26 years ago I said "I do" to Kurt. 26 years. Many adventures.
The weekend before we married God gave me this passage to base our marriage on: 1 Peter 3:8-9.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
And here is some of what I've learned:
1. Marriage is a commitment. And it is worth the commitment.
Love is not a feeling. Feelings wax and wane, but true love stays committed - walking in patience, kindness, humbleness, not being rude or insisting on your own way, letting go of resentments, not being irritable, not rejoicing in wrong but rejoicing in truth. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
All this requires a tender heart, brotherly love, sympathy, and a willingness to bless rather than tear down.
2. Marriages cycle through growth times, through romance, disillusionment, and mature love.
Growing into likeness with Christ is a lifetime process. Same with marriage. It grows and changes. Love matures.
3. Show Interest
Pay attention to what your spouse says. Did they mention something they'd like or desire? Try to obtain or make that for them.
4. Show Affection
Hold hands, leave little "I appreciate you" notes in his clothing or lunch.
5. Show you care and are concerned
Don't think about what you want to say. Be fully engaged in what your spouse is saying. Listen well.
7. Be Accepting
I may not always agree with my spouse but I can try to listen well and hear what he is saying. As in all of life, there is an ongoing learning curve in that regard.
8. Lighten Up
Don't take everything so serious. Kurt's been great at helping me see the lighter side of life.
9. Aim at blessing, building up, encouraging
This is a Biblical mandate. (Genesis 1; Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:11 just to name a few)
John Gottman, author of many books on marriage has listed out these principles to keep marriage alive and growing:
1. Enhance your love map.
Emotionally intelligent couples keep updating their information as their spouse's world changes.
2. Nurture fondness and admiration.
Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a long-lasting romance. Without the belief that your spouse is worthy of honor and respect, where is the basis for a rewarding relationship? This ties in with the mandate in 1 Peter 3 to bless and love.
3. Turn toward each other
Turning toward is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life.
4. Let your partner influence you
"The happiest, most stable marriages are those in which the husband treats his wife with respect and does not resist power sharing and decision making with her. When the couple disagrees, these husbands actively search for common ground rather than insisting on getting their way. It's just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect. But our data indicate that the vast majority of wives - even in unstable marriages - already do that. Too often men do not return the favor" (John Gottman).
5. Solve your solvable problems
Complain but don't criticize or attack your spouse. State your feelings without blame, and express a positive need (what you want, not what you don't want). Make statements that start with "I" instead of "you." Describe what is happening; don't evaluate or judge. Be clear. Be polite. Be appreciative. Don't store things up.
Learn to make and receive repair attempts: De-escalate the tension and pull out of a downward cycle of negativity by asking for a break, sharing what you are feeling, apologizing, or expressing appreciation. "Rupture and repair" as a marital counselor we saw describes it.
6. Create shared meaning
Marriage can have an intentional sense of shared purpose, meaning, family values, and cultural legacy that forms a shared inner life. Each couple and each family creates its own micro culture with customs (like Sunday dinner out), rituals, and myths - the stories the couple tells themselves that explain their marriage. This culture incorporates both of their dreams, and it is flexible enough to change as husband and wife grow and develop. When a marriage has this shared sense of meaning, conflict is less intense and perpetual problems are unlikely to lead to gridlock.
These principles are gleaned from John Gottman's books Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver, Three Rivers Press, 1999; and Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How To Make Yours Last, by John M. Gottman, Ph.D., Simon Schuster, 1995.
Another book I highly recommend for couples is Sue Johnson's book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Little, Brown and Company, 2008.
Martin Luther stated, "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing" and I dare say that a marriage not based on Christ and undergirded with constant prayer will falter.
Focus on the all-sufficiency of Christ rather than the insufficiency of one's spouse.
We are still learning. All healthy marriages experience change and transition. That's what keeps them alive and growing.
I'm thankful for Kurt and glad to be on this life adventure with him; thankful for our children, our life on the mission field, all the ups and downs. He is a blessing.