My husband Malcolm (aka ‘The Hunk’) and I celebrate 30 years of marriage today—since 5th February 1983. We have had our share of trials and yet we both agree that our love and appreciation for each other has grown throughout the years.
Longevity in any relationship is difficult to find these days, let alone maintaining closeness in marriage.
Today I would like to share some of the things that have contributed to our ability to, not only stay together (by God’s grace), but also to have fun throughout the journey.
Our ‘Secrets’ for a Lasting Relationship
1. Celebrate the Differences
It has been said that opposites attract. That may be true to begin with, but over the long haul, differences can cause frustration.
- My husband is an extrovert, I am an introvert
- He is unstructured and spontaneous, I thrive on being organised
- He is relational, I am task-oriented
You get the picture.
One day, 10 years into our marriage, some mentors whose family life we respected lent us a book on personality types. 
Finally, we each learned that the other was not wrong, just created differently. Over the years, we have discovered that our differences are complementary and add strength to our relationship. And most importantly, we have learned to accommodate each other’s unique needs.
2. Prioritise Marriage and Family
In our fast-paced culture it can be difficult to find the time needed to keep relationships strong. Work, financials needs, extra activities such as church meetings or sport, and ministry can make excessive demands on our time.
For many years, whilst our children were young, my husband was National Director for a mission agency in New Zealand. His role required a lot of travel throughout New Zealand as well as to many countries in Asia.
It was during this busy time that we instituted what we called the ‘family bank account.’ Times my husband was away or busy in ministry were withdrawals, whereas quality times together as a family (and as husband and wife) were deposits. We just needed to ensure that the deposits exceeded the withdrawals!
This family ‘bank account’ was an intuitive thing, not a counting of times or days.
As a result, some of our fondest memories as a family are of the times we spent together during those years, especially our annual family ministry trip, visiting churches in New Zealand’s South Island.
3. Put Choices above Feelings
Someone once said, ‘happiness is having what you want, whereas contentment is wanting what you have.’
Our relationship has not all been sunshine and roses. It may look that way to outsiders, but we are certainly normal and have had our share of difficulties! All glory to God for the many expressions of His grace to us over the years.
There have been some dark times in our relationship when we have made the decision, ‘If this is as good as it gets, I still choose this.’
Choices are powerful. Choosing to forgive when you feel hurt, choosing respect when your partner doesn’t seem worthy of it. Choosing to move forward in your relationship with God when the other partner has stalled.
We have discovered that our marriage is only as strong as the choices each of us makes.
4. Discover Each Other’s Love Language
We had been married 15 years when my Mum sent us a copy of Gary Chapman’s book, ‘The Five Love Languages.’ 
We each have our own way of expressing and receiving love. According to Chapman, the 5 main love languages are: quality time, words of affirmation, gift-giving, touch, and acts of service.
We were immediately able to look back over the first 15 years of our marriage and see that differences in the way we expressed our love for each other accounted for our chief frustrations.
- My love language is ‘acts of service’
- My husband’s is ‘words of affirmation’
I would get irritated when he expressed his love with romantic words, but would not fix something in the house that needed repair. And he was unhappy when I would speak negatively or criticise him.
The second 15 years have been amazing. I feel loved because my ‘Hunk’ does many things to help and bless me. And he feels loved because I have learned to frequently express appreciation and encouragement. That’s what you would call a win-win!
5. Have a ‘Together Relationship’ with God.
In a Christian marriage, it is easy to be isolated in our individual relationships with God. This can be due differences in the way we relate to God, or different gifts, or even through hurt or misunderstanding.
We have been blessed during our relationship to have friends and mentors who have modelled a great Christian marriage. What we have seen in them has caused us to desire more from our relationship with God together.
Finding the time or motivation to pray together, or to share about what God is speaking to us personally can be a challenge.
How does this work for us?
- If a need or problem crops up in conversation, we move spontaneously into prayer (God is the third, ever present person in our relationship)
- We have a common desire to see our family and friends move closer to Jesus
- We reminisce over things God has done for us in the past and anticipate what He will do in our present circumstances or in the future
- We regularly share what God is speaking to us individually and how we are being challenged to grow.
6. More Keys that have Strengthened our Marriage
- Encourage and release the other partner to his/her dreams and call of God (sometimes this costs you personally)
- Through small actions and big plans, keep the fun, passion and romance alive
- Take care of your appearance in a way that is meaningful to your partner
- Break out of the box, move out of comfort zones and have adventures together
- Attend and have meaningful involvement in a local church together
- Quality time (no matter what your love language is, there is no replacement for quality time together)
- Look for friends and mentors with healthy marriages and learn from them 
 This was one of Tim La Haye’s books. For example, see ‘Why You Act The Way You Do’ and ‘The Spirit Controlled Temperament.’
 ‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. We have found this also applies to our other family relationships (including children) and friendships. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
 Decisions about guidance and the call of God should be made together, in unity. See my post, ‘Personal Guidance for the Important Decisions of Life’
 David and Margaret McCracken are one couple that inspire us greatly. I highly recommend Margaret’s book, “Bulletproof Your Marriage” which is here on the David McCracken Ministries store
More articles that tell our story:
How To Leave a Spiritual Legacy (in which I share the significant role my Mum-in-Law played in our marriage)
© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching
Enliven Ministries: in the David McCracken Ministries family