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

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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

Unconditional … After all these years

As my wife and I are approaching the 40th anniversary of our wedding day I have been thinking a lot about how to describe our relationship and love. The best word I have been able to come up with is “unconditional”. To support, or love, without concern of any qualifications or prerequisites. That is my working definition of unconditional. What would your definition be? Do you have any unconditional relationships in your life?

After going through 40 years of marriage, living in 8 different states, 3 children, 9 (1 more arriving in January) grandkids, the death of 3 parents and 1 sibling, enduring me finishing college and then going from school teacher/coach to pastor (still coaching some), we are still together.

We are more than still together. I told my wife recently that I like where we are in our relationship today much more than I did 40 years ago! Do you feel that way?

We had youth, anticipation, dreams and the unknown on our side 40 years ago. Today we have experience, and the scars to prove it, we have so many memories (but sadly not a lot of pictures), we have 17 (with one on the way) in our family as opposed to the 2 of us and we have so many more friends than we could have imagined.

There have been difficult times, some very difficult times, and I wish that we hadn’t gone through some of them, but I wouldn’t trade what we learned and where we are for anything.  We have also had more wonderful times than I could possibly recall. 40 years ago when we came home to our tilted, 10X50 foot mobile home where we watched the winter winds blow the curtains covering our closed windows and where I could reach out of a window and exchange a newspaper with my neighbor, I could not imagine where we would be today.

I have learned that unconditional is not just a word, or a concept, in wedding vows. I have experienced unconditional love and life with the love of my life and I couldn’t be more content.

Funny thing is, we still have dreams about the future, we still believe that some of our greatest days are still ahead of us, we still believe in each other and in our savior Jesus Christ who has always loved us (and you) unconditionally. We still believe you can work out your disagreements and disappointments. We still believe that “I do” is a continuing statement.

I love her so much more today than I did on that Saturday afternoon in Flint, Michigan 40 years ago that I don’t know how to adequately describe it. I am very excited for the next ____ years. I won’t be a limit on our time together. Because no matter how much longer it is I know it will be awesome and that it will continue to be marked by “unconditional” love

Here’s to my wife, you are the best. I love you!

Dennis