In May of this year my husband Dan and I marked our 41st wedding anniversary. This is a milestone that, for many different reasons, few couples are privileged to celebrate. I wonder sometimes why our marriage has endured when so many others have not. Here are some of the factors that have contributed, I believe, to the success of our marriage. Needless to say, the following is not based on scientific study and I do not claim to be an expert on the subject of marriage.
- Neither of us has died. Maybe this “reason” could have gone unstated, but because the death of a spouse is indeed one reason some marriages end prematurely, I wanted to mention it. For those people who have experienced this extreme sorrow, I feel tremendous sympathy.
- The odds were in our favor. Dan and I married three days after graduating from college. Neither of us had children or former spouses. We were of similar religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Both Dan’s parents and my parents had been married for a long time. Neither of us had any significant debt. We had been taught that marriage is for life and had been consistently urged to choose our mates wisely. We were healthy, educated and able and willing to work. We had the emotional support of both of our families.
- We have been lucky and/or blessed. This will be a difficult paragraph to script. Because Dan and I both believe in the divine providence of God, we want to give Him credit for all our successes and joys, and there have been many. On the other hand, we can cite many personal examples of couples, who in our estimation, also believe in the divine providence of God, want to give Him credit for their joys and accomplishments, and have enjoyed few. If we do not credit God for the fact that we have enjoyed such good fortune and avoided much bad fortune, should we credit luck? In either case, we have not suffered major illnesses, debilitating accidents, the tragic loss of a child, a devastating natural disaster, or financial calamity. We have not been victims of violent crime and have not experienced war firsthand. Our children have grown into functional, self-supporting adults. We have healthy grandchildren that we get to see often. We live in the greatest nation on earth. Marriages that experience this much good fortune certainly have better odds of success than marriages that do not.
- We have made some good decisions. We took our marriage vows seriously and dedicated our union to God from the outset. We have always been associated with a good church. We pray and try to live according to God’s principles. We study God’s Word and make it our authority in all things. Again, not every couple who has practiced these good habits has enjoyed a successful marriage. Neither of us has been unfaithful to the other, committed a serious crime, abused alcohol or drugs or racked up insurmountable debt. That is not to say that a marriage never survives such potentially home-wrecking offenses; some do, but many others do not.
- We have never considered not staying together. I am not perfect and neither is Dan. We do not belong in the ranks of Ward and June Cleaver, John and Olivia Walton, and Cliff and Claire Huxtable. Our problems never appeared and resolved within one hour’s time, nor did we face every challenge with a smile and a song. We have disagreed, argued, made mistakes, fallen down, cried and almost despaired of surviving some crises. We have also tried to live by the proverb: Get up, dress up, show up and never give up. Again, I am not faulting those couples who have not stayed together. We have lived long enough to see not only the ruin brought on by an unnecessary divorce but also the equal ruin that results when a man and woman remain together despite the fact that they positively hate each other. Fortunately, the decision that Dan and I have made to stay together has been a relatively easy one.
For those of you who, like us, have enjoyed a long and successful marriage, we advise you to count your blessings and keep on keeping on. For those who have endured the break-up of a marriage, we hope you will forgive yourself and your ex-spouse for any faults that you own, accept God’s forgiveness for all failures, and move forward with Him at the center of your life. If you are caught in a marriage that you know is broken and unhealthy for everyone involved, ask for help from a reputable Christian counselor.
If you are not married, please consider the positives that this long-married couple believes to have contributed to the longevity of our marriage. Give serious consideration to your odds of success from the very beginning, recognize that you and your spouse will inevitably share both joy and sadness, do your best to live a God-honoring lifestyle, and set your mind to staying the course.
“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.”–Jessica Glaser
“Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100 -100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got!”–DaveWillis.org