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Holding Hands: What I’ve Learned in 36 Years of Marriage

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

By Kristine Lowder

My husband, Chris, and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary this month. Where did the time go? More importantly, in an era when a double nano-second constitutes a “long-term relationship,” how did we make it thirty-six years?

Well, it hasn’t always been easy. Marriage is hard work. It’s the union of two imperfect, self-centered, hard-headed people with feet of clay. Indeed, I wish someone had told me how hard marriage can be when I opened the box that held my engagement ring on Christmas Eve 1982. Maybe they did. But I was too moonstruck and starry-eyed to pay attention.

I’ve learned a lot since then. I'm still learning. Here are some lessons I've learned in 36 years and some key ingredients for a long-term marriage:

1. Realize that marriage is a “team sport.” It’s not about you. A successful relationship requires compromise. Give and take. Putting the other person first. Like Jesus did.

2. There’s one and only one firm foundation for marriage: the infallible inerrant Word of God. Make it the center of your relationship.

2. Pray for your spouse daily. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muffed this over 36 years. But I keep trying. You can, too. Incidentally, the person whose heart will be most changed when you pray for your spouse is yours. (Don’t ask how I know that.)

3. Cultivate a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Develop your “funny bone” and exercise it often. Look for things to laugh about. (If you can’t find any, I might lend you some of mine. If you ask real nice.)

4. Be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Another thing you can’t do on your own. It takes Jesus. Trust me on this one.

5. Learn and use those three little words: “I was wrong.”

6. Give your spouse room to grow, stretch, and learn. Allow them the freedom to fail. When they do, be the first person to pick them up, dust them off, and cheer them on to the next endeavor or adventure. Be your spouse’s #1 fan.

7. Show an interest in and participate in your spouse’s hobbies and interests if at all possible. Is he a football, baseball, or basketball fan? Into NASCAR? Boating, hiking, fishing, camping? A history buff? What kind of books or music does he like? What’s his favorite cuisine, color, movie, style, or get-away spot? How does your spouse like to spend his or her down time?

Chris and I love the Great Outdoors. We’ve spent more time around a campfire singeing perfectly good marshmallows than I can shake a charred stick at. We’ve also hiked millions of miles over most of the western U.S. and quite a few Eastern Seaboard states, too. (Well, okay. Maybe not a million. It just feels that way.) The idea here is to adventure together. Savvy?

8. An ounce of Hershey’s is worth a pound of cure.

9. Flowers. Don’t ask me to explain this.

10. Honesty is the best policy. (Don’t confuse this with undue harshness or acting like a jerk. Tell the truth, but in love.) Also, be trustworthy.

11. Love without commitment only goes so far. Like, around the block. Commitment lasts forever. Feelings come and go. Don’t confuse the two.

12. Chris and I have worked very hard to implement and maintain what has been derisively dubbed The Pence Rule. By people who don’t get it. Like, whenever possible we avoid being alone with someone else’s spouse or a member of the opposite sex. It’s called protecting our marriage pro-actively. It works. For 36 years. And counting.

13. Don’t take each other for granted. Ever.

14. Say “I love you” every day. Find creative ways to express your love and appreciation for your spouse in ways that’ll speak to their heart. (Did I mention Hershey’s?)

15. Realize that marriage vows are vows, not suggestions.

On an eighty-degree evening in southern California in May 1983, Chris and I promised to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health…." We’ve seen plenty of all of the above. But we made solemn vows “to have and to hold… until death do us part.”

May 7th 1983

Not just when things are going great. When it’s all moonlight and roses, champagne and fireworks. Because guess what? The last couple to “live happily ever after” was Snow White and Prince Charming. You’re neither. There will be times when your spouse seems as attractive as an overcooked cabbage. As prickly as a porcupine. Is galactically irritating. An insensitive clod.

Well, guess what again? So are you. So get over it. Choose to honor your marriage commitment and hold fast to your vows. Even when you don’t “feel” like it. Maybe especially when you don’t feel like it.

May 7th 1983

Also remember that you have an Enemy. The Thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That includes your marriage. So be on guard. Be prepared to fight for your spouse and your marriage. Take the gloves off and do it!! Like this:

Finally, grace is real and Jesus is Victor! If I live a thousand years, it still won’t be enough to deserve the good man who gently won my heart so many years ago. And still has it:

One day, far away, you gently won my heart And one night, by candlelight, we made a vow to never part And then it seemed just like a dream When wide eyed, side by side We faced the future holding hands…

This article originally appeared on the author's blogs, and


Hello! I'm Kristine, writer, reader, and lifelong hiker. Lover all things Puccini, chocolate and Mount Rainier, tho not necessarily in that order. I'm also celebrating 60 YEARS BOLD this year! I started this blog to explore how I feel about that and am sharing some experiences along the way.

Follow my blogs:

And my instagram: @thymelesswon

You can also purchase her books here:

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