Forty-two years ago about this time, I was counting down. After all, my wedding was less than a week away.
Like many June brides before and since, my days were filled with shopping for dresses, flowers, invitations, cakes, and all the other trimmings of a big church wedding. My nights were filled with dreams of being married to the man I’d grown to love enough to trust with my life and future.
Finally June 8, 1974, arrived and a very young and slightly nervous couple met to make a sacred covenant with one another before God and all the friends and family gathered to wish us well. As we climbed into our shiny new, burgundy Plymouth Duster (Oh, yeah! Ultimate coolness!) to leave for the honeymoon, my new groom pushed the cassette tape into its player (cutting edge technology!) and Karen Carpenter obligingly crooned in her velvety voice, “We’ve Only Just Begun“. How right she was!
By most statistics, our marriage didn’t have a good chance of surviving even the first five years. And there were definitely bumps in the road as we navigated the adjustments and compromise required when two completely different individuals (with strong wills, I might add) come together.
So now, as I anticipate another kind of celebration, our 42nd wedding anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on why Don and I are not only still together but still glad to be together. I could sum it up with four words:
Give, forgive, get, forget.
Give. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). So…give your heart, your thoughts, and your words. (Communicate, people!) Give back rubs, time when there isn’t any, space, and sincere compliments. Give second chances (and 3rd, 4th, 5th…), the benefit of a doubt, high fives, not to mention the occasional flowers, love notes, cards, and gifts. The only thing not to give?? Up. And for us, giving room for faith in Jesus at the center of our marriage has made all the difference.
Forgive. In Matthew 6:12 Jesus taught his followers to pray for forgiveness as they forgave those who’d wronged them. My friend, Dave Gable who, along with his wife Millie, has been a presenter at Marriage Encounter weekends says: “We genuinely disappoint each other by just being who we are, without malice. But there is something born in our lives when we wade through the disappointments in our marriages…a new steel.”
So…forgive when he forgets what he should remember or when she remembers what she should forget. Forgive bad moods and stupid decisions. Forgive yourself, too. And remember to ask for help from God, the greatest Forgiver of all.
Get. Get acquainted—it takes a lifetime to really “learn someone’s life,” so keep studying! Get help—there are great books, counselors, seminars, websites, and weekend retreats designed to strengthen marriages. Get mentors—find an older couple with a great marriage and ask the hard questions. Get away—make some “just us” time for fun and romance. Get real—it’s hard to be authentic and vulnerable with another person but hard doesn’t mean impossible. It’s worth it.
Forget. That list of things you chose to forgive?? Forget it. Forget phrases like “You always…” or “You never…” Forget perfection…and they lived happily ever after. Don’t let the myth of the ideal steal the real beauty that hides in the everyday lives of ordinary couples.
Tom Mullen wrote: “Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.”
I did and I do. Happy anniversary, Don! You’re the best—here’s to the next 42!
[This piece was adapted from a column I originally wrote for The Seattle Times in 2009.]
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