My grandson married the girl of his dreams on January 7, 2017. He’s the first of our grandchildren to stand at the front of a group of his friends and family, as he watched his fiancé, dressed in a beautiful white dress walk to meet him at the end of the aisle, and pledge to love, honor, and cherish “til death do us part”. We have a joke in our family in which I dutifully remind anyone within earshot that “til death do us part” is a very, very, very long time! I can attest to the length, though thankfully I haven’t made it to the end to find out just how long, but 48 years of marriage strong, I can with certainty say it’s a very long time! As I sat watching my grandson make vows to his new bride, I thought about just what it takes to get from the wedding altar to 48 years or more! I’m no marriage expert, just someone with 48 years of learning under my belt, but here are my thoughts on how to make marriage work.

• It’s not going to be perfect. Every marriage struggles with shortcomings. Extending grace to your partner goes a long way in overcoming frustrations when one of you doesn’t seem to be holding up their end of the bargain. Accepting that no person is perfect, and being ok with others seeing those imperfections allows others to also accept imperfections within their own marriage.

• Recognize your differences, and be willing to accept those in your spouse. Coming into marriage, it’s easy to have expectations based on how things were done in our homes growing up. But, when you get married, you have to work together to establish how things will be done in your new home. Instead of focusing on how different you are from your spouse, think about the things you have in common. Be willing to let go of some of your expectations.

• Love each other without demands. Dr. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, said the more intimate the relationship, the fewer the rules that are necessary to regulate the relationship. Bringing rules into marriage can reflect a loss of intimacy, rather than help to create intimacy. True love is not demanding. It does not keep score.

• Deposits must exceed withdrawals. Successful relationships are like a savings account. In order to be productive and successful, deposits must always exceed withdrawals. Noted psychologist John Gottman’s exploration of positive to negative ratios in marriage revealed that, for a marriage to be successful, the couple must maintain the “magic ratio.” This is a consistent 5:1 ratio of positive to negative statements. For every critique or criticism that makes a withdrawal from the relationship, you must make five deposits of positive statements or experiences just to get back to where you started. Seems to me that it’s better just to not make the withdrawal in the first place!

• Love like God loves us – Unconditionally! Divorce statistics show that divorce is still a hugely prominent option for couples struggling in marriage. I’m not going to say that divorce should never be an option. But, I will say that many couples choose divorce before ever giving their marriage a chance. Marriage is hard, and divorce seems like an easy solution. Thankfully, our Heavenly Father doesn’t give up on us so easily. Loving another person is not a feeling. Loving another person is a choice that you make every single day. Loving that person no matter what you feel is tough, but God has given us a great example to strive to live by. If we aren’t careful, selfishness will seep its way into our marriage, and make loving the other person so difficult that we decide to give up. Decide together early in your marriage that divorce isn’t an option.

Marriage is a wonderful gift. Mignon McLaughlin said it best – A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. Wishing my grandson a successful marriage…for a very, very long time!

Randel C. Goad – Mandt Faculty Supervisor