Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 25 years together. I was 18 (by merely DAYS) and he was 19. Since we were married in 1989, (notice the big hair and mullet, respectively) we’ve moved about 20 times, had three kids, went back to school, dropped out of school, went back to school and finished. We’ve lost people we loved. We made friends and lost friends. We’ve fought and made up more times than I can count. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and by no means am I proclaiming myself some kind of marriage guru. I’m not. But I can share with you these 5 survival tips I’ve learned the past 25 years–I’ve been around long enough to have made many of these mistakes myself or to have seen them played out to their eventual disaster.
1. Make time to laugh together. I’ve read over and over that parents should make time for a weekly date night. I’m sorry but are you a parent? Do you have jobs, games, grocery shopping, bill paying and other life activities that take up your time? Me too! A weekly date night might be a bit of a stretch but you do have at least an hour to reconnect with the one you love, even if it’s just to talk for a moment before bed. That last hour after the kids are in bed and the dog is chewing something out of sight, talk to each other! Share funny parts of your day. If you don’t have funny parts to share, talk about the not-so-funny parts. Tip: don’t bring up stressful decisions right now. You’re trying to unwind.
2. Don’t take your kid’s side in an argument when they disagree with your spouse. Behind closed doors, you can hold your stand until the cows come home. Just really try to present yourselves as a team to the family. It’s so important. Disclaimer: I’m assuming that your marriage is abuse free here. If you or your kids are being abused, all bets are off. I don’t believe that Jesus wants that for us, and can’t ever be on board to see abuse continue.
3. Never let anyone disrespect your spouse. This goes for family members (your own teens!) as well as friends. Just don’t let them go there. Take it personally. It’s the same as if they disrespected you. In the same vein, be careful to not disrespect your spouse–in private or public. Sometimes in the day-to-day grind of mortgage paying, lawn mowing, tax filing reality, it’s easy to take out your frustrations on those we love. Try not to do this, but if you do–
4. Never be too right to apologize. Woman up and do it. Your spouse, your family, is worth it.
5. When (not if!) your marriage is struggling, don’t isolate yourselves. Don’t be too proud to talk to someone. We have had marriage counseling in the past, sometimes through a pastor and sometimes not. That’s not always went so well, because sometimes when we are already hurting, the opinion of one person can be biased or judgemental. I’ll never forget the time we went to our pastor and the very first question he asked was about our tithing. The implication being that if we weren’t tithing our ten percent, we were asking for God’s wrath. We were giving as much as we could–and still struggling.
I think it’s better–at least it was for us–to choose a married couple you trust to talk to. Do not discuss your marital issues with someone of the opposite gender: to do so is a recipe for disaster. You are creating intimacy with someone other than your spouse and it’s not ok. But a couple you trust can be a salve for the wounded. It’s good to open up and hear good, solid advice from those who love you–and to hear that maybe it’s not as bad as you think, and that you can make it through this.
6. Stop trying to fix each other and give your irritations to God. Trust Him to address it. Little irritations sometimes turn into big problems, so be aware of your own bad habits. Is God at the center of your marriage? Ask yourself that every single day. The times I’ve felt the most alone have been when we’ve allowed God to be crowded out by other things. There have been times when our marriage has lasted only by the thinnest hair–and by the promise we made to God. When it’s 3:00 in the morning and you’ve sobbed yourself to sleep–sometimes He’s the only one who has whispered: “I’m here. You’re ok. Perservere. Don’t give up.”
Marriage is worth it, but it’s one of the hardest endeavors you’ll ever take on. Don’t go into it blind, dear one. Take nothing for granted.
It’s been through God and the help of others that we’ve made it through this 25 years and look forward to the next.