I still remember walking into the “Young Married” Sunday school class as a newlywed. It was our first real activity as a married couple. We were in a new town and I was still tripping over getting my name right when introducing myself. We were just starting off in our “happily ever after.”
That’s what I like to call that sweet spot just after you get married. We’re still glowing from our big day — that one day we spent the last several months planning for. Meanwhile, we are all but ignoring the fact that we really should have been preparing for our marriage ahead. We kind of believe the fairytale — that life will just be “happy” after the wedding.
I’ll never forget meeting one couple who helped lead that newly married class. They had been married for two whole years! Both Steve and I reacted in awe. Wow! Two years seemed like such a long time to be married. Here we were just a week after returning from our honeymoon with less than two weeks under our belts.
Fast forward twenty years, and here we are getting ready to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. Oh, how I wish I could sit down with my sweet, newlywed self and tell her a thing or two. Yes, there has been plenty of “happy” in our “ever after.” But there has also been hard times, frustrating times, and times when we just weren’t communicating well.
So, what would I say? What wonderful, sage advice would I give myself? Well, I’m going to quote my godmother on this one. She and my godfather have been married for over 60 years. I’ve watched them through the years and marveled at their lives and how devoted they are to each other and to the Lord. She has verbally expressed the first two, but I’ve witnessed the last one.
C = Commitment
At the heart of every marriage vow is a commitment to one another. Sometimes, it’s just that simple: remember the covenant you made with you spouse on the day that you were married. Other times, it’s not that simple. Yet, my point is that even when the going gets tough, you have to hang in there even harder (and not get going).
C = Compromise
This was the word both my godparents used at their 50th wedding anniversary vow renewal. Without knowing what the other person told the pastor, they both said compromise was the secret to longevity in marriage. This really struck me years ago when I first heard this. Nobody likes to compromise on what they want. Yet, what I’ve learned is that it really has more to do with finding balance than anything else. We aren’t always going to get our own way or agree on everything. Learning to compromise here and there has been such a blessing. We’ve found that often it ends up feeling like a win-win when we take time to talk through what is at the heart of our disagreements. We can usually find elements that we can both agree on. There are times I’ve deferred my wishes in a situation, and times when Steve has done the same.
C = Compassion
I had no model of a healthy marriage when I was growing up. So, I was always on the look out for examples of the type of marriage I wanted. The toxic marriages I was exposed to when I was young made it easier for me, in some ways, to see the healthy characteristics of my godparents’ relationship. The one very notable difference in these marriages was compassion. Commitment alone doesn’t make for a happy marriage. Compromise isn’t always easy when there may be one person compromising more than the other. However, when we learn to have compassion for our spouse, we experience a deeper level of understanding and love for them.
After twenty years, my typical advice to new couples is to know that marriage isn’t always easy. God will use your relationship with your spouse to refine you both. However, our commitment to God and each other, our ability to compromise on matters, and the compassion we’ve both show and given to one another has strengthen not only our marriage, but grown us in our relationship with the Lord.
May the Lord richly bless your marriage.
Fun little side note: The couple we met back in that Young Married class was actually Michael & Amy Smalley. You know, Gary Smalley’s son. For those unfamiliar with Gary Smalley, he was a Christian marriage expert and had a thriving ministry. Michael and Amy were so much fun to hang out with in our early years of marriage. And despite the simple two years they had under their belts, they definitely knew more about marriage than most newlyweds.
Blessings and joy,