This past Saturday, Sandy and I attended a beautiful wedding for a young couple named Laney and Robert. It was an absolutely joyful event, and brought everyone there a great deal of happiness to see the love they share for each other!
The church where they were married happened to be the same one that Sandy and I were married in. It seems that great marriages are produced there! The weather was perfect, an absolutely spectacular, fall day! You couldn’t have ordered up anything prettier.
The pastor did a phenomenal job! A couple of times during the ceremony, there were humorous moments, including when the groom began stuttering his words while saying his vows.
“Robert, I can assure you that that will be the first of many times you find yourself stuttering during your marriage,” the pastor said.
A classic line!
As we sat there watching this young couple begin their journey, my mind went back to an event that happened just before my first wedding day.
August 23, 1979.
It was two days until we tied the knot! I was anticipating what was going to happen in less than 48 hours—I was going to marry my 3rd grade sweetheart, Leigh!
That evening, we were at my home. My mom and several other family members were there.
During World War II, my mom lived in Aberdeen, MD. Mom was single at the time and rented a room from a couple that was quite a bit older than her. As a side note, my mom was a very beautiful lady. She finished 2nd in the Miss Maryland Pageant in 1943! But more importantly, she was beautiful on the inside. This couple grew to love her during the time that she lived with them.
Over the years, they stayed in touch through letters and phone calls. Mom had told them about our upcoming marriage so on the night of August 23rd, they called.
Back then there were no cellphones. For some of you, this is hard to believe. We had these colored “boxy” sort of things that had two cords—one that plugged into the wall, and one that went to the receiver. You could play with that cord and get it all twisted up!
(A 1970’s cellphone!)
“Robert and Leigh, you don’t know us, but we know your mother.” They went on to tell us a little of their history.
“We’ve been married for 49 years now, and we’re very happy. We were hoping to give you a little advice before the big day if that would be okay with the two of you.”
“Absolutely!” I told them.
The husband was speaking now…
“Two pieces of advice,” he said.
“First, never say the word ‘divorce.’ I know you don’t understand this right now, but marriage will not always be as easy as it seems right now. The two of you will face many challenges, and you will sometimes get on each other’s nerves. There will be nights when you go to bed mad at each other. That’s okay… There may even be times when you will question whether you made the right decision to marry. But here’s the point—if you never say the word ‘divorce,’ it will never be an option. Trust us! Don’t say the word.”
“Secondly,” he said. “Always give 51% and take 49%. Try to give more than you take. Try to ‘out serve’ one another. It will make all the difference in the world.”
And that was that. I don’t remember how we finished the phone call, but I can tell you that those words were etched in both of our minds from that evening on.
Leigh and I were married for 26 years. Most of you know that she passed away from cancer. Looking back on all of those years, I can tell you that their advice was probably the best marriage advice we ever received. It served us well.
We were both 24 when we married. Looking back over those 26 years, I’m quite sure that there were times when Leigh must have said to herself, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” But we never said the word ‘divorce.’
Over the years, there were many tough decisions that we had to make. Not all of the decisions we made were the right decisions. Some of them cost us dearly, especially in emotional energy.
We went through the process of moving nine times during our marriage. We also went through the process of raising three sons! There’s bound to be tension, disagreements, and arguments when you face tough challenges such as these.
But we never said the word ‘divorce.’ And things always got better with time.
We tried to live the 51% – 49% rule too. Leigh outserved me. Period. She had a servant’s heart and was one of the most giving people I ever met. I tried to keep up, but know I fell short. But I always tried. And it worked. . .
I’m sorry to say that I don’t know the couple’s names that gave us the advice so many years ago. But today, I’d like to offer the same advice to you. And I’d like to ask you to pass this on to any young married couples you may know.
Maybe someday in the future, thirty years or so from now, they may pass it on to another generation of newly married couples as I am doing now. And it may make all the difference!
Pass it forward…