Marriage, grace, and old dogs learning new tricks: How to grow your marriage

Two weeks ago Sandi and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  The actual date of our anniversary was back in August, but on January 13th we boarded a cruise ship out of Charleston and spent 5 nights with no cell phones, no texting, no internet, no Trivia Crack, no Facebook, and no email.  We unplugged from everything and just relaxed and enjoyed being together.  It was wonderful – truly a gift from God.  (I can not overstate the qualitative difference it made for us to step away from all social media and texting – we were able to breathe again and communicate at a deeper level.)

One day Sandi wanted to exercise and I wanted to nap – so I had a few moments to myself.  Instead of napping I began thinking about the treasure I have in Sandi and in our marriage.  Like any couple, we’ve had our ups and downs over the years, but on this occasion I felt so grateful for the way God has poured out his grace through Sandi that I needed to do something about it.  So, I wrote a Top 10 for Sandi, here are a few highlights:

#10 ~ Sandi has learned how to speak my love language: Acts of Service.  Every ironed shirt says, “I love you”.

#5 ~ Sandi encourages and challenges me in so many ways.  Without her I would have lacked the courage and confidence to plant churches.  God used her to affirm his calling, and still does.

#2 ~ Since the evening Sandi and I sat on that Mackinac Island dock – back in 1987 – I knew with absolute certainty that she was the woman I wanted by my side for the rest of my life.  That was over 27 years ago, and I have never regretted or second guessed that decision.  We have gone through a few rough patches (mostly my fault) but I never wanted to be with anyone else.  She is the only one.

#1 ~ With a woman like Sandi as my wife, I believe our best days are yet to come.  In a couple of short years we will be empty nesters, and someday grandparents – and she will make all of that so much sweeter.  I don’t look forward to growing old with Sandi, I look forward to growing bold together as we live, love, and hopefully laugh.

My encouragements for you as I reflect on over 25 years of marriage?

  1. Learn how to speak one another’s love language.  For most of us this will feel counter-intuitive at first, since your spouse’s love language is probably different than yours.  Sandi needs quality time and focused attention to feel loved.  Doing the dishes or giving her gifts just don’t communicate what she needs to hear.  But engaged conversation, going grocery shopping with her and helping to plan meals, long walks in the evening, and special times when just the two of us can get away and be together?  Bingo.
  2. Always speak with respect to one another and about one another – especially in front of the kids.  Honoring your spouse with your words is crucial.  If communication in marriage degenerates into contempt or constant complaint – seek out a qualified Christian counselor right away – you are probably in more danger than you realize.  Find safe and private ways to vent your frustrations.  We give ourselves permission on our walks to blow off steam about our jobs, the kids, our marriage, whatever.  But we try to never turn these into a personal attack.  
  3. Pray together and read God’s word together – often.  The glue that has held us together for so many years?  Our mutual love and submission to God.  With Christ as our true north we always pull together when we are both seeking him with all of our hearts.  We pray together just about every night, and read the Bible out loud together.  These are the rhythms of life for the Christian marriage.

We would love to hear your insights on marriage!  How would you encourage that young couple just home from their honeymoon?

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