Andrea Tabler has a happy marriage, and she wants you to know how to have one, too. Read more from Andrea on her blog, Tabler Party of Two.
Recently the love of my life and I celebrated 28 years of marriage. How can this be? We still feel like we are in our twenties. But, no, it’s our children who are in their twenties. That puts 28 years in perspective. Together we’ve raised two boys, adults now, with great careers and loving, beautiful (inside and out) brides. Patrick and Shandi have been married for two years. Trevor and Rachel just two months. What values do we hope we’ve passed along?
A generation ago, 28 years wouldn’t seem like a big deal. Most couples made it that long. These days? Not so much. So today I’ve been pondering what has made our marriage a lasting one. Because we’ll be the first to tell you, it hasn’t always been great. By a long shot. Like every married couple, we’ve experience HUGE disappointments in each other. There have been nights we went to bed not really liking each other. We heartily disagreed on some parenting issues, and we’ve had seasons in which we did not feel very connected.
But through it all, we put Christ in the center. We made a commitment on that altar 28 years ago to God as well as to each other. So when things were rough, even when we thought we couldn’t persevere, we honored that commitment to our Lord, despite how we felt about each other.
I realize that many of you reading this have experienced divorce despite your very best efforts to have a successful marriage. I’m not casting any judgment your way. I know that divorce is heart-breaking, and I’m so sorry for your pain. I don’t claim to have all the answers to having a successful, long-lasting marriage. But I do have a few thoughts that I’d like share with our children, and with you. Things that have kept our marriage strong. Some of these keys have been evident in our marriage for many, many years. Others we grew to value as we matured. Thank goodness!
10 KEYS TO A LASTING MARRIAGE
1. Don’t Avoid Conflict
I’ll be honest. Tom is much better at this than I am. I’m so thankful my partner isn’t willing to sweep difficult subjects under the rug. He refuses. I don’t always like it when we have to address the tough stuff, but I know in my heart that it’s imperative. Because what gets swept under the rug isn’t forgotten. It festers and reeks; it taints and poisons relationships. But when it’s brought into the light of day, it has no power. We eventually toss it right out of our lives because we deal with head on.
2. Don’t Pick at Each Other
I think it’s human nature to want to point out the faults in our spouse. I’m pretty sure that after the first lovey-dovey year of marriage, I spent the next 15 or so trying to change things that bothered me about Tom. Sort of picking at him, nagging him. But, ya know, that’s just a losing battle! I don’t think my picking or nagging ever changed a single behavior in my husband. That’s not to say we don’t change and grow together. We have. But that’s different than trying to change your spouse and his or her habits.These days, I try to overlook the little things he does differently than I do. And he does the same for me. When I’m tempted to point out his faults, I try to instead focus on my own.
3. Choose the Best Timing for Hard Conversations
I figured out long, long ago that if we had to discuss something that, let’s say, doesn’t promise to be fun, then it’s best to carefully choose my timing. Even though I may be tempted to discuss over dinner after Tom has had a hard day at work, I wait. I wait for the opportunity to talk when we are both relaxed and not pre-occupied. No need to have life’s other burdens affect the hard conversation at hand.
4. If It’s Important to You, Just Do It
This seems like a no-brainer, but it took us years to figure this out. If I am a stickler for spotless kitchen counters but he is not, then I just make keeping them clean my job. If he values having extremely clean cars more than I do, then he takes that responsibility. Trust me, this is a far better solution than the alternative of griping and nagging your spouse.
5. Don’t Leave the House Angry
This has been something sacred in our marriage. In times of conflict, we have a no-storming-away-in-the-car policy. Sometimes we have needed a time for “cooling off” before we continued a discussion. But that can be done in a different room. Neither of us has ever watched the other drive away angry, wondering where they were going or when they would return. There is security in knowing that this is simply something we don’t do in our marriage.
6. Have Fun Together
I’m blessed to be married to a man who prioritizes fun. And I’m not talking about big, fancy vacations (though those are nice!). Tom makes fun a priority in the little things. He loves enjoying activities together, even if it’s just sitting by the pool with a nice beverage or taking the dogs for a walk. When our kids were young, we wouldn’t just watch a movie at home. He’d buy Coke, popcorn and movie theatre candy. Over dinner he regularly asked the kids for their top 5 things that happened that day. The best way to describe the “fun” I’m referring to is this: putting in a little extra effort to make ordinary activities a bit more special and memorable. I love this about my husband!
7. Dream Together
Every January we go out for a special dinner, talk about the highlights of our last year and discuss our dreams for the coming year and after. Some of our dreams become reality and some don’t. Sometimes we have the same dreams and desires, other times they differ. But we encourage the passions of each other and we have fun dreaming about what the future looks like.
8. Build Each Other Up
Tom and I have always built each other up. Encouraged each other. Celebrated each other’s wins. He’s my biggest fan, and I am his. When I’m excited about something, I become ridiculously single-minded, focused and passionate. He never says things like, “That’ll never happen” or “I don’t see why that’s important to you.” He may not share my passion, but he encourages mine. This makes me feel confident, secure and loved.
9. Live in Authentic Community with Others
When Tom and I were young, we walked through a really difficult season in marriage together. And we walked it alone. Even though we were in a small group at our church, we kept our problems to ourselves. I think it was pride. Did we really want to admit to the other couples who seemed to have perfect marriages that ours just wasn’t? So we walked through it in isolation, and the struggles took years to heal. We weren’t meant to live life alone. God puts a few people in each of our lives for the purpose of being real with each other. When we began to live in authentic community with others, we realized that they were there to cheer us on and support us through difficulties. We also realized that those other marriages are far from perfection themselves. Every marriage will have to weather some storms, both big and small. Knowing we’re not alone, knowing we are prayed for by a few very dear friends… it’s powerful. God has used other couples in ways I could never have fathomed, and for that I’m so grateful!
10. Prioritize Finding Activities You Enjoy Together
Now that we are empty nesters, this value is paying off in dividends. We sowed the seeds of finding things to do together long before the boys left the nest. This is so important! If the only thing you do together is watch T.V., then your empty nest season is going to be LONG. And lonely. If you are still raising your kids, find activities now that you both enjoy. Make those activities a priority. Then, when the kids leave home, you’ll already have a routine of spending time together doing something you love.