Paul Newman and Denzel Washington, what do they have in common? Besides their award-winning career in Hollywood, both have marriage that lasts longer than other celebrities’ who have given up on their wedding vows. These men have worked on something that’s worth spending every bit of their time and resources to: a relationship that may last longer than their glitz and glamor can ever will.
In an era where short-term relationships are a fad, making your marriage last a lifetime surely entails a lot of hard work. Yet it is possible, and may benefit not only you as a couple, but also your children’s future and the ensuing generations.
There is not a single formula out there that will prolong your marriage. Finding out what will work for you can be a matter of trial and error. Here are a few time-tested principles that may help…
1. Find out your spouse’s love language and express it to him/her consistently.
Dr. Gary Chapman, marriage counselor for more than 30 years and author of “The 5 Love Languages”, popularized the term “love language” meaning “a primary way of expressing and interpreting love.” They are: touch, gifts, quality time, acts of service and words of affirmation. Remember: “Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.”
2. Work together on shared dreams, but prioritize each other more than your goals.
At the onset of every marriage, the couple makes plans about their future together but along the way. When conflicts become unbearable, the couple drifts away from each other, eventually abandoning their plans. To help prevent potential separation: write your dreams together, discuss and work on them regularly without forgetting that what’s most important is not the achievement of your dreams, but that you still have each other when all else fails.
3. Give and give until it hurts.
Many say that a relationship is a give-and-take deal, but conflicts usually begin when one person already demands for the other to “give back” as much as one has invested in their relationship. Wouldn’t it be better if both parties find creative ways to always give and give to each other without expecting anything in return? Genuine love is evident when expressed through generosity beyond one’s comfort zone.
4. Be grateful not only to every blessing, but to every challenge that comes.
You’ll never know how strong a relationship is until a crisis hits. That’s when you’ll realize how much you really love each other, eventually finding out after the storm that you’re closer than before. Going to a marriage counselor or simply having regular counsel of older couples with strong marriages will help you weather the toughest times together.
5. Words have power to bring life or death in a relationship so use them wisely.
When in a heated argument, avoid using generalization like: “You always…” Try to be specific on what you don’t like about your spouse’s habit or attitude. Don’t bring up the past. Focus on the issue at hand. Bible says: “Love covers all wrongs,” so learn to overlook an offense. When needed, say these magic words: “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you.” Be generous with praise and affirm your spouse’s good traits to your friends when your spouse can hear you.
6. Pray for your spouse, and pray together often.
A paradigm shift happens the moment a couple realizes that they cannot make their marriage work without God’s help. When couples take their wedding vows, they also declare their allegiance to God’s work in their midst. Years after the wedding day, you may discover many unlikable things about your partner. In your desire for a lasting marriage, you’ll be tempted to nag your spouse, driving him/her to change only later realizing that those efforts are futile. Remember that we cannot change the other person, that only God can, so it’s crucial to pray for your spouse. And pray together often to usher in divine guidance and deliverance.
7. Become lovers and best friends too.
Schedule to date your spouse, play together or go out on an adventure trip, and stick with it even when you already have kids. This will rekindle your love for each other and strengthen your friendship, reminding yourselves of how it all started. Remember when your kids are grown, they will eventually move away and the two of you will be left with each other. The intensity of your intimacy will be evident to your kids in the way you relate to each other and they’ll be so happy to see that.
8. Agree how your home will be managed, and who will have which roles.
Stereotypes of what a man or woman doesn’t always work especially in these changing times. Interestingly, there are families where the wife is the breadwinner while the husband takes charge of the household chores. To lessen the conflict of priorities or interest, the couple must agree early on who does what in and out of the house.
9. A happy wife makes a happy married life.
It’s a given that the wife serves as helpmate of the husband. But it’s also a fact that even if the wife does what she does best, there are still times when the husband takes on extra-marital affair. That’s because after giving birth and while taking care of growing kids, some women neglect to keep themselves attractive for their husband. In cases like this, the man of the house must ensure the woman always feels loved and beautiful despite of her physical inadequacies.
10. Every good thing in life is worth fighting for.
Crystal Sullivan observed: “Marriages that last a lifetime don’t just happen; they are built one day at a time, as we make decisions to love our spouses. We stand at the altar and promise to God and the community that we will love each other in good times and in bad, not knowing how much good or how much bad will come our way.” Family and faith are two significant aspects in life that are worth every effort and sacrifice. Prioritizing these will make a huge impact to the lives of those we love most, because ultimately it is our decisions, not our desires that will determine our destiny.