This month marks eleven years that Ronnie and I have been married. Nowadays, that’s quite the accomplishment for a couple our age. Lots of marriages don’t make it, and many people are on their second or third at this point.
I thought I’d share some keys to our successful marriage, since statistically speaking, we’re practically experts in the area. So, without further ado, here are the Holbert tips to a happy, long-term marriage:
1. Remember when all your married friends and family gave you that great advice when you were about to tie the knot? – “Never go to bed mad at each other.” Well, forget that. Sometimes, all you need to work things out is to get a good night’s rest. You can always re-evaluate in the morning. Maybe you’ll still be mad. Maybe not. Just sleep when you’re supposed to sleep. There’s no sense in arguing all night just to avoid going to sleep before working things out.
2. “Play fighting leads to real fighting.” My mom used to have to tell us this all the time when we would bicker, poke fun, push buttons, and inevitably get carried away and hurt each other’s feelings. These are wise words. What starts out as fun teasing about something like the fact that Ronnie could not be on time if he wore seven watches can too quickly turn into something hurtful like Mandy, when was the last time you plucked your eyebrows they’re looking kind of bushy and unibrow-ish?
3. Take interest in the same things. That’s not to say that you can’t have your own interests, but you should make an effort to enjoy the things that your spouse enjoys. We camp together – I had never camped before I met Ronnie. We garden. We spend time together doing things that we both find enjoyable. Maybe that’s the main thing – spending time together.
4. Build something together. Ronnie and I always have some sort of project going. Working together to accomplish a task has many benefits. It forces you to adapt to each other’s capabilities, to develop teamwork, to hone your communication skills, to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of working together to build something then sitting back and looking together at the tangible evidence of what you can achieve together. That’s not to say the whole process will be peaches and cream. There will be arguments (trust me), like when I laugh uncontrollably when the tape measure somehow falls off the top of the ladder and hits Ronnie square on the forehead and that little trickle of blood strikes me as the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but the fact that you work through it makes it that much better.
5. Be real. I used to think that there were certain things I was supposed to do as a wife, certain things he should do as a husband, certain things we were supposed to have, a certain kind of house in which we were supposed to live…you get the idea. But, you know what? I was wrong. When we first got married, we tried to model our lives by what we thought was expected. We bought a house, had nice cars, got a dog – we never quite did keep up with the Jones, but we could have been their slightly less accomplished next door neighbors. And you know what? We weren’t happy. By the time we figured out that we don’t need a big house or lots of stuff, we were in debt and barely able to escape. Maybe people don’t understand now why we live in the country in a little house, but it’s suits us. We are living the life that makes us happy, and we don’t care what anyone thinks. If only someone would have told us that before we racked up the debt!
6. Be each other’s best friend. I tell Ronnie my secrets. I laugh with him. He is the person I go to when I feel happy, sad, mad, betrayed, annoyed, disappointed, frustrated, anxious, or any other feeling I may experience. Why? Because I know he cares. I know he wants what’s best for me. I know he’ll tell me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it. I know he has my back. He loves me. What more could anyone ask for in a best friend? And I strive to be that friend for him. We’re buds.
7. Keep the romance alive (and by romance, I mean, well…you know…*clears throat* romance). Do I really need to elaborate?
8. Trust each other.
9. Be stubborn. We like to joke that the only reason that we’re still together is that we were both too stubborn to leave in those early years of marriage. I can remember arguments so bad that one of us would try to throw the other out of the house. That never worked – it went something like this: “I’m not leaving! You leave!” ”No! I’m not leaving! You leave!” Maybe it went on all night, but you know what? Neither one of us ever left. There’s a place for some good old-fashioned stubbornness sometimes. At those especially immature moments in our marriage, it often ended up being our own immaturity that kept us together.
10. Pray. I believe wholeheartedly that God brought Ronnie into my life. I am so thankful for that. I always pray that God will bless our marriage and that I will be the wife that He wants me to be. We are devoted not only to each other, but also to God, and that spiritual commonality makes our union that much stronger. We are both keenly aware that we wouldn’t be where we are today without God’s blessing, protection, and guidance in our lives.
11. Be respectful. There’s absolutely no excuse to belittle or disrespect your spouse in front of anyone, including your children. Some disagreements need to wait until you can discuss them privately. Never tell jokes at your spouse’s expense. Build them up!
12. Be thankful. Never take what you have for granted. Tell each other you love each other every day. Multiple times a day.
Happy Anniversary, Ronnie!
John Prine – “In Spite of Ourselves”