|Our friends surprised us with an anniversary dinner last night. |
We thought we were just doing our normal wine and cheese night.
Instead, we had a delicious meal and celebrated with champagne and cake.
1. Have a firm foundation. Before we were married, Stan told me he would never discuss divorce NO MATTER WHAT. That was a solid foundation over the years. In the difficult times, and in 30 years there have been some, we have never discussed divorce or even a separation. Those two words were not in our marriage vocabulary.
2. Love is a choice. Some days your spouse is harder to love, heck some days they are harder to like! But loving someone is a deliberate action. Most mornings we woke up and just loved one another. There have been days where it would have been easy to give in and say, "This is too hard, I just don't love him/her any longer." Instead, it is in those days that it is so important to decide, in spite of the way I feel, in spite of the circumstance that has me so upset, I am choosing to love my mate.
3. Love selflessly. This is one of the hardest actions of all. We are born selfish, we want our needs met and we want our way. Putting your self aside and love someone without any expectations of anything in return, that is selfless love. Some will say that marriage is a 50-50 deal but I believe that marriage is a 100-0 on both parties. If you are both giving 100 % of yourself, what else could that person need? Is this possible all the time? Of course not. We're human and selfish but it is definitely worth striving toward.
4. Forgive unconditionally. Let me set a disclaimer here, Stan nor I have ever had an affair nor have I ever been abused. So this, and any of the other life lessons, are not reflections on those of you that are, or have been, in marriages of cheaters or abusers. In normal day-to-day living, little and big things can place barriers in your relationship. Forgive. Forgive before you're asked. Forgive before it's deserved. Forgive because we love selflessly. Forgive and it is much easier when we are the cause of the problem to be forgiven.
5. Support/encourage fully. When your mate makes a decision, when they love an activity, when they have a plan, support fully. This is one of my biggest failings. It is very difficult to support something I am totally not a part of but I know the importance and it's something I work on daily.
6. Be physically affectionate. This should be an easy one but to some, not so much. I am a hugger and thankfully, Stan is as well. Be available to your spouse in bed and out of it. Hold hands, hug, kiss. It is difficult to place barriers in a relationship when the physical side of your marriage is good. And ladies, turn off your brain and focus on your husband in the moment. Enough said... :).
7. Have each other's back in front of the kids. If you have children, be each other's back up and never contradict one another in front of the kids. Discuss in private any disagreements about discipline, etc. Your children need to see you as partners. They will respect your husband/wife only if you respect first.
8. Do not take your marriage for granted or think you are immune to difficulties. In the last 10 years, my dad died of cancer, Stan's best friend was killed in an accident, a friends marriage crumbled, Stan had a very serious bicycle accident, we became empty-nesters, our children had difficulties, a job was lost, we were notified and had to tell a dear friend her youngest son was killed in a helicopter crash. Life is hard and those hardships can rob a marriage of joy and closeness or it can draw you closer. This is another one of those deliberate choices to not let life tear apart but instead choose to build a firmer marriage. And in this same thought, make time for just the two of you. When money is tight, do free things by going to the park, take a walk, etc. When money is not an issue, go on date nights, travel. Either way, make your marriage a priority.
9. Cultivate friendships with other couples who encourage your marriage. We have been blessed over our 30 years of marriage to always have at least one or two very close couple friends. They have walked our marriage with us, encouraged in hard times, laughed in the good times and cried with us in the grieving times. They are invaluable to us.
10. Develop a mutual faith base. Stan and I spent the first 6 years of our marriage rootless. It was when we both made commitments to live a committed relationship, not with just one another, but with God, that our marriage really began to thrive. Has it been pain-free, effortless and easy? No, but with the same belief system in place and God's merciful grace, here we are 30 years later. I can honestly say that I love Stan more today than ever. And tomorrow I will be able to say the same.
Do Stan and I get all of these right all of the time? Of course not. But we continue to try daily and we never give up!