As my wife Susan and I were writing our newly released books, Lists to Love By for Busy Husbands and Lists to Love by for Busy Wives, I spent a lot of time reflecting on our marriage and life together. I also thought about some of the choices I have made along the way. Here are the 10 best decisions I (and Susan too) have made in marriage.
1. It’s for life.
When I said “I do,” I meant it. There were no qualifiers—no “maybe” or “as long as it makes me happy.” I was all-in, forever. Making that vow was actually quite freeing because it clarified things for me: when tough times came, I would have to look for a way through, not a way out. Susan and I have enjoyed much more joy than pain, but there have been some difficult days. But because our marriage is based on a covenant, not a contract, in those hard times we pulled together rather than drawing apart.
2. I will work hard at it.
Most good things don’t come without some effort. Career development or sporting success require an investment of time, energy, and emotion. I determined early on that I was going to do all I could to make my marriage as rich as possible. Beware of Complacency, the Subtle and Silent Enemy of Your Marriage.
3. It’s a top priority.
This is a practical outworking of the previous decision. It takes time to learn to do your job well or to become a better athlete. And it takes time to build a strong, rich marriage. This means that other things have to make way. For instance, that promotion may make you materially wealthier, but will it take more out of your relationship than you can afford?
It takes time to learn to do your job well or to become a better athlete. And it takes time to build a strong, rich marriage.
4. Susan and I will agree on all major decisions before moving forward.
We know that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Any major decisions Susan and I have made—including adoption, and my leaving a career as an attorney to start Family First—have been jointly reached. If we are not in agreement, we simply don’t move ahead, because we know big steps require us to be in unity and in complete agreement.
5. I will say ‘I love you’ every day.
Big romantic gestures can become building blocks of a marriage, but they are held in place and relationships are cemented by the small, daily things we do and say. I make a point of telling Susan every night before we go to sleep, “I love you,” even if we’ve disagreed about something. My love is not just based on my feelings about her, but my commitment to her. And if I am out of town, I will call or text. Let me encourage you to make a similar daily message one of the 8 Little Things That Are a Big Deal in Your Marriage.
6. I will not keep any secrets.
Trust is crucial for a strong marriage, but it has to be earned. Openness and honesty are essential components. Susan and I have promised that we will not keep secrets from each other. We aim to live as open books—and, practically, that means I am “open for inspection” at all times. She knows my computer passwords and can check my smartphone anytime.
7. Guard rails are needed.
Though I have pledged to be faithful to Susan, that doesn’t mean I can afford to be careless or cavalier about the way I behave. Some people talk about “falling” when they are unfaithful, but that just means they were walking closer to the edge than they should have been. I set careful boundaries about how I relate to other women.
8. I will seek forgiveness quickly.
Despite my best intentions and efforts, I don’t always get it right. I doubt that a week goes by when I haven’t needed to apologize to Susan for something and ask for her forgiveness. Doing so communicates my respect for and commitment to her. Even if you feel you own only 10 percent of the blame for something, focus on that and seek forgiveness rather than majoring on what you feel your spouse may be responsible for.
9. I will seek advice from Susan and our children.
Susan is very wise as a wife and mother…she is my closest confidant and the person I look to for the best advice and counsel. Our children have enriched our marriage as well. As our children moved into their teen years and then into their 20’s, I found that asking for their input on a variety of matters, listening to them, and learning from them was important in my growth as a husband and father.
10. God will be the center of our marriage and family.
All of the decisions above that I’ve made in marriage are based on God’s Word…His perfect and flawless Word. Knowing that God is the center of our marriage and family gives Susan and me the joy, peace, satisfaction, and unfailing love we need for a God-honoring relationship.
Which three of these best decisions of mine most resonate with you, and why? And if you were to add another to the list, what would yours be and why? Please share your answers in a comment.