|December 29, 1987
Mario and I have been married Twenty-eight years today. I thank God for Mario who is a major fox and a hell of a lot of fun to be with… but I have to say that it has not always been easy. After twenty-eight years we have a relationship that is beautiful and we have reaped it after years of hard work. For years we both practiced sowing the seeds of love. Our early marriage counselors promised us that sowing good seeds would bear good fruit. They were right.
After you have been married for as long as we have, people ask you for advice. We usually don’t give any – mainly because what these couples are really asking for is hope. They want us to tell them that there is hope for their relationship, no matter how badly it has deteriorated. All couples do – they want a good relationship.
Once a year I break out our best advice – and here it is. Read on if you want to…this is the super-abridged edition of what we would tell couples if we really did give out advice.
1. Don’t expect your marriage to be like your wedding.
Please don’t take this the wrong way.
I just mean that your marriage is not going to be like your wedding where everything is all about you! Weddings used to be a church, a smattering of family, and the bride and groom dressed up in their “Sunday best”. Now weddings are five-star affairs with big, fat dresses and tuxedos and tall cakes. Grooms and their groomsmen dance in synchronized fashion. Envelopes of money are given in celebration.
Marriage is a MERGER, a legal contract, and a covenant that cannot be broken. God help you if you think that marriage is one big party. It is work! Often it is boring, tedious, and routine. Only the best couples have the endurance to bring life into this arrangement!
2. DEPOSIT into your spouse’s heart.
Love is one of the key ingredients in successful marriages, but romantic love is not enough. People who master marriage realize that the spouse has a “heart account” that must be filled. Most people know how to make love withdrawals – but forget to make the love deposits.
Kind words, gifts, laughter, memories and special traditions that you celebrate together are all examples of deposits. Figure out what your spouse likes and do that thing a lot.
Let it be your idea.
3. Ditch your addictions.
Love is a seedling in an antagonistic world that is built for individuals. Individuals have addictions.
Alcohol, drugs and gambling are not the only addictions that kill relationships (although they certainly do a LOT of damage to plenty of marriages). Socially acceptable addictions like food, television, phone games, and work take their toll on more families than you would think.
After years in full-time ministry we have heard too many partners confide that their significant other no longer values them as much as their ____________. Fill in the blank with your addiction – that kind of behavior kills.
4. Relationships are worth protecting.
In an effort to be polite or socially acceptable you may forget that the main relationship you are in requires a genuine wall of defense. People may try to kidnap one of you for fun and games at the cost of the other’s happiness. Others may be friends with your spouse but not care for you. These people have a habit of asking if “just one of you” can work or play side-by-side with them. There might be times when friends encourage gossiping about your spouse.
Even well-meaning friends and family can make these mistakes. We have had many of these in our marriage, but have always managed to remember that our partnership takes priority. We are not joined at the hip, but we do value togetherness. Most successful couples are genuinely friends who like to be with one another. Mario and I keep our spiritual eyes open for the other’s welfare --protecting one another means protecting our relationship.
5. Love requires action and movement to continue.
Love does not grow by itself – it’s not kudzu or phlox.
Guys, if you’re actually reading this, make her a card. Tell her you love her. When you’re wrong, say “I’m sorry, babe.” That last part, “babe” can be substituted with your pet name that makes her feel like she belongs to you.
Girls. I know you’re exhausted, especially if you have kids, but make him a damn sandwich now and then. Tell him that he’s smoking hot – and prove it. Give him a memory that will wreck his concentration the next day at work.
6. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
I didn’t author this – God did. Learn how to listen (without your answer playing in your head). Listen like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard what he/she is saying. Listen more than you talk and get a reputation as a listener. If you listen, you open one another’s hearts. Each time you listen to your spouse you say “You are worth something to me. What you have to say matters.”
You may not agree with each other, but at least you have listened.
7. Use your manners.
This is your spouse, not your property. Say thank you for everything they do for you. Say please a lot. Hopefully your mother raised you with manners - exercise them!!
Also, please tell your lady that you love her and that she’s pretty. Do you know how important that is to her? A lot important. Okay?
Also, please RESPECT that guy, alright? Do you know how important that is to him? A lot important. Okay?
I can also tell you – if you’ve read this far that community and accountability is important. For us, our church and our families witness to our union and our major life decisions. This is important for the big life changing events that will affect your relationship. It is also important for the little decisions that affect others.
Be blessed and live in love. We wish you the best in everything.