Friends of mine took a couple out for dinner for their 50th wedding anniversary. This older couple was so full of love. He stood tall as he opened the door for her. Her eyes twinkled with delight as she looked at him. My friend commented, “You must have been so in love when you got married for it to last this long!” The couple giggled knowingly as they shared their secret—they met on their wedding day. Their marriage was arranged! It was the decisions they made after they married that nurtured their love for five decades.

I asked students in a marriage class I taught to interview a couple that had been successfully married for at least twenty-five years. This is one of my favorite assignments! One interview question asked, “How did you make it through the difficult times?” Paper after paper listed difficult experiences, such as financial failure, the loss of a child, health problems, and infidelity. There wasn’t a “one-size-fits-all” answer to how the couples worked through their challenges. The point is they found a way.

These two stories have a very consistent message. Thriving marriages are intentional—they don’t just happen. They are nurtured, studied, cultivated, maintained, and repaired. They are cared for.

If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence it’s because the neighbors are taking better care of their grass! When it comes to growing your marriage, you can complain about it, or you can learn the basics to make it better.

When my bride came down the aisle on our wedding day, her entrance song included these words:

It’s not the morning
Not the easy times that have proven my heart
It’s when I see that the darkness can’t tear us apart
(After The Sunset by Debbie McNeil)

We didn’t know what darkness would come, but we married for better or worse, through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. When darkness comes, we know we’ll go through it together, it can’t tear us apart.

Here’s the secret to a thriving marriage—there is no secret! Learn the basics, practice them until you are exceptionally good at loving your spouse, and then practice them some more. If something doesn’t work, give it more time. If it’s still not productive, try a different path. Don’t let the darkness tear you apart. Find a way. Be intentional.

The steps I’ve written about for a thriving marriage aren’t magical; they’re not simple; they’re not easy. They’re hard work. But they’ve been rewarding to many of my clients. I hope you find inspiration, hope, and encouragement to intentionally invest in your marriage.

You can do this!

This is a complimentary chapter from MARRIAGE RECALL - 52 Weekly Reminders on how to love during the everyday of life. Read more here or buy now on AMAZON.