Relationships

9 Reasons I’m Still Married After 20 Years

Lisa and I recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. And while sitting on a white sand beach under an umbrella overlooking the ocean (don’t hate) we talked about these mime reasons why we’re still married, and legitimately enjoying our marriage more than ever, after 20 years. We hope there are a few ideas in here that may help you have a more intimate friendship with your spouse.

#1 We Prioritize Each Other

We decided a long time ago that our friendship is more important than any other friendship we have. We choose to say no to girls or guys weekends away in order to say yes to time together. I’m not saying Lisa never goes out with her girlfriends or I never go fishing with some guys, but what I am saying is our time together comes first.

#2 We Calendar Together

We have four kids. One plays volleyball, one is in orchestra, one plays soccer and one is 3 years old. We’re busy. Not to mention I’m in full-time local church ministry, I do consulting with the Unstuck Group, and Lisa is going back to school to change careers. Did I mention we’re busy? But who isn’t? The difference is we calendar on a regular basis and run our calendar instead of allowing our calendar to run us (most of the time). Our friendship is our greatest priority. So we sneak breakfasts together when we can, we spend time on the patio out back after the kids go down, we go on dates…just the two of us, and we drop each other texts throughout the day.

#3 Keep the Lights on in the Bedroom…

Our bedroom life is more enjoyable today than it was 20 years ago. Of course the 20 years of experience doesn’t hurt. Along the way we’ve had to learn to talk about what we are comfortable with and uncomfortable with, what we enjoy and what we don’t, how to serve one another, be vulnerable with each other, and talk honestly with each other. And, yes, there were times that we even had to schedule bedroom time. The bottom line is if you don’t like each other outside of the bedroom, you’re not going to enjoy one another in the bedroom. By the way one small bit of advice: If you don’t like your bedroom life there’s no one to blame but the two of you, because you’re the only ones in there. You may not be able to change what’s been done to you in the past, or what you’ve done in the past and what you’ve brought into your marriage, but you get to choose how you move forward in the future.

#4 Vacations…With NO Kids

We go on vacation every five years without the kids (sometimes we sneak a night here or there in between). I’m a bit of a planner and for those who know me, you know that my wallet can be a little bit tight at times. So we save up for five years and then go on a big vacation, just the two of us. It’s a great feeling to go on vacation and do what we want to and not worry about money or a big credit card bill that’s looming out there, because we planned for the vacation! And it prioritizes each other. I like my kids, but I like time alone with my wife.

#5 We Asked for Help When We Needed Help

I’ve written many times about the struggles Lisa and I had early on in our marriage. There’s a reason we didn’t have kids during the first eight years of our marriage: We didn’t treat each other very well. But we got help. At different points we both demonstrated the embarrassing humility and courage it takes to be vulnerable, put ourselves out there and ask for help. Which meant spending a lot of money on counseling. We were blessed to have trusted friends and mentors who believed in us, cared for us and invested in us. It was expensive, it was hard, but it was worth it.

#6 We Don’t Have Intimate Friendships With people of the Opposite Sex

This may sound a bit old fashioned and uber conservative, but we don’t have serious friendships with people of the opposite sex. For example, if I’m out of town and the battery dies on the minivan, she doesn’t text the neighbor without including me or their spouse in the text. Note to self: Get used to group texting. We don’t go out to meals with the opposite sex, we don’t ride alone in the car with people of the opposite sex, and even at work if I’m meeting with a woman alone at work I’m in a room that has a glass window in it.

#7 We Choose Not to Compare Our Marriage to Others

Social media has made it easy to play the comparison game when it comes to marriage. It’s easy to become enamored with what things appear to be like in someone’s marriage and become frustrated with your own. Lisa and I often remind ourselves of something our pastor, Chad Moore, said, “Don’t compare the image others are projecting to the reality you are hiding.” Instead we choose to compare ourselves with the standards that the Bible describes for love, friendship and marriage. It’s no coincidence that when you do things the way God designed life to work, how well life works.

#8 We Take Care of Our Bodies

Neither one of us will ever be accused of being supermodels. My knees hurt when I run…so I don’t. My wife on the other hand has done the Chicago Marathon, the Air Force Marathon and a litany of other races. She can run me into the ground, but I exercise on a consistent basis. It’s important that each of us stay in decent shape. We want to look attractive for our spouse. Each person has a different idea of what “attractive” means, and so we talk about what each other likes and do our best to meet those ideas.

#9 We Take Care of Our Souls

It’s hard to love someone else well if you don’t love yourself well. That’s not selfish, it’s biblical. Jesus even said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And so we give room to each other to take care of our souls. That may mean simple things like time alone golfing or fishing, time at the spa, going through a Step Study at Celebrate Recovery, going to church together as a family, encouraging and talking about each other’s spiritual journey…soul care.

Paul Alexander
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Paul is a Ministry Consultant with The Unstuck Group. Paul has more than 20 years experience serving in the local church, the last 15 of which have been on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul is serving as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area. Read more from him over on his blog.

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