• Dr. Bill Walker

What Makes Marriage Work? Reflections On 20 Years of Successful Marriage

Christian writer Tim Challies and his wife, Aileen, recently celebrated their 20th Wedding Anniversary.

Upon this occasion Tim sat down and wrote out some insightful and important reflections on the reality of making marriage work.

Here is what he said.


Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago Aileen and I each woke up in our parents’ homes. Twenty years ago I walked into St. John’s Anglican Church through the side door while, a few minutes later, she walked in through the main doors.

Twenty years ago we looked into each other’s eyes and said our “I do’s.” Twenty years ago we strolled over to Ancaster’s Old Town Hall and spent a few hours celebrating with our families and closest friends.

Twenty years ago we slipped away from that reception and set out into life together.

It’s amusing to think of who we were back then. We were young—I was just twenty-one and she twenty-two. We were poor—neither of us had worked much more than retail or had yet set our sights on a real vocation.

We were immature—I knew nothing about being a husband and she knew nothing about being a wife. We were naive—we had no knowledge and no appreciation of the great highs and deep lows that life and marriage can bring.

Yet in our own way we were ready and in God’s grace we were blessed.

What did we have? We had friendship. From the moment we met and long before we felt love, we had a friendship based on shared interests, shared fun, and some of the je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily explained or described.

We had faith. A few years prior our friendship had led to discussions of life and faith and Aileen had become a Christian. We had family who loved and supported us in so many ways and we had a church community who gave us friendships and role models.

And, of course, we had one another. We had a deep commitment to becoming us, to defining us, and to remaining us. Though we were young and immature and naive, we knew there would be many challenges to our unity and that our “us-ness” would sometimes be difficult to maintain. Two decades on that has proven prescient, but we are still us. We two are still one.

As I survey twenty years, a number of thoughts come to my mind.

More than ever I see what an honor it is that another person would bind her life to mine through all the betters and worses life brings.

More than ever I see that the biggest threat to marriage is apathy—apathy that creeps in through neglect of a relationship that needs to be fostered through all the craziness and all the normalcy that life brings.

More than ever I see that the greatest joys of marriage tend to be found in everyday living. Date nights and occasional child-free vacations are wonderful, but the heights of marriage come in the day-by-day intimacy of two people sharing one life.

The real honor of marriage is not in having a person who will travel the world with me, but in having someone who will navigate a very normal life and find joy, purpose, and fulfillment in it.

After all, almost all of life is lived in the quiet, obscure humdrum. Life at its realest and life at its best is life at its most normal.

In twenty years we’ve grown closer to one another than we ever would have believed possible.

In twenty years we’ve committed sins against each other and extended forgiveness more times than we can count—or would want to.

In twenty years we’ve captured innumerable shared memories.

In twenty years we’ve accumulated twenty million evidences of God’s grace upon each of us and both of us.

It’s my prayer today that He would be pleased to grant us such grace for many, many more years to come.



This, my friends is the reality of marriage.

Sadly, some of us are slower to learn this reality than others. But for our marriages to be successful, learn this reality we must.

4 Takeaways from Tim's reflections:

* Marriage begins with two very immature, ignorant people.

The new husband knows almost nothing about being a husband and the wife knows almost nothing about being a wife. This can be a difficult period of marriage but as long as you both learn and grow together it can also be a wonderful time.

* Friendship is important for a successful marriage.

If you are not friends what are you? Friendship must be established before marriage. Why would two people who do not consider themselves 'friends' even want to get married? Your friendship will serve as a foundation for the sometimes difficult marriage relationship growing pains ahead.

* Faith is necessary for a long-lasting marriage.

Faith should be horizontal as well as vertical. Horizontal faith is between you and your spouse. You believe (i.e., 'have faith') in one another.

Vertical faith is between you and God. There is no reason for the two of you not to have a relationship with God. This relationship will guide you and sustain the two of you through whatever lies ahead in your marriage.

*You must have one another.

One of the most common complaints I hear as a marriage counselor is a spouse saying, “There is no ‘us’ to this marriage. We are like two roommates doing our own thing.”

Having one another means just that – ‘having’ - not 'avoiding'. Your vows included the promise, “to have and to hold”. To ‘have’ is to actively interact and experience one another. It is to be steadfastly, even fiercely committed to each other and the promises you made to God & one another in your marriage vows.

To increase the 'us factor' in your marriage:

# KISS everyday

#Hug everyday

# Tell one another, "I love you" every day.

Before You Go!

What do you think are the most important relationship requirements for a long-lasting marriage?

Share your thoughts so others can learn from your life wisdom!

Looking forward to hearing from you.