When my husband Ron and I were married, we were privileged to have my grandfather and his uncle officiate our ceremony. What a blessing!
But during the weeks leading up to the big day, my dear, soon to be husband was concerned my conservative pastoral grandfather of 89 would be upset we hadn’t done any formal premarital training. As much as I thought he was being overly cautious, I knew there was merit to his concerns. My parents had recently divorced, and I knew I wanted to be as proactive as possible to set our relationship up for success. So we all sat down over a pot of my grandmother’s spaghetti while my grandfather downloaded all 65 years of his marital wisdom onto us… in about two hours. Kinda sounds like cramming for a test doesn’t it? It sort of was.
We appreciated all we heard from Grandpa that day and left feeling (sort of) prepared for marriage. But what about after we said “I do”? How would we STAY married? Ironing out expectations like who would cook, clean, and get first dibs on the remote control is always a good first step. But what about all the other stuff life relentlessly throws at us? Financial strain, children, ailing parents, children, selfishness, children, poor communication, children…. There’s a lot of things we knew we would never be prepared for. Did I mention children? Ya, enough said.
Yet, 17 years later, we’re still together. We often ask each other how we’ve survived this long, but neither of us can answer truthfully without some hesitation. We’d like to say it’s our non-negotiable commitment to each other, or that we’re extremely smart. But what life has taught us is this: there’s rarely an absolute or definitive answer to anything. Especially the secret to a successful marriage. Some days, we’re sure it’s just a lot of grace, pure dumb luck, and has nothing to do with our smarts!
But when pushed, we can drum up a few simple things that have helped us along. Some on purpose, others a bit accidental.
- We continuously work on our marriage
- We make time to learn and improve our relationship
- We observe those around us who have a healthy marriage and sometimes inquire how they keep it that way.
As haphazard as our marriage game plan has been, we believe our relationship is richer because of these principles.
All of them are important, but my favourite is connecting with other couples. I know there was a time when folks didn’t want to talk about the state of their marriage with others, but that seems to be changing. So much so, that formal marriage mentoring programs are becoming more widely accessible.
The direct relationship between successful relationships and mentoring was one of the main reasons FamilyLife created the Marriage Mentoring Initiative. Research tells us that Canadians generally have successful marriages. Roughly 59 per cent of us stay married. But when you add mentoring, that percentage can go all the way up to 90 per cent!
Maybe there’s a simple formula to successful marriages after all?
We all know that’s not true, but there are a few things we can do — like engaging in a mentoring relationship — that can make a difference.
It’s been a long time since we sat around the kitchen table eating my grandmother’s spaghetti and listening to my grandfather’s impromptu crash course on marriage. We may not remember every single thing he shared with us, but it did emphasize the importance of allowing others to speak into our relationship and being open to a positive influence. We’ve grown to understand the need to lean on outside support every now and then and humbly receive unsolicited, but thoughtful, reminders to: date often, have more patience, and choose our words carefully.
Those are the difference makers. The things that keep us going. Inviting loving couples into our lives who care about our relationship. Even though Ron and I haven’t formally engaged in a mentor relationship, (we’re more like kamikaze mentees) having older couples to watch, learn and ask questions has not only taught us to be better spouses, but has inspired us to keep pushing and working for a better marriage.
If you would like to know more about having a mentor or becoming one yourself, then visit FamilyLife’s Marriage Mentoring Initiative.