A few simple secrets to a long, happy marriage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

Happy Anniversary today to my lovely wife. The number is now “33,” and we both almost laugh every time we start talking about how many years we have been married.

“Wow, 33 years since we first got together,” I might say.

And she will laugh.

Yes, she still does laugh at me. Whew! I think that’s a good thing.

But we both keep watching this number of years together grow, and I think there is a part of both of us that is not only amazed, but also very proud of what we have been through, and yet still find ourselves together.

And oh yea, did I mention that we are happy? Actually, very happy? Truthfully, so happy that we might be more amazed about that than anything.

No, I take it back, we are not really amazed. The truth is that we feel very blessed, very fortunate, since we have had our rocky ups and downs at times like every couple has. And yet today, we wake up together—well, maybe that isn’t always true since the “lovely lady” does sleep just a teeny, weeny bit more than I do—anyway…..

We actually do lie together on the bed perhaps on a lazy Saturday morning, and talk about how fortunate we are to be together, be happy, and most importantly, really, really still like being together.

There are some couples out there nodding, maybe reaching out to hold hands as the wife reads this to her husband.

But honestly, there aren’t nearly as many couples reading this, and thinking “yea, that’s us,” as I wish there were.

Why not?

Every time I go to a wedding, I marvel at the entire atmosphere surrounding it. So much love between this man and woman, so much hope for a life happily ever after.

Yet we know that at least 50 percent of marriages still end up in divorce. And maybe the saddest fact is that perhaps another 25 percent of marriages may not end up in a split, but they sure don’t end up “happily ever after.”

How did my wife and I get so lucky?

Today I plan to ignore the fact that some people might think I’m bragging, or that I think I’ve got all the answers, or I think I’m so special.

I want to use what bit of wisdom God has given me over 33 years, and share it with you, hoping that maybe it will help you be in the place I am 33 years from now, and hopefully telling your kids and grandkids the way to have a marriage the way God wants you to have it.

There. I just gave away the secret. It wasn’t anything so special my wife and I figured out. The fact is that we were fortunate enough in the early years of marriage to go to a church that taught family principles from the Bible. But the difference in us and perhaps many people, is that we wanted to learn, so we listened.

The Bible is pretty simple about marriage. It says that men should love their wives as Christ loved the church. And then He tells the women that they should submit themselves to their husbands, just as unto the Lord.

Both Scriptures have the same meaning. Simply put, you have to put your spouse first 100 percent of the time. It’s no 50-50 deal, you have to always think of your spouse first in any disagreement.

It’s actually the same as the general command of the Lord to all of us….”Love thy neighbor as thyself.” And in common terms, it means respecting your spouse in such a way, you would never do anything that would not put them first.

For my wife and I, we turned that into a simple rule of always showing respect in the way we talked to each other. No matter how mad we got, we have never called each other names, and never talked disrespectfully to each other. Hard to believe? It actually is for me too. But you can ask my wife and she will agree. We have always treated the other one with a level of respect that never dropped our relationship to a place we had a hard time coming back from.

When one member of a couple talks down to the other, treats them without respect, or calls them a name, it takes a lot of love and compassion to restore that. I actually read in one Christian book that when someone is talked disrespectfully to, it takes 12 words of kindness to restore that relationship.

Hard to believe? I’ll bet not when you think how you felt—especially the women—if your husband got mad at you, and said some really, really mean things to you.

So think about it. Your words are so, so powerful. That is something else the Bible says over and over. We can hurt people so easily with harsh words, and yet so many of us will use them so easily. Think about what you say to your spouse, and whether you are saying something with respect, or saying words that are giving you a chance to be mean, just to satisfy your own ego so you can feel big.

The other reason I think my wife and I still are so much in love after 33 years is more of a common sense principle. Simply put, you have to keep the romance in the marriage.

There is not usually a week that goes by, as I’m working or driving into the office, that I’m not thinking about a way my wife and I can have some quality time together. And you know why? It’s because I still look forward to spending time with her. More than anything, my free time is best spent when she and I do things together.

