One of the best dates with my hubby was actually a dare at a marriage retreat. We were dared to go to a local outdoor shopping mall, dress up in thrift store costumes, sing to the crowd and then ask some older married couples the secret to a long and satisfying marriage. Dressing up was a kick, while singing (or maybe screeching) at the top of our lungs as shoppers averted their eyes and a dog in a stroller howled at us was a wee bit more difficult and very humbling. But approaching the couples for advice was downright fun and eye-opening.

Why, oh why, don’t I listen more to the wisdom of people who’ve fought the good fight relationally and won? In all honesty, Hollywood’s advice stinks, celebrities ditch relationships on a whim and Disney and Playboy aren’t making it any easier on us.

Want to know what these awesome couples said? Here are the tips we learned from couples married 45+ years.

1. Listen

After the first older gentleman we confronted at Nordstrom’s (who didn’t run away) stopped laughing at our outfits, he was glad to share from his heart. He said the single most important thing he’d learned in his marriage was to shut up and listen more.

Listening to your spouse (instead of trying to prove your point) brings nothing but benefits to your life together. When you listen, you’ll discover insight on how you can love the other person more deeply. You’ll see a picture of their heart – their hopes and dreams, hurts and fears. You’ll piece together why your spouse operates the way they do. You’ll discover belief systems and thoughts that affect your relationship.

If you think you already know everything about your spouse, you’ve stopped listening. Both you and your spouse will continue to change, mature, grow and learn until the day you are called into eternity. Don’t stop learning about the priceless creation God has entrusted you with.

2. Recognize Your Spouse’s Worth

The next man who agreed to talk with us had just lost his wife to cancer. We sat and laughed and cried with him for some time. What poured out of his heart was a different story.

When you recognize someone’s worth, you don’t belittle them or tear them down. You also won’t take even one day for granted. You will cherish their heart and build them up in front of others. When you see the true worth in your partner, you’ll appreciate what this person brings into your life on a daily basis. And you will shout out loud for the world to hear how much you appreciate your partner, because you know you’ve got a good thing and you cherish each day by their side.

3. Forgive Quickly

We met another couple from the Middle East outside the food court. The man was adamant on “the forgiveness factor.” (He also suggested to the guys to always let the wife win – hee hee!)

No matter how googly-eyed and in love you are, two imperfect human beings are going to hurt each other with insensitive words, selfish actions or occasional neglect. Forgiving each other is the foundation for any lasting and loving relationship. Without forgiveness, small offenses and wounds accumulate like a fortress in your heart. Commit to tearing down the walls on a regular basis before you can’t see over them anymore.

4. Have Fun

The Middle Eastern man’s wife said this, “Divorce is not an option where we come from in Palestine, so take it out of the equation and learn how to have fun together since you are stuck together.” I think it’s sage advice for us all.

If we take divorce out as an option and get serious about a lifetime commitment, then laughing is sure better than crying. Fortunately, my husband makes me laugh like no one else. When we sneak away and go on a date, I fall in love with him all over again. I like who I am with him and he likes who he is with me. We are better together than apart, and my husband helps me to relax and let my hair down.

Science backs this couple up on their “fun theory.” Laughing alleviates stress, improves communication, gets past image management and releases feel-good hormones in the brain. It builds lasting memories, helps heal old hurts and binds hearts together.

Maybe your spouse is like mine – always busting you up. Or maybe you are both serious in nature, but you laugh at the same dumb movies. No matter where you uncover your silly side, laugh together and have some fun. Apparently, laughing matters more than we give it credit for!

5. Find A Nice Guy/Gal

The last couple we spoke to reminded me of Mr. and Mrs. Claus. He told us, “No matter what, find a nice and kind woman.” I think what he meant was, divas are great to have crushes on, but don’t marry them or you will pay for the rest of your life.

I like this advice, and it certainly applies to both men and women. When it comes to the daily decision to love, kindness is king. First, it shows appreciation. It also builds up security. It’s difficult to be in a relationship with someone who you have to walk on eggshells around because you never know when the next constructive criticism or putdown is coming.

Looking for even more wisdom on marriage? Try asking some of the established couples in your life how they make it work. I promise they’ll reveal some truly inspiring gems for you and your spouse to think about.

You may also be interested in Insights About Marriage From The Garden Of Eden

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