Eighty years of marriage… that’s a lot! That’s the total number of years that my brother and his wife and Tammy and I celebrated in 2022. Thirty-eight years for my brother Mike and Julie and 42 for Tammy and I.
Tammy and I weren’t blessed with children, but we’ve been blessed with a great marriage. There are many keys to a great marriage. In this article I’ll share just 5 of them:
- Be good friends. My wife and I just flat out enjoy spending time together, and laughter has gotten us through some very hard times. Quality time together is each of our number one love languages. (Practical tip: Read or listen to Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages”.) We enjoy doing things together, whether it is a nice vacation destination, going to the movies, binge-watching a favorite television program or reading good books on our patio. It’s important to be good friends as parents as well. I know of too many couples who once they are “empty nesters” don’t know what to do because their relationship was primarily as parents to their children.
- Enjoy the interests of the other. Part of being good friends is learning to enjoy the interests of your spouse. There is certainly a need to compromise here. Tammy will often remind me that when we were dating she sat behind the stage for a Bob Dylan concert at the old Chicago Stadium. Now that is true love! I’ve gone to my share of craft shows and Tammy has gone to her share of sporting events and concerts that if it wasn’t for the other person we would never have gone to.
- Be like minded in your faith. When we got married I was Roman Catholic and Tammy was Protestant. We would go to Tammy’s church one week and mine the next. It was what we did, and it was the best we could do at the time, but it wasn’t great. There was certainly tension. Ideally, you would like the husband to be the spiritual leader of the family. Quite the responsibility! (Practical tip: set aside time to read the Bible or a daily devotional together; praying together is lovely also.)
- Learn how to handle disagreements. We will admit that neither of us were very good at this early in our marriage. Tammy tended to pursue me (because she needed to get a quick resolution), at times using sarcasm, while I tended to withdraw. This would only escalate things between us; hence we had some ugly arguments. It was only when we began to respect each other, not escalate the disagreement, hang in there and not withdraw that we were able to effectively handle disagreements. If the person that wants to withdraw will tell the other person ‘give me 30 minutes alone to calm down and then we’ll discuss it’, that will go a long way in deescalating things. Also, choosing to speak respectfully to each other (no sarcasm or name calling!) is huge. (Practical tips from Tammy: Men desire respect even more than love – Ask for their opinions and input and thank them for what they advise and do. I’ve seen so many young dads carrying a backpack, a small baby or child in front and then a diaper bag too. Dads, thanks for what you do! We don’t want to take you for granted. Also, if you have something that’s bugging you, wives, please tell them kindly and respectfully. Men are usually fixers and can’t fix what they don’t know about – don’t just give them the silent treatment. Be practical; men aren’t great at guessing what you’re mad at or just being a listening ear – they want to fix the problem. If you need a shoulder to cry on or to listen to all the details of how someone hurt your feelings, call your girlfriend.)
- Manage money well and in unity. In a marriage there is often a spender and a saver, or as Dave Ramsey calls them a free spirit and a nerd. I’ll admit that I was the spender. More than once we received budget books as a Christmas gift from Tammy’s parents, but it wasn’t until I started listening to Dave Ramsey that I got it. Until then, my undisciplined spending had caused problems for us. We each then began getting a small allowance each paycheck to spend on what we wanted. We also led two sessions of Dave’s Financial Peace University at our church and saw the impact it had on those who attended.
I started this article by stating that there are many keys to a great marriage. These are just 5 of them. What others would you add to this list?