My hubby and I will be married 25 years in December. While we don’t claim to know everything there is to know about divorce-proofing a marriage, we do have some experience with growing a marriage to its 25th year. Hope this helps.
1. Start by eliminating DIVORCE from your vocabulary as a couple. My husband did this for us when we first got married. He sat me down and asked me to promise that no matter what happens between us, the word “divorce” will never enter our vocabulary. The couple of times it crossed my mind (I blame youth and immaturity and pettiness for that) I didn’t dare say it out loud, because I knew it wasn’t an option, and truth be told, I didn’t want it to be an option for either of us.
2. Borrowing from Stephen Covey: Begin with the end in mind. See yourself growing old with this person you married. It might be morbid, but see yourself on each other’s deathbeds, holding each other’s hands, praying each other into heaven. Hold on to that image. What you do today will determine how that future scene will be.
3. Don’t let the kids come between you. Always strive for a united front. Don’t let them play you against each other. Children are children and sometimes that means they don’t fully understand how marriage works. It is up to parents to teach them that Mom and Dad are of one mind especially when it comes to the most important things. When the kids know this they won’t try and involve you in a tug-o-war. Instead they’ll be your biggest fans and supporters.
4. Surround yourself with successful marriages and families. Seeing and spending time with other couples who are in the trenches just like you, and who are doing well, is inspiring, motivating, and keeps you hopeful when times get rough.
5. Make God a priority. Prayer needs to be #1 recourse, not the last resort, for husband and wife as individuals, and as a couple. Spend time in Adoration together. Pray without ceasing — when you wake up, at night before bed, at mealtimes, in the car. Say the Rosary as a family. God and Mama Mary will not let you down.
6. Journal the good times. My hubby suggested we start our family journal in 1996. We’re on our sixth or seventh one. It helps to be able to look back, not just at pictures, but things we said, did, first words, milestones, etc. It will help you hold on to happy memories during those moments when life seems to have become routinary.
7. Don’t forget the sex. I asked my hubby what he thought needed inclusion in this list and OF COURSE he said this. I agree. Part of communication in marriage is sex. Total, Faithful, Free, Fruitful. Doesn’t get better than that. And yes, Natural Family Planning (NFP) can be a cross sometimes, but remember that you are carrying it together.
8. Never stop getting to know each other. Keep asking questions. I’m amazed that after almost 25 years of marriage there are still things we can discover about each other. Can’t wait to find out more in the next 25.
9. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Don’t ever criticize your spouse in front of other people. Find ways to compliment and thank each other for the little things, because oftentimes the little things turn out to be the big things. Knowing that your spouse is ALWAYS in your corner, cheering you on, means so much and goes a long way in maintaining an atmosphere of trust, respect and gratitude in the home.
10. Get the communication right. Find ways to speak without making digs at each other and putting each other down. Learn to say what you mean honestly and simply. If we happened to have developed unhealthy patterns of communication from the way we were raised, or our school environment, or our friendships, marriage is the time to put those away and begin anew. Be careful not to let any negativity leftover from those determine how you and your spouse talk to each other.
There are many more, but these are our most basic ones that we return to time and again in our own relationship.
As I click “Publish”, I ask for your prayers for my husband and me, and offer prayers for yours.
May St. Joseph and Mama Mary be our examples of what a holy marriage should be! And if you need more “examples”, get hold of this book. God bless!
Update 06 November 2015
Recently there have been several articles recommending better marriage preparation classes for those wanting to get married. But the reality is that marriage prep begins in the family and not at a Pre-Cana class. Many people are so ill-prepared for marriage because they didn’t see a marriage well-lived at home. People develop patterns of communication and conflict resolution early on, and if they’re not seeing good examples of those, one or two sessions of intense marriage preparation isn’t going to miraculously fill that void. So yes, let’s talk about better marriage prep programs for our young adults, but ultimately what will build solid marriages in the future is US making sure OUR marriages NOW are what they’re supposed to be.
Love and Marriage Sound So Easy: Where Did We Go Wrong?
Will the Synod Replace Pre-Cana With ‘Marriage Catechumenate’?
Can We Do Better Than Just Pre-Cana?
Annulment Questionnaire: The Marriage Prep That Came Too Late