Marriage: What I’ve Learned at 30 Years (Part 1)

coffee3_1.jpgIn August, my wife Charlotte and I will have been married thirty years.  Now that seems unbelievable.  In many respects, it seems like yesterday that we got married.  Yet, it has been three decades.  I want to reflect on this in several posts.  I am going to do this in an interview format.

You and Charlotte will have been married thirty years in August.  Talk about the early years.

I was from Dallas and had just graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in business.  I had moved to Florence, Alabama, to attend a small Bible college.  I had no intention of being a minister or working with a congregation. This move reflected a need I felt in my spiritual journey.  I went to this college after hearing the president of that college preach in our area one Sunday morning.  I also knew a couple of people from the Dallas area who were going to school there.

I met Charlotte in Florence.  She was from that area (her dad was the president of the college I just mentioned).  At the time she was a student at Harding University.  We dated and then married on August 11, 1978.

What do you remember about the first few years of marriage?

Like most people who get married, I had no idea what I was doing.  I did know that I had married a wonderful young lady.  Beyond that I had so much to learn.  I do remember that we were both very, very busy during those early years.  She and I were both finishing school in Florence.  (She had transferred to the University of North Alabama.)  We then moved to Pulaski, Tennessee, where I worked with a little storefront church.  Charlotte taught kindergarten in a nearby elementary school while I was attempting to figure out what I was supposed to do as a young minister preaching for a church from week to week.  We were just getting by financially but that seemed to be OK.  We were there about a year when we began a move to Abilene, Texas.  We lived in Abilene for three years (both of us were in graduate school at Abilene Christian University) then moved back to Florence.

What did you learn during those very early years of marriage? 

1.  I learned that all of us bring some kind of baggage to a marriage.  What is in that baggage may be either positive or negative.  Much of that depends upon your family of origin, your life’s experiences, and your beliefs/values.  While I did bring a number of positives, I also brought a few negatives.  Knowing how to communicate, how to resolve problems, and how to deal with conflict were real weaknesses.  At the same time, my wife brought into our marriage a healthy way of handling conflict that put issues out in the open to be dealt with.  Meanwhile, my style was avoidance and even withdrawal.  Not good.

Unfortunately, like so many other people, I did not recognize this at the time.  So, we had some issues to work through.

2.  I learned in those early years that we could enjoy life, enjoy our surroundings and spend very little money wherever we lived.  During those early years of marriage, we lived in Florence, Alabama; Pulaski, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas (6 months); and then Abilene, Texas.  I can honestly say that we enjoyed each place we lived.  Of course each place had pluses and minuses.  Yet, we decided to enjoy life in these locations.  Consequently, we spent many Saturdays exploring little towns, large cities, and other places of interest near our home. 

However, in those early years, we were just getting by financially.  There were no long trips or major purchases in those days.  We rarely went out to eat.  Yet, I can honestly say that we enjoyed life.  That in part was due to a decision we both made to enjoy wherever we were.

More later. . . 

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14 thoughts on “Marriage: What I’ve Learned at 30 Years (Part 1)

  1. Hi Jim, I just celebrated 30 years with my wife in December, ’07. It’s getting to be a pretty small club, isn’t it? I’ve always appreciated your blog and your words. Keep up the good work. Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

  2. Jim,
    I enjoyed this post very much. It reminds me of the early days when money was tighter but life was simpler and we did many day trips close to wherever we lived. I also heard the president of that school you mention when I was in Arkansas. Before long I had enrolled at his school and mid-way I married a kindergarten teacher.  

  3. My husband and I will celebrate 24 years this July.  Like you I had no idea what I was bringing to this marriage, but b/c of God’s grace and faithfulness, we have worked through many difficulties, whether they be financial or attitudes or reactions.  My husband is the one who knows how to bring conflict to the forefront, and I’m the one who stuffs it.  Now, we are truly best friends and enjoy a sweet relationship.  God is good to bring so many of us such a long way from our early years of marriage.  Keep on keepin’ on and keep lookin’ up!  So glad for those who go before us and blog their experiences so we can grow.  Thanks again!  May God continue to bless your marriage.

  4. Wade,Thanks very much.  Those earlier years did seem so much similar (or at least that is what I remember.) 

  5. hi i am white english i have been married to my husband a west african for 32 yrs things were fine up untill three years ago now he just totally ignores me and acts like i am not there i am 52 he is 62 when i tell him about this he says he dosnt do anything wrong what should i do

  6. Christina,Thanks for your note.   This is difficult.  Marriage is difficult.  I don’t know that I have any answers.  However, I will make a few comments.1.  I would encourage you to try to keep the communication lines open with him.  That can be difficult expecially when feeling hurt, rejected, and angry.  However, this is critical. 2.  Pray for him–even when you don’t feel like it.  Pray that God would change his heart.  Pray that you would seek satisfaction in God through all of this when your marriage is less than satisfying.3.  Sit down with a piece of paper and pen and reflect on the last three years.  What are some unusual factors in your life or marriage?  What has been different?  What have been the stress points?4.  Note that you can not change him.  We can only change ourselves.  Seek to become the kind of person that God wants you to be in your marriage whether he responds or not. 5.  You might watch the movie "Fireproof" if it is showing near you.  (Look online for info regarding this movie, etc.)  This is a powerful Christian movie about marriage.Hopefully some of this will help.  Just ignore whatever does not seem to fit your situation. I will pray for you and your husband.