A few years ago, I shared this story told by Zig Ziglar after his 44th wedding anniversary. One day his wife looked at him and said, “Honey, I wish I was younger.”
“Why?” Zig replied, thinking about the adventure of four decades of marriage to the woman of his dreams.
“If I was younger, I could be married to you even longer,” she answered.
Amazing story about a couple that loved each other through some of life’s very deep valleys. Is this the kind of marriage relationship people only fantasize about? Or is it possible for every-day people to experience a marriage relationship of deep love and affection?
Scripture offers some clear teaching about our most intimate relationship, namely marriage. You can find clear teaching in several biblical texts including Ephesians 5:15-33; Proverbs 5:18; 18:22, 19:14; Matthew 19:5; Colossians 3:18-19; and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.
Scripture also shares the “not good” statement by our Creator in Genesis 2:18. Our great God in His infinite wisdom knew that it was “not good” for man to be alone. He needed someone other than himself for completeness.
So what’s the secret to marriage longevity? I don’t know if I have discovered the “secret” as much as I know there are some powerful principles that have worked for Sharon and me.
Let me offer up to the guys some things I’ve found helpful:
1. Dedicate your marriage to the Lord. From a biblical perspective, marriage is not just between two people. The Lord is a significant part of this relationship. Three is not a crowd when you both practice His presence as a welcomed participant. The result is that you can pray with one heart and handle disagreements with a different perspective than what mere humans bring to a relationship.
If you haven’t done it yet (or it has been a long time), take her by the hand, bend the knee and together place your marriage relationship on the altar. Let your wife experience you taking the lead in this, not for show or for manipulation, but from the purity of your heart. When it is His marriage instead of yours, you treat it with a different level of respect and priority.
2. Every day, learn something about her. I make it a habit to study my wife, Sharon. A few months after our engagement, she was diagnosed with a rapidly developing form of cancer. So much so, that the surgeon told her mom not to order the wedding invitations until he was finished with the surgery. That was a huge moment in our lives – in my life. From that day forward, I have recognized and lived as if there was not going to be a tomorrow. As a result, I know I need to say at the end of every day, “I learned this one thing about her today.”
3. Use good judgment. Every man needs to exercise good judgment in his interactions with other women other than the one to whom he’s married. Whether at work, church or at the gym, any level of sensual or flirtatious interaction with anyone other than your spouse will break your heart. As a result of indiscrete judgment, the landscape of too many American homes is littered with broken lives, broken marriages, and broken children.
Zig Zigler used fire as an illustration. “Sex, like fire, properly handled is a beautiful gift from God. A fire in a fireplace can bring cheer, comfort and warmth. If the fire spreads into the rest of the home, disaster is the result. Sex outside of marriage leads to more problems and difficulties than any other single thing. Every night you need to say to your mate, ‘Honey, I love you and I was faithful to you today.’”
4. Keep on courting. Remember first love? Remember when you thought more about her than about what you were doing? How you did things just for her? When was the last time you surprised her with flowers or mailed her a card? You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. The spice of a marriage is spontaneously expressing how much you value her. That’s what you did for her when your relationship first began. You valued her as a person.
Successful marriages practice biblical principles. Here’s the bottom line: Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…”