How to Make a Marriage Last 45 Years

“Enjoy life with the wife [or husband] whom you love all the days of your life which He has given you under the sun.” —Ecclesiastes 9:9

I was asked to give a Valentine devotional on this theme for a men’s group yesterday. So while this was geared for men, I have adapted some of these points for both men and women.

My wonderful wife Kathy and I have been married 45 years last December. It has not always been easy, and we still have our rough spots, but we are best friends and are more in love now than when we married. I could tell many stories and illustrations, but here, briefly, are some of the things I and we have learned through the years. 

  1. Forgive, forgive, and forgive again. “Love does not keep an account of a wrong suffered” (1 Cor 13:5). 
  2. Admit you are wrong, ask forgiveness—this is especially difficult for a guy.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Don’t shut down. Don’t assume the other understands. Listen—really listen—focus.
  4. Be sensitive to one another; guys—especially be sensitive to her. Give one another space.
  5. Romance her every week; Tell her you love her every day. (This applies to both)
  6. Share your life together—take an interest in one another, her/his day, what he/she likes, doesn’t like, what went wrong. Be each other’s best friend.
  7. Pray for each other every day; pray together.
  8. The Golden Rule: Treat your spouse like you want to be treated and your spouse will treat you like you want to be treated. Give her/him want she/he wants and he/she will give you what you want.
  9. Do more than your share. Sacrifice for one another. This is especially directed by Christ at the guys: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church & gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25).
  10. Learn to negotiate (not manipulate)—take turns, trade off (Your kind of restaurant this time; my kind of restaurant next time, etc.)
  11. Guys: Lovingly, gently lead. Be a servant leader like Jesus. Learn from your wife. Learn from your kids.
  12. Guys: Don’t ever pull, “I am the man of the house” or “The Bible says you are supposed to submit.” That’s not servant leadership like Jesus. 
  13. Guys: Your wife is your radar antennae—she will pick up things you are not aware of. There are many times I should have submitted to my wife’s counsel and did not.
  14. Show you are proud of each other. Respect each other. Make your spouse proud of you.
  15. Guys: Treat her like a queen. Treat your children like princes and princesses. 
  16. Compliment each other in front of your children and in front of others—don’t ever criticize your spouse in front of your children or others. Don’t have to be right all the time. Even when you think you are. Don’t push each other’s buttons.
  17. Guys: If you don’t want to be nagged, don’t give her cause to nag you.
  18. Guys: Don’t make a mistress out of your work or hobby.
  19. Be faithful. Avoid porn—spice up your love life—Read & dramatize the Song of Solomon together. Read Christian books on sex. Pray with each other before you make love. It is a sacred moment.
  20. If you have a miserable marriage—pray for your spouse and be faithful. I know a man whose wife was mentally ill, but he remained faithful to her for 60 years. That is love. 
  21. Most important of all, make Christ the center of your marriage. We have a classic painting of Jesus on our mantle above our fireplace in our living room. It reminds us that Jesus is always at the center. We don’t live for ourselves. Let your whole life and family, and work and play revolve around Jesus.

There is much more that I have learned through 45 years of marriage that would take pages to share. And I am still learning and growing in my marriage. A couple in the church I retired from last fall have been married 72 years! I have nothing on them. They have much more to teach me. Hopefully, some of these steps that have strengthened our marriage will strengthen yours as well. Ultimately, it comes down to loving like Jesus loves:

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” —1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

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