Today, my parents celebrate 27 years of marriage. *Insert round of applause here* Being a single woman in her 20s, I’ve never been married. So, everything I’ve learned about marriage, I’ve learned from my parents. Everything that I think makes a good marriage has come from watching my parents. Everything I hope for in a potential future marriage I have seen exemplified in my parents.
I don’t claim to know very much about marriage because I’ve never been married (so married people, feel free to correct me if I’m way off the mark). But there are some things I do know. Things that I hope to carry with me if I ever were to get married myself.
1) Marriage is a promise
I know, that’s simple and obvious, but it’s true. You literally make a promise to another person that you are going to be there no matter what. No matter what comes your way, no matter what bumps you hit in the road, you’re going to stay and stick it out. You promise to be a constant in the other person’s life. And every day is spent keeping to that promise.
2) Marriage is a team sport
Marriage works best when the two work together as a team. Now, both my parents are complete and capable people by themselves and are not defined by their marriage. However, they do make a perfect team, and it’s hard to imagine one without the other. They have given me the greatest example of what it means to marry your best friend and to tackle marriage as a team.
3) Marriage is a two-way street
As well as being a team sport, marriage is a give-and-take relationship, and works best when that give-and-take is equal. My Mum would tell you otherwise, as she likes to claim that Dad does nothing. But they both have different skills that they bring to the table that complement one another. Mum does the cooking. Dad does the driving. Mum does the cleaning. Dad does the dishes. They both contribute – they both ‘give’ to the other person as much as they receive.
4) Marriage takes compromise
I guess this is true of every relationship, romantic or otherwise. You can’t have what you want all the time. You can’t just continue to put yourself first after marriage, and even parenthood. Some people try (and fail) to put themselves first, even though they may have a spouse and children to think about too. But marriage means putting someone else’s needs above your own. Marriage means compromise. Marriage means not always winning.
5) Marriage takes trust
And a lot of it. You’re promising to spend the rest of your life with this person – you need to be able to trust them. Sometimes that is simple trust – “don’t watch the next episode without me” – and other times, it’s a scary amount of trust – “I think we should move to a different country” kind of scary. And I’ve seen the whole spectrum of trust in my parents. One of the earliest Bible stories my Mum taught me was the story of Ruth, who tells her mother-in-law, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16, NIV). My parents have done just that.
6) Marriage isn’t always easy
Marriage isn’t always love hearts and smiles and rainbows. It takes work. It takes effort. There are hard times. But the strongest marriages overcome the hard times. They see through the rainy seasons. They stick it out. Because, with your best friend at your side, even when it’s that best friend who has upset you or angered you, you can overcome anything.
7) Marriage, when done right, shows that true love does exist
My parents prove that every day. Even when Dad has driven Mum up the wall. They are true love personified. They have followed God and His design for marriage faithfully. They have kept Him at the centre of their relationship since the day they met. They have spent 27 years serving and seeking His will. They have trusted God and each other. And through their marriage they have sought to honour the God they serve.
And because of my Mum and Dad, I know that true love – and forever love – can and does exist!