Tomorrow, Alli and I will celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. I am so very grateful for our life together. It’s wonderful, and that’s largely because Alli is the best person I know. I feel like I cheated the rest of the world to nab her. (But I’m not sorry.)
I was traveling with a pastor friend to attend a conference last week, and we were talking together about what a blessing our wives are; what a joy it is to be married. Don’t expect to hear a whole lot of songs on the radio that say that though. But that’s because marriage has been so criminally devalued by our society over the past few decades. We may be up in arms now about new laws that are attacking traditional marriage, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that ourselves anyway. We’ve done it with our attitudes. Marriage as a blessed partnership for a lifetime is not celebrated. It’s somehow not considered exciting or romantic enough.
Well, you can keep your shallow, skin-deep, high school hallway versions of romance. The real thing actually turns out to be a story that you have to spend your lifetime writing. Other quick-start versions are just a shadow of it. Our culture of instant gratification has tried to have the richness of life’s afternoon pulled forward to be enjoyed in the first few minutes of a hurried burst of sunrise. But you can’t. Love takes time, that’s all.
Reflecting on the past 25 years with Alli, our lives have gone through several stages: (1) newly-weds, (2) young parents with young children, (3) tired parents with teenagers, and (4) where we are now, parents beginning to see the child-raising finish line on the horizon.
The realization is gradually setting in that one day in the not too distant future we will have come full circle. We’ll be older, and hopefully quite a bit wiser, but it will be back to the two of us again.
I’ve known people for whom that is a frightening prospect. If the only thing holding your marriage together is the kids, then that day spells big trouble.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. It shouldn’t be that way! There are some things that I, for one, am actually quietly looking forward to.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a part of me that dreads the thought of our kids making their own lives beyond our nest. I can’t imagine not seeing each of their faces every day. But my melancholy is not because there will be an empty void left behind when they go. There won’t be.
I thank God that Alli is still my best friend, and our empty nest promises to be pretty great actually. We have a lot of things we want to do together with our future days of renewed freedom. Throw in regular visits with the kids, and hopefully grandkids (after all, I’m told that’s where it’s REALLY at), and I’m looking forward to something p-r-e-t-t-y fine.
After 25 years, and watching too many marriages given up on too soon, that comes as a joyous relief.
So I say all that to introduce a few random bits of advice for younger married couples. Not a play-by-play manual, but just some things that occur to me on the eve of our 25th:
- Put your marriage at the center of your lives. Make sure everything else orbits around you as a couple; your careers, friends and family. Don’t make the mistake of putting your relationship into orbit around others — not even the kids.
- Put the proper value on your relationship with your spouse. Don’t treat your marriage with contempt by giving other things higher priority.
- Breathe: it’s a marathon. Your son getting into trouble at school, or your daughter’s grades slipping, are not the life threatening crisis they can seem to be in the heat of the moment. These things too shall pass.
- Raise your kids to be independent. A good friend of ours told us when our kids were very young that we should imagine their lives as a 21 inch ruler. Every single year you need to cut off an inch of their dependence on you. That was good advice I think.
- Be grateful to God every day. Holy gratitude changes your view of everything.
As I think about it, I can perhaps summarize all this advice very simply. Just make sure through each passing year that your spouse is still your best friend.
“Marry the one you love” is pretty good advice. Here’s some that’s even better: “Love the one you marry.”
Happy anniversary, Alli! (And thankyou.)