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.