Two years ago, I saved an article in my files entitled “The First 25 Years are the Hardest.” It was written by a minister who was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary, and his father, who had been married 50 years, gave him that one statement about his marriage. I have never forgotten that advice and have read the article a few times, and I guess that is because one week ago I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. For us, it has been an exhilarating thrill ride from the beginning. I was never sure we would make it here as either my heart would give out from the stress or my wife would wise up one day and realize how big of a goofball I really am and leave me for a better man. Well, neither of those things happened, and here we are today, married for 25 years. I thought I would take this time to reflect on what I have learned so far on this journey through life we are making together.
- Make Christ the Center of Your Home. Faith is the glue that holds people together. I do not have the time to explain all that means, but let me say this: It has helped us to be on the same page in our decision making, parenting and goals. It has enabled us to practice forgiveness and grace when one of us needed it. It has helped us to move past materialism and egocentrism. Often our faith is unspoken, but every workday (5 days a week) for the last ten years, I hit my knees in my office and pray. My first prayer is for my wife and her safety, love, sanity, and work. I believe my prayers have helped both of us make it this far.
- Communication is King. There is no problem a couple cannot work through if they are willing to talk about it. Usually, I have seen this from the wrong side. A conflict comes, and I realize it is because we have not addressed it together. Always be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
- Love Languages are Real. Learn the way your spouse desires to be loved. This will open a whole world of joy for both of you. We tend to do for our spouse what we want to be done to us. This does not work. For me, this has meant learning to be physically affectionate outside of the bedroom. I rub her head, back, hands, and feet regularly. It has created a bond that I pray helps her to know how much I love her.
- Do the Right Thing. When we get mad at our spouse, the temptation is to withhold our kindness. You spoke mean to me, I will show you, and I will not pick up the dishes after dinner. This type of thinking does not work. Be proactive and love your spouse when they least deserve it. Be the type of person you would want to come home to each night.
- Don’t Give Up. Don’t Ever Give Up. While we never really talked about it, divorce has never been an option. In fact, in twenty-five years, I do not think that word has ever been said in our house. Even when I was a complete idiot, we never thought about separating. It has not always been easy, and the first twenty-five years may have been the hardest, but we are still here and still holding onto each other.
These are the biggest lessons I have seen in our relationship over the years. Maybe you have something to add. I wrote up a pretty long list of things I think have helped us like saying, “I love you” daily, doing little things for each other, and don’t go to bed angry. When the list was made, these five have been the biggest lessons I have learned, and I hope you find them helpful.