Marriage can be tough. After a while, the little things start to get to you – “Would you just stop that incessant breathing! In and out and in and out and…” (partial quote from some comedian I saw on TV)
My wife and I have been married for 18 years. We have four awesome kids and we are happy together. If you’ve been married longer than two weeks, you know that it has not been easy to keep a great marriage for as long as we have. There are many factors that contribute to a great marriage, but I want to tell you about one that helped us set our marriage up for success right from the start.
When we were first married, Jen and I sought out other young couples from our church with whom we formed a small group. We started meeting every week and became fast friends: reading books, hanging out, watching movies, having picnics, etc. We became the kind of friends who could call on each other in a pinch. When one husband was stuck out of town, the wife called my wife in the middle of the night to take her to the hospital to have her baby. Jen (my wife) stayed with her through the birth and took pictures for the proud parents to enjoy later. To this day, if I was in trouble or needed help, these folks would be on the short list of friends I know I could call, day or night, and they would drop everything to help.
After a few years, the couples started having kids, moving, and generally getting busier with life. We’ve kept in touch over the years. We get together as a group at least once or twice a year for a picnic and talk about old times, catch up on life, and marvel at how big our kids are now. We just had one of our picnics a couple weeks ago and it was the usual great time. It’s funny how our lives parallel each other’s in many ways. Our kids are similar ages, our extended families are going through the same life events, and we’ve all known other couples in our families or circles of friends that have gotten divorced.
Talking about our own marriages – which is a key to our success, by the way. Many couples don’t have anyone else with whom they can talk about marital issues, except their divorced friend who is happy to confirm what a jerk the husband is or how the wife just doesn’t understand the pressures men are under, yada, yada, yada.
So, talking about our own marriages, without really meaning to, we all agreed that we would definitely credit this group with helping us set our marriages up for success from the start. The patterns of relating that were formed in those early years of marriage were vital to our success. The intentionality of working on our marriages regularly was key. It’s simple when you think about it. If you want your body to stay healthy, you have to work at it. Very few people naturally have the perfect balance of sleep, food, exercise, and everything else to stay in shape without putting any effort into it. Unfortunately, many couples don’t view marriage that way. They think it should be like dating was – easy. But it’s not easy. It’s worth the work, though. And it beats the heck out of the alternative.
How are you setting your marriage up for success? If you’ve been successfully married for a long time, what tips do you have for others?