Today is my 24th wedding anniversary with the greatest love of my life. That is a lot of years! And I have learned a lot of lessons about life during that time. Not many marriages make it as long as we have. I think that is because a lot of people give up in stead of fight. Giving up is much easier. And many people were raised in broken homes without a proper marriage model in front of them. I do realize that this is not always the case. But think of how much easier it is to tough it out in a marriage when you’ve seen that modeled in front of you. So, thought I would just share a few insights I have gained in this relationship.
Don’t worry so much about yourself. No relationship – whether a marriage or a friendship – works in a healthy way if each person is only out for themselves and what they want. Learning this involves putting another person above yourself. Do we all want our way? Yes! Do we all think we are right? Yes! Do we like to be uncomfortable and stretched out of our comfort zone? No! Is it important to show the other person that we feel more about what they want than what we want? Absolutely! Love is about sacrifice. If a person isn’t willing to sacrifice anything (whether it’s their “way” or something material) then they can’t truly love. I Corinthians 13: 5 says that love “is not self-seeking”.
My spouse is not my enemy. This is a lesson we learned many years ago at a Family Life Weekend to Remember. It has been life changing for us. So many times we allow ourselves to “set a pick” (basketball term) against our spouse to block them from either something they might do to go against us or to block them emotionally. We have even said “You are not my enemy” many times over the years. It’s amazing how admitting that to them can bring down the fists and negate a fight that is on the verge of breaking out. If you have no enemy then there is nothing to fight. We are in this life together. We cannot live successfully if we are always trying to figure out which one is the enemy. There is no enemy.
Love is more than just a feeling…it is a choice. Have you ever been guilty of thinking (or saying) “we just fell out of love”? I have learned that love is a choice. Somedays I have had to remind myself that I DO love Ron. And somedays he has had to remind himself that he DOES love me. We may not feel it at the moment. But you know what, we can turn that around. How? By acting like we love each other! If you allow the distance between you to grow and expand and don’t try to close the gap then love can get farther and farther away. But if we make a conscious choice to do the things that people in love are supposed to do all of that can change. I may WANT to ignore him in the room but if I go sit by him and put my head on his shoulder, as someone in love would do, my thought process starts to change. So while it may be possible to fall out of love it is also possible to step back into it. It may be forced at first but eventually your heart follows and you find yourself loving them more than you ever have before.
Marriage takes work! Living with someone in a marriage partnership is not easy. Being responsible for the care of the heart of another person is sometimes a difficult task. Just like owning a car, you have to work at keeping it in working order. The day you take the keys is not the end of your role in partnership with that vehicle. It needs gas, oil, air in the tires and an occasional tune-up. If you don’t do any of those things then your car is not gonna last long. It takes effort to keep a car in working order just as it takes effort in keeping a marriage in working order. And it takes two people working to keep it in motion. Using the car analogy, it’s the car’s responsibility to “tell” you when it needs something. The gas gauge tells you it needs gas. The oil light comes on when it’s time to check the oil. The check engine light comes on when it’s time for a tune-up. Something starts knocking or squealing when something under the hood needs to be checked. You work as a team to keep the process in working order. It’s the same thing with a marriage. It takes both people to keep a relationship healthy. Never look at marriage counseling or marriage retreats as a sign of failure. They are actually signs of a very healthy relationship and a very smart couple.
There are so many other lessons I’ve learned in my amazing bond with my husband in 24 years of marriage. There are lessons to be learned every day. Our relationship is always changing and evolving. I have to change and evolve with it or things will get out of hand. It takes a big person to admit that at 44 years old they do not know everything and that they have things to learn. Chances are if you think you have the whole marriage thing figured out then you are probably further behind than you think. But I bet your spouse knows that. Ask them! But be ready to accept what they have to say. And be willing to do something about it and learn the lesson.