My wife and I celebrated 38 years of married life yesterday. Here are 38 thoughts on what’s contributed to our marriage not just surviving, but thriving. Enjoy, and please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section. Thanks to all of you who’ve walked with us over various sections of our path!
1. we had specific reasons for marrying each other, and through times of difficulty, it’s helped to remember those
2. truth-telling occurs best in an environment bathed in affirmation and encouragement
3. your spouse can’t possibly meet every need in your life. Enjoy a broad reach of friendships without idolizing them, all the while affirming the strengths of your spouse.
4. having common passions (in our case, the outdoors and the mountains) makes life together very enjoyable.
5. apologizing when you make mistakes, as soon as you’re aware that you’ve made them, is by far the best path to maintain intimacy. Denial and justification is poison.
6. forgiving when the other apologizes is equally important
7. we both have our bad days, and hard seasons. Don’t panic when your spouse descends into a valley. Walk there with them and commit to walking through the valley with them, and out of it.
8. it’s important to create a secure environment where truth-telling and saying the hard thing can occur
9. truth-telling can only happen if the other party knows, at some deep level, that you’re committed to their wholeness and well being, and not just venting frustration.
10. truth-telling also happens best when the one saying the hard word has a sense that it’s safe to do so – but this safety takes time to foster.
11. celebrate and leverage the differences between you
12. she’s practical, he’s idealistic
12. she’s a doer, he’s a contemplative
13. she fixes things that break, he writes.
14. simple, affectionate touch matters – nurture it
15. good sex matters too – it can be a barometer of other areas, so keep investing in it
16. while apart, try to touch base every day
17. never grow tired of saying or hearing the words, “I love you”
18. approaching intimacy with God differently is fine – don’t impose your particular spiritual habits on your spouse
19. help each other discover the spiritual gifts you both have – affirm, celebrate, and use them. They’ll bring you great joy, and bless others.
20. know what your spouse longs for from you in order to feel loved. A good resource for this can be found here.
21. cook together and eat romantic meals at home
22. if you’re laughing together on an almost daily basis, that’s a good sign.
23. you can’t affirm what you appreciate about the other person too often – recognize the profound value of encouragement and offer it regularly.
24. say “please” and “thank you”
25. nothing will unfold exactly as planned, so as life happens, if you don’t have a spirit of adaptability, it will be trouble.
26. while the children are still in the house, make certain you’re investing in the marriage, not just the children. After the kids move out, the marriage will still be there, stronger than ever if you do. And remember this simple formula: happy marriage=happy children
27. in an age of cynicism regarding marriage, remember that your very act of committing to a covenant is culturally subversive, swimming upstream against prevailing currents. Celebrate that, and recognize the importance of it.
28. if she’s better at fixing electrical outlets, don’t be threatened by that.
29. backpacking together seals the marriage. When you’re in a tiny tent and it’s raining hard for eighteen straight hours with the wind blowing so that the tent fabric is in your face, you’re bonded for life.
30. recognize the many blessings God has given you as a couple, whatever they are. Count them. Be grateful for them. Celebrate them. See them as gifts, not entitlements.
31. recognize that the blessings you have are given so that you can bless others. Talk together about how you’re doing that, and going to do that.
32. don’t cling to certain seasons of life – embrace each new season as a new context for learning, growing, and growing closer.
33. if neither of you have “cards and gifts” as love languages, then count yourselves fortunate. You don’t need to buy each other cards and gifts!!
34. learn Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
35. remember that you won’t always be facing the same season at the same time – so be patient with one another, and give each other grace to walk through seasons at your own pace.
36. Even if you’re better at fixing broken stuff, remember to affirm the myriad of ways HE enriches your daily life, talks you into activities you would never do on your own, and cooks delicious food for you.
37. now that she’s a ranger, remember to always obey her while you’re in the forest
38. don’t forget that you now live in the forest. So…..