The story is told by Zig Ziglar after his 44th wedding anniversary that his wife looked at him one day and said, “Honey, I wish I was younger.”
“Why?” Zig replied, thinking about the adventure of four decades of marriage to the woman of his dreams.
“If I was younger, I could be married to you even longer,” she answered.
Amazing story about a couple that loved each other through some of life’s very deep valleys. Is this the kind of marriage relationship people only fantasize about? Or is it possible for every-day people to experience a marriage relationship of deep love and affection?
Scripture offers some clear teaching about our most intimate relationship, namely marriage. You can find clear teaching in several biblical sites including Ephesians 5:15-33; Proverbs 5:18, 18:22, 19:14; Matthew 19:5; Colossians 3:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.
There is also the “not good” statement by our Creator in Genesis 2:18. Our great God in His infinite wisdom knew that it was “not good” for man to be alone; he needed someone other than himself for completeness.
So what’s the secret to marriage longevity? I don’t know if I have discovered the “secret” so much as I know there are principles that have worked for Sharon and me. Let me offer up to the guys some things I’ve found helpful:
1. Dedicate your marriage to the Lord. From a biblical perspective, marriage is not just between two people. The Lord is a significant part of this relationship. Three is not a crowd when you both practice His presence as a welcomed participant. The result is that you can pray with one heart and handle disagreements with a different perspective than what mere humans bring to a relationship.
If you haven’t done it yet (or it has been a long time), take her by the hand and bend the knee at your church altar or wherever and place your marriage relationship on the altar. Let your wife experience you taking the lead on this, not for show or for manipulation, but from the purity of your heart. When it is His marriage instead of yours, you treat it with a different level of respect and priority.
2. Every day, learn something about her. I call her my “Sugarbabyluv” because I study her, watch her, and cherish her. A few months after our engagement, Sharon was diagnosed with a rapidly developing form of cancer. So much so, that the surgeon told her mom not to order the wedding invitations until he was finished with the surgery. That was a huge moment in our lives – in my life. From that day forward, I have recognized and lived as if there was not going to be a tomorrow. As a result, I know I need to say at the end of every day, “I learned this one thing about her today.” Don’t be confused; planning is different than living. I make plans way out in advance and have some dates on my 2020 calendar.
3. Use good judgment. That’s another way of saying be smart about your interaction with others. Every man needs to exercise good judgment with women other than the one to whom he’s married. Whether at work, church or at the PTA, any level of sexual interaction with anyone other than your spouse will break your heart. As a result of indiscrete judgment, the landscape of too many American homes is littered with broken lives, broken marriages and broken children.
Zig Zigler used fire as an illustration. “Sex, like fire, properly handled is a beautiful gift from God. A fire in a fireplace can bring cheer, comfort and warmth. If the fire spreads into the rest of the home, disaster is the result. Sex outside of marriage leads to more problems and difficulties than any other single thing. Every night you need to say to your mate, ‘Honey, I love you and I was faithful to you today.’ ”
4. Keep on courting. Remember first love? Remember when you thought more about her than about what you were doing? How you did things just for her? When was the last time you surprised her with flowers or mailed her a card? You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. The spice of a marriage is spontaneously expressing how much you value her. That’s what you did for her when you first started. You valued her as a person. Try this: Take her on a date to see Courageous.
After four decades, I’ve learned a few things that work and some things that were complete disasters. But to be the most successful, meet the bottom line—do what the Scripture teaches in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…”