How do you keep the love in marriage burning brightly through the years to last a lifetime? We started last week on this series with the first two things my husband and I did to make it to our 36th year. First, we sealed our “I Do” not just with a contract but with a covenant to each other for a lifetime before God. There is no back door, no escape route. We work things through, not out of, whatever life deals us by the grace and power of God who we look to as our source. Second, we decided to follow God’s blueprint for our roles and responsibilities – for the husband to love and lead, for the wife to submit and respect. Both are hard and go against our default settings, but God’s design really works best.
Third, we sought to follow God’s priorities for the different seasons of married and family life. When the children came, I prioritized the family and we were hands-on with the children’s shaping of character, values, and habits from toddlerhood through the challenging teenage years. The children’s early years were labor intensive while the teen years were emotionally intensive. Raising, training, guiding children to maturity was the most challenging responsibility ever, but was also the most enriching and character-building years of my life. I wrote about the many lessons I learned in our book, Parenting Teens: A Parent’s Practical Guide to Parenting Today’s Teens (CSM Publishing). An excerpt says:
Because we committed ourselves to building each other up and making time for talk, we moved towards oneness rather than live two separate lives under one roof. Because we were one, we also presented a united front when it came to handling our children. This is important, because when our children reached the teen years, we needed that oneness to support each other as we went through difficulties with them. Because we did not waste our energy against each other, and we were not emotionally running on empty, we were able to work together in building our children’s lives.
My husband and I learned early on to become a team not only at home but also in our work, and even in our separate pursuit of graduate studies at different seasons in our lives. We learned to support each other with our strengths and covered for each other’s weaknesses or lacks so we came out winning in all fronts. Deciding on our God-given priorities and working together as a team helped us face the challenges, weather the storms that came our way as a family, and also accomplish more our God-given dreams and desires.
Fourth, which is an outcome of the third, is that we grew to become each other’s best friend. Couples could work as a team when it comes to responsibilities that need to be done, but yet grow apart when it comes to interests. That was how we started at first. I used to resent my husband’s passion for basketball especially when he cancelled our family dates whenever friends asked him to play. Later, I came to accept it as part of what energized him and relieved him of stress in his demanding work. When he bought a goal to put right in our spacious front yard, I too got hooked on basketball as it built my stamina like no other exercise I did. We played regularly, competitively sometimes against another couple or with friends. He is still able to do several full court games, a feat at his age. My husband also got me into mountain climbing, something that was part of his life growing up in the province, and I, who grew up in Manila, found it enjoyable after all. Through these and other shared activities that brought laughter and fun, we got to enjoy each other’s company, revel in shared adventures, broaden our experiences, and enrich our relationship.
Fifth, we worked on a clear purpose and common goals with regards to our mission in life, including that of raising our children. Many families’ goals focus on earning and accumulating wealth, while others focus on happiness or enjoyment of life. We saw these as just byproducts, not goals, as part of God’s blessings when we follow his timeless principles, as He indeed has blessed us. We learned that God’s purpose for marriage goes beyond intimacy, sharing romantic times as a couple and as a family, and achieving oneness. Rather, our marriages are meant to be locking arms together to exert a godly influence in our family, community, society, and the world. It is knowing and doing exactly what we were created for and why God brought us together as one! (To be continued)