On very rare and special occasions, we see a couple celebrate a 50th anniversary. So many factors have to fall into place for a couple to make it 50 years. It nearly can be considered a miracle. Not only does the couple have to have a strong marriage, but they need to fight off all the struggles of life. And the fragile nature of the human body makes it hard for both to live that long. Still, on their wedding day, most couples visualize growing old gracefully together.
Statistics say the odds are stacked against them, but it is a victory that can be won. It requires passion from each spouse and demands a steadfast resolve that they will be the exception and not the rule. Here are 8 key ingredients for a strong marriage.
1. Love and Respect
Dr. Emerson Eggerich asked 7,000 people this question: “When you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” Eighty-three percent of the men said they felt disrespected compared to seventy percent of the women who said they felt unloved. Generally, more than anything men desire to be respected, while women desire to be loved. Eggerich says when a woman feels unloved she generally will not respond respectfully to her husband. When a man feels disrespected he won’t move with love toward his wife. It can start an unhealthy cycle. It’s OK to be the one who breaks it by loving her anyway.
2. ForgivenessThe only thing that stops a cycle of hurt and bitterness is forgiveness.
In a scene in the show Parenthood, the matriarch of the family is speaking to her grown daughter who has a struggling marriage. She says, “Do you know what marriage is all about? Forgiveness.” The only thing that stops a cycle of hurt and bitterness is forgiveness.
My wife asks me all the time, “What are you thinking about right now?” Communication is everything to a woman. She wants to know what you are feeling, thinking, and doing. So tell her—and ask her what she’s feeling, thinking, and doing, too.
4. Taking Ownership and Responsibility
A man carries the burden of responsibility for his family no matter his financial circumstances or personality traits. Taking ownership means engaging and having initiative in all family matters. It means caring for the overall well-being of his family with a generous and kind spirit, while also having the heart of a warrior to protect it.
5. Compassion and Sympathy
“The value of compassion cannot be over-emphasized. Anyone can criticize. It takes a true believer to be compassionate. No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands.” –Arthur H. Stainback
Your bride needs your deepest compassion and empathy on your journey together. She will follow you to the ends of the earth if you give her this.
The wedding day is not the culmination of the relationship, but the beginning. Romancing your spouse is something to be done for a lifetime, not just while you’re courting or dating.
Laying your life down for those you love is not easy, but it’s what love is all about. Loving someone fully means we put aside our own wants and needs for the sake of the other person. When both people love sacrificially, the relationship works beautifully. However, the strongest people sacrifice regardless of what they get in return.
8. Healthy Lifestyle
Obviously, if you are going to make it to a 50th anniversary, it’s going to require good health. Give up your bad habits. Confront your anger and manage your stress level. Eat well and exercise. Look into the future and think about what you want to do and see. You won’t get to do or see those things without staying healthy.
Sound off: What do you think makes a marriage strong?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think makes a friendship last a long time?”