On the eve of our 12th anniversary, my husband and I attended a wedding for a couple, who like us, were people of a certain age getting a second chance at “happily ever after.”
Their ceremony included a reading of I Corinthians 13, "The Love Chapter," a Bible passage my husband and I also chose for our wedding 12 years ago:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things ... So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Those words speak clearly of an impossible kind of love made possible by the grace of God.
I was married for 30 years before losing my first husband to cancer. When I remarried 12 years ago, I thought I knew a lot about marriage. But every marriage is like those who enter it: Unique. One of a kind.
On the whole, a marriage is what we make of it, the sum of the love we give to it, day by day, year by year, over time.
But how do we do that? What does that kind of love look like?
Years ago, I asked readers to send me marriage tips. And boy, did they. I put all of their tips I could fit, with some of my own, in a column. Readers often request copies of it to give to newlyweds. Advice is fun to give and it’s cheaper than a toaster.
To celebrate our anniversary, I asked my husband to help me pick the best of those tips (plus some of our own) for: “How to Be and Stay Happily Married”:
1) Put each other first. You’re the best thing that’s happened to each other. Act like it.
2) Keep no secrets. Let nothing and no one come between you.
3) Pick your fights with care. Harsh words can be forgiven, but they’re hard to forget. Never raise your voice, unless you are lost or on fire.
4) Fall in love every day. Kiss in elevators. Hold hands in movies. Flirt with each other at parties. Dance more than you sit. Smile at each other across the room.
5) Never miss a chance to make a beautiful memory. Memories may not seem important now, but one day they’ll be gold.
6) Count your blessings. Pray every day for each other’s best.
7) Treat each other’s families like your own, only better. On your beloved’s birthday, tell your mother-in-law, “Thanks for giving me the love of my life.”
8) Talk about important things, and not just about yourself. Ask questions. Pay close attention to what is said and not said.
9) If you’re wrong, apologize; if you’re right, shut up. Being right can be a very lonely place.
10) Never go to sleep mad. Talk until you get over it, or until you forget why you got mad.
11) Laugh a lot together. If you can laugh at yourself, it’s easy.
12) Never criticize, interrupt or correct each other in public. Try not to do it in private, either.
13) Remember, we need love most when we’re least lovable.
14) Never expect perfection or total control. Both are illusions.
15) When you don’t like each other, remember you love each other, and act accordingly.
16) Tell the truth, but always and only with great kindness.
17) Kiss at least 10 seconds a day, all at once or spread out.
18) Be content with what you have materially, honest about where you are emotionally and always keep growing spiritually.
19) Share chores. Forget 50/50. Do all you can and then some, but don’t keep track of who does what. If you keep score, you’ll lose far more than you gain.
20) Be both friends and lovers; in a blackout, share a flashlight, then make your own sparks.
Finally, stay interested. It will make you more interesting. Lead your own life, but save your best for each other. In the end, you will know you were better together than you ever could have been apart.
Here’s to “happily ever after.”