The following post was written by Glen Solberg. Glen is a marriage counselor in our Little Rock, Arkansas office.
72 years. No way!
I had to re-read the number.
But my eyes were not faulty. The couple my wife and I were reading about had indeed been married 72 years. That’s not something you hear about every day, especially in today’s world.
As I have pondered the story of Bruce and Esther Huffman since then, I have thought about Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4 that speak of “finishing the race”. The Lord had given me a picture of what it means to finish well in marriage in Bruce and Esther.
I want to finish well, like Bruce and Esther.
I know if you are married and reading this, you may be thinking the same thing. You may even be asking yourself the question I had to ask myself:
“What do I need to do today and tomorrow and next week to be intentional about “finishing well” in my marriage?”
As my wife, Shawn, and I pondered that question, here are some suggestions for ways you can work today to have a “Bruce and Esther” kind of marriage:
- Have Fun – When you and your spouse first met and were dating, you likely did fun things together. But as time goes on, the routine of life sometimes steals our fun away. We stop pursuing our spouse and begin to pursue other goals in our life. This leads to isolation in marriage. But God calls us to work intentionally on our marriage and part of that is having fun together. So pursue a common interest or get involved in serving together. Read a book together or take a walk. No relationship can really grow without the investment of time spent together!
- Choose to Forgive – So much of day-to-day life in marriage is the mundane and ordinary. But in the midst of the ordinary, we will hurt one another. My wife and I are laughing together at one moment, and then in a conflict moments later. In those moments, I can choose to hold onto that hurt OR I can choose to deal with the hurt and move toward reconciliation and forgiveness. Ephesians 4 reminds us to “forgive as Christ has forgiven us”. Forgiveness is a choice of my will. We give grace to our spouse as the Lord has given us His great grace.
- Pray Together – I remember a husband telling the story of going to an older man in his church and asking him the “secret” of a successful marriage. The older man told this young man, who was a newlywed at the time, to pray daily with his bride. But then, the newlywed husband pressed in and said, “Yea, Yea. I know we need to pray, but after that, what do I do to really help my marriage?” To which the older man replied, “Pray every day with your bride”. This seems so utterly simple, but it is also powerful. Studies have shown that couples who pray together every day have very low rates of divorce and higher marital satisfaction. So I encourage you, husbands, to pray with your bride tonight. It doesn’t have to be long or drawn out – short and sweet is good. And if you have tried this before, begin again today asking the Lord for His help to make this a consistent habit in your marriage.
- Work on Communication – If our human blood is the “life” of the physical body, then communication would be the “life” of a marriage relationship. Without effective communication, a couple cannot make decisions well, resolve conflict, or grow in understanding of each other. We must work at communicating well – this does not come easily or naturally to most couples. Ask your spouse sometime soon how well you listen and respond to them – and then work on improving your communication with your spouse.[shareable]If our human blood is the life of the physical body, then communication would be the life of a marriage relationship.[/shareable]
- Build Trust – It is really hard to grow a relationship where trust is not found. It’s like asking a friend asking you to sit on a 3-legged stool that only has two working legs. You would not likely sit down on that stool. If you have lost trust in your spouse in any area or you have been untrustworthy, you need to recognize this and take steps to repair trust. The payoff to the hard work of rebuilding trust is a relationship that can then begin to grow again in new ways!
- Fight Selfishness – Something in all of us still says “mine, mine, mine” like when we were toddlers. We are naturally wired to be self-centered and focused on meeting our own needs. But God calls us to be “other-centered”, thinking of our spouse’s needs before our own. This other-centeredness cannot truly happen without the supernatural power of God. Take time to ask God to reveal an area where you need to be other-centered with your spouse – then take real steps to move in that direction.
We challenge you to take action in at least one of these six areas this week. You must move from just knowing you need to do something to actually taking an action step.
I’ll leave you with a quote from a friend and mentor of mine. He says, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts”.
My prayer for my marriage, and yours, is that we would indeed finish the “marriage race” well!