faith, marriage

How Did We Get So Lucky? 11 Things We Did That Helped Make A Successful Marriage

You may notice that I haven’t been posting as often. I have backed away from daily posting due to the condition of my adrenals: I am at high risk for Addison’s disease. I am still planning to post a few times a week but not daily.

Now, a tribute to my husband in honor of Father’s Day:

He held me tight and whispered, “How did we get so lucky?”

Nearly 17 years of marriage and not only do we not hate each other, we actually like each other.

A lot.

We love each other more today than we did when we got married.

This statement about us being lucky was made the after I had described friends of mine who have found themselves in very difficult marriage, divorces, nasty custody battles, or in the position of trying to decide if they should stay or leave over their husband’s infidelity,  alcoholism, or abuse.

Marriage is hard even in the best of situations.

So, what has made ours successful when others have not?

That’s not to say that we never have problems. We’ve had some really rough patches especially before we knew about our health and mental health problems.

But what does make a marriage successful?

Luck of the draw?

Sort of.

I mean, I am really blessed that the guy I married is sweet, kind and thoughtful.

But, I think it’s more than that.

I think it has a lot to do with the character of the people involved: it’s hard to have a successful, peaceful marriage if only one person is acting like a mature Christian, for instance.

Here are some things I think we did right:

1) We waited for the right person. I waited for the right guy. I prayed for a good husband for 7 years before I met my husband and prayed for another 6 months before he showed any interest in me. When I met Scott, I prayed that God would make him not like me if he wasn’t the right guy.  Later, I prayed that he would take my infatuation away if it was not a good match. I knew what kind of man I wanted to marry and didn’t settle for someone I didn’t think was a good match. I considered the kind of girl my ideal kind of guy would marry and determined to be that kind of lady. I did have an adjustment period when I realized that no guy is perfect, but I knew I didn’t want a tumultuous relationship,  so I waited for a guy I got along really, really well with. Scott was my first boyfriend, first kiss, first love. He had one girlfriend before me. Waiting for the right guy wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.

2) We made sure the other person had good character before we got married. This was my motivation for choosing courtship. I wanted to court because I believed it would help me avoid many of the pitfalls common in conventional American dating including the ability to see the person for who they truly are. Having our friends and family involved allowed other people to weigh in on what they thought of the other person. If my brother came to me and said, “Hey, you know,  Scott’s flirting with Alyssa when you leave the room” I would have known his character (thankfully, that’s not the kind of guy he is, and that never happened). I once had a friend ask me how I made my husband be nice to me. My answer was that I don’t make him be nice to me: he was nice to me before we got married, and he’s nice to me now. You’re not going to change the person, so you need to make sure you can live with the person you see.

3) We were absolutely, completely honest with each other… about everything (unless it is unloving or hurtful, see number 9).  And, we still are. I can’t emphasize how important this is. Many, many problems are a result of dishonesty and could be solved with honesty. If you don’t think you can be completely and totally honest with your future husband or wife, you should not get married.  If you don’t think your potential spouse is being honest with you, you shouldn’t be marrying them.  This is vital. 

4) We didn’t “fall in love.” Don’t get me wrong, I was completely and totally smitten with Scott the first time I laid eyes on him.  Twitterpated, infatuated. Like I’d never been before.  But, there came a time for both of us when we decided we were going to love the other person. We didn’t just let our feelings determine everything.  Although I was crazy about Scott, if I had found out he was a complete jerk or deceitful, I would have called it off. If my dad had said “This is not a stand-up guy,” I would have called it off. Thankfully, that was not the case.

5) We accept each other. Real love is unconditional.  And while we don’t accept sin as normal in our marriage, things like personality, quirks, struggles, health problems, non-sin shortcomings, mistakes, etc are treated with love and acceptance. Isn’t that what we all ultimately want? To be fully known and fully loved. If you’re not fully accepted, is it really unconditional –real– love? We each want the other person to be what God made them to be –not just what we want them to be.

6) We are partners.  I choose to follow him, but he is not my dictator. I am not his mother, disapproving every time he doesn’t make me happy or makes a choice I don’t like.  I will not chide or scold him for doing what he thinks is best or for making decisions. I don’t try to manipulate or control him. This is key because wives often do not behave in a respectful way. If I want a better than average marriage, I am going to behave to than average.  He includes me in important decisions but knows I’ll defer to his opinion if we disagree because I know him and trust him implicitly. I follow him because I believe it is what God would want me to do.

