Marriage Week 2017: Tips for a long and happy marriage

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It was my first day of high school. All the year 7 students were sent upstairs to await further instructions from the teachers. Walking through a classroom door, a fellow student caught my eye. He beckoned me to sit in front of him. I didn’t know the boy but I decided that sitting down was a sensible idea in that noisy and crowded classroom. Soon after, however, I saw my best friend walk through the door so I abruptly got up and changed seats to be near her.

Fast forward many years and the boy who offered me a seat became my husband. Last year we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Our life together has been a great adventure filled with special moments, the most special of all being the birth of our three children. It has also been filled with many challenges, the most difficult being two miscarriages, my breast cancer diagnosis and the death of a young family member. Countless memories, both good and bad, but all part of “doing life”.

Our wedding day.

So how has our marriage survived when so many end in divorce? I believe that friendship is the key. We’re best friends. We like hanging out together. We can goof around, make each other laugh. Mostly, we are on the same wavelength and have the same goals. That doesn’t mean that we don’t ever get into an argument. But when we do, we try to resolve it without letting it fester.

In my job at Adventist Media, one of my roles is to proofread the Adventist Record anniversary notices. It’s truly heart-warming to see how many marriages do last the distance: 50, 60, even 70 years.

One such union is Pastor Ross and Myrtle Miller, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in February.

Ross and Myrtle Miller . . . 70 years and still going strong.

When asked for their tips for a long and happy marriage, they replied:

  • Pray about your choice of a life partner
  • Love faithfully
  • Be trustworthy
  • Be forgiving
  • Be loving because it helps you overlook faults and failings.

Above all, God has always been at the centre of their partnership. The same is true for Wendy and Trevor Blucher, who notched up 60 years of marriage in May.

“God has played a big part in our lives from our childhood,” Wendy says. “We both had parents who imparted a love for God and His church and we have endeavoured to pass this on to our children.”

The couple met at a youth meeting in the Adelaide City church.

“Trevor says it was love at first sight—it took me a little longer but I did love his jet black hair and smile!” Wendy recalls.

Her absolute essentials for a successful marriage: “respect, honesty and heaps of love . . . the need to give each other space to pursue their dreams comes next.”

Sixty years of marriage: Trevor and Wendy Blucher.

If someone knows a thing or two about marriage it’s Pastor Trafford Fischer, who has not only been married himself for a long time, but who has been organising seminars and workshops on marriage throughout the South Pacific Division for many years.

According to Pastor Fischer, couples don’t always have the “tools” to make marriages last. What are these tools? Strategies to sustain a sense of closeness, of value, that lets the other person know they are treasured.

Referring to research by renowned relationship expert John Gottman, Pastor Fischer says there are four key strategies for being a “master of marriage”:

  • Get to know each other incredibly well
  • Nurture fondness and admiration—keep reminding your partner they are loved
  • Turn toward your partner instead of away from them—notice their bids for attention
  • Let your partner influence you—acknowledge their input and work together.
Pastor Trafford Fischer.

On the other hand, the “disasters of marriage” use a lot of criticism and contempt, Pastor Fischer explains.

“[Social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn] talks about the small things that really count. And one of the greatest contributions she made is [her insight] that a woman thrives on being told that she’s loved but a man thrives on being thanked.

“In fact, saying ‘thank you’ to a husband is just as emotionally powerful as him saying ‘I love you’ to his wife, which is really significant.

“Men thrive on communication, men thrive on affirmation.”

And here’s some reassuring advice for those who do find themselves getting into squabbles with their partner: if there’s no conflict in your marriage, you may actually have a problem.

“The real thing that leads to divorce isn’t conflict but the avoidance of conflict because the greatest number of divorces happen not because of fighting all the time but because of loneliness,” Pastor Fischer explains.

“They drift apart, they don’t fight apart, and usually in divorce one partner or both are lonely. The heart’s gone out of it.”

And if your marriage has hit a rocky patch, it doesn’t mean it’s time to pull up stumps.

“Marriages can repair, no question, many thousands have,” Pastor Fischer says. “We need to sustain hope that it can work but it will only do so if you learn different ways [of approaching the relationship] and not repeating the traditional ones that have got you to where you are now.”

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