A Valentine Bouquet: Seven Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Jo and I were so poor when we got married in March of 1962 that we couldn’t afford a lifetime marriage license. We opted for the cheaper 50-year short-term marriage license instead. I am pleased to say that a few years ago, when our 50-year-term license expired, I was able to persuade Jo to sign up for another 50 years.

J&J wedding car copyNow to be serious for a moment. It’s Valentine’s Day and an ideal time for you to think about your relationships. Since Jo and I are approaching our 54th wedding anniversary, and presumably know something about staying married, younger couples sometimes ask us for advice.

We usually respond by asking, “Do you read the Bible to each other and pray together?” That’s basic. After all, God invented marriage and He wants yours to prosper. But here are six more bits of marital advice for you all:

2. Ask for advice. Ask long-marrieds how they handle the kind of problems you are struggling with currently.

3. Read books on marriage. There weren’t many up-to-date, helpful ones when we got married. Later, as Jo and I read and discussed books on various aspects of marriage during our last decade in Brazil, we often exclaimed, “Where was this book twenty years ago?”

4. After returning to Canada, we participated in a prayer soaked weekend marriage enrichment seminar. It resulted in putting us on a high plateau of marriage. Jo and I both felt loved and cared for by each other as never before.

5. After nine months of bliss, however, we made a fatal mistake. Three unexpected, high-stress situations impacted us almost simultaneously. Coping with them drained our energy and diverted our attention. We were foolish; instead of keeping these emotionally exhausting stresses outside our relationship, we allowed them to come between us and our marriage deteriorated. Eventually we made those stressful pressures push us closer together and our marriage improved. The whole experience, however, left me wondering.

6. We get thorough medical checkups every year, we take our vehicles in for routine maintenance and inspections, and we ask financial advisors to look over our financial situation. Shouldn’t we routinely go to a marriage counselor and ask him for a marriage checkup? So we did.
“What’s the problem?” the counsellor asked.
“We don’t know.” I said, “We want you to tell us what our problems are and how to resolve them.”

He asked us a number of questions, and got us talking about ourselves, and each other. He then recommended a course of a dozen or more actions. For instance: I needed to tell Jo, not just my thoughts, but my feelings. Jo needed to be my coach to help me get in touch with my feelings and share them. When Jo had something she wanted to talk over with me, I needed to “vacuum my mind” clearing it of all ideas and thoughts, and, with full eye contact, focus on Jo and listen to her.

7. The counsellor also recommended a new book by Dr.GaryChapmanThe Five Love Languages, now a classic. It speaks to relationships of every kind, not just to people in a marriage relationship. The basic idea is that every person has one or two ways in which he or she receives love.

For some people Words of Affirmation make them feel loved.
Others respond best to Acts of Service,
still others to Receiving of Gifts,
others to Quality Time,
and others to Physical Touch.
Each of these is like a language. The lover must speak the language his beloved understands. No use giving gifts to someone who wants to hear some affirming words. No use hugging a wife who would prefer that you showed your love by doing the dishes.

These are the seven ways Jo and I stayed happily married.

What are yours?