This year, I will celebrate 19 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart. I definitely love him more now than I did when we said, “I do”. But here’s the more remarkable thing- I LIKE him. After 19 years, I still can’t wait when we finally get a date night. He’s still the person I want to talk to when I have big news- good or bad. He’s still my favorite person to hang out with. After 19 years, I can confidently say we have a really great marriage. Want to know the secret?
The honest truth is- there isn’t one. Since we are solidly in the “old married people” category now, we are sometimes asked for marital advice from young couples, singles, etc. And I’ve read lots of articles about marital bliss- “Ten Reasons to Date Your Spouse,” “How to Keep the Spark Alive,” and on and on. It’s not that those articles are necessarily bad, it’s just that there’s no easy, sure-fire way to make sure your marriage is a happy one. After 19 years, here are the 3 pieces of advice I give most often:
- Marry someone who is your friend. These days we seem obsessed with “chemistry” and finding “the ONE.” Is it awesome to find a guy who gives you butterflies when he picks you up for dinner? Yes. But, ladies, after 19 years and 3 kids, you know what’s sexy? My husband cleaning the kitchen. Butterflies not required. And the fact that this guy is my best friend? That never gets old. In fact, it just gets better as we navigate the craziness of life together. We have so many inside jokes and “do you remember whens” that I can’t even count them. We are definitely still attracted to each other, but as age softens and wrinkles and grays us, it’s so much more about laughter and loyalty than butterflies.
- Marry someone who shares your worldview. My husband and I don’t agree on everything- he loves loud music and pickles, I do not. We have been known to have serious discussions on everything from politics to what makes a great novel. The greatest thing Spence and I have in common is a shared faith. Neither of us is trying to save or fix the other- we look to One greater than us for that. Our faith guides how we treat each other, parent, and make major decisions. That common ground and hope make a world of difference.
- Be prepared to work hard. Fairy tales and romantic comedies have told us that when you find “the ONE,” everything will be easy. Wrong. Marriage is hard. Even with your best friend. Any time you take 2 broken, selfish people and try to make them one, it’s going to be difficult. It is rarely 50/50. There are days when I am difficult and unloving and my husband loves me anyway. There are days when he is frustrated and frustrating and I need to show him grace. Marriage asks a lot of us- namely to consider someone other than ourselves in all of our daily decisions and struggles. To put aside the mantle of “I” and think instead in terms of “we.” This is not always easy. But the best things in life are usually the ones you work the hardest for.