This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. We actually met and dated for two years prior to getting married, so we were really celebrating 25 years together. For two people in their early forties, that means we have been together for more of our lives than we were ever apart. That’s nearly sixty percent of our lives that we’ve been together.
In a culture these days where commitment and marriage are not always cherished, we have been asked what the secret is to staying together a long time. I don’t have a magic answer. I can only point to the Heavens and give credit to the big man upstairs. Lord knows there have been plenty of times when I wanted to strangle my husband (and vice versa, I’m sure.) We don’t live in the lap of luxury so we have struggled and clawed our way out of the pit many times, but somehow we have always done it together. When the going has gotten rough, sometimes we have been the only reason the other one survived. I can’t imagine having lived this crazy life with anyone else!
As I reflected on our life together Sunday night, I was reminded of the song we had sung at our wedding. The younger sister of Larry’s best man sang Steven Curtis Chapman’s “I Will Be Here” while we gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes. The song says “I will be here, when you feel like being quiet, when you need to speak your mind, I will listen. And I will be here, when the laughter turns to crying, through the winning, losing and trying, we’ll be together. I will be here.” As cheesy as the lyrics might be, it has been so true for us. We have lived through some tremendous heartache over the years. I won’t even attempt to make a list here, but we have survived things that sometimes pull a couple apart, and somehow we made it through stronger than before.
One piece of advice and one resource I consistently point people to in regard to a successful marriage is Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages.” In it, the author explains five specific ways (or languages) that people tend to show love to others. The trouble is everyone receives love differently. We all need different things to feel most accepted, respected and cared for. For example, my husband’s method of showing me love might be buying gifts. However, while that’s nice, it’s not the best way to make me feel loved and appreciated. The book helps you to understand the five different love languages and figure out which one fits your spouse so that you can be intentional about giving them love in the way they need it most. It was truly a life-changing book for me. We read it years ago and have been diligent about trying to put it into practice ever since.
While I will never claim to have all the answers or to know any special tricks that will work for everyone, I do know one thing for sure. In this world, only a few things are solid, firm and never changing. We all look for those things as we walk through life, searching for the things we can grasp hold of and really cling to when things are tough. For me, those things are God and family. That’s all that I had coming into this world and they are the only things I will have when I leave it. While friends are unbelievable blessings and my career fulfills me, ultimately the only things that won’t change with the seasons of life are the faith I hang onto and the family that surrounds me. So hold tight to those things. Spend all your extra time feeding those parts of your life. Spend time on it. Read, pray, nurture those relationships. Don’t let the winds that blow knock you over and take you away from the only things that really matter.