As promised, here are more thoughts from Church of the Redeemer couples.

John and Dawn Lundgren
From Dawn: John and I were married in 1977. A key in our marriage is really, really listening to one another, carving out space for long, meandering conversations (about books and ideas, hopes and dreams) and forgiving one another.

Ed and Annemarie Pickens
From Annemarie: We have been married almost 15 years. One of the scripture verses Ed and I pray to each other most mornings is Numbers 6:24-27: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” It’s a nice way to start the day and reminds us that God is with us.

One of the books we read when we were engaged was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I found it very helpful, and I still think of that book as it reminds me of specific ways that I can show Ed I care about him and love him.

Steve and Cindy Calvin
From Cindy: Steve and I have found that our marriage is enhanced by having some mutually shared interests. It’s good to have individual interests in order to maintain a sense of self apart from the other, and in those things one can be a cheerleader/supporter/admirer of the other, but we believe our marriage is stronger because we have a number of interests in common. Steve and I met in the Bethel College choir, and we’ve been singing together ever since. We have other shared interests including gardening, hiking, and attending baseball games. I’ll admit that baseball isn’t something I would have chosen as a pastime when we first married, but I have learned to love it because Steve wanted to share his love of the game with me. As a newlywed Steve was not particularly interested in food beyond the basics, but over 37+ years he has come to share my enthusiasm for and enjoyment of God’s gift of all kinds of good food. He certainly loves the culinary experiments that I make at home, and years ago he overcame an inherent cheapskate streak to allow us to really enjoy dinners out. We believe that the money spent on a romantic dinner or lunch is at least as valuable (but not a replacement for) money spent on marriage counseling. So joyfully singing and eating together is our advice.

Steve and Deb Baird
From Deb: Take the long view
When little things about your spouse bother you, remember:
1. You’re united on the larger issues. Certainly having a shared faith bonds you together. Likely you have a similar perspective on other major issues as well. Where you have differences, it’s often a means of growth for both of you.
2. Whatever bugs you about your spouse is probably related to whatever attracted you in the first place! (Keep in mind that there are things about you that bother your spouse, too.)

Faithfulness matters. You’ve made a commitment to your spouse, before God, before family and friends. You have a shared history. I think this becomes more and more important as you age. My parents are both gone, as is my only sibling, and this makes our (Steve and my) shared memories even more precious. With whom else can I share memories of our children’s births, their growth and development? Who else cares about them the way he does? And remember your courtship and early days of falling in love, the moments you shared, the things that brought you together in the first place, and the way your spouse has come through for you in the past. In the Old Testament, God repeatedly called his people to look back to what he had done in the past, and I think we do well to recall the way he brought us together as couples.

Dates are good, and whatever way you can manage this, do it! I don’t think we had a night away from both kids until the younger one was in high school (sad, I know) but we were pretty good about using daycare/preschool/school/babysitting co-op/friends to take time together during the day/week, or even steal an hour or two together for coffee or lunch when I was working on-call and Steve was working close at Unisys. We’d also go on walks almost every night in the summer to the park near our house, where we’d listen to concerts or sit and talk while the kids played on the playground, and I think this was one of the ways we kept our marriage together one summer when both the kids were small, we had only one car, we were new in the neighborhood, and Steve was routinely working over 12-hour days.