Thirty years ago today …

… we rode in the back seat of a huge old car, to an empty church. My husband’s brother and his wife stood beside us as we exchanged vows on a Saturday morning. There was no music, there were no flowers. The pastor’s wife sat in the back pew and knitted, and my four-year-old son played with a bottle cap he’d picked up from the street. After the ceremony, we ate quiche. I had learned from my mother to roll out the unused piecrust dough, smear it with butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, and bake it with the pie, so that was our “wedding cake.”

That was thirty years ago, and I have learned a lot from walking beside this amazing man through three decades. For instance,

  1. It really is better to bite your tongue than to give your partner a tongue-lashing (even when I deserve one)
  2. The marriage comes first. Kids grow up and move away, but we promised to be together until death parts us. Invest in that.
  3. Give up the fantasies. There is no such thing as a perfect spouse. I can’t be one, and I’m not married to one. What we have may not always be pretty, but it’s real, and it’s ours.
  4. Decide that this is what you want, and do everything in your power to keep it strong. This decision is closely connected to giving up the fantasy that there is such a thing as a perfect mate. The day I decided to want what I have was the day I knew this marriage would last.
  5. Look for the good stuff. This person by my side has so many amazing qualities. He has integrity. He’s patient. He is utterly dependable. He’s curious. He likes my cooking. He reads. He listens. He is as determined as I am to keep growing. I could go on and on. The truth is, every person on earth has some good in us somewhere. A spouse is the one who keeps reminding us of the good in us, and the one whose goodness we need to keep bringing to light.
  6. Keep the bad stuff in perspective. Yes, he snores, but it’s good to know he’s still breathing in the middle of the night. I find his snoring rather comforting, actually. There was something else… hmm, I can’t think of it right now. (Get my point?)
  7. Make the big decisions together, but trust each other for the small stuff.
  8. Make a budget. Keep it.
  9. One bookkeeper in the house is plenty, but that person needs to know all the data. Don’t hide expenditures from each other, and don’t hide income from each other.
  10. Be honest. Your spouse is not your confessor, but your spouse deserves the truth from you, even when it’s bad news.
  11. If you have children, always be united in your approach to raising them. Do not ever let your children play you against each other. (See number two, above.)
  12. Whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes. Whoever doesn’t cook cleans up the mess.
  13. Someone has to fold the stupid socks. Someone has to clean the stupid toilet. Someone has to take out the trash. Someone has to mow the lawn. Someone has to change the toilet paper roll. Someone has to unload the dishwasher. Someone has to buy groceries. It doesn’t really matter who does it, but it has to get done …
  14.    … Do not keep score.
  15. Find a way to talk through your disagreements. If you are too angry to talk reasonably, go for a walk to get yourself reasonable, then talk.
  16. Listen, listen, listen. With your heart as much as your ears and brain.
  17. Remember that you promised to uphold this person no matter what, so uphold this person no matter what.
  18. Pray for your spouse every day. Give thanks to God for the person who shares your life.
  19. Do something spontaneous every once in a while, just to prove to yourselves that you still can.
  20. Be dependable.
  21. Your spouse is not a mind-reader; ask for what you need. Be specific.
  22. Read aloud to each other.
  23. Spend time together doing nothing, saying nothing. Just be together.
  24. Take turns being the leader, the bread-winner, the main parent.
  25. Discover anew the person who first attracted you all those years ago.
  26. Hold each other every day.
  27. Say, “I love you” every day.
  28. Laugh together every day.
  29. Pray together every day.
  30. Love one another.

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