How To Keep Dancing In Your Marriage
I've been to plenty of wedding receptions in my life.
I'm guessing you have, too.
How many cheese cubes and veggie plates in total do you think you've eaten over the years while waiting for the wedding party to arrive?
Never mind that, never mind that.
Like me, you've probably seen your fair share of well-dressed people who can't dance deciding to publicly prove it at these receptions. Toss in an obligatory helping of YMCA, the Electric Slide, the Chicken Dance, and the Macarena and we've all been witness to it happening in unison.
Still, there is one dance I simply adore at wedding receptions.
It's a sort of "dance off" according to the years a couple has been married.
It usually happens when the emcee says, "Let's give the bride and groom a break. They've only been married for a few hours, so how about we ask them to come off the dance floor along with any of our singles. We're going to see who here has been married the longest."
The emcee will then play a slow dance song as all the husbands and wives move to the floor. Soon he's calling out numbers throughout the song to ask them to step off the dance floor.
"Let's give it up for everyone who's been married for one year as they step off the dance floor... two years... three years..." and so on.
"Twenty years... twenty-five..."
Inevitably the crowd gets thinner as the numbers climb.
At some point there are only a few older adults on the floor. Maybe they're not moving as fast as others did, but they're there. Everyone is wondering how many years they've made it.
I once saw a couple get up to "sixty-seven." Everyone erupted with applause.
It's beautiful because it's possible.
I often seek out that couple later in the night and ask, "How did you stay married so long? What's your secret?"
The answer is almost always the same.
"We had some hard years," one will confess. "Some all at once."
"But we worked it out," the other will add. "What's a few years of hardship for all the years we've had together?"
I'm not kidding. I've had this same conversation with the same reply multiple times.
Granted, there are others at weddings who tell a different story about their marriage. I'm not suggesting we overlook that. Many people who are absolutely ready to commit to their spouse find it to be one-sided. Perhaps you or someone you know is experiencing this right now.
I'm not trying to gloss over tough marriage stuff. What I am encouraging us to do, though, is learn from the couples who keep dancing together.
Here are some of the best tips I've snagged from marathon marriages like theirs:
- Every spouse is imperfect, but may still be "perfect for you."
- Marriage isn't "50/50" but "100/100" - meaning, "I'll give you my all whether or not you give me your all."
- God will use my marriage to grow me even when my marriage doesn't feel like it's growing.
- Remove the word "divorce" from your vocabulary.
- Instead of arguing over all the money and things you can't afford, simplify your life and enjoy it together.
- Don't turn to friends who will tell you that you should do whatever makes you happy. Have friends who will hold you accountable to do what's right and be faithful to your spouse.
- Never be afraid to start over together. (I know an older couple where the husband admitted after years of marriage that he never had anyone teach him how to be a husband. They now attend marriage conferences together and began a new "honeymoon" in their later years.)
- The demands of life will turn your marriage into a routine. As soon as you spot this, start doing fun things together.
- Just as you wouldn't give up on life if your body got sick, don't give up on a sick marriage but treat it with every resource (conventional or unconventional) you can think of.
- Compliment each other every day. Every Day.
These couples haven't ignored their problems.
Instead, they've looked at each other in the midst of it all and said, "Shut up, and dance with me."
So to speak.
Let's not pretend that any of these tips alone will save marriages or soothe disappointments. Spouse may need real counseling over real issues that if left unchecked can get worse.
What these tips can do is give us something tangible to take part in so that we can get beyond the funk.
Because - and hear this -there is something beyond the funk.
Maybe there's as much to learn about marriage from a wedding reception as there is a wedding.
- What if all those larger, crazy dance songs that everybody does together represents how we need to surround ourselves with others who are committed to marriage?
- What if the emcee represents the guidance from God we need to realize how precious marriage is?
- What if even the cheese cubes and veggie trays remind us that a bride and a groom are worth waiting for... even if we're waiting for the bride and groom to emerge in us?
Perhaps this dance best plays out as Ephesians 5:21-33 (The Message) says:
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ... Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her.
Maybe your steps are off, but the song is still playing. There's hope and possibility beyond disappointment. Let's lean into it and keep dancing.