I heard on the radio (WCSG) this morning about Maury and Helen Goosenberg, the longest-married couple in the US! They are 102 and 100, respectively, and have been married 80 years!
When Helen was asked what the secret to their marriage was, she simply answered: Humor.
The radio hosts challenged listeners to think about how we would answer the question, ‘What’s the secret to a healthy marriage, in 5 words or less’?
Lori and I have been married 28 years, and although we’d never say ‘we’ve arrived’, and we always have room to grow, we have learned some things. So, in 5 words, how would I answer that question?
- FAITH I think it is absolutely crucial that couples share the same faith. Our ‘faith’ is foundational to who we are, how we live, and what we view as important. To come from differing perspectives on this is unwise. That’s one application to Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” When husband and wife share the same faith, they are building on the same faith in Jesus Christ, they are building on the same morals, beliefs, and guidelines. For a believer in Jesus, it is also based on the same understanding that we are all in need of God’s grace, and husband and wife should show each other that grace too. This motivates us to stay in the Word, to Pray together, to attend Church together…
Another crucial aspect to a good, healthy, Biblical marriage is the willingness of husband and wife to sacrifice themselves for each other. Many ‘voices’ in our culture shout that we should ‘look out for #1’, but in marriage that is simply not the case. We need to be putting our spouse’s interests and needs before our own (ideally, they’re doing the same–and each of you are serving the other). This ‘sacrificial love’ is the very same kind of love that Jesus showed us by laying His life down for us, and He calls His followers to live similarly–in all relationships, but especially in the marriage relationship. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Anything that is important in life needs to be a priority. Marriage is no different. We must continue to INVEST in our marriage–whether through walks together, dates, Bible studies, Marriage Retreats…it is crucial that we continually communicate to our spouses that our love is a top priority in our lives (husbands…take it from me–this is so crucial–if your wife sees you investing in your relationship and putting her first in your order of priorities (humanly speaking), she will flourish–and you will benefit)!
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.”
The ability to laugh at yourself is crucial in a marriage. Do not take yourself (or the other) too seriously! We all do silly, even funny, ridiculous things at times. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen–laugh about it! If I can laugh at myself, and I allow my spouse to do the same, it shows that I ‘get’ this. I am showing humility in doing so, and thereby creating a ‘free’ environment. However…I’ll know our marriage is really ‘secure’ when I can laugh at something my spouse has done, and they laugh with me, rather than get defensive.
Chill about it. You’re funny at times!
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” (Micah 6:8, the Message)
Do your best to keep things new, growing and fresh in your marriage. There are ‘seasons’ of a marriage, and you should try to ‘breathe life’ into them. At first, when you’re getting to know each other, that’s easy…but as kids come (and you’re just trying to survive each day) it becomes more challenging. Later, when things calm down, it will be easy to sit back and avoid talking. When the ‘nest’ gets empty, you may stare at each other and wonder ‘Why did I marry you?’.
That’s part of the reason it’s important to continue trying new things together. Take up a new hobby together. Develop an interest together. Let your spouse teach you about their interest. Learn together, and learn from each other. This can keep things ‘fresh’ and growing forever.
The Scriptures tell us to continually ‘Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
Why do we think that our most significant human relationship–our marriage–should be any different?
If we can show our spouse these 5 things by What we say, How we live, and What we prioritize, our marriage will be happy, healthy, and vibrant!