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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Marriage is for Keeps: 10 Tips for Having a Long, Loving Marriage

After more than forty years of faithfulness and reflecting back on what got us here, I thought it was time to share a few tried and true tips with you.

1. Keep him Number One in your thoughts. All sin begins in the mind, therefore it's important what goes on between your ears. When your thoughts stray to someone else—notice I didn't say if—bring them back into line with your marriage vows. At your wedding, you were probably asked something similar to: "Wilt thou love, comfort, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all other keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?" And, the answer was, "I will." Do it, even in your thoughts—especially in your thoughts.

2. Keep each other accountable. This will look different in every marriage, but my husband and I made some rules that have protected our marriage through the years. For example, don't ever go out to eat or anywhere one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex. Keep yourselves from the temptation that comes from private rendezvous. I tell my husband about any social media or email messages I might get from any man close to our age. Online chatting is not something we do. We also work on laptops where our spouse can walk by at any time. Make sure you're open and honest with anything you say or do. Communicate with your spouse.

3. Keep committed. Marriage is the highest human commitment. It's for life. Breaking a marriage actually tears apart two people who've become one. It is never nice or "amicable." God only gives one biblical reason for divorce: adultery. (Abuse is a reason to flee, since it is a crime and a total disrespecting of the marriage vows.) But, many marriages break up over disagreements and strife, not adultery or abuse. It is important to make up our minds to remain committed to our spouse. "To love and to cherish from this day forth." God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16)

4. Keep from comparing. This is one of the biggest faults women have in marriage. They look at someone else's husband and think Mr. Smith treats his wife like a queen. I wish I were married to someone like Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is the ideal husband. Before they know it, they are trying to get Mr. Smith to notice them, and their solemn marriage vows to their own husband have gone down the tubes. These women have gone from admiration to flirtation, and their marriage will soon be destroyed. Let me tell you a secret: Mr. Smith is a flawed human being, too. There are no perfect husbands and no perfect men. (There aren't any perfect women either, by the way. Just look in the mirror.) Don't idealize someone who's probably just like your husband. And remember, keep your own husband Number One in your mind. Besides, Mr. Smith is married. He is completely off limits to everyone--and so are you.

5. Keep loving and respecting. In the Bible, there's one verse that speaks of loving our husband and six about respecting, being obedient, and yielding to his leadership. (About loving: Titus 2:4. About respect, obedience and yielding: Ephesians 5:22, 33; Colossians 3:16; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:2, 6.) Why did you marry your husband in the first place? What qualities interested you? What does he do well? How does he provide for your family? What are his good points? Your mind should dwell on those things. If you've been thinking mainly about his shortcomings, change the way you think about your husband. Then, express praise and thanks aloud and often. Respect him in private and in public. (Do you need counseling? Don't be ashamed to get it.)

6. Keep understanding each other. In every marriage, there are communication snags. Sometimes, you're not on the same wavelength. Sometimes, you think he's talking about one thing, and he's actually talking about another. Sometimes, you're not even communicating at all. When your conversation feels crazy, stop, back up, find out what he's really saying, and take it from there. Look each other in the eye, laugh at mix-ups, and get back to understanding each other. Make the extra effort to communicate well.

7. Keep having fun together. After about ten years, marriage can become ho hum. There are lots of reasons: being busy, having little children running around, tiredness, over-commitment, working full time, etc. It's easy to get into your own little world and forget to be a couple. You might have quit laughing together, flirting, and dating each other. The mundane has taken over, and you've lost the spark. Thankfully, it's super easy to rekindle. Start with a romantic dinner, walk in the woods, or whatever does it for you as a couple. You can even rekindle at home. Put the kids to bed, light a few candles, put on some soft music, and eat ice cream. Aahhhh! (I'm sure you can take it from there.) Schedule these special times at least once a month. (Some say once a week, but we're keeping it real.)

8. Keep up your marriage when you're older. Since my husband and I are both over sixty, I think I can speak about this. Age is "just a number" to some, but most people slow down, feel a few aches and pains, and get a little slower mentally as they get older. My husband and I laugh when we go into a room for something and then forget why we walked in there. Keep a sense of humor. Make adjustments. Take care of each other. Keep honoring your spouse. Stay loving. Remember, the Bible says love is: patient, kind, non-envious, not prideful, doesn't behave badly, isn't selfish, isn't easily provoked, doesn't think evil, doesn't rejoice in evil but in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. It never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:3-8a, my paraphrase) Be patient, kind, and loving, even when you're old.

9. Keep getting closer to the Lord. Marriage truly should be a pyramid with God at the top. While each spouse is getting closer to the Lord, they're also getting closer to each other. Spiritual growth is vital for a beautiful marriage. In fact, the Bible compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church. As we mutually give of ourselves, we imitate Jesus' sacrificing Himself for His Bride. It is a lovely picture and the kind of marriage everyone should have. 

10. Keep loving unto death. Several of our dearest friends lost their spouses last year. One never knows when death will separate a married couple. Therefore, it's vital to live and love in such a way that, when death comes, there are many sweet memories and no regrets.

May God bless your marriage today!


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