Tonight Mario and I went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. We were seated next to a party who were celebrating their 50th Anniversary, and I was tempted to interrupt them to ask for marital advice. How does a couple make it to 50 years?
I decided not to (mainly because my Mama raised me with manners) and left, asking Mario what he thought was the secret to our happy marriage. Tomorrow we will be married 26 years.
“Passion. Sense of Humor. We’re spiritually yoked.” I was blown away by the strength of his answer. Not only was I just treated to a gastrointestinal songfest, but now he wowed me with the beauty of knowing exactly the ingredients in our life-sustaining recipe.
A rich answer from a man who is happily married to me.
I don’t deserve him.
When I met him, he was (as the saying goes) way out of my league. He was tall and buff and tanned with confidence and charisma. Several other ladies thought so also, and Mario had a few girlfriends.
By the time we figured out we were right for one another, I was brutally honest about what I wanted from him: I was a one man woman and I wanted a one-woman man. Things would have to change if he wanted me. He dropped his heart’s anchor and said he did. We were married and combined our families and had another child together.
We loved each other madly, but we also knew that wouldn’t be enough. Love is not enough to keep a marriage together in this world. Even with two like-minded people who adore one another, love is not going to keep your boat afloat in the rocky rapids that are the reality of this world.
We sought out Biblical counseling, attended marriage courses and had a strong church community. Even so, Mario and I weren’t exactly an example of a stable couple. It took years to work out simple truths that we want to share with you tonight. We give them to you as a gift. These are things that we can take for granted, but hold the keys to happiness in any relationship.
1. We Try to Keep Enough Emotional Money in the Bank for Eachother.
The way we are as human beings is that we need each other. In a marriage, there are withdrawals constantly. From “Can you pick up the kids?” to “I need you to fix the garage door,” marriage is reduced to a functional partnership without taking time to deposit love and respect.
Just like actual money in commercial bank, emotional money needs to be deposited in each other. This is different for every couple – and I don’t mean flowers and chocolates. Check out The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman – it says it all.
2. We are Good, Good Friends.
In the midst of a deep and committed relationship, we both need a friend: A safe place to process things and a shoulder to cry on. Just like my other friends share my interests and care about my heart, Mario and I meet for coffee and have delicious dinners together. We talk about books, play games together, tease each other.
In covenant relationships, sex is seen as an indicator of intimacy, but friendship is even more so. I say this because sex is always good if you love someone – but in this world married couples forget how to be friends, especially in the busy seasons.
In tragic circumstances, friendships hold us together. A couple I love and admire recently (8 years ago) were in a car accident. She was paralyzed from the waist down and he survived with a serious brain injury.
Through it all, they remained each other’s best friend and somehow got through the rehabilitation, recovery and life changes that followed.
They are still happily married.
3. We Strive to be Kind to One Another.
Manners are underrated.
“Please” and “Thank You” go a long way. Walking upstairs to talk face to face is better than yelling at my spouse across the house. Asking if he needs anything if I’m going out to the store.
Mario is extremely kind to me, even when I don’t deserve it. He is gentle and tender in moments when my happiness is threatened and I’m freaking out. In traffic, when he is stressed and aggravated with other drivers, I shut my mouth and remember not to criticize him.
In every life event we endure as a couple, we have a choice – am I going to be kind to my mate, or will I demand my way?
4. We Protect Our Unity at All Costs.
This world is not designed for marriage,it’s designed for individuals. It can be filled with contests where only the fittest and meanest succeed. If I looked around and saw only gossips, back-stabbers and people who are cruel when they don’t need to be, I would need an ally who has my back.
Mario and I have done a lot of couples counseling over the years and have seen many different couples in many different lifestyles. Among the deadliest of threats is when an outside force doesn't respect the unity of a couple. A trusted friend, a beloved parent or even a church leader will try to drive a wedge between the couple by speaking badly against their spouse.
Ten years into our marriage Mario and I made a pact that no person, not even the ones we held as sacred, would ever be able to say anything bad about the other in our presence. It has held us together through many terrible times.
We have never had a creedo that says “Me and You against the world!” but rather “It’s us as a blessing to the world.”
Those are our little secrets. They really aren’t all that complicated. You never asked us, but we gave to you just in case you were curious.
If I were honest, Mario’s first answer to my question is what lights me up: Passion. I have it in buckets for that guy.
I honestly don’t deserve him.