36 years is a long time to be married to the same person. I know this because people keep telling me it is. Lisa and I went away this weekend to celebrate our anniversary. When I talked about our plans, the standard response of others was, “How long have you been married?” I replied with the answer, and the consistent response was, “Wow, that’s a long time!”
Another common question is, “How do you stay happily married for so long?” The best answer I can give to this question is one I heard from a pastor named Stuart Briscoe. When he and his wife were asked this after their 60th anniversary he replied. “Keep your promises and live a long time.”
Marriage is about keeping promises. Happily married couples remember the promises they made, and keep them joyfully. When I got married I made promises to Lisa. I promised to love, honor and cherish her for the rest of my life.
When I promised to love her as my wife, I was promising more than ongoing affection. The marital promise was a commitment to love her completely, totally and sacrificially. It was a promise to love her more than anything else, more than work or career, more than children, more than friendships, more than life itself. She has no challengers, no competition, for my love. She wakes each morning and goes to bed each evening knowing she is loved. This is the promise that I made.
A promise to honor is similarly profound. It implies supreme respect. Honoring means giving value and weight. In marriage this means that I talk about her differently than I do anyone else. I don’t demean, belittle or insult. I don’t tell jokes at her expense. At every opportunity, I work to elevate her in the eyes of others. As an imperfect person, she has faults and will make mistakes. When she does, I do not share them with others, or focus on them. I focus on what is good about her in my heart and mind.
Cherish is a beautiful word. It implies a tender devotion, affection and kindness. It means that I will forever hold Lisa precious and dear to me. Because I cherish her, I will protect her from hurt and harm. I speak kind and affirming words. I work to find time for her, for she is my greatest interest, my perfect hobby. I find her beautiful, special and wondrous, and reflect on these aspects of her all of the time. She is my one and only.
I have imperfectly kept my promises, but these promises are ever before me. Each day of my life I work to better fulfill them, to be a better husband. I do this because she deserves it, and because I made a covenant before God to keep them.
The result has been a happy marriage for 36 years and counting.