What Makes Your Marriage Work?

People have been eager to talk about their age at marriage and other stats, but I’d like to know what makes your marriage work. I strongly suspect that when you got married will make a difference in the answer.

So, as one of the longest married (since 1976, when we were ages 19 and 24) I’ll give you the traditional perspective. And it will be even more traditional than our 36 years of marriage might lead you to expect, because my husband and I both grew up in a conservative state, in a…

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  1. Lance

    I married not just my best friend, but the beat person I have ever known. We waited to marry, and enjoyed and learned from the wait. We waited to have kids, and enjoyed and learned from the wait. And we live away from each others families, and the value of that cannot be understated.

  2. RadiantRecluse

    We, too, moved far away from hometown and families right after the wedding.  We are forever grateful that in the first few years of marriage we were on our own.  The foundation we built then has proven strong and dependable.

    And I neglected to mention my wonderful grandparents.  They both died very early on in our marriage, but their deep love for each other and 59 years of marriage continue to be an encouragement.  Their hearty approval and love for us was all the support we needed, which is why a photograph  of them taken on their 50th anniversary sits beside our wedding photograph on the mantel.  They challenged us to beat the number of years they were married since we started at a younger age, and we aim to please them!

  3. RadiantRecluse

    My Beloved and I met when I was eighteen, and he was twenty and just  heading off to basic training in the Navy.  It was “love at first sight” but  not something we were looking for.  (My family had essentially imploded with my parents’ divorce when I was twelve; his, though intact, was internally splintered and toxic.  He still considers being sent off to boarding school at age eleven his salvation.)  We both grew up quickly, starting work at a young age as well as putting ourselves through school.  Family support was non-existent. 

    But we loved each other deeply, respected each other, liked each other.  When we married two years later, we meant the vows we took.  Getting through the inevitable difficult times was easier when we returned to those promises, using them as the foundation for finding solutions. 

    To this day, after more than 30 years, strangers still stop us and ask if we’re newlyweds.  They see us as joyfully married, and the word used repeatedly is that what they see gives them hope…that loving marriages are possible.  We understand where they are coming from.  Why we are so blessed mystifies, but we are so grateful.

  4. The King Prawn

    My wife and I did everything wrong save one: we married not as a statement of flowery, adolesent, emotive love; rather, we married as a commitment. Most people gave us six months at the most. Thirteen years later we’re still rubbing their faces in it.

  5. AUMom

    We have been married for 33 years — mostly good years. What kept us going during the hard times was that we were both committed to staying married. Now, on the other side of it all, we can say we are married to our best friend and could not imagine wanting to be with anyone else. 

  6. raycon and lindacon

    We married 44 years ago, December 21, 1968.  We met in Bible college and both share a commitment to God in everything.  When we married, we viewed it as a contract not with each other, but both of us contracting with God.  We walk beside each other following God.  We two have become one flesh.  At first we each had our own personalities.  We still have those, but a single personality dominates our marriage, and it is an expression of our love and commitment to the Lord.  And that is why two very good friends can also be lovers and have a great marriage.

    Linda came from a really bad family situation.  Her disability from polio led to much time in hospitals, and at home, molested by her rage-aholic father, made a miserable family life a living hell.  God’s Grace is her salvation and strength.

    Ray came from a really average family situation.  That gave us many opportunities to see our faith and relationship tested, and provided a strength of commitment that does not fail.

    The foundation of our life and marriage is our faith in God, and no other aspect of our life comes close to that.

  7. Merina Smith

    I appreciate these perspectives, and relate to them.  We moved clear across the country from out hometown a few months after we got married, and that really made us create our own family and removed us from the competition from the home folks. We think so fondly of those years!  I like that phrase–joyfully married!  Nice that people think you’re newlyweds, RR–that’s a question we don’t get. But by now, we finish each other’s sentences, so it’s pretty obvious we’re not!  It’s also nice to think about that process of becoming best friends.  I’d say we weren’t best friends when we got married, but now we are.  When one of us goes away, we can’t wait to talk at the end of the day and tell each other about everything that happened.  A common theme, though, seems to be absolute commitment. In other words, you don’t think about divorce. That’s not in the playbook. Whatever the problem is, it can be solved because that’s what we do. 

    Ray and Lindacon–faith is a foundation for us too.  It’s gotten us through a lot.

  8. MaggiMc

    We also moved away from our families soon after we married.    Being completely on our own strengthened our relationship.  

    Re staying married, I would say we both have a lot of stick-to-it-iveness.  We’re flexible, don’t argue much, agree on money (don’t spend it if you don’t have it).  I’m just as happy as the day we married, and we have the added joy of our beautiful children.  I suspect we’re happier than our parents were at this age.

    We don’t worry much about traditional roles, although we’re traditional people.  My job can be demanding, so Mr. Mc arranged his schedule to be home when the kids get home from school.  I’ve accepted that Mr. Mc is pretty much never gonna wash those dishes or fold those clothes.  But I’ve got three dishwashers in training, so I’m covered.  I got tired of stressing over the house, so now somebody comes to clean every couple of weeks–a sanity saver.  This may seem mundane, but for working moms I know, division of housework is the number one gripe.  I just decided not to sweat stupid stuff.  It works.

  9. Rachel Lu

    I don’t know that I’ve been married long enough (5 years) to comment here but I will say to my mom (the author of the post) that while Dad does have a very easygoing personality in many ways, you certainly did your share of accommodating too. His career was always very important for him, and you did plenty to facilitate it. You made a very good life for him and for us!

