For the past 21 years, it has been the joy of my life to be married to my wife, Teri. Together, the Lord has blessed us with seven children and years of wonderful memories and experiences. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate our marriage somewhere around an 11 or 12. However, this good relationship was not simply born out of compatibility or good fortune, but rather out of commitment and hard work. Since the earliest days or our marriage, we made a commitment to each other that we would always work out our difficulties, love and respect one another, and spend lots of time together. That simple formula has helped us weather every storm and grow our marriage into something special. Any thinking person has to realize that two individuals living in the same house are going to disagree and fight sometimes. That is just a fact of life and something that has to be understood. But, our disagreements and fights don't have to be destructive and can actually be opportunities for us to grow.
Truth is, most of the fights in a marriage are not the result of big issues as much as they are a result of some sort of sin or pride in our hearts. When we find ourselves in a hot debate amid escalating tensions, the first place we need to look for a solution is not at the outside circumstances but on the inside of our own hearts. One man said the greatest problems of life are never around us, but they are within us. The Bible tells us that pride is the source of contention and fighting and that when pride goes away so too does the fighting. When we accept the possibility that we could be wrong and the other person might just have a valid point, great progress can be made in resolving marital conflict. When we humble ourselves enough to really listen, talk things through, and defer to one another, we have just planted the seeds of a great marriage.
Loving and respecting one another are other key components to a happy marriage. All too often, after the first years of marriage the old saying of "familiarity breeds contempt" kicks in. We take each other for granted, stop doing special things for one another, and fail to show the courtesy and respect that we might provide to a stranger on the street. Love simply means that you commit yourself to acting in the other person's best interest-that you are a giver and not a taker. It seems backwards, but when you focus on meeting your marriage partner's needs, you will suddenly find a joy in your own heart and a desire in your spouse's to meet your own needs. It may sound self-serving, but really it is just a Bible truth: in order to be loved you need to give love. Even the hardest of hearts can be softened when it is the recipient of kindness and love.
Over the years, I have discovered that the more I love Teri and do things for her, the more she loves me and has a desire to do things for me. I guess the point in love and respect is this: Give want you want to receive, and most likely you will find it in time.
Finally, perhaps the greatest thing Teri and I have done to develop a happy marriage is simply to spend time together. Over the years we have made a habit of getting up early in the morning and walking together. We generally spend about an hour each morning doing this, and it is amazing how many problems can be solved and difficulties overcome by simply being together during this time. We talk about our children, our marriage, hopes, dreams, and dozens of other things during these early morning appointments. Rather than developing separate hobbies, we have just done things together.
For a number of years I had a Gold Wing motorcycle, and Teri and I spent many happy hours together discovering the back roads of Oklahoma and Arkansas. The motorcycle was fun, but the time together was even better. We have hiked together, vacationed together, traveled together, eaten together, and played together. Teri is not just my wife; she has always been my companion and best friend. It seems almost overly simplistic, but couples who play, pray, and spend time together stay together and are happy.
A happy marriage is simply the result of a couple choosing to do those things that will produce what they want. It has been my experience that treating one another with love and respect, being committed to working through our struggles, and spending time together are, in part, what has allowed us to have such a happy marriage. I believe it can work for you, too.