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This is Part 2 of a two part series on marriage. I’m sharing wisdom from my parent’s marriage of 53 years. Top 10 tips for staying married.
Staying married is not for the faint of heart
“The old church where we got married used to stand right here,” gestures my mom each time we pass the now empty lot in the little town of Ripley, West Virginia.
“Yeah, and they didn’t have air conditioning back then, either,” dad chimes in, indicating the blazing temperatures of that day long ago.
June 9, 1961. Fifty-three long years ago.
Ever wonder how that happens?
How a couple can stand each other long enough to stay together for such an extended period of time?
Today, I share with you 10 secrets of my parent’s marriage. These are their tips, along with a few of my own observations.
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1. Honor your mate.
Never humiliate or put down your husband before others. Build him (or her) up.
My mom always tried to point out the good in dad.
Dad was the quiet, witty type, who kept his feelings to himself.
“He may not say it, but he feels deep,” mom commented to me once.
Dad pastored for most of his career.
During that time, I overheard my mother say many positive things about him, and she was his number one fan in the first pew every Sunday.
2. Consider the wishes and desires of your mate.
If my dad was tired and wished to stay home from an event that my mom desired to attend, she went without him and let him rest.
When mom wanted to shop on vacation, dad (who absolutely loathes shopping) would find a bench and sit patiently until she returned (which had the potential to be a couple of hours).
3. Cook to please him/her.
My dad cooked breakfast, always. That was something he established years ago that he performs to this day.
You never knew what you were getting for breakfast – be it eggs and bacon, oatmeal, or pancakes.
Sometimes he opted for cereal, but never two days in a row.
It was a way he could serve his family, and he took pride in it.
My mom took charge of dinner, and dad didn’t like liver (bleck) or fish, so we never had to worry about those two things (I had my dad’s taste bud tendencies).
(Except the time mom served pickled corn. Double bleck. Dad loved that awful stuff. Plus, they didn’t tell me and let me load it up right beside my mashed potatoes. Not cool, man. Not. Cool.)
Anyhoo, mom always had dinner on the table by 5:00PM; 5:30 at the latest.
Dinner consisted of a meat, starch, and several vegetables, one green.
Always a green. She believed firmly in that rule.
4. Spend wisely – stay within your budget.
My parents were both good at this.
We never had a lot of money, things were tight for as long as I can remember.
They pinched pennies, never splurging, always frugal, somehow managing to store money in savings.
What can I say – my dad had a degree in book keeping – he knew how to stretch a buck. And mom was totally on board with that.
And get this: I graduated college with zero debt???
I had a few grants, but there were bills, and somehow, mom and dad managed to squeak by, sacrificing even the smallest luxuries, in order to give me that gift.
Money is a touchy subject in just about every marriage, but mom and dad had this one down.
It’s a great goal to strive towards.
5. Always kiss your mate hello and goodbye.
I never saw him return without doing the same.
They demonstrated acknowledgement of one another, and stopped what they were doing to greet each other and inquire of the day.
I’m happy to say, my marriage patterned this.
It’s an important expression of honor and affirmation of one another.
6. Respect each other’s need for space.
In most of the homes we lived in when I was growing up, my dad had an office. It was his work space; his “man cave”.
A refuge for him to think, pray, work on sermons, do the bills, and manage the check book. This was important to him.
Five years ago, when their health declined dramatically, we decided to build them a small apartment adjacent to our home.
The one major thing that had to be in that apartment?
You guessed it. The study.
That’s his happy place, and mom respects it.
Mom always loved to sew and garden.
She had her little nook in the bedroom where the sewing machine stood, and if she wasn’t sewing (much of the time for dad and I), she was out in her flower patch.
They honored each other and gave each other room to grow in these aspects.
It’s important to have hobbies separate from your spouse – it keeps you sane.
7. Worship together.
My dad’s counsel has always been this:
“A follower of Christ should marry a follower of Christ. To be unequally yoked causes all kinds of problems in marriage.”
Marry someone strong in the faith, and serve the Lord together.
My parents have missed church a handful of times in their lives.
They are faithful people.
They ministered together in our church where dad pastored – mom right alongside him, visiting, calling, and keeping tabs on parishioners and those in the surrounding community.
They were a team, and they still are a team.
They still visit the sick and elderly (even though they don’t realize they fit in that category now). They each have a word of encouragement for anyone they come in contact with.
They minister wherever they go.
Because they both love the Lord.
8. Study personality types.
“Read a book about the temperament types and find out the strengths and weaknesses of your temperament.”
“Don’t read this book to find out the strengths and weaknesses of your spouse – apply it to yourself and find out how you can be a better person.”
(I copied this exactly from my dad’s handwriting. Pretty good, huh?)
My dad has always been into personality studies. That must be where I get it; my daughters are always taking the Myers Briggs tests.
The biggest take away from this is: don’t try to change your mate. You aren’t perfect either.
Look in the mirror. God can change you, if you let Him.
9. Treat your marriage vows with respect.
“Marriage is making a ‘covenant’ to live for God to keep your marriage vows.”
I remember dad commenting once on a woman in our church who was very pretty. He was impressed with her for honoring her vows by always staying true to her mate.
Good looks can be a downfall for a person, and dad understood that.
We all have to be careful. No matter how long we’ve been married. The Devil prowls about seeking whom he may devour.
Stay true to your mate.
10. Don’t be afraid to argue.
“If you never argue, then one of you is unnecessary.”
I know, this one caught me by surprise too.
I think I’ve heard my parents argue once in my life. That was because they had the policy never to do it in my presence (and that one time I heard because I was snooping).
I think what my dad is trying to say is: you can’t keep it all in.
If you do this, eventually you will turn bitter and resentful.
If you disagree, talk it out, and if necessary, argue. But get it out there. Don’t stuff it down inside.
Personally my husband and I have never had a problem carrying this out. So, we’re golden!
It takes years to get a rhythm. And just when you do, you enter a new transition (such as childbirth, empty nest, retirement, health problems due to aging).
There will always be things to work out because marriage takes two and nobody ever shares the same exact opinions as their mate.
So get it all out. Just get it all out there.
And there you have it, my friends.
They celebrated 53 years June the ninth, and my daughter just celebrated her third anniversary. She married on their 50th, which they’re celebrating in this picture.
They are 74 and 77. Life has dealt its blows to these two beloved people, but they remain solid.
Love you, mom and dad. I hope my marriage lasts 53 plus years.