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Dear Father Paul: My fiancé and I plan to get married in June. This will be my second marriage and his first. I don’t want me (or him) to make some of the same mistakes I made in my first marriage. Any advice? — No Name.
Dear No Name: Ah, June weddings. Such joy. Congratulations and all the best to you and your guy as you begin your new married life together. You no doubt know from your first marriage that marriage can be “pure heaven” or “pure hell” largely depending on what both of you make it. Judy and I will celebrate our 49th year of marriage this month and I am pleased to report that, by far, our marriage has been the former, rather than the latter. Although I am certainly no expert, my own 49 years of marriage, plus years of marriage counseling as a pastor, has taught me a few keys to a successful and lasting marriage. Here are my “top fifteen dos and don’ts for marriage success,” not in any particular order.
Number 1 — Laugh. Laugh a lot. Laugh together. Laugh at yourselves. Laughter covers a multitude of mistakes both of you will make.
Number 2 — Become, and remain, “best friends.” Spend time together as friends doing things you both enjoy. In the long run, being “best friends” is more important than being mere “lovers.”
Number 3 — Live your marriage from day one under the admonition that God gave Adam and Eve (the first married couple) in Genesis 2:21-24. That is “cleave” (be joined) unto your spouse … not your friends and family.
Number 4 — Respect, admire and look up to your husband. This is more important to husbands than the very air they breath. Conversely, your new husband must love, adore and cherish you. Love (and love freely and often expressed) is more important to wives than anything else a husband can do. See Ephesians 5:33 for more on this all important God given principle absolutely required to have a successful marriage.
Number 5 — When you argue and fight (and you will), fight fair. Never make personal attacks or threats that can’t be “unsaid.” And never, ever use the “D” word.
Number 6 — More on arguing. Never go to bed without kissing and making up. The most mature and godly spouse (at the time of a fight) will be the first one to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Let it be you.
Number 7 — Still more on arguing. Learn to just overlook the small issues…the little things. Every hill is not worth dying for. Besides, in five or ten years, which of you will care or even remember that tiny issue that you had such a big fight over? Really!
Number 8 — Instead, concentrate on and work on and always talk through the four really big issues that haunt most marriages … money, sex, children and in-laws.
Number 9 — Understand, going into your marriage, and every day thereafter, this simple but all important truth, which is this: “You can’t change your husband, and he can’t change you.” The only person any of us can ever change is ourselves.
Number 10 — Decide (before you take your vows) who will do what jobs in the family. Write it down. If you work outside of the home, your husband must do a generous share of the mundane chores required to run a home.
Number 11 — Recognize that you both must “work” on a successful marriage. A good marriage takes lots of effort from both the husband and the wife. It isn’t automatic.
Number 12 — Eat at least one meal a day together…no excuses. Eat at a table, not on TV trays in front of the television, and talk to each other.
Number 13 — Give heartfelt thanks and praise to your spouse. Be sure there are at least three to five “thanks” and “great jobs” on file in your spouse’s memory before every single criticism and complaint.
Number 14 — Every year, on your anniversary, sit down together and read aloud, each of you alternating the verses, the famous “Love Chapter” from the Bible, I Corinthians, Chapter 13. Then discuss honestly, “how are we doing in light of what God says here about love? What do each of us need to change/improve?” And lastly,
Number 15 — Throughout your (hopefully) many years of marriage, make Christ the center of your marriage. Have an image of your marriage as being like a triangle, with you and your husband each at one of the bottom two points and Christ at the top point. Over the years, you will notice that if you both move up the lines, closer and closer to Christ, you will also become closer and closer to each other and more and more in love.
May God richly bless you both and your marriage is my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Send questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycross church.wordpress.com for more information, directions, service times and recorded Sunday messages.]