5. Become a life-long a student of your spouse, including learning and “speaking” their love language.

In Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, he shares five ways that all of us best “receive” love: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, and gifts. It’s a fascinating, but rewarding task to discover what your spouse’s love language really is. Chapman’s book is now available in paperback, and if you are interested, you can find it here. I have a few other helpful marriage books listed on my resource page, but there are tons more available. Keep in mind that relationships are hurt, not helped, if you base this “love language” on an “I-will-if-you-will” or an “I won’t if you don’t,” basis. Love chooses to give, even when the giving may seem one-sided at times.

6. Be willing to get help should your marriage “hit the wall.”

Most couples will occasionally “hit the wall.” That happened to us fifteen years into our marriage. This often happens to a runner about halfway through his race. That’s the point where his body is feeling the pressure of the race, and he must make a decision: to quit or to get a second wind and keep on going to finish. Same thing in a marriage. At that point, don’t hesitate to get help from a trusted counselor. We all come into marriage with baggage. Sometimes we need help “unpacking” it. Determine that the benefits are worth the work. Marriage is built on commitment, through the good times–and the bad. It’s not based on feelings or emotions. Love is patient…love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV). And forgiveness—and grace—are essentials to a growing relationship.

7. Have fun together.

Divert daily; withdraw weekly; abandon annually–these were the challenges we heard from a pastor friend early on in our marriage. Take time to get away and nurture the relationship God gave you. No money? Cheap dates with your spouse are plentiful. Be creative, and make it a priority to have fun. Laughter is not only a great healer. It’s also great way to nourish a growing marriage. A merry heart does good, like medicine (Proverbs 17:22, NKJV).

Would You Share Your Secrets for a Long and Satisfying Marriage?

These seven secrets are not exhaustive. God’s Word offers many practical principles and blueprints for this most sacred relationship. How about sharing the secrets of your marriage? I know others would benefit by your comments. If you’ve been married at least 20 years, what are some secrets you can share with us? What are the things that have helped make your marriage strong?

For more from Rebecca, please visit www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com

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Publication date: February 11, 2013