  10. MJBubba

    Snooks and I share a conservative Christian faith and a conservative family fiscal policy, and a conservative political outlook.  She is truly my helpmeet.   In our early days we deliberately chose the old-fashioned model.  She became a stay-at-home mom, even though she has an MBA.   My home life has been pretty good.

  11. Mollie Hemingway

    I love this question! More than anything our marriage is helped by the grace of God. My husband and I are, in some key ways, not the best match. The only problem is that we couldn’t stay away from each other. We are helped by sharing faith and receiving forgiveness of sins weekly. We are two sinful people and we would not have made it even our short six years without this.

    We go to communion weekly and we hear the Gospel weekly. This is what “makes it work.”

    Many other things help, obviously. My husband makes me laugh many times a day. I admire and respect him. I know he thinks the same of me. And we do not believe in divorce. So, when it gets hard, it’s not on the table as one of the options. The options are usually that we work harder to understand each other and forgive each other.

    I’m just so thankful that God gave me this man to be my husband. I am truly blessed.

  12. Rocket City Dave

    Marriage is work. Sometimes dull, sometimes painful, sometimes rewarding but always work.

    Most people take the attitude that marriage is the joining of two soul mates in a romantic bond. It’s expected they’ll live happily ever after because they were meant for each other. Maybe they do for awhile but not for the long run.

    That viewpoint of easy effortless marriage undermines healthy marriage. It encourages us to bail when we’re disappointed in our mate, or feel that marriage shouldn’t require so much effort.

    I don’t think there’s a universal trick that makes marriages work.

    If our marriages are going to last, I think we have to put our marriage ahead of our own desires, we have to work at them and sacrifice for them.

  13. EJHill

    It will be 20 years in April and I’ve found the following things definately help:

    • Understanding that not everything has to be shared. I don’t watch her chick shows and she doesn’t watch baseball. I console myself with the knowledge that her daughter loves Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

    • Having a united idea of raising children. Our four understand that there are no courts of appeal. All we had to do was keep the lines of communication open. Hey, the boy wants to do “X,” did he ask you and what did you say? No? OK, the answer is still NO.
    • Work at the physicality of the relationship. Communicate and concentrate on the other, not yourself. In that regard, individualism is bad.

    And sometimes, just doing what you’re told to do works, too!

  14. tabula rasa
    Rocket City Dave: 

    Most people take the attitude that marriage is the joining of two soul mates in a romantic bond. 

    This whole “soul mate” thing is, I believe, horribly misleading to young people.  Soul mates are not pre-existent beings, they’re created by hard work.  

    My parents, near the end of their 60+ year marriage, were soul mates.  They didn’t reach that state until after about fifty years of marriage.

  15. 10 cents

    I could write similar things as previous commenters, but what I think it comes down to dumb luck and having a good understanding of my own heart before marriage. I chalk it up to luck because smarter people have checked off all the right boxes and failed. Of course I could blame my success on having great in-laws and many good supportive friends. For people who don’t like the term luck think of it as providence or grace. Basically I don’t understand how my wife has been patient with me for over 20 years, but I will knock on wood and pray that God grants her serenity to accept those things she can not change. :-)

  16. Leveret

    I have to reject the contention that luck has (much) to do with it. My marriage works because my wife and I have worked really hard at making it work.Like any investment, there were probably times when both of us may have questionned whether we had had made a mistake but, butressed by the Catholic religion’s teaching on the vocation of marriage – that it calls upon spouses to imitate Christ with love for each other even when unmerited -we work through what problems we have.It isn’t serendipity or romance that makes a marriage work – it’s hard work, investment and grace.

  17. Hartmann von Aue

    Luck my right eye.  The single biggest factor is mutual commitment to the other person and mutual deference which means a determination to give one’s self for the other always, to repent when one is in sin (whether it is anger, lust or selfishness), to reconcile when offense has been given and to reflect a Christ-like character and grow in it as necessary. In other words, Love, as it should be understood and not as a mere emotional and erotic thrill. 

    A good starting point learning to see and appreciate the virtues in the future wife or husband. One of the major attractions for me when courting Frau von Aue was her love for justice. Another her sensitivity to beauty. For these things and many others I love her, but there is also love in spite of, which is of equal importance. Those who have said that marriage is hard work are all quite right, and it is work that must be prioritized even above parent-child relationships if the marriage is to remain healthy. 

  18. HeartofAmerica

    We were married for many years before our son arrived and that helped solidify the relationship. Now that we are empty nesters again, it hasn’t been hard getting used to “just us” again.

    We keep God in our lives and He is the foundation that everything else is built on. Because I felt it was important to do so, I converted to my husbands religion (Baptist to Lutheran) when we married. Worshiping together is important.

    As for the other stuff…he makes me laugh. He’s also the nicest man that I know. He has a genuine caring for others. The man will hold the door open for a stream of people before coming in himself. I tease him that St. Peter will automatically have a job for him when he arrives in heaven. He will be the gate attendant. Very early in our marriage, my Mom once saw him opening my car door and she asked him him how much longer he would be doing that. He replied “when his arms fall off.” 31 years later and he’s still doing it.

  19. Robert Promm

    I appreciate the common theme of faith in God and love for the Lord Jesus as being the real “cement” of a happy, healthy marriage.  This is the same cement that holds our marriage together in a world where commitment and self-sacrifice has dropped out of fashion.

    Thanks folks for sharing your life experiences.  They are touching.

  20. 10 cents
    In all good fun, some marriages are saved by works that many spouses can boast. If the question is “What makes your marriage work?”, answer the question don’t disagree with another commenter. Again all in good fun, why are unlucky people so grumpy? :-)

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