As our eighteenth wedding anniversary nears, I pondered over the past and where we are at now. I was just an ordinary girl who met an ordinary guy, but we knew this was to be. “If we get married” quickly changed to “when we will get married and six months.” I smile, thinking about the younger, naïve, versions of us. I loved who we were then but I love who we are now even better.
Don’t get me wrong, this marriage is made up of two very flawed people. Over the years, we have had little panics and big crisis, directly proportional to the amount of stress, fatigue, lack of intimacy and number of children born to us. But we have had great help to pull through every time. Our first lifeline has always been our faith in God and the Scriptures. If He is the Originator of marriage, He must know what He is talking about in his Book.
Mutual love and respect. No matter what a person’s opinion is on the value and credibility of the Bible, these are the undeniable foundations of every happy marriage. Ephesians 5:33 mentions that “the wife should have a deep respect for her husband.” Now I can hear many screeches from you, ladies, but please let me explain. This is not groveling before our husbands. They have to earn our respect. In fact, the first part of that verse, as well as a load of others, specify that a husband should love his wife, among other duties. The husband wants to feel respected and the wife wants to feel loved. When both give what the other needs, it works.
Forgive and forget. That’s a hard one. But there is wisdom in the words of Ephesians 4:26, “do not let the sun set while you are still angry.” We try not to let things fester and escalate. The quicker the matter is settled, the faster the peaceful atmosphere is restored to the whole family. I admit I had to bite my tongue more than once. I needed time to cool down first to not end up venting and saying unhelpful harsh words I would regret later. I had to step on my pride. I had to let go. But we keep building a stronger relationship, united. It works.
Be a good communicator. Many words are not necessary, as James 1:19 points out to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Listening is my strength but I wasn’t so good when it came to talking. I read many other books besides the Bible, on how to formulate and voice my concerns and opinions. After a while, my husband caught on. He said I spoke differently. We repeat to our kids to use their words to express themselves and make their needs known to us. It’s no different for adults. Open, honest and kind communication is essential, and it works.
Show some vulnerability and never refuse help. This advice is from a dear friend. Our modern society promotes the idea of a super career-oriented, soccer coach, school field trip volunteer, mother and wife… And she has perfect hair and make-up on. You get the point. There’s nothing wrong with being able to juggle all of that and cheers to you if you can! But we develop the habit of relying on ourselves for everything. We forget we have a man that loves to feel needed. Men need to feel needed and appreciated. Even if it’s just for getting something off of the top shelf in the pantry, or opening a jar. (That’s my personal favorite, because my husband always looks at me with a skeptical smile and tells me I’m faking, like the wife in Hancock.) They are happy to help us fix our problems. A happy husband makes for a happy wife. It works.
Humor will diffuse many explosive situations. Being able to laugh at ourselves requires humility and the ability to take a step back to look on objectively. Even in the foulest of mood because he can’t find his tie and he’s now late, a husband will be shaken out of his grumpiness if, when walking out of the closet, he finds his wife wearing just his tie. I haven’t tried but I was told this and, Oh, does it ever work well!
So here I am, with a seasoned husband. He’s like aged cheddar or a Cabernet Sauvignon with a developed character, both getting better with the years, if you’re into old cheeses and wines. He’s more sensitive to how I see things and more intuitive about how I feel. We may have more wrinkles and gray hair but I dare say we are getting better in more important ways.