Marriage letter to my kids - 15 things to help you stay married ....happily

With one of you already married and another just days away, my heart is full with things that I want to say.

You know that means another blog post. 

Be thankful - I could endlessly lecture you in person instead!

You have heard it said (a lot, it seems) that marriage is hard. That you have to work at it.  And that it's difficult.  Hard. Heavy. 
  Don't believe that.

Marriage is fun and sweet and wonderful.  Marriage is sacred and rewarding and tender. Marriage is God's beautiful blessing to help us grasp the relationship of Jesus and His Church.    No, my dear children, marriage is not hard.

But staying married can be.

You didn't have to live very long to be touched by the heartbreak of somebody not staying married.  People very close to you have scars from such shipwreck. You know all too well the pain that Dad and I wanted to shield you from forever.  But the hard truth is that some folks we know and love haven't stayed married.  Even though they never thought that would happen to them.

So, I write.  From where you are now, marriage displays its beauty.  And that's what I want you to see.  That's what I pray would be all you ever see.  But I've watched too much life, counseled too many hurting wives, and cried with too many broken friends to disbelieve that "not staying married" can happen to anyone.  I know I cannot inoculate you against this malady, my most treasured ones, but  I sure intend to fight for you to win at this thing called marriage, and to teach you to do the same.

Here's some things I want to share, some tips on how to help you stay married...

1.  Choose well.  The two of you with rings on your left hand have already demonstrated success in this area.  Kudos.  The other two of you - well, remember the sibling test!

2.  Be a good choice. Yep, this might be the most important one. Dad's granddad Ty told us when we got married that the most important thing was not to find a good mate but rather to be a good mate. Concentrate all your energy on letting God transform you into the image of Jesus and none of your focus on playing Holy Spirit in the life of your mate.

3.  Never criticize your spouse to anyone.  You will likely forgive and move on from the offense you deem worth sharing but not without cost.  Two things are likely to happen - the person hearing the criticism won't forget and they are apt to remind you of your spouse's inadequacies later.  You don't need that.  You need folks that will champion your mate.  The other thing that will happen is that you will be affected by what you shared.  Your attitude towards your spouse will be infected by the words of your mouth.  That's not constructive.  At all.

4.  Have some fun together.  When God created marriage, He did so with the observation that it is not good for man to be alone.  We need companionship in this life.  And it helps cement the bonds of marital connections if there are lots of times of hilarity and fun.  Make sure fun happens!  Have "inside jokes" for just the two of you (remember how insane Dad and I drove you with our nicknames that we will never reveal the meanings of????)  Laugh.  Be silly.  It will help you survive your kids.  Just sayin

5.  Be the first one to initiate reconciliation.  Even when the other person is wrong. (It takes two to argue, you know!)  You don't have to pretend or try and manipulate an apology from them to initiate reconciliation.  Just be the one to make the first move back towards togetherness.  Stomp on your pride.  Value the relationship more than "rightness" and work towards restoration.

5.  Protect your intimacy.  Since I try to keep this blog G-rated, that's all I'll say.  Except that it's important.  Really important.  You get my drift.

6.  Be a good team.  Learn to dovetail with one another's strengths.  Don't worry about correcting all the weaknesses - it's together that makes you unstoppable!  Purpose to complement one another and set one another up for success.  Be a good team, not two impressive individuals.

7.  Have a bunch of kids.  Lots of them.  Not just 'cuz I want grandkids (even though I do!!!).  But because having kids does some amazing things for you.  Gets your eyes off yourselves.  Gives you a purpose greater than your own happiness.  Makes you laugh.  (OK, so it will also make you cry through certain stages but you'll survive. And it'll be worth it.  Promise).  You will literally be transformed (sanctified) as you raise these little tax deductions.  And you will be sending arrows of the Gospel into the World.  Major accomplishment.
Plus, Daddy and I want a lot of GKs....

