

The idea for this post came to me while I was laying on the beach on vacation. It could be the sunburn, it could be the waves or it could be that I am inspired by spending time with my wife when we have absolutely no schedule. Whatever is prompting me, here are my thoughts …

1. God’s design for marriage is awesome – God really seems to know what He is doing in all areas of life but after nearly 41 years of marriage to the love of my life I am convinced that His design for this marriage is one of His best ideas. His plan is stated in Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” The picture is of two flawed people choosing to unite and stay connected to one another. Choosing to join and stay together. We are part of an awesome design.

2. An awesome design doesn’t guarantee success – God’s plan is awesome. But since it is designed for two flawed people to follow, there will be problems. Let’s do the math. A flawed man and a flawed woman choose to marry each other. That equals two flawed people coming together with the promise to love each other for richer (not yet), for poorer (got this one nailed), for better (many times), for worse (had some of those as well), in sickness (we’ve had some of these with more to come) or in health. In our wedding vows, we promised to stick with it until we are parted by death. This is not a fairy tale it is real life with two flawed people. That equals success only if we stick with it and keep working at, flaws and all.

3. Not all marriages look the same – This is true of both good and not so good marriages. They don’t, and won’t, all look the same. Beware of the comparison game. Not all good marriages look alike. They will have similar things in them and likely have many of the same foundational principles. However, they will not look the same. The reason? There are different people in that marriage. Look for the positive traits of another marriage and seek out the principles they are following. But do not compare and criticize your spouse because they are not like someone else’s spouse. Look for the positive in your spouse and your marriage. God created you uniquely, therefore your marriage will be unique because it is made up of two unique people, you and your spouse.

4. Marriage is an adventure – Sometimes that adventure is like a kiddy ride at Disney World and other times it is like the fastest roller coaster you can imagine. Hold on tight and scream with delight. It is supposed to be an adventure. Enjoy the ride. I have not enjoyed the rough patches, but I have loved the ride. I often wish I had done some things differently. Especially when my actions put us in the rough patches. But I wouldn’t trade what we learned through those times for anything. I have loved our adventure so far and I am excited for the rest of our adventure. We haven’t even gotten to the wheelchair races yet. (Keep reading, that last sentence will eventually make sense.)

5. No matter how much you prepare for marriage, you are not prepared – I prefer to see people go through some type of pre-marital counseling and I insist on it if I am doing the wedding ceremony. As much as I believe in getting wise counsel before getting married, I know that no amount of counsel beforehand will adequately prepare you for the everyday stuff of marriage. There are just too many variables in a relationship with two people, with their own flaws, with different family dynamics in their own families to be able to prepare for all that they will encounter.

6. Showing your love and commitment to your spouse goes much deeper than saying I love you – I am a big proponent of saying “I love you” often. I believe you should say the words a lot and that you should write them to your spouse often. Even if you say, “I love you” with great frequency you must still show it. I am continuing to learn that showing your love and commitment is vital to a lasting and happy marriage.

7. Laugh a lot – We do this one well. We do it better now, after nearly 42 years than we did in our first few years. Laughter is good for you and it is great for your marriage. Don’t laugh at each other, well don’t laugh at each other without also laughing at yourself. Laugh together and make laughter something that is woven into the fabric of your marriage and home. Laughter can break tension. Laughter can lift spirits. Laughter is contagious. Laughter is attractive. (Except maybe Janice’s laugh on Friends.)

8. Seek what is best for the other person – Still learning this one. This one is near the top of the most important things to learn and do in a marriage. Look for what is best for your spouse and then do it. In the simple things (remembering to lower the toilet seat) and in the more complicated things (making decisions for your marriage and family). I could go on and on about this one. Not because I always do it well, but because of how important it is in every marriage. Just ask, “What is best in this situation for my spouse?” Then do everything in your power to make that happen.

9. Talk to each other – Talk about the day, about the weather, about the kids, about work, about the Cubs (or some other team if you have to). Ask questions about how your spouse is doing. Talk about the sermon at church (we do this one a lot!). Talk and listen to each other. You should talk more with your spouse than you do your best friend. Why? Because you are married to your spouse and everything in your lives should matter to each of you. We all need friends, but your spouse should get more of you than your friends or your work.

10. Look forward to what is coming – You have all kinds of adventures in front of you in your marriage. If you are just getting started, or if you have been married for nearly 42 years, you have a lot yet to come. Look forward. Enjoy the memories, but get more jazzed about what is coming than anything in the past. Look forward to kids coming. Look forward to graduating college. Look forward to kids going to school. Look forward to your kids getting their driver’s license (Hey, they can run errands for you when they can drive.). Look forward to your kids leaving home (at some point they should). Look forward to grandkids (having grandkids is awesome!). Look forward to retirement. Look forward to having races in your wheelchairs. No matter what, look forward with great anticipation.

These are few things I have learned, and am still learning, about marriage. I pray that they might help you or at least get you thinking and talking.

Dennis

40 Reasons We are still Going Strong … (they aren’t all in this post)

True confession. Today is the 40th anniversary of our wedding. At this time 40 years ago I was awake and excited about getting married. I was nervous, but strangely I think I was more nervous about putting my Tux on than I was about committing to someone for a lifetime. You see I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing with a Tux or a marriage. (More on that in another post.)

Over the next few days I am going to give my wife some notes, cards and other things that will contain 40 reasons I love her. Shhhhh, don’t tell her this is going to happen, it is a surprise.

Here are 5 of the 40 …

She is beautiful. In all honesty I noticed her because she was so pretty and she is more beautiful today than she was when I first met her. (Side note: I first met her while on a date with someone else. Don’t get upset the first time I called to ask her out I had to wait until she got in from a date with another guy.)

She still laughs at my jokes. Even the ones no one else gets. I am pretty sure that she sometimes laughs just to make me feel good. But the fact that she still laughs after 40 years is pretty cool.

She is my biggest cheerleader. (If you ask her she has a great cheerleader story to tell you. It is very inspirational and has become a family legend. A former staff member of mine still calls and asks her to repeat the story sometimes.)

She is an awesome mother and mother-in-law. She loves our kids, and we consider our in-law kids our kids and she loves them the same. She has sacrificed much, more than our kids know, while our kids were still at home. Actually, she still does.

She has been, and still is, my partner in ministry for the 32+ years that I have served. There have been times in my ministry that I was pretty sure some of the churches were happier she was with them than me.

There are many more and I will share them in the near future.

For today, I just want to say Happy Anniversary to the love of my life, to my partner in every sense of the word , to the one who has given me more than I will ever deserve.

Here’s to Jody, I love you.

Dennis