December 27, 1974  Dennis and Linda GingerichAs a 21 year old, I stood expectantly at the front of a church filled with family and friends, vowing to love my college sweetheart until “death do us part.” Then the reception and away Linda Augsburger and I went on a much anticipated honeymoon. I thought I couldn’t love this woman any more than that night – December 27, 1974.

We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and some have asked me how we survived four decades of marriage. We didn’t survive. Instead, we found a way to thrive. Honestly, I would have never dreamed how much more I love Linda now than I did that night forty years ago.

So, here are five things I’ve learned that lead to a thriving marriage:

Learn to Love with Intentionally – We all tend to look for love in dramatic and epic ways. But usually, love plays itself out in lots of unremarkable ways: putting the toilet seat down, picking up your socks, a tender touch, ignoring a snarky comment, taking out the trash, offering to do the dishes or sharing the last cookie. It’s the little loving decisions we intentionally make every day where love is being forged in our hearts and our marriages are being transformed to become what we long for.

IMG_2270Learn the Language – We all have a love language. Dr. Gary Chapman researched, articulated and popularized the idea a while ago. I read the first version of The Five Love Languages when it was released in 1992. Yet, not until a few months ago, did I realize how negligent I was in speaking my wife’s top love language. Intentionally speaking her number one love language has made such a positive difference. My advice. Learn it sooner. Speak it often.

Learn to GiveTwo ways. Generosity. Flexibility. Marriage takes oodles of both. Self-centered living leads to empty love tanks, resentment, bitterness and worse. Survival will be the best outcome. A thriving marriage always includes openhandedness and bighearted attitudes and actions. A flourishing relationship has elasticity, willingness to adjust and adapt to uniquenesses, and yes, even idiosyncrasies.

IMG_2267Learn that Little Things Matter – It’s not the enormous things that impress as much as the diminutive things. When I rented a limo to drive us to our 40th anniversary dinner, Linda was pretty surprised. But what touched her the most were the little things—a card, a rose for each decade, her favorite three-berry wine, and the engraved champagne glasses from our wedding—all waiting for her inside the limo when it pulled up in front of our house. The fact that I even thought about it, and then prearranged and executed the plan, scored gigantic points with her. Listen up guys. A single rose twelve times a year for no particular reason speaks a lot louder than a dozen roses one time a year for an obvious reason.

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Learn to know the Ultimate Lover – The ultimate lover gave us the ultimate definition of love in this oft-quoted passage, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It’s impossible to give away what you haven’t received yet. A thriving long-term marriage takes loads of supernatural love. It’s hard to survive four decades in a marriage if you always react at the level the other person gives. God’s incredible grace that “loved us while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) has to be proactive in giving love from a supernatural source, not just human effort. Get to know the Ultimate Lover and you’ll become a much better lover!

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QUESTION: What would be a sixth learning you would add? Share it below. Thanks!



6 responses to 5 Things to Help Your Marriage Thrive

  1. Rev. L.Kenneth Fellenbaum on January 10, 2015 at 10:43 PM Reply

    Congrats Dennis….thanks for sharing. In the Art of Mariage “it’s not only marring the right person – it’s being the right person.”

  2. Helen Gustafson on January 9, 2015 at 3:21 PM Reply

    Learn how to communicate and discuss/fight fair. I took a communication class and learned a lot about how to and how not to say the same thing. I hate confrontation and my natural instinct is to just not talk about it. But it is through the hard conversations that intimacy grows.

  3. Robin Vandenbroeck on January 9, 2015 at 6:37 AM Reply

    Remember you can only change yourself – ask God to help you. Make the changes. Leave your spouse up to God. God knows the changes that need to be made in your spouse (and you) and even the exact order they need to be made in. You actually do not even have to give God suggestions – he already knows and is working on it.

    Forgive and forget. Forgive and forget. Forgive and forget. Forgive and forget.
    It’s all about grace. Ask God to see your spouse through His eyes, to learn to love them as He does. Keep your mouth shut.

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