The common joke, that many accept as fact, is marriage is the end of the ” happiness ” you had while dating. You hear people saying marriage is a drag, it’s the end of fun, now you will really see who she is, it’s a long-term prison sentence, and you can probably list many other negative things said about the institution. As a result it’s accepted that there will be a point where marriage turns from good to average to bad but better than the alternative. Others take great pains to avoid getting married. Entertainment shows us long marriages where both parties are unhappy and love to share their misery with others. According to Vox, federal stats show the average American marriage that ends in divorce does so at 7 years thus the term 7 year ich.
Given this it’s no surprise that people are surprised when they encounter a couple who has been married decades and are not miserable. The couple pictured above goes out to eat at the same place every Friday. They talk and joke and generally have a good time. One night a young waitress had a bet going with an older waitress that they were not married or recently married reasoning that people who have been married a long time are not happy. When they asked they were surprised to know the couple was married in 1966. This was their first and only marriage. When people learn that my wife and I have been married since 1997 they are often surprised and want to know how we did it. What’s sad is many in our peer group have been married and divorced at least once, if not twice in the same time period.
I’ll get to the tips and tricks after dispelling some notions fed by Hollywood and romance novels. Marriage is not always romantic nor will you find romantic moments as portrayed on the big screen every day. You are not always going to be happy with each other and that’s OK, it’s not the end of the world. You both will not always “feel” love towards each other, that’s normal. The insane physical attraction will dim and the sex drive will wane as you grow older and life throws curve balls. Sex will not always be earth shattering and dates will not always be romantic evenings in suits & cocktail dresses at a candle lit dinner like the current Instagram models portray. Will you always agree on everything major, not a chance. This is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact a good marriage is much better than dating.
The tips and tricks are pretty obvious when you stop and think about your spouse instead of yourself. If you ditch the prevailing cultural view of marriage and take a Christian – biblical view you’ll be much better off. Start with Ephesians 5:25-33 commands to husbands and wives. Husbands love your wives and wives respect your husbands. If it was natural to do this then there would not be a need to put it in the Bible.
Go on dates, any date will do. It doesn’t have to be at the most romantic place in a 60 mile radius. It can be as simple as Taco Bell where you two can put your phones away and focus on each other. It can be take out and going to a local park or an hour out for coffee once a week. Make the effort to plan the time every week. Even if money is extremely tight, like $5 is legit gas money, you can go for a walk around the neighborhood.
Show each other appreciation with simple words like please and thank you. Do the little annoying things like take the trash out, fix the headlights on the car or whatever you notice your spouse appreciates you doing. Some hints might be asking more than once for you to do something or saying ” I wish … ”
Do things together that create memories. The more shared experiences the closer the bond. Shared experiences are what draws military units, law enforcement, fire and EMS crews close. They create a bond and experiences to talk about. Plan events or activities together that you can look forward to together.
Focus on the long-term, not the short-term. Don’t focus on how bad it is right now or how bad it will be in three, six, twelve months. The bad will pass and the shared experience of the current hardship will be a shared experience that draws you together. Think in terms of decades instead of month’s and years. When you have a long term vision that you are committed to it makes enduring the present easier.
Pray over your marriage, pray for your mindset and pray for your spouse. Pray for God’s will and not things to happen that make you happy.
Read simple and easy to understand books like The 5 Love Languages with your spouse, talk about the book and the results from the quiz in the back. Once you know your spouses love language it is easier to love in a meaningful way. Read longer books or the video series such as Love and Respect or His needs, Her needs. You will invest time and money into reading up and studying for your job that might not be here tomorrow, why not do the same for the betterment of your marriage that can last decades after the job is gone?
Don’t complain about your spouse to family, friends and coworkers let a lone on social media. The feed back you receive will not be good nor constructive. You will allow what others say in response poison your mind and slowly convince you that things are really worse than they really are. If you must complain do it to your spouse respectfully and have one trusted and mature friend who has been there that you know will tell you the truth even if it’s hard and you don’t like it.
The point is you can have a marriage that lasts years, decades and see your family grow over generations and still be happy, content and set an example that encourages others.