My husband and I have been happily married this December for 47 years. And that’s not bad out of 48 years of marriage! And I’ve only threatened to shoot him twice in all those years. When Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, was asked by the media if she’d ever considered divorcing the Reverend Graham, she answered, “Divorce never, murder yes!” She was so real. In any marriage, there are those times when something the other person does will irritate you. That’s normal but realize that marriage takes hard work. Here are five keys to a successful marriage that both must work towards.
Keep God at the center of your relationship.
Dr. Raymond Scott who married us 48 years ago told us that marriage is like a triangle. God is at the apex, and the closer we each grow to Him, the closer we grow to each other. We have found that to be true. Amazingly, we came from such different backgrounds, yet as we’ve grown in our faith, we’ve grown closer to each other. The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked. For a marriage to be successful, we must have the same commitment to our faith.
Commit to love.
In real estate, the three keys are location, location, location. In marriage, it’s commitment, commitment, commitment. The best picture I can give you of this is when Deanna McClary saw her husband in an army hospital after part of his face and arm had been blown off. No part of his body was not damaged or bleeding. She didn’t even recognize her husband. But in that horrifying moment, she chose that commitment to love. Many men in Clebe’s situation, get a dear John letter. For Deanna, leaving wasn’t an option. Years later, Clebe and Deanna have remained committed to their marriage for over 50 years and to a ministry that has taken them around the world. Although much less, my husband faced the same dilemma when the cancer journey wiped off every hair on my head and left me disfigured. Yet every morning he’d say, “You’re still the most beautiful woman east of the Mississippi River. He loved me unconditionally, and I needed that. Love is not just an emotion, it’s a commitment. Make a commitment to love in good times and bad and in health or sickness till death do us part.
Both partners give 100 percent.
Yes, it takes two people to make a marriage work. It’s not you give half and I’ll give half. It’s both giving all they’ve got – 100% to each other. I can’t tell you the number of times one of us has been knocked down and the other one had to do everything. When Alton had cancer, I was his main support and vice versa. We don’t worry about whose job it is, we pitch in to help each other get the job done. This idea of having separate bank accounts and you spend what you make, and I’ll spend what I make. Whoever thought of that? A good marriage takes both people giving their all and combining their resources.
Prioritize your marriage relationship.
When children come into a marriage, they can dominate the scene. But even when our twins were born, we made spending time together a priority. When we didn’t have money for babysitting, we simply put them to bed and watched a movie in the den. One night a week was designated as our time. My husband’s parents helped by keeping our three sons once a year while we got away for a week. Alton and I now try to do this for our sons so they can have time away with their wives. Dr. Scott told us that the best them you can do for your children is to give them a good marriage. From this protected relationship, children feel secure and learn how to have their own successful marriage one day. By putting your marriage first, you are putting your children and their welfare first.
Set goals together.
Dr. Scott encouraged us to set important goals even before we got married. We decided before our children were born that it was best for me to stay at home with them until they were at least school-age. We had no idea that my husband would go back to school after our first son was born. This put me working full time and him as a full-time student who studied during the day while keeping our son. This is when he got the nickname “Mr. Mom.” And he did a super job. Our goal was that we would be the primary influence on our children and even though my husband was a full-time student, we were both able to be the primary influence on our son even in our circumstances. It’s also important to agree on finances and keep each other in the loop. Set financial goals together. In the cancer journey, my husband told me,” You just can’t die—because you do the taxes!” You’ve got to have a sense of humor to get through the tough times in life! Our goal in life was never to make money. It was to serve God. We had many years where our budget was tight, but also years where we’ve had aplenty. It’s amazing how our goals and desires continue to be aligned.
The first institution God created was the family and that begins with a strong marriage grounded in a relationship with God and in His Word. This relationship is further enhanced by our dedication to our faith, commitment to each other, both giving all—100% to make the marriage work, spending quality time together, and sharing common goals.
Here’s to 48 years and many more. A successful marriage is one of the best things in life that someone can have. Those couples with long and happy marriages are known to actually live longer.
What keys have you found that promote the health of your marriage?
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Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Unleash Your God-Given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer was released in May 2020 after her journey with cancer and was recently awarded the First Place Golden Scrolls Award for Memoirs, and Second Place in both Selah Awards for Memoirs and Director’s Choice Award for Nonfiction at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. It recently received the Christian Authors Network’s (CAN) Gold Award for Excellence in Marketing for reaching 62.5 million people with a message of cancer prevention and survival. It was written with commentary from an oncologist and was featured on CBN’s Healthy Living Show, Atlanta Live, and CTN’s Homekeepers along with over 75 media outlets. Learn more and cancer and wellness prevention blog and book information at www.ginnybrant.com.