There’s a guy across the way. I sip my coffee with quiet poise, and watch him. He has his phone in his hand, his heads down, and his fingers surf the keys. Is he texting, scrolling, tasking, emailing? I’m not sure. He looks up, and I glance away. I take mental inventory: He’s sexy. Tall. Handsome. Expressive big eyes. Gorgeous full lips. Beautiful smile. Kind looking. The man whispers something to me. I turn my head and incline my ear. “I love you, best friend. You’re the best wife I could ever ask for,” he says. My heart flip-flops. My stomach fills with the “first-time-kiss” butterflies. I whisper back with blushed cheeks, “I love you more, best friend! You’re the best husband I could ever ask for.” I set my cup down, realized I’d been thinking of him and wondered how long he’d been on my mind, and then it dawned on me: since I married him twenty-three years ago.
Marriage is falling in love with the same person over and over and over—just a different version. Marriage is progressive. The person you marry today will become a different version of themselves tomorrow. When I first married my husband, I married a boy who framed houses; when we had our first child, I married a father; when we bought our first home, I married a homeowner; when our boys started baseball, I married a coach; when he changed career paths, I married a sales representative; when the toilet sprung a leak, I married a handy-man; when our house was robbed, I married a fierce protector; when his little brother was diagnosed with cancer, I married a scared and sad man; when he started a church, I married a pastor.
Is your marriage struggling? Do you fail to see the miracle in progressiveness? Do you take for granted the spouse you have today, because you miss the youthful/spontaneous one you married? Do you nag and point out all their wrong doings? Can you remember the last time you held hands? Kissed? Went on a date? Had sex? Said “I love you?” or gave without expecting something in return?
The 50 Percent Statistic
For years, it’s been pounded into the subconscious that the chances of a marriage lasting is 50/50. This statistic looms over head and plays games with our heads. It can cause us to question: “Is he/she the one?” “Did we make a mistake?” or “Was my pastor, or mom, or sibling right, when they said it wouldn’t work out?”
As a result, the statistic that nearly half end in divorce can be alarming and even disheartening for those considering marriage; let alone, those who are trying to keep theirs afloat. Thus, when my husband addresses married couples, who are struggling, he’ll commonly begin with, “I’ve got a lot of corn in the crib.” Then he'll do that thing he does--lean in, look at them both, and say, “One thing I am the most proud of is my marriage. My wife and I have a great marriage. She’s my best friend and I’m hers.” He’ll go on to tell them, “Marriage is falling in love with the same person over and over and over—just a different version (sound familiar?)” Then he’ll throw them The Big Thinker—“The truth is that if you get divorced, you’re likely to have the same problems with the next person, so why not work it out with the one you’re with?!”
Yet, I’m a firm believer that “You become what you think” and “What you think about grows,” so scrap the myth that’s been pounded into your head and forget the backdoor exit plan—your marriage can work! Speaking from experience, you don’t need other people’s approval, a lavish wedding, or an expensive honey moon to make it work. Luckily, all you have to have is the want to.
On May 29, 1993, I stood face-to-face with the man of my dreams. It was a small wedding. I had on a flowery beige dress and a cream bow in my hair. He wore a pair of gray slacks and a thin-styled neck tie. His mother, brother, and step-father, along with my parents, two sisters, and little brother were present for the occasion.
Our families arrived to the church early. We stood conversing, as we waited for the pastor to begin the ceremony. A door creaked open and the pastor peeked out. Instead of joining the huddle, he summoned all of us into his office. I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps a last minute pre-marital counselling session, I thought. It didn’t dawn on me, until the pastor asked the family to make a circle around us that I wasn’t fit to get married at the altar.
We stood in the center of the circle blind-sided, hurt, and humiliated.
I put two-and-two together—I knew it was because I was pregnant and my fiancé wasn’t considered a seasoned saint (even though he’d been baptized and attended church regularly). I knew the pastor was still seething, because he’d instructed me to break off the engagement. I tried to be obedient to the Man of God and did break up, but immediately reneged; because I loved my fiancé and he loved me. Never mind the ever-growing-fact that I was carrying his child. Thus, the pastor married us, but not without shaming us with an office wedding and telling us privately that our marriage wouldn’t last.
8 Lessons to Make a Marriage Work
In conclusion, you’ll find a culmination of 8 lessons that my husband and I have shared with hundreds of couples. The number eight is significant. Not only is it the symbol of infinity, but in the New Testament, it signifies Resurrection, Reconciliation, and New Beginnings!
