“Love at first sight is easy to understand. It’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle,” are the wise words of Sam Levenson.
After 48 years, we are still in love. Still holding hands and doing other things besides.
So, what are the secrets to a happy marriage? Let me give my three:
1. Stay Committed
“Marriage is a commitment – a decision to do, all through life, that which will express your love for one’s spouse,” wrote Herman H. Kieval. Once when doing a seminar in Tasmania many years ago, I asked the rhetorical question, “What is Love?”
A participant replied, “Love is being committed to being committed!” It is hard to come up with a better definition. One of my many favourite love songs is Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson.
The line that applies to the concept of commitment goes like this:
“It was harder than we dreamed, but I believe
That’s what the promise is for”
You see, marriage is hard work, very hard work. Many times over the past 48 years, everything in me would say RUN. But that is when I remembered the promise I made, “to have and to hold till death do us part.”
As Ps Bill Beard said to me, “The key to success in life is to tie a knot at the end of the rope and hang on.” As the man said, “That’s what the promise is for.”
2. Keep Learning
“Once you stop learning, you start dying” is one of my favourite sayings. Staying married requires a life-long commitment to keep learning. It seems to me that once you think you know it all, you will find you know nothing. Humility is the prerequisite for growth as a person. The same is true for your marriage.
Maybe you came from an intact family, so you had a good example to start with. I grew up in a home that felt at times like World War III. In fact, for a while there, in my late teens, I thought that marriage was such a bad idea that I didn’t want any part in it. Perhaps that is why today, so many people can’t keep the knot tied, and many live in a serial search for the right partner, all the while engaging in casual sex. That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster, and social science proves it.
So, what is the answer?
Andre Maurois said, “A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.” Sings Jason Gray, “I can’t lose if I keep learning.”
3. Men & Women Are Different
“Gray says women use a points system which few men are aware of. Each individual act of love gets one point, regardless of magnitude. Men, on the other hand, assign small acts, small expenditures, fewer points. Larger blocks of points (20, 30, 40 points, etc.) go to what they consider bigger expenditures…
The different perception of expenditure can lead to conflict when the man thinks his work has earned him, say, 20 points and deserves corresponding recognition, while the woman has assigned him only 1 point and recognizes him accordingly.
The man tends to think he can do one Big Thing for her (scoring 50 points) and not do much else, assuming he has “banked” points and can afford to “coast.” The woman should be satisfied with his performance and give him credit for it.
Instead, the woman would rather have many little things done for her on a regular basis, because women like to think their men are thinking of them and care for them more constantly. Gray clarifies how these two perceptions… cause conflict. He encourages talking about these issues openly.”
Men often say to me, “My wife is high maintenance.” John Gray’s excerpt above shows that this is the case for most women. Women are love sponges. They soak up lots of care and attention and need it all.
I like to use the analogy that men are like diesel trucks. They will work long hours and carry heavy loads. Their requirements are simple. All they need is diesel, oil and water to go and go and go. Women are like high-powered racing cars. They can go very fast, but they need lots of attention. The right fuel, the right oil and lots of tender loving, highly specialised care.
As John Gray says, “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. Accept the differences and enjoy them. Check out this Prague University video below titled “Are Men and Women Different?”
I asked my wife for her top three tips for a successful, long-lasting marriage. They were:
The first two we agree on; the second, she was looking for me to give her; and the third, she had to learn when I didn’t give enough of the kindness she needed in point two. Marriage is an endless process of learning how to love again and again and again. So keep learning, and as Winston Churchill said, “Never give up.”
Sit down with your wife and ask her if the point system is true for her. Explain to her how your point system works. Don’t become too serious about it. Laugh as you do. Remember, laughter is the best medicine.
Yours for long-time love,