If your marriage could use a little help, here are three things that have transformed my marriage. I hope they do the same for you too.
Can you get arrested for attempted murder if you were only planning how you would kill a person and get away with it?
Now, I know that this post is entitled ‘Secrets to a 15-Year Successful Marriage’ but I’ve got to be upfront with you. Before I married my now husband, I’d actually planned on taking his life.
I wanted to kill my husband
No, I’m not a paid assassin or a contract killer – although that sounds wildly adventurous. I was just mad with him. Scratch that. I was furiously livid. Maybe it was the hormones. I was 18 and working at a cinema during the summer when I got off the payphone (I’m showing my age here) with Jo. We had a fight and I literally hated his guts.
I don’t even remember what the fight was about. Although I do remember imagining different ways I could dispose of his body CSI style. Not my proudest moment.
But they say the stronger the love, the stronger the hate. I’m not sure how much I agree with that. But the truth is that at one point I wanted to kill my husband.
Now, if I can get from a place like that to being completely in love with my husband of 15 years, it feels like anything’s possible.
If you’re going through a rough period in your marriage, I want to encourage you not to lose heart or give up hope. I’ve seen marriages come back from the brink of disaster. It’s totally possible.
A bit of my backstory
I married Jo when I was 22. He was 23. We met at college when we were 16 and 17 years old. And we became instant best friends.
I wouldn’t say we were high school sweethearts because we didn’t start dating until I went off to university some 300 miles away. In my case, absence certainly made my heart grow fonder!
But reflecting over the last 15 years of our marriage, there are certain things that I can say without a doubt, that have helped us in our marriage. And I know that without these things, Jo and I wouldn’t be married happily today.
3 Secrets to a Successful Marriage
Secret #1 – God
When I was a tempestuous 18-year-old plotting someone else’s demise I wasn’t a Christian. Perhaps that’s obvious, but I had to point that out.
I was completely led by my emotions directed by my passionate and volatile heart. Reasoning had little to do with my decisions at the time. Logic hardly made an appearance. And my emotions were unstable most of the time.
When I understood who God is, what he did for me – a lying, thieving, selfish and irrational youth – I was completely humbled. God started working on my heart. He started making me more compassionate and less selfish. More patient and reasonable and less hateful. And He’s still working!
Ultimately, this is the biggest change that has helped me in my marriage. And it’s a change that’s still in progress.
Change happens from the inside out
I can look back over the years and see how God has been changing me. When Jo and I were first married, I was still emotionally unstable. I was extremely needy and insecure. No lie, I used to cling onto Jo’s legs as he was heading out the door to go to work in the morning because I hated him leaving me! I’m probably making myself sound mentally unstable and you might be thinking ‘this is one crazy lady!’ – but I want to be honest about where I came from.
God helped me to find my security in Him and that has been the most impactful change that’s occurred in my life. Giving God all my burdens and hopes in prayer has allowed me to stop expecting perfection from my husband. Because, as much as I love the guy, he’s not perfect.
If you’re seeking security in your relationship, I’ve got to tell you that you’ll probably be disappointed. Not because your spouse isn’t a good guy. My husband Jo is a great guy. But bless his cotton socks, he’s only human. He’s not 100% perfect and he has and will let me down. #thehardcoldtruth
Find your security in the one who won’t let you down because He loves you more than you could possibly know and there’s nothing He won’t do for you. I’m talking about God, by the way!
Secret #2 – Talk
Relationship experts the world over will tell you that communication is vital to sustaining a relationship. And it’s true.
I can’t underline how important it is to talk about everything with your spouse. When I mean everything, I’m talking about your plans (together and individually), how you want to raise your kids, how to handle money and debt. Talk through all the things of importance – and especially anything involving money!
This secret doesn’t say you have to agree about everything. Most marriages wouldn’t last if that were the case. You might not agree about every last detail, but the more you talk things through, the more you understand the other person, their position and their beliefs. And the more you come together about the things that matter.
Initially you might find that in order to move forward with an issue, one of you will need to concede to the other person’s opinion. Don’t sweat it too much. Over time you may find that the more you talk things through and reason together, you reason each other to a position where you are both happy, or one of you is able to reason the other person over to their side.
The point is to just keep talking.
If you come up against an issue that’s a sore point for one person, ease up and give it a rest. Bring up the issue again when the person has the mental space to talk about it – not when they’re tired, hungry or frustrated. And try as much as possible to understand where your spouse is coming from and why they hold the position they do.
I’ve found that when I talk to Jo about things that I’m passionate about it’s easier for him to understand where I’m coming from when I talk about it in the third person or in a hypothetical way. If I just tell him, this is what I’ve done like it or lump it, it never goes down well!
But often when I ask his advice about something, it’s easier to get him onside. For example, when I ask him, ‘what do you think about….?’ Or ‘what would you say about….?’. Guys like giving their advice! 😉
Secret #3 – Date
Jo and I don’t have regular date nights each week. By some people’s standards we hardly “date” at all!! Most people consider dates to be events where you get a babysitter and go out with your partner.
We rarely do that. Anytime we hire a babysitter, it’s because we’re both gigging and need to work. (I’m a professional jazz singer by trade)
But I’m not talking about the mechanical aspects of dating. There are some couples who date every week but they have a dry sex life. It doesn’t follow that that kind of ‘dating’ improves your marriage.
Seek out your spouse
The dating I’m talking about is the kind of dating you did when you first met. You know that eagerness to be in the other person’s company, to know more about them, what they like and don’t like. How you would pay attention to the little details of their behaviour or character. How seemingly simple activities like staring up at the sky were magnified in importance because you were doing them with him.
Basically, I’m talking about cherishing your spouse. Savouring every moment with them. Continually learning about them. Finding out what makes them happy and how you can help and support them.
Feeding your curiosity about your spouse will also keep the flames burning in the romance department. There’s no reason that married couples should say goodbye to that sensation of butterflies in your stomach. Believe me, after 15 years of marriage, it’s still possible to feel like honeymooners!
Be your spouse’s helper and support
I’m not gonna lie. This is another area where God has helped our marriage ten-fold. Jo and I excel in this area only when we both have the intention of serving the other person. There’s a passage in the Bible in Ephesians 5v24-25 that says;
“Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first. A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.”
Here, marriage is likened to the relationship that Christ has with the church. Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to die for us (a high calling for husbands!). And the church loves and puts Christ first.
In other words, when we are both trying to put the other person first, we have a much happier marriage.
It’s that whole unselfish perspective that God keeps hammering home. Looking out for the interests of others rather than myself.
It pays itself back in dividends! After 15 years of marriage, it still feels like we’re in our honeymoon period.
And I couldn’t complete this post without asking my husband about his thoughts on having a successful 15-year marriage. And he said that three F’s were important:
- Friendship – he married his best friend
- Forgiveness – a bit offered, a lot received
- Faith – because the future is uncertain
Be intentional in your marriage
Having a successful 15-year marriage has taken a lot of intentional effort from both of us. We’ve talked, prayed, cried and laughed through our challenges and coming through the other side of hard times has brought us closer together.
If you want to be more intentional about your marriage, you’re in luck! Because I created an awesome freebie for you called the Intentional Marriage Workbook and it’s yours to download now for free! I really hope it blesses you as you grow and nurture your own marriage.
What’s one thing that’s helped you through a difficult period in your marriage? Let me know in the comments.