Hands of bride and groom holding. The two shall become one.

20 Tips from Fifty Years of Marriage

 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Ephesians 5:31

This month I celebrated fifty years of marriage to my high school sweetheart, which led me to compile a list of tips. Though there have been challenges over the years, facing them together helped us through. Marriage is hard work, and it takes two. But the two become one when united in marriage. So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate Matthew 19:6 (NIV). Two lives must intertwine in ways that are complimentary and compatible. And that presents challenges.

Marital Expectations

We enter marriage as individuals with different expectations and visions of what we think the marriage will be. These expectations are based on our experiences—what we’ve witnessed growing up in our own homes and the homes of our friends. Though we all know TV shows are fiction, we often glamorize marital relationships based on how media portrays them. Since every marriage and family is different, individual expectations can cause conflict when things don’t go the way we assume. Conversations about key areas prior to marriage will help each one modify and adjust expectations, so a united vision is created. Pre-marital counseling can help with this.

Personal Values

We also come to marriage with a set of core values—things that are the fiber of our very being. We have values on how we conduct our lives. These values impact family, finances, time, careers, religion, and overall worldview. If our personal values differ in significant areas, conflict is inevitable. For example, you may value time spent as a family while your spouse values financial security. This value will impact how each of you see savings, the type of home you choose, family dinners and holidays, major purchases, time for hobbies, and more. Your religious views will impact your choices in raising children. These personal values have to be balanced for a peaceful existence.

Personal Goals

We come to marriage with personal, individual goals, often career goals we are just beginning to pursue. We may still be trying to accomplish educational goals. Again, we have a certain vision of the future we want to create, and if our partner’s vision is different, problems result. 

As soon as we marry, there is another individual to consider, and that impacts our own plans and desires. When children come along, whether planned or unplanned, our goals shift. There are additional individuals to consider.

If we can become lost in chasing what we want individually, we can out on what God can do through us together. However, God calls us to individual careers, ministries, and interests, so it is important that each partner has time to pursue what God is calling them to do.

Challenges Bring Growth

The key is addressing these things early in the relationship. It is also helpful to view challenges as learning experiences. I’ve learned lessons that have improved my marriage by maturing me. I learned many lessons the hard way. Some I wish I had learned earlier. But each lesson learned has been valuable. Though I may not articulate these regularly, I know they are areas where God has helped me to grow.

Many of these are common sense; however, it helps to have them in mind as you navigate the challenges that come your way. I hope they will help you avoid some marital pitfalls.

We’re Still Learning

This list of tips is not all inclusive. There are so many lessons to learn navigating relationships. My husband and I are still learning; we haven’t perfected all of these. But I believe we have become more patient. We have also become more accepting. It’s important to embrace the differences you have individually. God most likely brought you together to create some balance in your lives.

I readily admit there are areas where we need work—individually and as a couple. But that’s okay. God is faithful. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. Philippians 1:6 9 (NIV)

A Word of Caution

These tips are meant for those who are in healthy relationships and want to grow together. If you are in an unhealthy relationship or a relationship with a verbally or abusive spouse, seek help. Call the National Hotline for Domestic Violence.

Twenty Tips and for a Healthy Marriage

  1. God must be a part.
    • Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) says, Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
  2. God must be first, but your spouse must be second.
    • Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 (NIV)
  3. Love is a decision not a feeling.
    • A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 (NIV)
  4. Good marriages don’t just happen. They take work. Hard work.
    • Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ… Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  Ephesians 5:21, 22, 25 (NIV)
  5. Pray and discuss hard things. If necessary, get a mediator or counselor. Do it calmly, but don’t ignore things and let them simmer. Get them out in the open so a resolution can be found.
    • Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it. Deuteronomy 1:17 (NIV)
  6. Let it go. Not all things are hard things. Some things are not worth the energy. If you can let it go, really let it go, do it.
    •  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
  7. Work toward common goals. You’re in this together. You are one. You’re a team.
    • The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
  8. Pursue individual hobbies, too. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10 (NIV)
  9. You are responsible for your own happiness. And your happiness stems from your relationship with God.
    • But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Psalm 63:3 (NIV)
  10. Forgive.
    • For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
  11. Do not withhold intimacy.
    • Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. I Corinthians 7:5 (NIV)
  12. Be present.
    •  For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
    •  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
  13. Listen.
    • Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding. Proverbs 2:2 (NIV)
  14. Be honest. Always.
    • Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
  15. It’s okay to be mad, but don’t go to bed angry or allow your anger to make you sin. That doesn’t mean staying up all night arguing. It means agreeing to table the discussion and letting go of the emotion. A good night’s sleep can solve a lot. (NIV)
    • In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Ephesians 4:26
  16. Pray. Especially when you are upset or angry. Ask God to help you see your part in the problem instead of focusing on what your spouse is doing wrong.
    • Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)
  17. Pray together.
    • For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
  18. Find a community. You need other people. A community will support you, advise you, share with you.
    • And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
  19. Enjoy every season. Each one passes quickly. Don’t look ahead or behind. Live now.
    • There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
  20. Feelings require nurturing. If you want to feel the love, do things for one another. Learn your spouse’s love language.
    • Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8 (NIV)

So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate. Matthew 19:6 (NIV)

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