What does it take for a Marriage to Survive?

This was the view from our table at a lovely little restaurant overlooking the Russian River as it meets the Pacific Ocean in Jenner, California.  Sunday night’s dinner was a fitting conclusion to a four-day weekend spent in celebration of thirty years of marriage.

Traveling and celebrating with us were our friends Paul and Margaret who were married exactly one week before we were.  The four of us sampled local cuisine, traveled the vineyard valleys on rented bikes, hiked through Redwood forests, explored beaches and soaked in a hot tub under the stars.

During our hike through the Redwoods of Armstrong Woods, as we admired the longevity of huge trees that have survived for centuries, we asked ourselves what it takes for a marriage to survive, grow, and even flourish for decades.  Three, to be exact.

Paul recommended marrying your best friend.  He and Margaret still have a great time together.  They hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon this summer, and then they hiked back up the next day.  It takes a strong marriage to survive that!  For some added practical advice, Paul recommends investing in a GPS.

Dan and I recently recognized the importance of allowing one’s spouse to grow.  We discovered this rather painfully in the aftermath of, well, a massive fight.  (Sometimes big blow-ups are nasty but necessary relationship re-sets.)  We had been interpreting each others’ actions through twenty-year-old filters, not recognizing that we had outgrown some of our former behaviors and attitudes.

Therefore, our recommendation is to give your spouse the freedom to grow by re-calibrating your expectations of his or her behavior when you notice rough edges becoming smoother or that expected negative tendencies are not so frequently on display. We’re working on applying our own advice.

Dan and I are not the same people we were thirty years ago.  (Thank God.  I mean that very literally.)  I was just emerging from my Mr. Magoo years, and Dan had not yet met his Savior.  Hopefully most of us change and grow throughout our adult years; the trick is to grow in the same direction.  That’s a subject for another day.

We watched the sun set for a full hour over dinner on Sunday night. Each scene was more spectacular than the previous one.  The view before us changed in depth and design while remaining essentially the same in form and content.  Kind of like a marriage.

Marriages start out with white-hot heat like the full sun still blazing just above the horizon.  Everything is sharp; the future is bright.

The intensity of a marriage eventually fades, but new colors emerge to create a more interesting and nuanced portrait. Our server commented that Sunday’s sunset was exceptional because there were clouds in the sky.  Maybe that is a helpful thought when we feel oppressed by clouds in our marriage, for clouds of conflict and difficulty are the perfect medium for a stunning display of light.

The later stages of our Sunday sunset were the most spectacular.  The sun itself was no longer even visible, but its light reflected brilliantly in the sky and clouds above.   Same scene, same sun, same clouds.  Unique beauty in each stage.

What does it take for a marriage to survive?  The grace of God and His light illuminating our relationship and circumstances.

But we need to do our part too.  I’d love to hear your ideas for sustaining a marriage.  Suggestions?

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  2 Corinthians 4:6

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9 Responses to What does it take for a Marriage to Survive?

  1. Sue Anderson says:

    Hey Judy…do you eat the hot “tums” in hot “tub?” I’ll try that with my next bout of heartburn! 🙂

  2. KJ (Ruthie) Lange says:

    Just… beautiful and inspiring. Having had a failed marriage and then 16 years of being a single mom, I entered into a lasting marriage 7 (almost 8) years ago. I have learned alot from you, Judy, and your family that I believe makes me a better person, a better wife, a better friend.
    as I apply this verse to my (marketplace) work, I also apply it in my marriage:
    “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Col 3:23.
    God has blessed me and our marriage over and over again. Failure is not an option as a previous post related. I was thinking by the time Heinz and I are married 30 years, I’ll be 78!! ha ha, never too old to climb into a hot tub at sunset, right!?
    Thanks for your insight.

    • Judy says:

      Thanks for reminding me of that motivating verse in the context of marriage, KJ. Seven years already! Way to go – and here’s to hot tums under the stars for many years to come! (You’ve always been a great friend:)

  3. Beautifully said, Judy. Great post.

  4. Linda Ostrand says:

    These thoughts are rather simple but have proved to be saving tenets of my marriage: before your wedding day (and any opportunity thereafter) commit to one another that you will not divorce (it may sound obvious but in years of marriage where there can be much conflict, busyness, tiredness and God’s voice seems too quiet — we can entertain and even pursue this thought of “ending our marriage…” ); tell each other the truth; be yourself (can’t emphasize this enough!!); give lots of grace; put your spouse’s needs before your own; work hard at being each others best friend; work towards complete intimacy (as you have with the Father); but most of all let our Heavenly Father guide your relationship/be the center of your relationship/perfect your relationship.

    P.S. Memorize these verse: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. and James 1:19 Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

    Enjoy your marriages!

    • Judy says:

      Great advice Linda – thank you! I suppose these are “simple,” as in “of course this is what we should do in a marriage,” but not so easy to remember and act upon. I don’t always tell the truth or give grace or put Dan’s needs before mine even though I know I should and genuinely want to. Thanks for the reminder today, Linda.

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