Steve and I just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. Well, celebrated is a misnomer. We wished each other a “happy anniversary”, split a burger with the kids and talked about celebrating when he gets back from his trip to Dallas, but you get the point. We have been married for 29 years so just getting here is quite a feat.
In honor of this momentous event, I thought I would write a post about what it takes to make a marriage work. I figure that after all this time I qualify as a marriage expert. In fact, after I write this post I’m going to write a book. I can see it now. My book will get published. Gayle will read it and pass it along to Oprah. She will have me on her show (I better get cracking. This is her last season!) I will become world famous and travel internationally sharing my hard-earned wisdom with the masses.
But, alas, Steve will become bitterly jealous of my new-found fame and my children will resent my constant absences. My life will become a hollow shell and the paparazzi will hound me as I look to reinvent myself and fill the emptiness inside with a constant stream of plastic surgeries until even my children no longer recognize me.
Wow…that was scary! I think I’ll just stick to writing my blog for the sake of my family and my sanity. I clearly can’t handle fame.
If you were to pick two people who would be “Most Likely To Succeed” in the marriage department twenty-nine years ago, you would not have picked Steve and I. To say we were headstrong, selfish, self-absorbed, immature and unprepared would be an understatement. Steve’s sister, Nadine, once commented on how much we fought when we were first married. Everything, from the toothpaste to the finances was fodder for an all out war.
I was 19 and he was 22. We were in love. We were at war.
So, why are we still together, all these years later, in love without the war?
I have spent some time thinking about it and these are my essentials, the things our marriage can’t survive without.
LAUGHTER. I love to laugh. Not just a light little chuckle, but a deep, snorting makes-my-belly-hurt, brings-tears-to-my-eyes, I-think-I’m-gonna-pee-my-pants kind of laugh. Steve has told me that there’s nothing he likes better than my smile. There have been many years when the smiles and the laughter have been scarce but it is essential. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but it is true – laughter has some serious health benefits.
It’s good for our kids to see us laughing together and enjoying each other’s company. We need to be careful, however that the laughter doesn’t become teasing at someone else’s expense. I have a hard time with this one. Sometimes mama “likes to be’s bad.”
PRAYER. This is the cornerstone of our marriage, our family and our life. When there are no answers. When words fail. When the pain is too deep. Pray.
I have prayed as though my life depends upon it because I know it does. There have also been times when I could not utter a prayer and the words wouldn’t come. That was when I counted on others to pray for me. We are not alone in the body of Christ, so when you feel you can’t pray, call someone who can (you can always call me!)
“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.”
1 Cor. 12:25:26
COFFEE. You knew it would be in here, didn’t you? When our oldest daughter Ashley was a little girl, she was asked what her parents fought about the most (now, that’s a loaded question!) Her answer? Coffee! For years, Steve would make the coffee so strong only the Turkish would care to drink it – no offense to the Turkish, but I’m not too fond of the way they make their coffee! I begged him to pleeeeeez consider the fact that there was more than one coffee-drinker in the house and could he please compromise and make the coffee a wee bit easier to digest.
Well, either I’ve gotten used to stronger coffee or he’s making it weaker now, but we seem to have come to a very nice agreement in the coffee-making department because we haven’t had that argument for quite a few years.
What is really essential to me about coffee is how it represents slowing down and spending time together. If we don’t make the time for each other we can drift apart and before you know it we are like strangers living under the same roof. It’s hard. Our lives are busy and it takes a concerted effort to set aside that time to be alone, but it is important. I realized just recently that I make more effort to spend time with friends than I do to spend time with Steve. That needs to change.
GRACE. Where would I be without grace? God’s overwhelming, unending daily grace in my life is a miracle to me. I have been raised on the words “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” but I am only now really beginning to understand the full impact of those words.
More and more I realize that, as God’s grace has been extended to me, I must freely extend his grace to others. Sometimes it’s easier to extend that grace beyond the four walls of my home but those nearest and dearest to me are the ones that I can daily shower with the grace of God’s love. This is the most precious gift I can give to my husband and the most precious one that he extends to me.
So, those are my four essentials – they are healthy for strengthening any relationship – laughter, prayer, coffee and grace with an extra measure of grace.
Oh yeah, there is one more thing – therapy – lots and lots of therapy. If you need it, go for it! We’ve all got issues!