As you know, this past year, your mother and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Though the media failed to put this important accomplishment in the headlines or to put our picture on the cover of a magazine, I consider this one of the greatest achievements of my life.
Years ago, when you were young, I attended a seminar on parenting and a speaker made a comment that has been a driving force in my life ever since. He said that he could give his children no greater gift than to love their mother well all of his days. That statement gripped me. I saw in it the longing I had as a child to see my parents devotedly loving each other and I strove to give you the security that a strong and healthy marriage can provide.
I know that you both watched our marriage closely as you grew up, because I already see you loving your wives well, even at your young ages. But I thought I would take this opportunity to pass on to you three secrets to building the kind of beautiful marriage that will be a gift to your own future children.
First of all, never stop putting friendship at the core of your marriage. Romance is great and attraction and sex are integral to a strong marriage but friendship is the key that will enable you to go the distance. Your mother and I have actively maintained a close friendship. She developed an enjoyment of baseball just because it is my passion; she will talk with me about the stock market even if she has little interest. I’ll watch the same romantic movies with her dozens of times simply because she loves them, and I willingly go on long walks with her because it’s one of her favorite things to do. We have intentionally taken an interest in each other’s passions and, in this way, we’ve managed to maintain an exceedingly close friendship through decades filled with busyness.
Romance is great and attraction and sex are integral to a strong marriage but friendship is the key that will enable you to go the distance.
These mutual interests help with the second key: communication. Your mother and I talk every day about everything. We share the ups and downs of our days with each other and even listen to the details of each other’s jobs that may not interest either one of us. We are devoted to hearing each other’s struggles, hurts, and pains, and we work hard to carefully listen to each other, even in the midst of conflict or disagreement.
When we were in college we once visited an extremely elderly woman who was nearly blind and deaf and who was unable to get to church. She told us how she had been married for over fifty years to the same man (something I know most women would call a miracle) and that the secret to longevity was simply never to go to bed angry at each other. I can honestly say that we have heeded that advice—with the exception of a few nights—for the last 25 years. Communication is not always easy; in fact, it can often be immensely difficult. It takes self-control not to tear someone down and yet be honest. But it is so worthwhile to get it right! And both you and your spouse can feel when you’re doing it right.
The last piece of advice I have for you is to always prioritize your marriage. It’s so easy to lose focus and drift to careers, parenting, hobbies, or other relationships. We always determined that we would put our marriage first, even above careers or children. It is that important. That’s also why we have religiously scheduled a weekly date night for the past 25 years. It gives us one night out of our busy week to focus solely on each other and to listen to each other and prioritize our relationship. It’s also why we regularly vacationed as a couple. Many times, it was just one night away every few months but we needed that extended time away to deepen our relationship and focus on our marriage.
Twenty-five years with one person is not easy. There are ups and downs, good days and bad ones, but by focusing on these three principles, we have had an amazing relationship even during some very challenging life circumstances. I wish you the best as you continue to grow as men. Real men. Men who love well!