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What makes my marriage work

Next month, my husband, Bryan, and I will have been married for 21 years. We often marvel at how much time has passed and discuss how it doesn’t feel as long as it has been. I usually don’t talk about my marriage to others because I learned a long time ago that marriage is a sacred relationship between two people and you don’t want others in your business…family or otherwise, with the exception of a marriage counselor or pastor, if you so choose. I’m sharing some gems now because I believe that 21 years is no small feat, especially considering the high divorce rate.

One thing that makes my marriage to my husband work is that I fiercely protect it and I protect my husband. I remember years ago when I was dating someone, who was not Bryan, and he did a hurtful thing to me. I told my friends. Big MISTAKE! One friend, in particular, wouldn’t let me, or him, live it down, even after I had gotten over it and forgave him. You can’t do this in marriage. I respect Bryan immensely and that respect causes me to want to manage things with him only. I also want him to be seen in a positive light. For one thing, your friends and family may want to fiercely protect you too, so you have to monitor what you tell them. You learn that in marriage there is a constant extension of grace, mercy, and forgiveness because you will hurt each other, unintentionally and otherwise. Some people in your circle may not be as forgiving in their own lives. Some people in your circle want to be right more than anything. Some people in your circle make things about themselves. Some people in your circle don’t understand marriage.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been faced with several challenges in the last few years and they’ve all put my marriage to the test. One significant issue is my husband’s health, which has caused him to have problems with long and short-term memory. We’ve gotten even closer because he’s in a vulnerable place and we realize how important our relationship is to each other. Don’t get me wrong, prior to this health condition, I’ve complained about feeling like I’ve been taken for granted at times and other things couples face, after having been married for so long. However, I communicate that to him and we work on it. I also pray constantly for our marriage and for him.

Last week, we were watching, with our 17-year old son, a television show about revamping failing family restaurants. The wife said that when she reached out to touch her husband, he moved his hand away to reject her touch. My assessment was that he was too consumed with feeling like a failure. He felt alone and like he wasn’t worthy of love because he couldn’t figure out how to fix their problem. He tried to handle things alone instead of reaching for his partner. You could feel the hurt she expressed and see the hurt in his eyes. Bryan and I instinctively made eye contact and grabbed each other’s hand tightly. We each have our own wounds, but we don’t ever want to be in that place. I’m glad our son witnessed our exchange.

A few ingredients that make our marriage work for us are:

  1. Love demonstrated by our actions
  2. Mutual respect
  3. Constant, intentional communication
  4. Being best friends
  5. Constant extension of grace, mercy, and forgiveness
  6. Patience and empathy
  7. Unselfishness, compromise, constant self-evaluation, and editing
  8. Treating our relationship as sacred
  9. Discussing our problems with each other
  10. Enjoying each other’s company