Our Top 5 ‘Secrets’ For A Lasting Marriage Relationship

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. [1]

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.’ [2]

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)[3]
  • 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 [4]


[1] This was one of Tim La Haye’s books. For example, see ‘Why You Act The Way You Do’ and ‘The Spirit Controlled Temperament.’

[2] ‘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/

[3] 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’

[4] David and Margaret McCracken are one couple that inspire us greatly. I highly recommend their DVD ‘The Marriage Journey’ available at our DMM e-Store.

More articles that tell our story:

Worship: So Much More Than Music (in which I share how The Hunk and I first met and became involved with missions)

How To Leave a Spiritual Legacy (in which I share the significant role my Mum-in-Law played in our marriage)

Do you have any marriage tips or suggestions you would like to share? Leave a comment in the comments box. If the comments section is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.

© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

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Kingdom Culture: How Nathanael’s Perspective Changed

Two years ago, my husband Malcolm (aka ‘The Hunk’) and I began praying a prayer that has become a defining prayer for this season in our lives:

‘Father, teach us about Kingdom culture.’

Although we have been Christians for over 35 years, we are still coming to terms with what it means to have a Kingdom perspective.

It is not a religious worldview. It is the worldview of being a royal son or daughter of God.

A Disciple Called Nathanael

I love the story of Nathanael, found in John’s Gospel. (see John 1:43-50)

In order for Nathanael to follow Jesus, he has to undergo a change of perspective—from that of a traditional Jewish worldview, to the Kingdom perspective that Jesus demonstrates and teaches.

Nathanael will go on to experience the greatest move of God of all time—Jesus present ministering on earth, His death and resurrection, followed by Pentecost and the move of the Holy Spirit described in Acts. [1]

I believe that Nathanael’s story is a prophetic picture of where the church is today.

Nathanael’s 4 Shifts of Perspective

1. From Being a Servant of God to being a Son of God

In the opening chapter of John, we read,

‘Yet to all who did receive [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ (John 1:12)

Soon afterwards, John introduces us to Philip and Nathanael, among the first who receive Jesus.

Nathanael’s whole life and perspective are about to be challenged and changed. Up until this time he has seen himself as a follower of God, and a servant of God—but he is about to meet Jesus, who will introduce God as Father to him.

There are times when we need to ask the question, ‘Am I seeing myself for who I am—a royal son or daughter of God? Or am I seeing myself as a servant who labours for God?’

2. From a Future King and Kingdom to a Present King and Kingdom

Philip seeks out Nathanael and says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

Judea is under Roman rule and occupation at this time. Nathanael, along with other devout Jews, has been waiting for the promised Messiah, and for the future establishment Of God’s Kingdom. [2]

And now Philip is announcing to Nathanael:

‘We do not have to wait for the Messiah any more. The King is here.’

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He demonstrates that the Kingdom is not only the future rule of God, but the current exercise of His rule in the here and now. [3]

Nathanael has to make the paradigm shift from a coming Messiah and a future Kingdom, to a present Messiah and God’s present Kingdom.

Questions we can ask are, ‘Am I waiting for God’s Kingdom, or am I living in His Kingdom? Do I recognize that the King is present and living in me?’

A sign that we are living in the Kingdom is that, like Jesus, we are disturbing the status quo.

3. From Human Reasoning to Divine Reality

As Philip says, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph’ Nathanael’s response is:

“Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)

Nathanael has a good line of reasoning. Scripture does not indicate that the Messiah will come out of Nazareth. He does not yet know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Sometimes, like Nathanael, we can be offended with the ‘package’ that a move of God comes in and be in danger of missing a gift from God.

  • Can anything good come out of my church, my town, city or nation? Yes!
  • Can anything good come from my life—or the life of others around me, with our known weaknesses and flaws? Yes!

Instead of seeing others and ourselves according to their history, we need to see as God sees—according to our destiny.

4. From a Future Move of God to a Present Move of God

Up until now, Nathanael has studied past revivals and moves of God in the scriptures. He has lived in expectation of a future move of God that would establish God’s Kingdom.

Now Jesus promises Nathanael is that he will see an open heaven.’ (John 1:49-51) This will take place as Nathanael spends the next three years walking with Jesus, the One Who is the fulfilment of Bethel.

On the day of Pentecost the heavens will open over the waiting church and the Holy Spirit will be poured out.

Today we can ask, ‘What is my perspective concerning revival?’

We do not need to live with only the dreams of the past, or hopes of a future move of God.

We do not need to wait for revival, or yearn for an open heaven. These things are already available and are our inheritance through Christ. [4]


[1] Nathanael continued as a disciple throughout the time of Jesus ministry as he shows up again in John chapter 21—after the resurrection of Jesus.

Many scholars believe that Nathanael and Bartholomew (who is listed as one of the twelve in the 3 other Gospels) are one and the same person.

[2] See also Mark 15:43

[3] Jesus exercised the rule of the Kingdom, but He also looked forward to the Kingdom to come in fulness in the future. (Matt 26:29)

The future establishment of God’s Kingdom gives us hope and anticipation in the face of sickness and death.

We live in the tension of the Kingdom that is present, but also yet to come in its fullness—what is spoken of as the ‘now and not yet.’

For more on this topic, see ‘ABC’s Of The Kingdom Of God.’

[4] For more on this topic, see the articles, ‘No Longer Waiting For Revival’ and ‘An Open Heaven Is Your Inheritance.’

See also the related post, ‘How Your Perspective Can Impact Your Destiny.’

© Helen Calder, Enliven Ministries: Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching