40 years of marriage; 30 seconds of advice

We took a family vacation to Door County in July. This year, our annual outing included 10 adults, 6 grandchildren, and 4 dogs. It’s pretty much a goat rodeo. It’s a good idea to take a vacation following these vacations. We’ve all been there.

This year, our four children treated my wife Anne and me to dinner at a swanky restaurant to mark our 40th wedding anniversary. Our kids’ spouses stayed home with the grandkids (talk about ‘taking one for the team’).

During dinner, our children took turns telling us how much they appreciated us and thanked us for the sacrifices we made as parents. We felt honored and humbled. Then, one of our sons asked us a really difficult question: “In 30 seconds or less, what piece of marriage advice would you pass on to us?” Dang! 30 seconds? Really?

This is how I used my 30 seconds: A lot of successes and failures in marriage come down to communication. I’ve met couples who are good communicators, and I admire how they verbally navigate difficult issues without hurting each other. Sharpen your communication skills. Poor communication skills invariably lead to misunderstanding, friction, disappointment, and hurt feelings. Don’t expect your spouse to be a mind reader. If you have expectations, tell your spouse about them (even if they seem painfully obvious). Unspoken expectations lead to disappointment.

Anne and I started our marriage 40 years ago with abysmal communication skills. We were a disaster. About 10 years into our marriage, a counselor told us to practice this simple exercise at the end of each day.

Take turns asking: “What’s the most important thing that happened to you today?”

And then take turns saying: “The one thing I appreciate about you is ______ (can’t be a physical characteristic).”

This is such a simple exercise, but it has been an invaluable tool for us. Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

If you’re ready to take a next step in your marriage, Blackhawk will be holding a Marriage Lab called “Navigating Conflict.” The event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 9-11:30am in the west side auditorium. The event is free. You can read more about it and pre-register here.

About the Author: Steve Rodgers
Steve Rodgers, director of marriage and parenting at Blackhawk Church. After spending most of his career in journalism, Steve started his “second career” at Blackhawk in 2014. Steve and his wife Anne (both Madisonians) started attending Blackhawk in 1980 because they were looking for a small church. They’ve been married 40 years. They have 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 2 dogs.