“I want to grow old with you,” I said these words to my wife when I was a very young man. I was immature, energetic, impetuous and jam-packed with testosterone. Yet, I meant every word. Almost 30 years later, I still whisper the same expression from time to time, between our fast-paced lives that time has fast-forwarded us to. 

Learning how to stay married

The truth is most of us lose sight of the future because we are too caught up in the present or the past. We measure tomorrow by what happened yesterday. We miss the beauty of the horizon because our eyes are focused on now. But, that’s not a good way for anybody to live. Here’s something I’ve learned about how to stay married over the years.

The past and present

In any area of life: career, parenting, finances, faith, or marriage, if we only focus on what’s going on now or yesterday, we may give up and never experience the beauty of what’s over the next vista. If I can only see my children through the window of today, I may give up on them. If I only look at the current state of my finances I might close my accounts and spend everything I have. 

If I see this life, this world as “it”, nothing more, I may throw in the towel and live like it is. In marriage, when I focus on the past or see only what is going on in my emotions today, my heart may tell me it’s not worth the climb. 

The future

But, I have consciously chosen to look beyond reality. I intentionally look to what might be, what could be, and what will be. I set my eyes on the finish line, not on the aches, pains, and falls along the way. I shift my focus from breathlessness and pain to a time of intense satisfaction and serenity.

The center

Research shows that couples who establish an I-want-to-grow-old-with-you visionary center in marriage are couples who struggle just like all couples, but still maintain high levels of satisfaction over the years. Though life knocks them off balance, they come back to this center. 

They accept the reality of the past and present, but they are motivated by stepping out in faith toward the horizon.  Research also shows that the overall satisfaction level for couples who stay together 25 to 30 years typically is higher than in the first couple of years of marriage. I can attest to that. Rhonda and I are at a place in our marriage that we wouldn’t trade for anything. Was it romance-novel easy? Heck no. Did we want to give up from time to time? Yes. But are we glad we hung in there and kept looking through the fire, smoke, and thunder? Absolutely.

Faith is believing and hoping in something you can’t see. It’s stepping out of the boat when reason shouts that you will sink into the abyss. Faith is taking another step when the faint beam dimly lights your feet. It’s saying I will show up today though my feelings tell me it’s not worth it. It’s saying I will live for what’s possible, not for what I see today.