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How To Stay Married 36 Years

Thirty-six years ago today I married my best friend. It has been a wonderland adventure I could never have dreamed up on my on.

We are serving together in Pachuca, Mexico, today with friends from Legacy Church, and I can't think of a better anniversary celebration because it represents so much of our lives together.

Here are some things I've learned over these years that may help you out, too.

1. Marry your best friend. This seems like a trite phrase, but Kim was my friend before she was my wife. This friendship was deepened by marriage vows and is a foundation upon which we build our lives. When your spouse is your best friend, shared interests, laughter, and a desire to be together grows deeper each year. Romance follows the fun. You don't have to manufacture romance if you are doing life together. Also, accountability is easy with a friend. It's simply letting someone you care for to have the confidence you go where you say you are going and  you are with whom you say you will be. If you didn't marry your best friend, start acting like friends. You enjoyed being together when you got married.

2. Worship and serve together.  Kim and I had committed our lives to following Jesus before we committed ourselves to each other. Jesus is her Leader and Rescuer, and He is mine. Together our devotion to God through worship and service to his call on our lives individually and as a couple knits our hearts and lives together. My ministry in the local church is her ministry, and her "ministry" in the public school is mine. Shared worship also gives us the courage to face whatever life may bring because you learn to trust God in the middle of it all.

3. Allow your spouse to be a person. One of my first attractions to Kim was that she was her own person. She had opinions, interests, talents, friends, and a purpose in life. When we married, she kept those things, and she allowed me to have mine. The key to a lasting marriage is two people who are interdependent; neither independent of the other nor dependent on the other. God created a wonderfully, unique person in Kim. Her uniqueness is a mirror that exposes my sin but shows my strengths. God has used her to make me more godly that I would be on my own, and she has motivated me to do more than I would do on my own. Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage may be on to something.

4. Allow your spouse to have friends and interests outside your marriage. Kim and I have couples who are our friends, but many of those came from our pursuit of interests or from our ministries outside our marriage. I cycle and run, Kim does not; but, many of those I have met through those pursuits are our shared friends now. Kim is immersed in her calling as a teacher. Her involvement in the lives of her students by attending sporting events, plays, and concerts outside the classroom have led to friendships we now share together. We both also have friends who the other does not spend that much time with. We know all about them, but we don't spend the same amount of time with them. I learn much about Kim by the friends she has other than me.

5. Laugh, Pray, Love. Life is brutal. A sense of humor, which comes from knowing the ultimate punch line of life (God reigns.), is a necessity to make it through the gauntlet. Laughing about our mistakes and faults is the best jokes we can tell! Praying together knits your hearts together and gives you God's perspective on everything. And, love as modeled by Jesus and described in the Bible (1 Cor. 13:4-8, in particular) is how we are to serve one another and others.

6. Family is built on your marriage. Children happen in most marriages. They can become the glue that holds a marriage together, or, they can become the new devotion of one or both spouses. God blessed us with the two most wonderful daughters on the planet (and now the two most wonderful grandchildren), but I always told them--especially when there was conflict between them and their mother--"I loved your mother first, and after you grow up and have your family, I will still be with her." That confession said that our family was built upon and remain because of our marriage, not because children came along. My girls know they are loved partly because they know I love my wife.

I could write more, (especially about my wonderful daughters) but these are my thoughts this morning. I am the most blessed man by God because he led me to my best friend who became my wife. I pray that can be your confession today, too.