In September of 2014, my husband and I celebrated twenty-five years of marriage. Our two oldest daughters put together an evening of remembering.
Pictures. Songs. Friends. Children. Grandchildren. Parents.
…we, my husband and I, are one less parent now. Jay’s dad passed away a a year ago on a misty October morning surrounded by the family he started nearly fifty years ago. And we were all there. Grandchildren, great-grandchildren. A lot happens in fifty years.
Time goes by fast, doesn’t it? Something about December turning to January reminds us all that time is passing. On Christmas morning, I watched as my husband unwrapped his present from Mom—a watch that belonged to his dad. He spent the rest of evening cleaning and polishing it—and remembering.
For forty-nine years, dad stayed faithfully married to mom. My grandparents were married nearly sixty years. I can still see grandpa chasing grandma around the kitchen. Sadly, these kinds of marriages are fast becoming the “exception” and not the rule.
This generation struggles to do what Jay’s parents and my grandparents did—but somehow, we need to figure it out.
Times are surely not harder now than they were then. My grandparents struggled through infertility, the depression, loss and heartbreak. What set them apart? Commitment. Sexual fidelity. Longing and vision—a longing to create a legacy of love and a vision for how to get that done.
I want that longing in my own marriage. I want that vision. When we had three twenty-four-hour days right.in.a.row to just “be,” over our anniversary, I made a list of things that I believe have helped to get us to the twenty-five year mark. By God’s grace, we’ll make it to 50 beautiful years. That year will be beautiful. It will be 2039. And it will be here before we know it.
Good marriages don’t just happen. They’re built, nurtured and protected. They start with love and longing and make the distance through dedication and sticky resolve.
You’ve got what it takes. Be committed.
Twenty-five Ways to Stay Married for Twenty-Five Years
Take your vows seriously
We say our vows and kiss and people clap—but I wonder… do we know what we’re doing when we say “I do?” Probably not. A vow is meant to be forever… until death do us part. It better be serious if we even consider breaking a covenant like that. There are deal breakers, I get that–but “I’m just not happy” should not be one of them.
The battle lines were drawn the day we said “For better or worse.” Us against whatever may come. Expect the “worse” and hang on to the “better” when it comes.
Be the best reason to come home
I want my husband to think of me as the best reason to get off work early. I want him to know that a warm house and the president of his fan club is waiting for him. A respite. A warm embrace. A bowl of cereal or filet mignon is all the same when it’s served with love, grace and affection.
Date each other
Why do we stop doing this? Men: it’s not that hard to get a card for your wife or leave her a little note on the bathroom mirror. Wives still want to be asked out—husbands still want to know their wives desire them.
I have to force myself to laugh when money is tight and babies are crying and teenagers are demanding; but the reward is worth it. Life is hard. Laugh at the rain.
We start out dreaming—and when the dreams die, a little piece of ourselves die with it. Don’t stop dreaming. Create new dreams, set new goals. Begin again, together.
Don’t play emotional games
Enough said. Less Jersey Shore, ladies.
What would happen if we made the happiness of our spouse … first? A lot less divorces, I imagine.
Try new things
A few years ago, we became foodies—together. #truestory
Work it out
Look each other in the eyes and say the hard thing—with love. Work it out. Don’t take ANY advice from Washington. Compromise is essential in every successful relationship.
Let it go
“Frozen” is on to something. Just don’t slam the door as you turn away. Don’t hang on to hurt. Let it go. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Bitterness makes you the prisoner. Let it go.
Chase him around the bedroom
Hey. After 25 years, we’re realizing we are not going to stop the clock. Don’t waste time playing hard to get. NO REGRETS.
Love your own body
After seven children, my body looks like something out of a National Geographic magazine. That’s okay. My husband wants me to love my body—so that I can love him without embarrassment or shame. Those are our stretchmarks… his and mine. So I own them. They’re badges of honor… and reminders of a love we share and life well-lived.
As often as you can. The dinner hour is precious time to connect. Leave time for candles—even if you’re serving cold cereal.
Protect your time
Gardens that are not tended to die. Gardeners make time to garden. Give your marriage the time it needs and watch it flourish.
Compliment each other
Let me help you:
“I love the way you look in that color.”
“You look smokin’ hot today!”
“Baby, you are gonna turn a lot of heads today. Mine first.”
Don’t withhold sex from your spouse
Pat Benetar said it best: “Stop using sex as a weapon!” We were too young to understand that song when we first heard it but there comes a time when we figure it out.
You know how I feel about that. Yes. They’re all ours. They’ve made our lives richer and our days louder. Share the load and grow.
Why do we stop exploring? The same reason we stop dreaming. My grandparents were always up for an adventure—and we are, too.
See the bright side
Harder than it sounds when life knocks the breath out of you. Try.
Don’t give up
Too many marriages end because they give up just a day before the answer comes. If couples can survive the holocaust and the Great Depression, we can surely make it through financial setbacks, disappointing outcomes and bad days. I’d say my husband and I have made it through entire bad years. Not fun, but keep your eyes on what’s to come. Grandbabies are coming. Better days are coming. Don’t give up.
Tell the truth
Even when it hurts. Trust is not easily rebuilt.
Forgive each other
Seventy times seven.
Do things that make you both happy
When we were younger, we loved to go garage-saleing on Saturday mornings. Now, we like to sit in our bedroom with a cup of coffee on Saturday mornings and hope the kids sleep in just long enough for us to drink it while it’s hot. It makes us happy.
Your vows include fidelity. Nothing drains the life out of a marriage faster than adultery. (I put porn in that category.Women who share their husbands with the ghosts of other women are broken in a hundred different ways.) Save your bodies, all of your lives, only for each other.The culture has lied to you. It’s not “just sex.” It’s more than that. It’s the embodiment of all your hope, your trust, your deepest giving—in a sacred, beautiful gift.
“To have and to hold.”
Be faithful. Marriage is a beautiful, gut-wrenching, free-falling, faith-building adventure—and it’s worth it.
Heidi St. John