8. Cultivate good friends together. This is so important.  Good couple friends.  Folks that you enjoy and have fun with. Folks that will stand by you in the hard places and folks that you can stand beside in their hard places.  Folks that you can raise your kids with and help one another in practical ways and celebrate the happy times for each other.  Daddy and I have been so very blessed to have found these folks in every place we've lived.  Folks that are more than a Christmas card - they are the very fabric of our lives.  These are the folks that come to your wedding, help put up your basketball goal, celebrate your successes with us, stand by us at gravesides, and pour out compassion when we hurt. We have found these gems in the Body of Christ.  That's the best place for you to find yours, too.

9.  SERVE at church together.  Of course I want to tell you to find a good, Bible-teaching church and get major helpings of spiritual food there on a regular basis.  But don't just go and take.  Go there and give.  Find a place of regular service to employ your gifts.  Be so connected that, if you don't show up, it causes a disruption.  Be that integrated into the local church body. And if you find a place where you can serve together, it's really really sweet.

10..Do not place the expectation of your happiness on another person.  You alone are responsible for your happiness.  You alone.  No human being can stand up under the burden of another's happiness.  Don't expect your mate to solve your problems of loneliness or sadness or hurt.  Take those to Jesus.  Let Him fill up your cup with Himself.  To overflowing.  Then you can splash your happiness to those around you.  Crazy thing is, when we aren't so needy, other people are actually more attracted to us.  And more able to add drops of joy to our already overflowing emotional bucket.  But when we are thrusting our empty cups at our mate, begging (demanding) for even just a drop or two of happiness, he/she is practically paralyzed.  Unable to share any overflow from their own joy fountain because seeing our own pathetic needy demands squeezes the joy right out of them.  And if they could manage to siphon a teaspoon or two out in our direction, our empty cups are so dry that whatever they might be able to contribute quickly evaporates and our neediness persists.

11. Never be disrespectful.  Scripture tells us that Love is not rude. You might be mad as a wet hen and maybe even be justified in feeling so.  But do not be rude or disrespectful.  No matter what.  No excuse.  Respect is a cornerstone for love and trust.  Do not let the termites of disrespect ruin the foundation of your marriage. 

12.  Spend less than you make.  Keeping financial margin is a great asset to a happy marriage.  You don't have to make a lot of money - you just have to spend less than you make.  Learn to be grateful and content.  It's learned behavior - ask the Holy Spirit to help you.  And practice what Dave Ramsey teaches!

13.  Give your money away. Scripture is literal -when Jesus says "It is more blessed to give than to receive", He means it.  It is literally true.  Make generous giving a happy habit of your home.  Some of the most fun your Dad and I have ever had involve times we have done some serious giving.  Anonymously.  It's a high like none other.  Even greater than an SEC championship.  (But for the record, I'd like another chance to compare the two....)

14. Let it go.  Likely there will be things that you think are never "resolved" and you want to revisit them until resolution is secure.  Probably what you're really pursuing is for your perspective to be understood...and embraced.  Let it go.  Don't keep trying to prove your point.  With the gene pool you inherit from me, this will be more than a little unnatural.  But keep at it - learn to let it go.  As Papa would say, "Pass and re-pass".  The relationship is more important than your position.  As Granddaddy says - "It's not always best to be right".  Let it go.

15.  Keep doing the "little things".  Things like holding hands in public.  Singing together in the car.  Putting away his laundry or holding out her chair for her to sit down at dinner.  Things like "The Red Plate" at birthdays and extra morning snuggles and "talk time" without kids after dinner.  Things like appreciating hard work and keeping the house clean and paying bills on time.  And phone calls in the middle of the day and complimenting a new outfit and making his favorite dessert for no reason.  "Little things" that can get pushed aside in the busy-ness of life's demands because there seem to be "bigger things" that clamor for our energy and attention and we don't realize that the "little things" are not little at all but rather very very big.

One more thing you need to know. Marriage.  It's a joyous and sacred and exciting treasure.  How I pray for it to be all that and more for you.  How I pray for you to stay married - and happy - and for nothing except death to change your status.  Seriously.  I pray that.  You need to know that I pray for God to take you home if you do anything to damage the Body of Christ and the name of our God by desecrating this holy institution.  Stay married. I mean it.

Oh and I love you :)