Forty years! That’s a long time to be married! Especially since it seems not so long ago that we shared our vows together before family and friends. But forty years have come and gone, and what an unexpected ride we have had! Two of our three children were born with special needs, and have preceded us to heaven…little Kristie after just three years on earth, and Bradley after 18 years. How we loved them (and still do)!. And Ricky, our other child, lives close by with our daughter-in-law, Emily, and we love them too.
Mike and I took a little camping trip for our 40th, and one thing we did was to read part of our family journal. Every once in a while, for many years, when we had an especially nice time together or just wanted to record an “everyday day”, one of us, either Mike or I, or one of the boys, would write in the journal. As Mike and I read many years later, we realized all over again that we’ve had a happy life, a really happy life, that we wouldn’t trade for anything, and the writings in the journal prove it.
But we’ve also had a hard life, which is probably true of everyone in one sense or another. And I thought I would write some thoughts about what we have learned about marriage these forty years. At the end, I’ll share some photos from our 4oth anniversary camping trip…nothing fancy but we liked it a lot.
Some Reflections on Marriage
It may seem odd to start with such a negative, but it is my opinion that conflict is not only probably the most common element of each day of marriage, but it can also, with a lot of hard work, be the most unifying. I don’t know what goes on in your house, but I’m guessing that since we are all made of basically the same “stuff” that in all marriages there are two distinct persons seeking to run a kind of three legged race together. One is faster, one slower, one is pulling this way, and the other that way. There are two different styles often showing themselves to be completely opposite of each other. To compound the conflict potential, in spite of current thought on the subject, men and women really are different from each other. And guess what? God made it that way.
Granted, some people are by nature more easy-going than others, and the conflict potential is then lessened. But it is my observation that at least some who seem to be easy-going are in reality “stuffers.” That is, instead of communicating about their frustrations to their spouse, or even making their desires known, they stuff it all, deep inside. The result? Well it comes in many forms. For example, the wife who, when she gets together with girl friends, can’t seem to stop verbalizing all of her husband’s faults to the unsuspecting listener, who really doesn’t want to hear about it! Or maybe it shows itself by the couple who live under the same roof, but make every effort to live completely separate lives.
What is the solution? The hard, hard work of communicating, not to a friend, not even to a counselor (I’m not suggesting there is never a place for those things) but directly to each other. How often? Often! Amazingly often.
I will warn the husband (once in a while it’s the wife, but most often the husband) who during times of so-called communication, intimidates his spouse by being over-bearing and threatening. The warning is this: you may think you have won, but you have lost. Your wife’s heart will drift further and further from you and your intimidating ways, and before you know it, she won’t be able to stand the sight of you. I know because I listen to women who talk about it. They feel smothered and trapped. Communication is a two-way street, and when it is not, bad things result.
Perhaps the opposite of intimidation is clamming up for no good reason, just being unwilling to open up and talk. That can be just as cruel as intimidation.
But assuming that both partners are willing to sit down and listen and share their hearts until they understand each other, this is the biggest key to a happy, thriving marriage. And don’t forget to get on your knees together and communicate with the One who can bring your hearts together like none other. Do this every day, and you will see hard hearts become soft, loving hearts, because only He can touch a heart in this way.
Have Fun, Laugh, and Be a Good Friend:
On the more positive side, what we have learned in 40 years, is the importance of having fun, laughing, and being each other’s best friend. Certainly, it is a somber, even depressing world, and getting more so all the time. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t demonstrate the joy of the Lord, especially when we hang out together. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends to each other, praying for each other, showing concern, and doing some fun things together regularly.
We have an “encouragement board” in our dining room, a white board where we leave encouraging Scripture for the other person to find when they get up in the morning. Sometimes we leave funny pictures, but mostly Scripture…because nothing encourages like God’s Word.
Don’t watch too much of the news. There is a deliberate effort, be it by men or spiritual beings, to rob us of joy and show us in vivid living color all the horrible things that go on in the world. Yes, we need to be informed, but glance at the news, and gaze at the beautiful things this life has to offer: nature; loving relationships; kind neighbors; fulfilling hobbies ( Mike is taking an Online guitar class which is fabulous and I have gotten my sewing machine out where it is handy to make fun things for us and for others), and fulfilling work; positive times with family; colorful, healthy food; and so many other things that we can enjoy together with grateful hearts. Enjoying the good things of life together makes for a strong marriage. Mike and I are in our 60’s and aches and pains seem to be multiplying, but we try not to focus too much on our not-so-youthful bodies, even though I admit, that gets harder with age!
Below are a few photos of our anniversary campout at Sylvan Lake. We had never been there, so it was a shot in the dark, but turned out to be lovely. The nearby town of Eagle was enchanting! Tall green grass, with idyllic-looking farms, horses grazing, rivers rushing and streams meandering. Blue sky, puffy clouds.
We met so many people at the campground! All were Coloradans except one guy from New Jersey! We met Colorado people from Littleton, Grand Junction, Evergreen, Louisville (near Boulder), Leadville, Parker, Monument. Something about being out in nature brings out the best in people, have you noticed that?
In conclusion, marriage is indeed hard work. I have touched on just a couple parts of it; I could have shared a hundred. I think the most important aspect of a good, lasting, happy marriage is summed up in what Ruth Bell Graham said about it: “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”