7) We address sin. If my husband is in sin, I’ll discuss it with him and encourage him to address it. I do not believe in being a passive wife who follows my husband into sin. However, I also do not take his sin personally. All people sin, even me. I have been forgiven so much more by the Lord then my husband could ever dream of wronging me. I do not want to be like the unforgiving servant in the parable. I have been forgiven much and am expected to pass that forgiveness along to others. Even if he cheated on me (which hasn’t been a problem in our marriage), it wouldn’t be about me. His sins are about his issues and his walk with God, not about me. Yes, if he was unfaithful, it would be a sin against me but greater than I have offended a holy God? No.

8) We forgive each other.  Even in the best of relationships, there’s plenty of opportunities to be bitter (she is overweight; he doesn’t do enough around the house; he didn’t get her anything for Valentine’s Day; she doesn’t keep the house clean; etc). It is a daily choice to love and not be bitter, to forgive and give undeserving unconditional love to the other person. No one deserves unconditional love but it is how God loves us and how we are called to love others. It was actually Scott who introduced me to this idea of not just saying,  “I’m sorry,” but saying, “Please, forgive me” and waiting to receive the forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard, but it makes us more like Jesus.

9) We each want what’s best for the other person. A counselor once told me that she’d never met a couple who each wanted the other to be happy more than we do. I heard a quote a long time ago that said: “A happy marriage is where each thinks they got better than they deserve.” I like the sentiment, but I think that falls into spousal worship too easily. As a Christian, what do I deserve? Nothing. I’m a sinner and deserve hell, but the problem with thinking your husband is better than you is this: he’s a sinner, and he’s going to disappoint you. He will –absolutely without a doubt, and then you’re not going to feel like he’s worthy of your love or like he deserves your acceptance. So, don’t put him on a pedestal. This is why marriage needs to be about living a life that’s honoring to God reflecting the unconditional love of Christ. What did Jesus require of me for Him to love me? Nothing. And I love my husband regardless of what he has done just as Jesus loves me.

10) We choose to love each other. Love is a choice. A daily choice to accept the other person and be kind no matter what the person does that day.  Is it easy? No. But that’s what we’re commanded to do in scripture, and the Holy Spirit in us empowers us to live lives that line up with scripture. Do we sometimes fail to love each other perfectly? Yes, of course, because there’s no perfection this side of Heaven. This is why forgiveness is so important. Husbands often fail to love their wives with a godly love which is why husbands are commanded in the Bible to love their wives. I honestly have seen a lot of situations where the marriage could be a lot better if the husband would love the wife as he should –in the husband’s defence, I have seen women try to manipulate and control their husband to the point that the husband has a hard time loving them (not that this is an excuse). How much better it would be if we Christians followed scripture!

11) We’re in it for the long haul. When we said “I do,” we meant it. And we plan to be together until death parts us. With my health issues, that could be sooner than we both hoped. But, as much time as we have, we’ll take. Divorce is not even on the table. We never talk about getting a divorce. I never secretly think about it or wish for it. It’s not thrown around as a threat.  I remember one time in our marriage when I thought he might leave me –not because he said he would leave me but because many men would not stay with a woman who was always sick for no apparent reason. Divorce is simply not in the options. My Great-Grandfather Louis told Scott before we married that if Scott didn’t plan to stay with me forever, he shouldn’t marry me. Great-Grandpa Louis and Great-Grandma Katie were married for 72 years. I plan to beat them –if I live that long. It’s me and Scott, together forever, no matter what.

Let’s be honest: why relationships work or don’t work is really complicated.

I’ve known people who thought they did all of these things above and their relationship still fell apart and ended in divorce.

Why would that be? Why would a relationship fall apart when the couple was trying to do what was right?

I think there are at least a few possibilities:  

1) The sinful nature. There’s no way to get around the fact that we’re selfish and sinful creatures. The Holy Spirit helps us with the sinful nature, but if one person is unsaved or backslidden it makes a huge impact on the relationship.  If both people are not completely invested in making the relationship work, it’s not going to last.

2) Strengthening character. God uses things in our lives to make us more like Jesus and develop our character.  Just like God has used my illnesses to strengthen my faith and trust in Him, it is not hard to imagine God using a marriage in this way.  I think He uses all marriages this way in one degree or another. Some much more than others.

3) God’s confusing ways. We can’t always see what God’s doing –often we simply cannot,  and many of the things we go through in life will not be explained this side of Heaven. I choose to have faith and believe that it will work out for good in the end like He promises in the book of Romans.

It never ceases to amaze me that after all these years and everything I’ve put him through that Scott still loves me, still wants to be with me, still comes home to me every night, and still thinks I’m beautiful.

I’m blessed with a truly wonderful husband, and I know that’s very rare.

I’m never letting go.


Sarah Forbes

If you liked this post you might also like these posts:s

What if Your Husband Doesn’t [Really] Love You



God’s Purpose for Marriage


When Your Husband Isn’t Everything You Thought He Would Be


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