This month, my wife and I will have been married 47 years. How about that, 47 years to my first wife and we still love each other.
So how did we do it? How did we survive a relationship for all those years? The key is, just as surviving as a Christian, you need to have a personal relationship with Christ. Marriage is a personal relationship between two people who learn to love each other, who learn what is the most important thing, and keep "it" the most important thing. That thing that kept us together is knowing that the most important thing in our lives is Christ. If our relationship with him is not right, neither will our relationship with each other be right.
Wayne Bennett is one of the most successful coaches in rugby league history. For more than a decade, he coached the Brisbane Broncos in the Australian league. Bennett is revered by players, notoriously difficult for journalists, and widely admired and respected. In 2002 he released a book, Don’t Die With the Music In You. Present at the launch were News Limited Director Lachlan Murdoch, Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, and a host of rugby officials and corporate heavyweights.
Yet when speaking of his greatest success he turned not to his achievements in football, but to his home life. Bennett paid tribute to his wife, Trish, saying "One of the greatest achievements is to be able to stay married to her, and I hope for the rest of my life that will remain my greatest achievement. It is the thing I want more than anything else."
When I graduated from school, my wife was at the top of the class. I, on the other hand, was at the other end. So I guess you could say one of my most successful things was marrying up and staying married.
Something else that has helped us survive 47 years is trust. Trust is an important factor for all relationships. When trust is broken, it is the end of the relationship. Lack of trust leads to suspicion, suspicion generates anger, anger causes enmity and enmity may result in separation.
A friend, who is an operator, told me that once she answered a call, "Public utilities board." There was silence. She repeated, "PUB." Still no answer.
When she was about to hang up, she heard a lady say, "Oh, so this is public utilities? Sorry, I got the number from my husband’s pocket but I do not know whose number it is."
Both my wife and I have made mistakes, fallen short and even, at times, disappointed each other. But in building trust and a lasting relationship we had to put in practice what Christ teaches in the scriptures. "Forgive."
Even the Apostle Paul said, "Forget those things which are behind and press onward." Trust comes from knowing that in a relationship we will make mistakes. But when we do, we put them behind us and move forward trusting.
Another key to building lasting relationships is in how we speak to each other. There is a Chinese saying: "A speech will either prosper or ruin a nation." Many relationships break off because of wrong speech. When a couple is too close with each other, we can forget mutual respect and courtesy. We may say anything without considering if it would hurt the other party.
A lady and her millionaire husband visited their construction site. A laborer saw her and shouted, "Hi, Emily! Remember me? We used to date in the high school." On the way home, her husband teased her, "Luckily you married me. Otherwise you would be the wife of a construction worker." She answered, "You should appreciate that you married me. Otherwise, he would be the millionaire and not you."
Too often, off-hand remarks plant seeds for a bad relationship. Like a broken egg, they cannot be reversed. To survive your relationship, remember what the scriptures teach, "Think on whatsoever is lovely, kind and true."
God has given your partner to you. You must choose to build the relationship you have; you may not be able to change your partner. But you can change how you approach the relationship and that, my friend, will over time change your spouse.
Harn is a member of the United Ministerial Alliance and a retired minister who lives in Hinesville.