You Can Grow a Marriage That Lasts

If you polled a cross-section of long-married husbands and wives no doubt you would find several commonalities.

Blog. Couple hugging.  2.24Each love story is unique to each couple, that's a given.

The one I know best started when a handsome young fella came from afar to his cousin's wedding. At the reception which followed he smiled my way a few times and um, got my attention.

When he asked to drive me home--and smiled some more--we found we had a lot in common. Soon, as the oldsters put it, we "had it bad."

We dated long-distance for a couple of years before we married, both of us blissfully unaware of our (by today's standards) "under-developed" brains.  We looked around--and looked at each other--and assumed that together, we could handle life.

 After all, hadn't generations before us married even younger? 

Besides, we had everything we needed

We loved each other and we were marriedmy husband had work and we had a little money. What more could one ask?

Call us lovestruck and naive and you'd be right. But life was sweet, just being together. Our first child was born a couple of years later and eventually we counted four. As you'd guess, every day brought new opportunities to grow and stretch in our loving.   

Did we feel in over our heads? Sure, sometimes, but we managed to deal with what life dished out--and some of it was tough.

Day by day we gained a fuller understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  

After all, what neighbor could be closer than the one who slept on the other side of the bed each night?

"AS yourself"--the opposite of Me First

There's the rub, isn't it? For everyone. "I, me, mine and what want" comes as standard equipment in our human nature. If you doubt that, just watch a couple of toddlers in action.  

That's part of who we are, which explains why no one has a perfect marriage.  

When two human beings pledge their lifelong love to each other they bring their human weaknesses them. Those who become parents, even while loving their kids dearly, inevitably find that time for themselves shrinks.

That stokes one's inner nag to whisper (or shout) "But want ... ." It's tempting to give in to self-pity, but that can ruin a marriage. Instead, concentrate on what's right and preserve your marriage.   

So we stretch. We grow--and it's both exciting and exhausting. This makes "celebrate" the perfect word partner for "wedding anniversary."    

Could a second promise be just as important? 

Thanks be we two dumb kids had enough sense to agree from the beginning that our marriage would be grounded in Christ.

We couldn't have known then how that would play out. How our oneness of faith would cut down on tension and disagreements over this issue or that, especially after we became parents.   

Life offered us plenty of opportunities to understand the truth of this favorite wedding text: 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.                                                                               Ecclesiastes 4:12

We two meant it when we pledged our love for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Like every other bride and groom we couldn't have known in that moment how the strength of our commitment would be tested over the years. 

Recently a friend told of attending a wedding where the bride and groom promised to be faithful "as long as we both shall love."

Self-delusion for sure. Anyone who marries with the expectation that love will always be at flood stage is living in La-La Land.

Here's reality. Some days the feeling of love is high and both spouses are all smiles and hugs. Other days one or the other runs on empty and has to remind themselves not to pull away, remembering that moods come and go. 

Consider it the perfect time to remember one of the Marriage Encounter foundational principles:  

"Love is not just an emotion. Love is an action verb."

Even the strongest marriages sometimes hit a rough patch, often for no particular reason

What helps most is for each one to take an honest look within and (gulp!) face their own lacks and failures. Embrace humility. Not a groveling kind of humility, but rather a mutual acceptance of each other as they are. 

Time to remember that no human being is capable of loving perfectly, so what to do? There's good reason Christian wives and husbands cherish Bible promises of forgiveness in Christ, such as Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Can you think of a better step-by-step formula to enable married couples or parents and children to live together happily?

Lessons learned over the years

There's no magic formula and no two marriage relationships are identical, but some principles can be helpful for all.   

First, last and always, pray. Talk to our loving, merciful God about your marriage, your life and your needs.  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.     Philippians 4:6

Then walk in faith. Love with your whole heart. If you feel you're running on empty ask God to refuel your love.

Watch your thoughts. Take it from one who knows, what we think about all the time may be total illusion, but it can crowd out what's real. In marriage as in all of life, keep your attention on what is, not on what's missing.

Will it be worth all the prayers and tears and struggles? Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!  

Wishing you joy,


October 03, 2023

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June 23, 2023

June 08, 2023

May 24, 2023


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