As of last week, it’s been 15 years since my wife and I got married. We were very young at the time, but we were crazy in love. There were a lot of people that thought we were making a huge mistake. In fact, several told us to our face that we would never make it. But here we are, 15 years later and still crazy about one another.
It’s easy to look at people that have been married a long time and think that they must have just lucked out. But I don’t think it’s about luck at all, it’s about work.
Now, if you’re divorced, I’m not saying that it’s your fault by any means. It takes TWO people to make a marriage work and not everyone is committed to that process. A lot of things can happen that are beyond your control. But I believe as long as there are two people actively involved in making it work, longevity in marriage can be yours!
So in honor of our 15 year anniversary, I’m giving you just 15 (out of many) things I’ve learned over the years. I believe that if you start applying these, your marriage will be better because of it.
1. Let the little things go
Once, in our first year of marriage, I blew up at my wife because she had bought a new tube of toothpaste when we still had plenty left in our current one! Can you believe the audacity of some people!? In hindsight it’s a funny story, but I’ve had to learn over the years that some things are worth standing your ground on and other things are not. Pick your battles wisely, and always let the little things go.
2. Sorry! It’s not just a board game
This may come as a big shock to you but NO ONE is right all the time……. Not even you! So when you’re wrong, just admit that you’re wrong. I was fortunate to grow up with a dad that taught me this lesson early in life, but I realize it’s a difficult lesson for a lot of people. The quicker you learn it, though, the better off you will be. When you’re wrong, apologize quickly (not 10 days later) and move on!
3. Learn to Listen
If your spouse is talking, you should pause what you are doing and listen. Remember, if it is important to them, it should be important to you!
Side note: Guys you don’t have to fix everything. I know it’s in our nature, but sometimes she just wants someone to listen without offering a solution.
4. Flowers aren’t just for anniversaries
Every time I buy my wife flowers I get asked two questions. The first is usually, “What did you do wrong?” Followed by, “Is it your anniversary?” This tells me that most men only buy flowers on one or both of these occasions. I’m not saying it has to be an every week thing, but I will say it should be more than once or twice a year.
Side note: Chocolate is a great substitute for flowers.
5. Sex is important
I can’t talk about healthy marriages and not talk about sex. I won’t tell you to have sex “X” amount of times a week, but I will say that you should have sex with your spouse as much as possible! Sex is way more than an action. It connects you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That’s the way God created it. I’ve counseled a lot of married couples as a pastor and I’ve NEVER had a couple come in on the verge of divorce and say they had a good sex life….. NEVER! Most of the time, couples with struggling marriages have bad sex lives. That’s why my motto is “SEX…. JUST DO IT!”
6. Talk about your dreams.
Remember when you first got married you would tell each other everything that you want to accomplish in life? When you would share about the things that excited you? Remember how great those conversations were? Why did you stop talking about your dreams? Marriage is a wonderful thing because 2 people working on a dream together can accomplish way more than 1 person working alone. Never stop talking about your dreams!
7. Write down your feelings.
Love notes are still a great way to show how much you care. It allows you to express how you really feel and writing it down will mean more than you realize.
8. Never, ever say divorce!
The bible says, “We are snared by the words of our mouth”. In other words, you get what you say. A good marriage is built on trust. How can your spouse trust someone that threatens to leave every time there’s an argument? If you’ve said this, STOP IT! Go do step 2 and move on.
9. Let go of the past
Stop holding a grudge because of something your spouse said or did last week, last month, or last year! Don’t bring up old arguments. Forget about the past and you’ll have a much happier future.
10. Kiss as much as you can
Kiss everywhere. At the movies, in the car, in front of the kids. (Don’t gross people out in public either, though. A peck goes a long way!) I think our world needs to see more couples that are in love.
Side note: My grandparents are in their 80’s and have been married 60+ years. To this day they still French kiss all the time! Seems to be working well for them!
11. Learn to keep your mouth shut
You shouldn’t say everything you think. Especially in an argument! Most of the time, the wisest thing you can do is to walk away and cool off so you don’t say something you can’t take back. If you do mess up though, do step 2, learn from your mistake, and move on.
12. Date nights are a must
You should go on a date at least every other week. No kids, no emails, no text (except emergencies), no Facebook, no cell phone. Just the two of you talking face to face. I know this seems crazy! But trust me when I tell you that shutting out the world and focusing on your spouse is a game changer.
13. Be each other’s biggest cheerleaders
We get ridiculed and beat up enough by the world. Do your best to make your home a place of encouragement and a place that is life giving.
14. Honeymoon yearly
Take at least one overnight trip together a year, JUST the two of you. If you can only afford 1 night at a hotel, then do that. If you can’t afford a hotel, go camping. If you can’t afford a tent, borrow one! Just get away and reconnect with one another.
15. Never stop doing what you did to get your spouse in the first place
Pursuing your significant other shouldn’t end when you say I do. In fact, you should get better at the pursuit as time goes on. Each year I learn more of my wife’s likes and dislikes so every year I get a little better at pursuing her than I was the year before. If you want to rekindle that old flame you used to have, start doing some of the things you used to do.
I know too many couples that give up pursuing one another. They are stuck in dull and loveless marriages. Some will stay together simply because they said “until death do us part” and to them, marriage has become a contractual obligation. But God wants our marriages to be full of joy, love, laughter, and excitement! I believe your marriage can and should get better every year. I’m writing this 15 years in. And if marriage gets better than this… I can’t wait to see what 30 years together will look like!
-Pastor Bryan Sparks