Today Alan and I are celebrating 30 years of marriage. How can that be? Yes, I know, we were very young when we were married – just look at this picture! Well, we weren’t that young – 25 and 28 precisely (and I’m not saying who was what!). But we were naive. We were in love and we knew we wanted to commit the rest of our lives to each other – but we didn’t know much more than that. I am conscious that, as we celebrate 30 years of marriage, we have one daughter getting married later this week and the other daughter getting married next year. What do I wish someone had told us as we were setting out on married life?
(1) Start as you mean to go on. The habits you form in the first year of marriage will be the foundation for the rest of your married life. We were far too busy in our first year and didn’t have enough time alone – something we had to catch up on later on.
(2) Be a good lover. Sounds obvious – but none of us are born good lovers. We have to learn how to love well. And i don’t just mean in the bedroom. Sometimes the best way a man can love his wife is to take over the kids’ dinner time or do the night shift with the baby so his wife can get some sleep. Learn to speak your spouse’s love language (if you don’t know which love language you speak, you can do an online questionnaire here) – otherwise you could be giving him beautiful gifts to express your love while he is giving you words of affirmation but you are not hearing each other, just like a radio with bad reception.
(3) Be a good communicator. It is an old maxim but it’s true – communication is the key to a good marriage – and any good relationship. Good communication involves listening as well as talking. And if you don’t communicate well outside of the bedroom, you won’t communicate well in the bedroom.
(4) Be a good fighter. Any relationship between two people will sooner or later involve conflict. Learn to fight well – to be fair, to be honest, with the ultimate aim of resolving the conflict. Learn what style of fighting you each have. The Marriage Course teaches this well – some of us are hedgehogs (who retreat from conflict) and some of us are rhinoceroses (who barge in full steam ahead). While it’s a good principle to not have a fight before bedtime, we learned that If you are two hedgehogs and are in the middle of something, it might be good to get it resolved while you can.
(5) Be a good forgiver. Relationships above anything else give us the opportunity to learn about ourselves and often we don’t like what we see – in ourselves as well as in the other person. We both thought we were not selfish people until we got married! But a marriage is a wonderful opportunity to learn what forgiveness looks like – learn to be generous and gracious in your forgiving.
(6) If you have problems in your marriage, talk to a trusted couple or to your minister or pastor or to a counsellor. Get the help you need – problems rarely just go away. (7) If you have a good marriage, celebrate it! Alan bought me a ring for our anniversary and the sales assistant seemed very surprised to meet a couple who had been married for 30 years. We have been blessed and we are thankful. Today I am thankful for God’s grace in bringing us together and keeping us together, using our marriage to teach us how much we need Him on a daily basis. I’m thankful for the man who has stood by me through thick and thin, loving me, encouraging me, stretching me and helping me to develop gifts I would not have otherwise done. If I had to do it again, I would choose no one else. I love you, Alan Wilson!