- Attend premarital counseling.
- Try to outserve your spouse every day.
- Have dates regularly. Keep them light -- no talking about the kids or bills.
- Put your marriage before your children. You are actually helping them that way.
- Have weekly meetings to discuss finances, the calendar and other family issues.
- Ride out the storms.
- Pray together and for each other.
- Read a Proverb a day together. Proverbs is full of tips for having a long marriage.
Source: Becky Peters, a licensed practicing counselor with Agape Counseling & Training Services, a ministry of St. Luke's Church on Hilton Head Island
HOW TO FIGHT FAIR
- Prepare for the conversation. Pick a time to talk when you're not tired or hungry.
- Pray ahead of time and search yourselves.
- Begin the conversation by praying together.
- If both partners have valid thoughts and desires, they can each rate the importance of the issue on a scale of one to 10. If it's a four for the husband and a nine for the wife, go with the wife. If there is an impasse, go with the husband because the Bible says he is the head of the family. At the same time, husbands should always respect their wives' opinions.
- No name calling or yelling.
- Don't get off on tangents. Stay focused on the main issue.
- No interrupting. Use a notepad if you need help remembering what you want to say, but don't interrupt. It's rude.
- Speak truth in love. If it's not coming from a place of love, don't say it.
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Theresa and Duke Baker have learned a lot about marriage over the past 36 years.
They've learned to compromise. They've learned how to get through disagreements. And they've learned the importance of keeping God in their lives -- by going to church together and praying together.
"You really need to respect each other," Theresa said. "If you respect another person, you're not going to ever do something that's going to hurt him or her. ... The love just grows over time."
The Bakers decided a couple of years ago to share their experiences as a married couple with others who are about to embark on the same journey.
Members of St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church on Hilton Head Island, the Bakers volunteer their time mentoring engaged couples.
They spend about an hour a month for six months with each couple.
They follow a manual to get the engaged couples talking about various topics, such as their family backgrounds, parenting and how to get through disagreements. The engaged couples also work in the book on their own time.
"The whole bottom line of everything is just the communication," Duke said. "And with that, keeping God in your life."
Theresa said the Catholic church has encouraged mentoring for engaged couples for years. She said before she and Duke were married, they met with their priest. But things have changed. Now many parishes are getting lay people involved in the mentoring process, Theresa said, probably because the priests are so busy.
The Bakers said they learn from the mentoring sessions, too.
"It's just as good for us as, hopefully, it is for them," he said about the mentoring.
Christian counselor Becky Peters said when people have a relationship with God they see how much grace he extended toward them and are more able to extend grace to others. And grace can certainly go a long way in a marriage.
Peters is a licensed practicing counselor with Agape Counseling & Training Services, a ministry of St. Luke's Church on Hilton Head. She works with several married couples. The most common problems she sees in marriages are spouses not listening to each other, stubbornness, addiction, fear, shame, lack of knowledge and not being faithful to their vows.
Peters said marriage counseling can be helpful because it provides another perspective. It also helps couples get to the real issues. She said counseling should be a preventive measure, but unfortunately many people wait until things have gotten way out of control before they seek help.
Peters also highly recommends premarital counseling.
"Don't enter into marriage lightly," she said. "Don't go into marriage thinking, 'This is going to make me happy.' If you just go into it knowing that God can and will use the obstacles in your marriage to show you your sin and cause you to become more like him, that's a much better approach."
Peters and her husband, Jeff, have been married for 31 years.
"What I love about ... my own marriage is the way Jeff loves me and doesn't leave me when we're struggling or when I sin," she said. "It's an example of how God loves me."