The fairy-tale-themed wedding was lovely. My husband’s nephew and his bride made a beautiful couple. Afterwards at the reception, the DJ invited the bride and groom and all the other married couples out onto the dance floor for a Generations Dance. It was crowded at first, but each time the DJ called out an anniversary—five years, 10 years, and so on—couples who had been married for only that length of time had to sit down. At last, only the bride and groom and the longest-married couple remained. I was surprised to find that Ken and I had won. We’ve been married for more than 46 years.
The DJ handed us a microphone and asked us to tell the new bride and groom the secret of our long, happy marriage. I’m not sure how I replied, having no time to prepare. But I’ve thought about it a lot since then and here are two of our “secrets.”
The most important one is to build your marriage on the foundation of Christ. There’s a very good reason why scripture tells us not to be unequally yoked with a non-believer—it’s because it doesn’t work. Since a Christian’s life-goal is to love and serve and glorify God, marriage becomes very difficult when your partner has a conflicting goal. What’s more, a successful marriage is going to require grace and forgiveness many times over, and this doesn’t come naturally to us. We learn what true love and forgiveness really are from God, who continues to love us in spite of our stupid mistakes, and who forgives us at great cost. The secret of a happy marriage is to follow His example and love each other sacrificially.
Ken and I were fresh out of college when we married, and we each had dreams and goals for our lives. The first goal for Ken was a graduate degree at Yale University, so I postponed my dreams for a few years and worked to support us. His bigger dream was to play full-time in a symphony orchestra, and so after graduation when he won a position as principal trumpet in the National Symphony Orchestra in Bogota, Colombia, we left family and friends to move to South America. We did the same thing a few years later when Ken won principal trumpet in the orchestra in Thunder Bay, Ontario and later in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a total of eleven years of Canadian winters.
In the meantime our family was growing, and my first dream was to be a stay-at-home mom to our children. Ken took several jobs in addition to the orchestra so I wouldn’t have to work outside the home—teaching, music minister at a church, and even playing in a dance band until the wee hours of the morning. When I began to pursue my dream of writing, Ken immediately became my greatest advocate and cheerleader. I’ll never forget the day he brought home our first computer—an expense we couldn’t afford. I hadn’t published a single word, but he told me he believed I would become a great writer, someday.
And so my second secret to a long and happy marriage is to take time to prayerfully plan and dream together. Then do everything you can and sacrifice whenever you can, to help your partner fulfill those dreams. Thanks, Ken, for 46 wonderful years. It has been an amazing adventure!