On Sunday my husband and I celebrated forty years of marriage. Although the years have brought ups and downs, even serious problems along the way, God kept us together by his grace. Despite my desire to leave more than once, I didn’t. Through the years God taught me some valuable lessons from my own experiences and my observations of other marriages. Because of its foundational nature, I don’t list personal spiritual growth and dependence on God for grace to give your spouse, but it is the key to implementing the five lessons below.
1. Develop your friendship. Your husband should be your best friend. If you are uncomfortable discussing feelings or issues with him, talk honestly about it. Failure to talk signals a problem, and you need to deal with it together. Friends also do things together. Find things that you both enjoy, and make time to share them.
2. Take seriously the commands in Ephesians 4:25-26 to speak truth and deal with your anger each day. Most marriages have at least one person who wants to avoid conflict. Ignoring your problems and anger will not help. Force each other to talk when anger rears its head. Often anger is the fruit of deep hurt, and that needs to be spoken. Ask for forgiveness when you have hurt your spouse, and give forgiveness to him lavishly, as God has done for you.
3. Set aside time together at least weekly. If you don’t deliberately plan time alone, you will grow apart unintentionally. Your relationship is the foundation of your family, and it must be your priority. Don’t let your children crowd it out during the years they are at home. And don’t think that because you are empty nesters and together in the house all the time, that is enough. It’s not about being in the same place but about focusing on each other. Watching television, reading, or being online in the same room isn’t being together. Turn everything off, cuddle, and talk.
4. Be proactive about defending your marriage from anything that would undermine it. Don’t allow competitors for time and affection into your own life or your husband’s life, whether they are people, work, hobbies, or imaginary relationships with characters in books or online.
5. Pray for your husband without telling God how to change him. Accept him as an imperfect person, just as you are. Pray consistently that you change and become a better wife. Pray generally that God will protect your husband’s mind and move in his life. Pray that you have wisdom to be his encourager and friend. What is the #1 lesson that God has taught you in marriage?