By: Cindee Johnson, Encompass Relationship Coach
Chatting recently with a new bride, she was in awe to learn my husband and I are celebrating this month our 33rd anniversary. “Wow, 33 years! What’s your secret?” she asked.
If you have been married for any length of time, how would you respond to that newlywed’s question? Is the secret simply falling in love? Is it compromise? Having patience? Saying you’re sorry? Showing respect? Appreciating each other? Offering forgiveness? Laughing together?
My husband likes to joke “Happy wife, happy life.” While I’m not sure I want to argue much with that theory, it’s definitely not my answer nor is it really his…
When asked our secret to 33 years of marriage, we have one response, “Grace.” Lots and lots and lots of grace.
Yes, falling in love, compromise, patience, apologies, respect, appreciation, forgiveness, laughter, and so much more are a part of our marriage. Yet, none of those things alone have had the impact of grace. In the Bible, grace is the essential way in which God expresses His love for us. Unconditionally. So, how do we do that when we are not God?
How do we express grace when life with our spouse gets frustrating? How do we express grace when we have been hurt by our partner? When trust is broken? When we are tired? Overwhelmed? Discouraged?
Grace gives us the opportunity to believe the best about another person, continuing to love him or her in spite of the situation. It does not mean staying in a circumstance of danger. It does mean demonstrating our love in spite of the shortcomings of another. Because grace does not make the other person right. It is not letting the other person off the hook. Grace is choosing to love even through the frustration, hurt, broken trust, the exhausting, overwhelming, discouraging times.
My experience in marriage (and most relationships) is this: I expect to receive grace when I mess up. My experience also is this: I have to work hard at intentionally giving grace when others mess up. I doubt I am alone.
Still, grace is not about being perfect. Simply put, it is unmerited favor, treating your spouse well when least deserved. And, for Dave and me? It’s no secret that grace has been foundational in building the kind of marriage which will continue to stand strong through the next 33 years.
Whether you're looking for a new start or just some guidance and growth in your relationship or parenting abilities, you can get in touch with a knowledgeable and sincere advocate or coach at Encompass Connection Center by following the links below.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.