I consistently see these marriage tips floating around social media, you know the ones that say “10 things every successful couple does” or “5 habits of healthy marriages.”

What marriage guides never want to discuss is what happens when it ends

No one wants to discuss the possibility, so they pretend it won’t happen. You know that part of your vows that says “Until death do us part?” It’s built right into the very vows you’re saying when you plan to make it last forever, but death will happen.

Some people choose to end their marriages for one reason or another, yet there are many people who never get a choice. Your marriage can suddenly end in a car wreck or heart attack or it can end slowly with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. People want to live with their heads in the sand. They do not want to have an active realization that the life they worked so hard to build and the love that has made them who they are will end, even if you do not choose to end it.

One of you will die first and the other will be left to face that pain without you.

Now, that I have your attention and I’ve completely depressed you, let me tell you why.

I want you to live life with more meaning.

 I want you to develop relationships with more love.

I want you to build your marriage with more motivation and intention than you have ever had.

Truly understand that it is very possible that the next time your husband or wife walks out the door could be the last goodbye you ever have. GRASP that life is not fair and death is impossible to avoid. I want you to think about how you treat each other because I can guarantee you, that is all you will be able to think about when they are gone. You will replay the last vacation, the last fight, the last conversation, the last goodbye, the last kiss, and the last I love you. You will think about all of those lasts over and over again and you will critique all of it. You will wish you had gone on the vacation instead of staying home to catch up on work. You will so badly wish you would have kissed longer and the last fight will seem so stupid looking back.

I’m not trying to depress you, I am trying to get you to LIVE and LOVE looking forward instead of back. Realize that you may be one of the lucky ones that gets to celebrate 70 years of marriage, but you may get the 18 years I had, or less, and time is up.

I can assure you that there is not a meeting, event, job, or anything else that is worth giving up loving with intention. I don’t care if you are mad or not, leave it at the door because in the end whatever you are mad about is usually not important. Do not leave each other without saying I love you and exchanging a real kiss, not the kind you would give your grandma.

It seems so small, but when you actually take the extra 30 seconds and totally intend to let your husband or wife know you really love them, it will change their day; but more than that, it will eventually give one of you a great memory of your last goodbye.

If you are one of the unfortunate ones who has to bury your spouse, you do not want to spend years, or even months, regretting the things you didn’t do. Love them like they could be gone in 10 minutes. I’m telling you from painful experience, 10 minutes was the difference between the goodnight, see you tomorrow kiss, and he’s gone. The only reason I tell my story is to provoke thought. I do not want anyone obsessing so much over death that they forgot to live. I find that the bigger problem is people obsess so much over their own lives, they forget that death exists until the tragedy strikes and it is too late. Do not wait another minute. Some of you are in tough places in your marriage so making any kind of change to show love intentionally will seem very difficult. Do it anyway, it will get easier.

Regret does NOT get easier.

Amy Ashbrook

Amy lives in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO. She's the mother of four great kids and spends every day helping her youngest fight Type 1 diabetes. Amy was unexpectedly widowed in 2013 after eighteen years of being married to her best friend. Her life became about trying to prove to herself that God still had a plan and showing her children that she would do more than just exist beyond the tragedy. After finishing law school in 2017, Amy is now a Family Law Attorney in the Greater St. Louis Area.