My parents have been married for over fifty years. When I look back at their wedding photos yes, they look the same but also quite different. My dad has the same bright eyes and wears his hair exactly the same. My mum looks so proud of my dad and in every photo she is just delighted. I continue to get a kick out of watching her face light up when he walks into a room.
So much has changed since they committed their lives to one another. The safety features in cars were significantly different, seat belts didn’t retract and seemed kind of optional, there were no head rests so whip lash was a common occurrence. Besides, not many people even had cars.
When my mum finished school, she felt there were only three career options available to her if she wanted to study: nurse, teacher or secretary. Mum hated blood and couldn’t type, so she became an excellent teacher. Back in those days the government paid for the associated costs of university which she is still super thankful for.
Everything they owned as a married couple was either a wedding gift or secondhand from family and friends. They budgeted very carefully as weekly incomes were low and the relative costs of groceries were high. After all a loaf of bread was twenty-two cents (or twenty-three if you wanted it sliced) and eight ounces of butter was thirteen cents!
I asked my mum her thoughts on longevity in marriage and she requested time to think about her answer. She graciously provided me with the following: ‘Your dad and I don’t always agree, but we choose our battles. We learnt early on not to go to bed angry—you both sleep much better if you sort it out. We pray together and have the same values.’ There’s a lot to unpack from my mum’s wisdom.
Choose Your Battles
I interpret this as don’t sweat the small stuff. To me, marriage is bizarre: that two sinners with totally different upbringings could come together with the opportunity to create their own offspring. They make the second most important decision of their entire lives, to marry each other, often when they are relatively young. There are bound to be many complications and disagreements, especially when, say, one spouse might have seen parenting or patience done badly but not know how to make it better, even though they desperately want to. Sometimes I find it crazy that God would want men and women to become one flesh. It seems hard to process given that we are coming from different places. But I am so thankful that this is part of God’s beautiful plan for marriage.
Mum and Dad have quite different interests. There are things that they enjoy doing together, such as bushwalking and caravanning, but there are other things that they do independently and report back to the other on their enjoyment and experiences. This enables them to have their own time and hobbies rather than trying to coerce the other into loving some hobby they have no interest in.
Wise advise indeed. There are many decisions that married people need to make together, some big and some small. Learn to tell the difference and don’t sweat the small stuff!
Don’t Go to Bed Angry
‘Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil’ (Eph 4:26–27). If you are angry at your spouse and you sleep on it, this can enable the anger to fester like an ugly sore. Very often, if you try your best to resolve the conflict before you go to bed, not only will you sleep better but the next day you will wake up refreshed and ready to move forward.
The world seems to spread a false message that if you are ‘not feeling it’ or ‘it’s too much like hard work’ or ‘there’s someone better’ that people should just chop and change spouses—even though they have made promises to them for life. This is contrary to what God wants. Sometimes there are seasons in marriage when things can be hard and that can be a way that God works in us to shape us to be more like his Son.
This is a good opportunity to lay things that are on your hearts before the Lord together and ask him for help. We are not able to see things in the wide lens that God can; we only have a small peripheral view of things. Praying encourages us to lean into God together, rather than drift away.
Sometimes your prayers might be like Psalm 102:1–3:
Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
And other times your prayer might be more like Psalm 28:7:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
Thanks to exceptional role models, my husband and I aim to do this each night before we go to sleep. This has been a great habit to get into, as we are not going to pray together if we are angry at each other, so it’s imperative to sort that out first and then bring our requests humbly to God.
A hearty congrats to my parents for working together in marriage for over fifty years and thanks for the example you continue to set in always choosing one another.
Postscript: When I called my mum to run her through my article, I could hear my dad in the background (they often put me on speaker phone, I think it’s a Boomer thing), and she told me that the advice was in fact a joint effort, rather than just her opinion. They are one flesh that’s golden after all.
 Please note that I am not talking about silently enduring abuse for the sake of longevity. The Bible is very clear that physically or verbally abusing another person, including your spouse, is not okay, and such serious sin should be confronted and called to account (Consider Gal 5:15, 20–21 and Ps 11:5).