On July 9th my wife and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. Since I started full time Ministry in 1998, I have learned at least one valuable lesson regarding marriage: We aren’t out of the woods yet.
I sat with couples that had been married 32 years and got divorced. One of my friend’s parents got divorced after 41 years of marriage. Some of these folks were Christians and others not. But this isn’t a column about divorce; it is a column about marriage. More specifically it is a column about the lessons I’ve learned over the past 30 years.
Actually, the one thing I know for sure is that I don’t really know much about marriage.
Oh, I “know” about marriage. I’ve done my share of premarital counseling. I have spent plenty of time with love struck couples with dreams of “happily ever after” written on their starry-eyed faces telling them about the difficulties of marriage. I have officiated their weddings and then sat down with them anywhere from 3 months to several years after that day to talk about what went wrong and how to fix it. From those experiences I’ve also learned that I stink at marriage counseling.
All of that gets me to wondering if I really have anything to tell you. I’m sitting here thinking about what will resonate with you if you are married or thinking about getting married. What could I possibly tell you that would make any kind of difference in your life? Is there anything I have to offer? Here’s my best shot.
- As a general rule don’t read men’s or women’s magazines for ideas on sex, romance, or relationships. Sure, there is the occasional good bit of advice or insight. There is also an occasional good piece of fruit in the dumpster. But a dumpster is not where you want to start looking for a good piece of fruit, is it?
- Nobody wants to do the dishes or vacuum or clean up. That’s never been the point. Do the dishes, vacuum, or clean up because it is the right and good thing to do. It is helpful and a kind thing to do. Also men, just because you’ve heard that “sex starts in the kitchen,” that doesn’t mean that’s why you do the dishes. Just do the dishes.
- Listen to each other. Don’t just listen to words your spouse is saying. Listen for what he or she is saying. In general, if you’re a guy you want to fix things. If you are a woman, I have no clue what goes on when we are talking. Most times just listening to the ‘what’ and telling them what you are hearing is all you need.
- Your unspoken expectations will drive a lot of your frustrations in your marriage. Men, and I’m guessing women, are not mind readers. I know you think your spouse should know what to do and how to do it. I know you think your spouse is not doing something just to prove a point. Let me reiterate: No one is a mind reader! You want something done, tell him or her.
- As a general rule…no, as a hard and fast rule…never, ever look for advice in your troubled marriage with the opposite sex – ever. Unless that person is your brother or sister or mom or dad, just don’t. It is a bad idea with the potential of horrible consequences.
- The only place the grass is greener is over the septic tank. An affair, emotional or physical, will not solve your problems. It just won’t.
- Don’t quit.
I know some of you have had failed marriages. The question is, “What are you going to do differently to make sure the next one doesn’t fail?”
Marriage is hard. It is all about self-sacrifice. It is all about serving the other person. It is about fighting for something that might not even be fun anymore. It is not about “I love you because…” It is about “I love you regardless.”
I know, I know there are reasons you fell in love. I get it. I fell in love with Ruth for a whole bunch of reasons. But, I decide to love her every day and I believe that is what Ruth does for me. I am certainly aware that I have not been easy to love through those 30 years. And, I am well aware that I am thankful we have both stuck it out.
If you need help in your marriage, get it. Find a professional and stick with it. It will not be easy. It will, however, be worth it.