A couple of weeks ago Mom and Dad celebrated 45 years of marriage. My heart overflowed with pride as I watched them mark their anniversary by renewing their vows, once again. They do this once every 5 years or so, as a reminder of the precious gift of their union. It also serves as a wonderful inspiration for other couples who aspire to a marriage that lasts a lifetime.
So many people left positive comments on my Facebook video of their vow ceremony that I decided to go a bit deeper. A divorcee myself, I wanted to figure out how they were making this marriage thing work for so long, and on top of that – enjoying it!
I challenged my Mom to come up with her top 10 tips for a happy, healthy marriage. Not because she knows it all or because their union is perfect. Mom and Dad will be the first to tell you that it’s not. But rather because like many of you, they brought experiences and circumstances to their marriage that impacted the way they viewed life, love, and each other. Here’s a few that might surprise you.
- Mom was raised by her grandparents, not her parents. In fact, she didn’t even meet her Dad until she was a teenager.
- Dad grew up in abject poverty, in a home that included domestic violence and alcoholism.
- While in college, Dad was drafted to serve in Vietnam, resulting in visible and invisible wounds he still suffers from to this day.
- Shortly after college, Mom had me and became a young single parent. I was 4 years old at their wedding, excited to finally have a Dad.
I could list a hundred more things, but I think you get my point. They are two normal people, with colorful pasts, that have charted a path to an extraordinary and lasting love.
They’ve experienced many of the things that sometimes tear marriages apart – blended families, history of domestic violence, the lasting impact of an absentee Dad, and PTSD – and yet, they have remained vigilant through the years to fight for their marriage. I believe there are some lessons in how they did that which might be relevant for us too.
So without further ado, here’s Mom’s top 10 marriage tips for happily ever after.
- Make a commitment – to God, marriage and each other. Nothing less than all three will do. Remember, until death do you part. It may sound hard, but with God all things are possible
- Choose to forgive – even when you’re not asked. Don’t hold a grudge – and don’t bring it up again. (Ephesians 4:32)
- Practice mutual respect. Embrace each other’s differences, and know each other’s definition of respect so you’re on the same page.
- Pray together daily. It’s a great way to tell God your concerns with your spouse listening in and to hear each other pray for each other. How intimate is that?
- Listen up – with your head and heart. Practice active listening with the intent to understand what each other is saying AND the meaning of it. If you’re not sure you understand, don’t make assumptions. Ask open-ended questions until you are both clear.
- Make it safe to talk. Allow each other to express how you feel without condemnation. (Y’all know what we say – “you shouldn’t have said that” or “That’s stupid”) When responding to each other’s concerns remember – It’s not just what you say, but HOW you say it that makes all the difference.
- Keep it quiet. Don’t elevate your voice during a disagreement. Just don’t go there . Instead “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” (James 1:19)
- Submit to each other. Submission has gotten a bad rap, but that’s mostly because we don’t fully understand it’s purpose. So let’s set the record straight! First, here’s some good news – Believers are equal in our standing with God; no one is superior to the other. Second, submission between husband and wife is designed to keep order and harmony in our families. We as wives are to submit to our OWN husband (voluntarily following his leadership) and a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves His church (sacrificially giving himself up for her). (Ephesians 5:21-33) It’s a beautiful picture of what it means to submit one to another as believers.
- Make Love Regularly. God created sex and everything He created is GOOD. God created sex and everything He created is GOOD. Don’t deprive each other accept by agreement for a limited time… (1 Corinthians 7:5) Get the whole picture by reading verses 1-5.
- Have fun! Love each other, laugh often and be playful. Developing a common hobby is a great way to spend time together. Be each other’s best friend, always encouraging and supporting each other.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Mommy wanted me to be sure to tell you there are times when counseling is appropriate and necessary. Y’all there’s just some stuff we need help figuring out, and there’s no shame in seeking assistance.
A lot of this is also not easy. It takes a whole lot of discipline to make it safe to talk and to keep it quiet. But it is doable, especially when you do two things. First, surround yourself with other couples committed to maintaining healthy, happy marriages. You can encourage and uplift each other, as well as hold each other accountable when you’re trying to “do better” in a certain area.
Second, consistently pour into your union through conferences and other events that allow you as a couple to grow together. Many of us have not been taught basic principles of good communication, or how to resolve conflicts in a healthy fashion. Good marriage conferences or couples counseling can help you sort through a lot of those issues, giving you tools you can immediately put to use.
So what do you think? Feel like you’re ready to fight for your marriage? What tips would you add to the list? Leave us a comment, and let’s learn and grow together.
For those reading that are married, I send my prayers and fondest wishes for the health and vitality of your marriage. For all the single ladies, I’m praying for us too. I believe as long as we’re still here, God can hook us up with just the right “boo.” Let’s not ever give up on love!
Hugs and Blessings ♥