Yesterday, Ray and I celebrated 35 years of marriage. My good friend and fellow Tapestry blogger Gwynne Johnsons wrote on my Facebook, “Congratulations…got you beat by 15 years : ) :) ...Good guys are the BEST of God's gifts…” Amen to that!
We’ve been privileged to walk through almost all those years with our dear friends and fellow Probe Ministries staff Kerby and Susanne Anderson (whom you may recognize from the national radio show Point of View), who were married the same day. Last night, as we visited together, I asked the Andersons and Ray what they had learned over our 35 years, and we were all in agreement about the basics.
The non-negotiable part of a successful marriage is to continually love, accept and forgive the other. That starts with the absolute commitment to mean and to live out our wedding vows. It’s a covenant, a “promise on steroids,” that goes far beyond “I promise to be here as long as love shall last.”
I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned for sure over 35 years.
As one of our pastors once said, “The AIDS of marriage is justified self-centeredness.” Selfishness is a oneness-killer. God intends to use our spouse to shape us and mold us and give us daily opportunities to crucify our flesh, our self-centeredness, as He forms us into the people He intends us to be.
It’s helpful to see marriage as two “forgiven forgivers.” Extending forgiveness as we have received it from God, as quickly as possible, keeps the oneness and intimacy flowing.
We need to keep a balance between what we overlook and let go from a heart of grace, and what we need to address because it is big enough to cause us to withdraw from the other. Godly conflict resolution is essential for living well with another sinner.
Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” and verbally expressing gratitude for the small things the other does to serve and love us, goes a long way.
There is no substitute for creating habits of kindness toward our spouse. And we are just as pleasant and courteous to each others as we are to strangers, which is simply a habit as well as a character issue.
Learning about communication skills truly enhances the marriage relationship. The most powerful tools I’ve ever come across, and which we have made a part of how we live with each other, are:
1. Don’t interrupt the other person.
2. Tell the other what you heard to make sure you understood them right.
3. Avoid being a WENI (sounds like “weenie”): withdrawing, escalating when arguing, negatively interpreting what the other is saying, and invalidating the other.
God has been good, and we thank Him for His blessing of a great friendship and relationship with each other!