How to Stay Happily Married at Least 13 Years!

Yesterday was our 13th wedding anniversary! It’s been incredible. And those who told us it would get better as time goes on… they were right!

Happily Married

Wedding Day May 26, 2001

Do we have a perfect marriage… NO! Do we have conflict… YES! Is it really getting better each year… YES!
Can you experience the same thing… MAYBE!

Happily Married 13 years later

On our 13 year anniversary date May 26, 2014

Every marriage is as unique as the individuals that come together. You cannot possibly have the same experience my wife Laura and I have had. But you CAN stay happily married at least 13 years!


Three things make it possible to stay happily married:

1. Marry the right person

After a person’s relationship with God, the person they marry is THE MOST important decision in life.

The right spouse…

  • lifts up
  • unleashes potential
  • encourages
  • makes dreams possible
  • helps
  • compliments

The wrong spouse…

  • tears down
  • denies possibilities
  • discourages
  • prevents dreams from happening
  • hurts
  • manipulates

I’ve been asked countless times, “How do I know if she/he is the one?” In other words, are they the right person?

Here are a few tips for discerning if that person is the right one for you:

  • You’ve listed what’s important in spouse they fit the most important issues
  • You can’t imagine a future without them
  • You’re better together than separate
  • Mentors/friends/family affirm the relationship
  • You agree about #2 below

2. Build on the right philosophy

Early in my friendship with Laura I asked her important questions. For example, “What do you think the role of a wife is in marriage?” “What kind of family do you want to have?” “What do you think about kids?” The answers to those questions helped me discern that we were on the same page.

Philosophy is the grid that guides decisions. It’s the way we see and interpret life. Having an aligned marriage philosophy is essential for a couple to stay happily married!

What does the right philosophy include?

  • The purpose of marriage
  • Conflict resolution
  • Role of husband and wife
  • Communication
  • Good to include parenting issues too

Where do you get the “right” philosophy?

Examples: parents, mentors, those who have been married 10+ years, but especially those married 25+ years. Pick their brains and learn how they experience being happily married.

Books: Laura and I have been reading books on marriage and relationships since we first dated. Here are a few of the books we’ve read and recommend.

3. Get wise counsel/advise

My wife and I are passionate about helping college students and young adults date and marry well. The experience we had with many mentors is likely why. We weren’t perfect. But with the input of many great people we had a blessed dating experience, engagement, and 13 years of marriage and counting.

Other than building and centering our lives around Jesus (THE key), three pieces of advice we heard during our engagement guide us. We took these to heart and have built our marriage around them. We write these in every wedding card we give.

  1. Stay best friends. If you’re not marrying your best friend you’re in trouble!
  2. Never get too old to hold hands. 13 years and going strong!
  3. Have fun! We may never have a lot of money, material things, or a lot of hair! But we have FUN! Now that we have three boys 10, 7, and 5, it’s more important than ever! We have family fun that includes Family Night at Chick Fil A every Tues, family game night, and regular fun playing ball, riding bikes, and laughing and cracking each other up. Laughter and fun are definitely good medicine!

You CAN be happily married at least 13 years. Be intentional. Work at it. Invest in it.

QUESTION: If you’re happily married what has made it possible? If you’re to married, what questions do you have about getting married? If you’re unhappily married, how can I help?

4 Rules of Communication: Act, Don’t React (Part 4)

Seems like human nature to passively react to what’s going on around us. This last rule of communication is not only essential in marriage, but applies to every relationship. The challenge is putting off the reactions and putting on the actions!

To act and not react in relationships is challenging, isn’t it! My wife is the greatest blessing in my life. But at times I have let pride and selfishness blind me from what’s most important… loving my wife. Love is about doing and not responding. Love is about the other person first and me second.

Rule #4… ACT, DON’T REACT!

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

Here are the reactions. Through Jesus and the Holy Spirit these are to be “put off.” Followed by the actions, which are to be “put on.”