And that doesn’t even count the fact that almost every evening, we get in front of the TV for a little time when we watch some shows together. Key point here: We actually always sit together!

Hey, that’s probably a new one for a lot of you guys, isn’t it?

Think about it. When you were first dating your wife, you would have killed to get a chance to sit next to her and have some quality time when you could hold her hand, or put your arm around her, right?

Yet so many guys just let that go out the window after they are married.

Sure, sure, you can give me all the excuses you want, but the bottom line is that we do what we really want to do in our lives, and it even comes down to deciding if we want to be next to the wife each evening or not. Take it from me, you need to show your wife every day that she is special, and the time to watch some TV together and sit next to her is a perfect chance to show how affectionate you can be—with nothing at stake but an episode of American Idol…or whatever you like.

For that matter, most guys don’t realize how important it is to just come home from work each day, and start the evening on the right foot by giving your wife a nice hug. Once again, studies show that the first five minutes after you get home from work will set the tempo for what kind of time you will have that night. Start it off by giving your wife a sincere hug and kiss, and she will have a warm and fuzzy feeling towards you. But rush in complaining about the day, and well….you can guess how the night will probably go.

Other than the time you spend together each day, guys have to realize how important a little extra special romance is for the marriage. You just can’t figure, “I’ve got her married now so I’m finished being romantic.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have to keep treating your wife as if you are dating her and still trying to catch her. Go the extra mile to actually spend time thinking of ways to be romantic, no matter how little.

I could tell you a lot of ways I went the extra mile over the years to try and be romantic to my wife, and that was all part of what has made her know—for 33 years—that she is special to me….I mean, really, really special.

Most of the time when I buy her flowers, it is for nothing. That’s right. Nothing. I make a point to bring her flowers at the times she probably least expects it, just to show her that I am thinking about her.

I have gone to elaborate means to surprise her with flowers at public places when she goes out. On a Saturday when she used to go shopping with her sister, I followed them out to the mall in Slidell, then put a huge sign on the car in the parking lot, with flowers on top of the car, asking her to marry me. (Even though we were already married!)

You get the idea. Think about it guys! Think about your wife as if you were still dating her. Trust me, she will appreciate it and you will know it. And believe me, life at home can become so much greater.

So today, as I wake up and look over at my sweet wife of 33 years, I still, honestly, wonder how I got such a beautiful, and wonderful woman.

She has been the greatest mother to our four children, and now two grandchildren, that I could ever hope for. And she treats me like I’m some pretty special guy.

When we talk about the years together, we both would probably get a little credit for being willing to put out the effort to make this happen. But we know that the real reason we made it this far, and remain this happy, is because we tried our best to follow the teaching in the Bible that instructed us how a man is to treat a woman, and how a woman is to treat a man.

So many men and women want to say they are doing that, and yet they wonder why their marriage is crumbling, or at the very least, is not what they want it to be.

I am a man who is telling you today that I have a marriage that most people only dream about. Do my wife and I both deserve all the credit for that? Not at all. The real credit goes to the fact that we followed the Bible, and honestly tried to do what we learned. Many times I have gotten mad about something, and the last thing I wanted to do was consider my wife’s feelings more than my own. I mean, I was right! But the Bible taught us both that if we put the other first, even in a situation when we knew with everything in us that we were right about something, that God would honor that kind of heart.

If your marriage is suffering, or if you are a young person trying to figure out why the passionate love you had at the beginning seems so far away, consider what I am saying.

God’s word truly does have all the answers for life. Unfortunately too many people want to give it all lip service, and say they are doing just what the Bible says, with only God knowing the real truth.

Try it, you will find unconditional love is a powerful thing. Healing in a relationship can start this very day for you. And the result can be a marriage you only dreamed about.

As for me….Happy Anniversary honey. I love you.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at kchiri@bellsouth.net