Lesson #1: PUT EACH OTHER’S NEEDS FIRST
Don’t be selfish. Selfishness never works! A self-centered person refuses to put the needs of the other above their own. A selfish person thinks the world rotates around them—they are demanding, immature, entitled, and bossy. They are “takers” and not “givers.” I put my husband’s needs above my own, and he puts my needs above his. By putting each other’s needs first, we rarely have a disagreement. From personal observations during counselling sessions, selfishness is the #1 reason I’ve seen that marriages struggle. “You need to wake up every day and say, ‘What can I do today to make my marriage better? What can I do today to make my family better? What can I do today to make my wife/husband feel like the most important person in the world?”
Lesson #2: BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LET IN
Don’t share conflicts outside of the marriage (but if you absolutely must, find an unbiased and trustworthy person. Someone not of the opposite sex, unless it's a pastor/minister, etc.). When my husband and I have a disagreement, I don’t message my mom or my twin sister. Why? Because sex is like marital Novocain: as soon as you have sex, you can’t remember what you were fighting about, meanwhile, everyone you texted, phoned, and facebooked are still bent-out-of-shape.
Lesson #3: FIGHT FAIR
In order to fight fair, you should always fight with empathy. How do you do this? You put the other person’s shoes on. If you’re not willing to put the other person’s shoes on, then you’re not fighting fair! By putting the other person’s shoes on, you’re willing to see their perspective. Not everything is worth fighting over. Choose your battle wisely: if your spouse wants a 60-watt light bulb in the hallway, but you want a 75-watt light bulb, let them have the 60-watt.
Lesson #4: WORDS HAVE POWER & COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Wisdom is a builder, so be careful what you speak. Words should be used to build each other up and not tear each other down. Save the sarcasm, name-calling, temper tantrums, and hitting below the belt. “Turning away from your partner never works. Stay plugged in and hooked up,” Dr. Phil advices. Don’t say what you don’t mean. Don’t promise what you don’t intend to keep. Don’t blame. Don’t use the “D” word (Divorce) when fighting. Listen without judgment. And verbally lift your spouse up—do this on purpose or until it becomes second nature for you. My husband and I tell each other daily, “I love you,” “You’re my best friend,” “You’re sexy,” “You still turn me on,” via text, phone call, email, face-to-face.
Lesson #5: LOVE KEEPS NO RECORDS OF WRONGS OR RIGHTS
In order to have a successful marriage, you need two good forgetters! Don’t keep a running account of hurts and injuries, and don’t keep a running tally of everything you did right! Don’t recite a litany of wrongdoings in the attempt to make your point. It doesn’t matter who said what. Stick to the issue at hand and be quick to forgive—a fight should have a time limit. Keep in mind: you can be right or you can be happy—it’s up to you, but whatever you do, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you,” – Ephesians 4:32.
Lesson #6: MARRIAGE IS NOT 50/50. It’s 100/100
A successful marriage takes more than partial effort. Spouses should remember that sacrifice is necessary to make a marriage work. Sometimes compromise is necessary when neither side can agree. “Disagreements are going to occur. The question is, do you go into it with a spirit of looking for resolution or do you go into it with a spirit of getting even, vengeance, or control? You’ll never win if you do that. If you make your relationship a competition, that means your spouse has to lose in order for you to win. It’s not a competition, it’s a partnership,” says Dr. Phil.
Lesson #7: STOP TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE
“Life is about change, and all relationships are in motion. Stop taking inventory of each other and start looking inward at your own actions,” – Dr. Gail Gross. The only person you can change is you! When meeting with couples, my husband likes to read Genesis 2:23, “And Adam said, this is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” He explains that in scripture, bone signifies “strength” and flesh signifies “weakness.” Essentially Adam was saying, “Where I’m weak, you’re strong and where I’m strong, you’re weak—we’re better together than apart.” Stop trying to make your spouse your clone! Why? Because in areas that you are weak, he might be strong; and where you’re strong, he might be weak—you’re better together than apart!” By being different, it brings balance.
Lesson #8: SET A DATE NIGHT
A Wise-man said, “If you court your spouse, you’ll keep your marriage out of court.” This is a true and valuable lesson. Set a date night at least twice a month. If you can’t afford to go to a fancy restaurant, then grab a hot dog at the 7-Eleven, and go for a ride in the country. It’s about spending time together, so if you can’t find a sitter, put the kids to bed early, watch a movie, talk, snuggle, make puzzles, and for Pete’s sake, have sex!
I am M.O.R.E., and so are you!