25 years ago Tom and I said, “I do” and became Mr. and Mrs. Blaylock. Tom was fresh out of college and I was just over 20 years old. I look back at our wedding photos and I think, “Who are those young (and might I add good looking) kids?” I’m thankful for the wonderful adventure that Tom and I have been on since August 19, 1989 and look forward to many more happy years serving God and each other. We’ve learned a few things about commitment, relationships, love and sacrifice along the way.
We celebrated this silver anniversary by going on a cruise to the Bahamas. Regardless of our budget, we have always done something to honor each year that goes by. Usually we do something simple like dinner and a movie, but we wanted to make this year special. The best thing about the cruise was that we were able to focus on each other without distractions and stress.
Sometimes it is really helpful to focus on the things that are going well and celebrate them. While we were on the cruise, we each wrote a list of the top 10 things we appreciated about each other. It was truly healing and beneficial to focus on the positive things about each other and write them down. I didn’t spend any time thinking about negative things or things we need to work on; it was a list about grace and gratitude. I wrote down the things you would expect to be on this type of list, that Tom is a man of integrity who loves God and is a strong leader who has influenced many to follow Christ. I wrote that he is a great father and teacher but I also got more personal and wrote about how God has uniquely used Tom to speak love into my life. We sat in the sunshine on the deck and shared our lists, one at a time. I was surprised by the things that Tom seemed most pleased that I wrote. He really liked my #8 item, “You adore me and make it known”. I really liked his #7, “When I needed her most, Sandi has always stood by me”. We both felt loved and respected as a result.
After 25 years, here are a few things I encourage all couples to do:
1. Love and respect each other – even when you don’t feel like it. (Ephesians 5:33) For me this means speaking positively about one another in public and especially in front of the kids. This means choosing to put each other’s needs above your own and trusting that God will provide.
2. Invest in your relationship and not necessarily in stuff. For us this means that we spend some money on vacations instead of buying a newer car. It means that we have prioritized time together as a couple and as a family over working the extra hours to buy the next big thing. This has paid off because we have things to share with each other and talk about when we are together. (Matthew 6:21)
3. Find time together – and time apart. I am an extrovert who loves to be around people but Tom is more of an introvert and recharges when he is by himself. Find activities that you enjoy doing together and some that you enjoy doing apart. We have to do both to be balanced and healthy. This means I have to remember to give Tom some alone time and I have to trust God to meet my friendship needs.
4. Create rhythms of up, in and out for your marriage and family. Pray together on a scheduled basis, read scripture, and assist each other in the things that God has called you to do. These don’t have to be difficult things, but they have to be consistent things that are sustainable and repeatable. Put a few things on your calendar and stick to them. We have a family “up” time on Tuesday nights where we read scripture and talk about it with the kids. Tom and I pray together each night before we go to bed. Thursday is “in” night and we try to get together with other believers to build relationships. Once a month on a Saturday we host a breakfast in our home as a way to reach “out” to our neighborhood. These are simple things but they keep us on track with God and with each other.
5. Be your spouse’s best cheerleader and let them know that you believe in them. Allow them to share hopes and dreams without fear of shame or ridicule. This means going first by sharing your ideas with your spouse and looking at the positive parts of their ideas before you offer any advice or criticism. Learn to ask questions to bring out their ideas instead of telling them what you think they should do.
6. Laugh together and learn from your mistakes.
There are so many things that have been helpful for us and our marriage – including counseling. God’s love and grace has allowed us to extend love and grace to each other. I look forward to many more years with Tom. As we get older we say we are “living the dream”. We always wanted to grow old together and now we are doing just that.