It wasn’t long ago my parents also had their 60th wedding anniversary. We had a party for them and invited all the family and friends. It was a glorious event because nowadays marriage is, as Mary Poppins puts it, “a pie crust promise, made to be broken.”
Couples who stay together are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Love is a many-splendored thing until the first fight. Then it’s a goodbye-and-see-you-in-court proposition.
Reg and I have been married for 24 years and it has not been a picnic on the beach. We have had our struggles. I was set in my ways when we got married. I thought I was right about everything. I had been for 38 years. Of course it was a one-sided opinion.
I didn’t have anyone to challenge me. Roommates came and went. Co-workers were only there eight hours a day and I had read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I thought I was the great communicator.
Well, being thrown into a family of teenagers and a husband 24/7 was a shock to my system. I found myself resorting to some pretty barbaric means to get what I wanted.
Yelling, threatening and throwing temper tantrums were certainly not the Christian behaviors I expected of myself. I cried rivers of tears because I was not the kind of person I wanted to be.
I could feel my inadequacies and I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know how to change because I knew I was right and everything would work if everything went my way.
Selfish blinders, that’s what I wore. Back then I didn’t know that other people had different world views and they, too, could be correct. There was more than one way to solve a problem and it didn’t have to be my way. Years of marriage taught me that.
Reg didn’t know what to do with me. He knew his children and he knew he was right. The power struggle was tremendous but he was forgiving and loving. He had just lost his wife to cancer and the loss was still an open wound.
We could have called it quits. We could have both gone back to the life we had known before, but there was the eternal commitment that we had made. We had promised to love and care for each other forever.
We were both people of integrity. We could not go back on a promise. That was worse than the contention.
People of today would advise us to separate for the children’s sake. What kinds of behavior are the children learning? What scars will they carry because they watched their parents disagree and argue?
It is interesting – our children, who grew up in that environment, are all happily married and get along wonderfully with their spouses. Maybe they made that commitment not to argue because they saw us argue.
Maybe they learned how to disagree without being disagreeable. I hope they observed some of that as I grew into my ability to communicate with Reg.
Had we followed the advice to separate, the story of each of the children would have been written differently. They would have had a built-in excuse to cut and run when things got tough. Because they don’t have an excuse, they work it out.
Of course, there are times when divorce is necessary for the sake of the children, when one spouse is abusive or unfaithful. Those are the things that destroy children and are generational.
Parents set a pattern and children follow. There are other times when one spouse walks out and refuses to keep commitments. Then there is nothing to be done but find someone with more integrity.
Over the years, I have learned some principles about marriage. I will share them in the form of commandments just for fun.
Ten commandments of a lasting marriage
1. Put the Lord first in your marriage. Put your spouse in second place only to the Lord.
If you put the Lord first, you will always have your priorities straight. He will temper your desires and passions and will fill you with compassion. You will be able to see life from your spouse’s point of view. Will everything be perfect?
No. Your spouse might not give as much as you do, or you might not be able to understand why he or she acts in a certain way, but you will have the desire to understand and work it out.
Selfishness is a killer in marriage. Only prayer can help you overcome selfishness.
2. Don’t let any person, device, machine, game or hobby take more time than the family.
There are so many distractions these days. We have television, Internet, games, movies, cell phones and gadgets that take our time. Most of them are individual entertainments. We can be totally alone in the midst of a crowd.
Marriage is a partnership, not a solo flight. It takes effort but try to include your spouse in your pursuits. Build memories together. After all, your spouse is your best friend and will be with you to your last day. You want him or her beside you, not a stranger dressed in medical attire.
3. Don’t call your spouse derogatory names, even in jest or gossip behind his or her back.
It is easy to get angry at your spouse and weep on the shoulder of a friend, but there is a price to pay when you do that. Your friend is apt to give you the wrong advice and destroy your marriage.
He or she might not keep your problems confidential and then your dirty laundry is all over town. Even your intimate moments should be kept between husband and wife. What happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom. Some things should always be sacred.
The act of inviting God’s children into the world is a sacred act whether you are intending to have children or just expressing love. Make your spouse your hero or heroine. You will be surprised how he or she will act the part.
4. Take one day a week to have a date away from everyone else.
Labor equally. Selfishness always has a measuring stick to make sure the scales of labor and love are equal. Compassion and true love never use a measuring stick.
They simply give and give to make sure others are not giving too much. Consider that when you are making comparisons to your spouse.
It is funny how what you give always comes back pressed down and overflowing. Maybe not today but, someday, every good deed will be rewarded.
5. Honor the in-laws on both sides, but don’t let them come between you.
It is easy to run to Mom or Dad to solve your problems. No matter how wonderful they are, they can get in the way of working out your own marital difficulties. That is not to say, “Don’t ask advice.” Just make sure you and your spouse make the final decision together.
6. Physical or emotional abuse is off limits.
Hurtful words and physical abuse have no place in a marriage. I have learned that if you can’t be persuasive in a calm way, probably you are pushing a selfish agenda or you haven’t taken time to talk it over with the Lord.
Take a break and try to wear the other person’s shoes for a while. Pray for a soft heart and the gift of discernment and understanding.
7. Do not commit adultery or do anything like unto it.
Adultery is a thing of the heart, not just a physical act. Remember that when you are at a convention or in front of a magazine or computer.
8. Do not steal the other’s time or money.
Agree on how you will spend your time and money. Make sure the price you pay in time and money is worth it.
9. Tell your spouse the truth.
Trust is vital to a marriage. One lie can destroy trust forever. Let your spouse know your plans and call if plans change.
10. Be grateful for what you have.
Don’t let keeping up with the Joneses be a point of contention. Take stock often of what you have and only once in a while look at what you need. You will be surprise at how much the Joneses have that they don’t need and you won’t either. PD