Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Kindness is the cause. Til’ death do us part is the length. – Fawn Weaver
The odds were stacked against my marriage. The skeptics announced their doubts without much of a filter.
After all, how could a 22-year-old first-year high school teacher with little money provide a comfortable life for a 19-year-old college freshman who was six weeks pregnant?
Yep, the odds weren’t in our favor.
We were young, immature and scared to death. With eyes rolling and teeth clinched, our families watched us marry as side bets were placed. The over/under may have been set at two years. I think most took the under.
Mary Beth and I, however, took the over. Good thing, our 30th wedding anniversary is almost here.
My wife and I beat the odds, but more important, we built a marriage that has been tested and almost torn apart at times, but a force stronger than our desire to make it work was always in play.
The force in play?
The Strength to Endure
With a humble confidence, Mary Beth and I know we’ve made it. While there will be more challenges and disputes ahead, our marriage has the strength to endure whatever comes our way.
And while I don’t have all of the answers for making a marriage last, here’s the best marriage advice I have to share if you and your partner want to beat the odds, too.
- Say “I Love You” everyday
Tell your partner “I love you” every day. Do so with heart-felt sincerity. Love her as if this were her, and your, last day on earth. Don’t wait; tell him today.
Give without expecting anything in return. Give because your heart says to give. Give her the best you have to offer. When she asks what’s on your mind, give her an honest answer. When he needs comfort, give him more than he expects. When she needs to lift her head to see her mistakes, give her a tender nudge and then get out of the way. Give him a safe place to cry and to be weak. Give him the chance to be whoever he wants to be.
The glue that binds two hearts together is trust. Be reliable in your actions and faithful in your promises. Grow to depend on each other to make certain the little things, and the big things, get done.
- Bring out the best
Rather than pointing out flaws, acknowledge the best things in each other – and then encourage more of those things to come out.
- Show appreciation
A simple “thank you” in response to an ordinary gesture can make a significant difference. It only takes a few short moments to utter these two words, but the impact can be felt for a long time.
- Celebrate the love in your life.
Love is a miracle. When you are able to share your love and become love; you have something worth treasuring and celebrating. Never take love for granted – it can be snatched away in the blink of an eye.
- Invite open communication
Staying away from hurtful words, addressing issues as they happen and opening up all lead to positive talk in a marriage. There’s a certain advantage of knowing a person so intimately – you get to know what the other person is thinking, and perhaps not saying. Using that knowledge to create a safe forum for communication resolves issues faster and leads the way to greater intimacy.
- Let the little things go
In my marriage, the idiosyncrasies we each have (I have to wash my hands immediately after eating and my wife can hum a song to death), could end some relationships. But after surviving some of life’s most difficult challenges – our daughter’s near-fatal illness, Mary Beth’s brain surgery and the sudden loss of my brother – we know the little things really don’t matter so we let them go to make room for what matters most, which is every moment we get to share together.
- You don’t have to like the same things
It’s the differences that make a marriage prosper. Because of the diversity, give you and your partner things to talk about – to debate about – so you can challenge each other and support each other in lively ways. This energy adds an important element of growth that keeps a marriage from getting stagnant.
- Compromise is a necessity
Because couples don’t always agree, compromise is a necessity. Rather than trampling on each other’s needs, look for ways to meet in the middle so neither one loses. Compromise also builds trust, which leads to greater respect, intimacy and a more grounded love.
- Share everything
Share everything. From the last piece of cake to monitoring your children’s homework, take an active, equal role in the marriage. Resentment begins with a soft whisper before growing into a more demonstrative outburst. To share a life, the things in it must be shared too.
- And the enjoy everything
From the odd quarks to her radiance, and everything in between, enjoy your wife or husband. Take her in. Watch as he sleeps, as he brushes his tooth, as he sits next to you thumbing through a magazine. Watch her elegance, her tenderness and her expressions of joy, suspense, anger and fear. Bottle these moments in your mind and take them out whenever you want to enjoy a dose of her amazing beauty.
- Persist – no matter the odds
Managing finances, raising children, building a career, relocating, enduring a crisis, all contribute to the challenges every marriage faces. There’s only one way for marriages to thrive despite these circumstances: Persistence.
Be persistent during the times when it feels like the light is being consumed by the darkness; remain faithful and believe the good will eventually trump the bad; never give up when you feel like everything you are building is about to fall.
Surrender to love. Fall back into it and take your husband or wife with you.