marriage spiritual

The Secret to a Long Lasting Marriage

10:09 AMHeather

The day was perfect. A crisp winter day in early January, with bright blue skies and not a cloud to be seen. Any angst about a freak weather event was quickly dispelled by the beauty of the day. Wearing my sister's gorgeous white satin gown with lace cut-outs, I looked down the aisle to see that handsome man in his dashing tuxedo, wiping tears from his eyes, and I never felt beautiful.

That day, 21 years ago today, was indeed perfect.

Except for one thing. 

Our long winded pastor. Who ignored all of our requests for a brief and lovely little ceremony. What can you do in a church full of people when the pastor is handed a microphone and takes full advantage of a captive audience?

Chris' godmother said it was the longest Protestant wedding she'd ever attended. No question about it.

Every year on our anniversary when we watch our wedding video, we get a good chuckle out of all the bloopers. All the phrases misspoken (such as the prayer at the end when the pastor said, "as they consumate their marriage here today" instead of consecrate). 

And we are still baffled by that stunned moment when he walked us through our vows and we said I Do. And then he asked us to repeat it. We both looked at him, confused. But then he prompted us again. So we said I Do twice.

So basically, we are doubly married.

But therein lies the secret to lifelong commitment to the marriage covenant. The secret to a long lasting marriage.

You have to keep saying I Do.

Every day, you have a choice to make. You wake up and go through your day, and you have to keep saying I Do. And on some days, the decision point seems to come nearly hourly. Or even more frequently.

Oh, sure, it's easy when you are floating along on the high of young love and the novelty of marriage. Wedding dreams come true and all those wedding gifts sparkling and new. Memories of the big day still fresh on your mind. 

It's easy to say I Do then.

But when the stress of high demand jobs leave you worn out, with an on-call schedule that means your time is never your own. Ever. Because when duty calls, you must respond. Leaving you with little energy to give to your spouse... you have to keep saying I Do.

When your cardinal rule of fighting fair is broken just months into marriage and one of you storms out in the middle of it, leaving the other perplexed and angry and alone... you have to keep saying I Do.

When your spouse walks back in the door -- because, after all, this is now home to both of you -- and you need to find a way to resolve the conflict and not break another cardinal rule that says don't go to bed angry... you have to keep saying I Do.

When both of your cars die in the same week, and you must suddenly jump from no car payments to two on your non-profit salaries, leaving your stressed out and frustrated... you have to keep saying I Do.

When you finally decide to start a family, and are relishing the secret of a pregnancy unannounced only to experience a painful miscarriage that leaves you hurting and withdrawn... you have to keep saying I Do.

When, at last, you hold that first born son in your arms and you can feel your entire world shift from being a young couple to a young family... you have to keep saying I Do.

As your family grows and your toddlers exhaust you and you can never finish a sentence with each other, although the vast majority of dialog exchanged involves the contents of your child's diaper or the severity of his routine reflux vomiting... you have to keep saying I Do.

When a season of post partum depression melds into a season of debilitating migraines and you are both at wits end... you have to keep saying I Do.

When a phone call comes with the news of a family loss that you cannot fathom, and you realize you are the ones who must travel and comfort and mop floors and help plan a funeral and console older siblings and explain it all to your own children... you have to keep saying I Do.

In seasons of joy you could never imagine, when your children smile at your for the first time, or your preschooler announces he wants to marry you when he grows up, and you have to explain your heart is already taken... you have to keep saying I Do. When you see your spouse in a new light, and marvel at how you are constantly discovering who they are and exploring new dreams together... you have to keep saying I Do.

In seasons of despair and frustration and anger and conflict and sadness -- all those times when you are inclined to push each other away... you have to keep saying I Do.

It's a constant choice. To look at the one you married and set your intentions to keep choosing that person, to keep choosing to fight for your marriage, to keep pursuing the Lord together, to keep praying through heartaches and praising God for good things... you have to keep saying I Do. 

There is a tricky caveat to this secret. The thing is that you BOTH have to keep saying I Do. You see, one spouse's loudest and most emphatic "I DO" cannot bear the weight of the marriage for both of you. And so, without an ongoing "I Do" from both parties, the marriage covenant becomes vulnerable.

I've found it helps to set your mind toward your covenant when you stop to remember all the reasons you fell in the love in the first place. To laugh together about your early days, when you were awkwardly pursuing one another. To look through old photos and giggle at your clueless younger selves. To watch your wedding video together and to relive that special day and all the feelings when you first said I Do.

Considering all the ways that God has proven faithful. Considering all the hard fought battles. All the joys and even the hard moments. To look back and to see God's hand in it all. And then to dream together about all the things God might bring in the future.

To remember that the One who made you each and knit your hearts together is the same One who will sustain and equip and guide you to make that choice, over and over and over again.

To keep saying I Do.

And then, to say it again.

Because its worth repeating.

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