Dear Max and Emily,
What a picture of joy! It was a hot Minnesota summer afternoon and there was laughter and dancing and prayers and great hopes for your future together. You were surrounded by people who love you.
You did a lot of hard work to get to this place. You did the pre-marital counseling thing and the financial seminar thing, and you really tried to honor God in every way as you walked towards marriage.
And now you’re here. You’re married.
But the news these days is filled with stories of TomKat and John Edwards and Kim Kardashian, and Arnold Swarzenager. And a
thousand million more examples of infidelity and “irreconcilable differences” and custody battles. Disheartening, eh?
Why do you think you’ll be different than Kim and Arnold and whoever? What will give you an edge so you won’t be another bad statistic in a few years. Or 15?
What’s the story you want to have told about your marriage when you’re old?
Stories are made up of experiences, and conflict, excitement, and surprises and disappointments.
But most of all they are made up of words.
Words that give bones and shape and flesh to the experiences of life.
Will the story that is told of your marriage 20 years from now be written with life-giving words?
I’m no marriage counselor, but I care about you guys and many other dating, engaged, and newly married pairs. As a couple with nearly 30 years of skin in the game, people often ask us for advice.
There are a million answers I could give, and certainly forgiveness is at the heart of every strong marriage, but if I was going to say one thing that has formed us most, it’s been words.
Because words matter. Words like…
“I was wrong and (more importantly 🙂 ) you were right.”
“I want to understand. How can I help?”
“I messed up. Please forgive me.”
“You and me. Always. To the end of the road.”
But often the most life-giving words are words of affirmation…
“I love your ability to make people feel welcome.”
“You have the gift of wisdom. I’m so proud you’re my husband.”
“You’re the cutest.”
“I’m so thankful you’re the one I get to go home with.”
Life-giving words…words of affirmation and honor are so important and it’s what John and I see the least of in the marriages around us.
My best advice would be: Authentically brag on your spouse like there’s no tomorrow.
Aggressively affirm each other in speech, in notes, in public, in private. Make a habit of gratitude for the positive qualities you see in the other.
And of course, write your story with the words, “I love you.”
Not, “I love you, but…”
Not, “I love you, if…”
Just “I love you.”
No matter what.
Echoes of the words from heaven God whispers to each of us.
With your words, write the best marriage story ever.
What about the rest of you marrieds? What advice would you add for my young friends?