What I’ve Learned In 33 Years Of Marriage

(Author’s note: I first published this post on July 15, 2011, three years ago. This year marks 36 years of marriage. Everything else in this entry remains just as true today.)

Thirty-three years ago today my wife Teri and I said “I do.”  I have spent more than 60% of my life as a married man.  Married to the same woman.  This monogamy business can be hard work.  It has been easy at times, though not often and never for very long.

Thirty-three years ago today.  Happy anniversary darlin’.  I love you.

You do anything for 33 years and you’re bound to learn something about it.  I don’t know if I qualify as a marriage expert, but I have learned a thing or two.  I share some of what I’ve managed to learn here.  Ladies, hopefully you’ll find a gem or two in here, but this is really targeted at the guys.  (Feel free to print this and leave it on your husband’s pillow if it’ll help.)  It’s for the men for two reasons.  First, I’m a guy and view life and marriage from that masculine perspective.  Second, one of the things I’ve learned is that I still have a lot to learn about women in general.
This is not an exhaustive list.  (If I shared everything here then you wouldn’t buy the book when/if I ever get around to writing it.)  Just 10 nuggets.  Tips if you will, on marriage based on my own experience and observation of other marriages, some not as successful as others.
10 Tips For A Happy Marriage
  1. Emotions can’t be trusted.  I’m not saying that emotions are bad.  Just that they are not subject to the law of rational thought.  Emotion is an important part of love and marriage.  That whole falling in love thing is largely emotional.  But emotions can be affected by many things.  And they tend to swing.  Don’t base any big decisions on your own emotions.  Or, for that matter, on any emotional display, good or bad, from your spouse.
  2. Emotions Follow Actions.  If you’ve been married for longer than 18 months then you know that the initial head-over-heels in love feeling will eventually fade.  That doesn’t mean you no longer love your spouse.  It doesn’t even mean that you’re no longer in love.  It’s just proof of rule #1.  You can regain some semblance of that feeling, or any feeling or emotion.  Just do the things you used to do when you felt that way.  If you want to rekindle the old flames of romance then DO something romantic.  Bring your wife flowers in the middle of the week for no reason.  Send her a card in the mail (yes, with a stamp and envelope and everything) that says “I love you” when it’s not your anniversary or her birthday or you haven’t done something incredibly stupid that you need to make up for.  You get the idea.  If you want to feel a certain way then DO the things that people who feel that way just seem to naturally do.
  3. No, You Could Not Have Done Better.  On occasion I’ve heard people wonder “what if…”  What if I’d married my high school sweetheart or a super model or that cute check out girl at the supermarket.  I’ve known people who have looked for old flames on Face Book.  That never ends well.  The grass may look greener over there, but it still needs cut and is probably hiding all types of weeds.  No, you could not have don better in the spouse department.
  4. Consider Yourself Blessed.  Love and marriage are wonderful gifts from God.  If you’ve managed to find someone that you love and who loves you in return, someone who can put up with you when you’re not at your best, who will tolerate your morning breathe, morning hair and various bodily noises, then cherish that person and that relationship as a gift from God.
  5. Time And Gravity Can Be Cruel.  It’s an unhappy truth but chances are neither you or your spouse are ever going to look any better than you do right now.  Your hair will recede.  Parts will begin to sag.  That dashing young man you used to be…he’s gone, never to return.  The physical, like the emotional, is subject to influences outside of our control.  But this isn’t a problem if you’ve based your relationship on more than just the physical and emotional.
  6. Remember Who You Are.  If you claim to be a Christian then you are a man of God.  Two operative terms there.  “Man,” so grow up, man up, quit whining and be one.  Protect your relationship, cherish your wife, take care of your family.  Suck it up, take out the trash and stop thinking about your own needs once in a while.  And “God,” so honor Him in the way you treat your spouse and your marriage.
  7. Have A Plan.  This is easier if you sit down with your spouse before you get married.  But even if you’ve been married for years you can still develop a plan.  Decide who’s going to be responsible for what in the relationship.  Who pays the bills every month.  Who does what share of the housework.  Who picks the movie or restaurant.
  8. Share A Passion.  When you first fall in love it seems like all you want to do is bask in each other’s presence.  That’s not going to last.  And your kids are going to grow up and move out too.  You’re going to need something to talk about, to do together.  Find something that you both enjoy and do it together.  Maybe it’s something that one of you already likes and you can teach the other.  Maybe it’s something brand new that you both learn about together.  Teri and I took up motorcycling about four years ago and it’s become something we love to share.
  9. Never Go To Bed Angry.  The Bible tells us to never let the sun go down on our anger.  Anger (another one of those pesky emotions) is not bad, it’s not wrong.  But like any emotion, you can’t let it control you or your relationship.  So go ahead and get angry, express that anger in a controlled and rational way.  And then resolve it, BEFORE you call it a day.  Unresolved anger will fester and left unresolved it can kill a relationship.
  10. Love Is An Act Of The Will.  You may have gotten married because you “fell” in love.  But now that you’re in the midst of it you have to make up your mind to actually love your spouse, every day, every moment.  Love, the kind God intended when He cooked up this whole husband and wife cleaving together thing, requires a conscious effort and sacrifice.  The willingness to sacrifice isn’t enough, you actually have to sacrifice.
  11. BONUS TIP:  LAUGH.  You have to have fun.  Laugh together.  Do something silly once in a while.  Marriage, love and God’s presence in our lives is meant to be joyful.  So have some fun.

I hope there’s something in there you can use.  You can leave a comment below if you’d like.  Once again, I have to tell Teri “happy anniversary” and thanks for putting up with more so long.  I can’t wait to see where we are after the next 33 years.

I’ve included a little video below.  It’s one of my favorite versions of “Happy Anniversary” and an example of Tip #11.

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