1. Reactions (v. 31) – attitudes & actions that need to be “put off”

  • Bitterness: the refusal to treat someone as if they never hurt you.
  • Wrath: flaring outbursts.
  • Anger: hostility that frequently seeks revenge; the “slow burn.”
  • Clamor: harsh contention and strife.
  • Slander: speech that injures or abuses.
  • Malice: desire to harm others or see them suffer.
  • Note: The natural tendency of our sinful nature is to be defensive about dealing with our own sins (Eph. 4:31).
  • Resource: Celebration of Discipline will introduce or help you deepen your roots in the practice of “putting off” and “putting on.”
  • Question: what reaction do you struggle with most? Ask Jesus to change that from the inside out.

2. Actions (v. 32) – attitudes and actions that need to be “put on” to replace the reactions 

  • Kind: benevolent, helpful, courteous.
  • Tenderhearted: lit. “of good heartedness,” compassionate, sympathetic.
  • Forgiving: to give up your right or claim to revenge, hold a grudge or get even.
  • Note: Through God’s Spirit, we can and must be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving as a team (in marriage or friendship).
  • Resource: Spiritual Maturity lays out principles for spiritual growth, which embody the concept of “putting on.”
  • Question: In what way does God want you to act toward your spouse and/or friend? Ask Jesus to mold your heart with that action.


For THE Cause,

Ed Choy

4 Rules of Communication: Attack the problem (Part 3)

It’s almost second nature to attack people rather than problems. We generally know it’s wrong. Especially when it’s the people we love most!


I love my wife. I really love her. I don’t want to hurt her or attack her. But when problems arise I tend to criticize her. Especially when it’s something serious like not having dinner ready on time or not reading my mind!

Rather than attack the people we love most, we need the third rule of communication. Attack the problem, not the person!

What does it mean to attack the problem, not the person?

To attack the problem, not the person, is to dig into the root of conflict. The problem is not actually your spouse! The problem might be misunderstanding, misalignment of values or purpose, or in many cases just selfishness.


Ephesians 4:29-30 says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (NIV)

Here things to consider to help you attack the problem, not the person…

1. Avoid “unwholesome words”

  • Words that attack a person’s Character. (Matt. 5:21,22; name calling)
  • Tear down, rip apart or hinder growth. (James 3:5-12)
  • Clouds or bypasses the real issues.


2. Use “edifying” or “building up” communication. (4:15, 29)

  • Speak the truth in love and use words that stimulate growth
  • Use words that give “grace” (the desire/ability to do God’s will).
  • Use words that zero in on the conflict and are solution oriented.
  • Note: This rule can also be violated by tones and body language.


3. Six questions to ask before bringing up a sticky problem

  • Do I have the facts right? Prov. 18:13
  • Should love hide it? Is it sinful? Is it hindering growth? I Pet. 4:8
  • Is my timing right? Prov. 15:23b
  • Is my attitude right?  Am I trying to help the right person? Eph. 4:15
  • Are my words loving? Eph. 4:15
  • Have I prayed for God’s help? Prov. 3:5blean not on your own understanding

QUESTION: How do you attack the problems in your marriage?

4 Rules of Communication: Keep Current (Part 2)

Rules have a tendency to feel restrictive. However, healthy relationships must practice the 4 rules of communication. Break any one of them and walls go up.

keep current

I love to keep current… with certain things. When it comes to my favorite teams, app updates, and oil changes I’m all over it. But to keep current in my marriage I have to work hard.

What does it mean to keep current?

To keep current means to deal with anything that causes anger or frustration. There are many times love must cover those minor irritations and idiosyncrasies. But when we feel disrespected, unloved, or mistreated, we have to deal with it before it drives a wedge or builds a wall between us and our spouse.


Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (NIV)

If I break rule #2 Keep Current with my wife we both feel the strain in our relationship. Several times I’ve found myself sleepless at night. I knew I was about to break this rule and not keep current. So I rolled over, nudged my wife, and made sure we were current. This has led to some very late nights.

Here are three practical ways to apply this rule and a question to consider…

  1. Get angry, but don’t sin. Lying (v. 25) is sin; anger (v. 26) may not be. Anger is sinful when it is use to attack others (Prov. 25:28) or self (stewing about the problem). Failure to solve problems daily means we are giving a place, or a foothold, to Satan – this opens the way for disappointment, resentment, bitterness, and even hatred.
  2. Do not cut off communication. Proactively seek solutions. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about what’s important. Don’t threaten, explode, erupt, or bottom line (“All I have to say is . . .”).
  3. Deal with problems today. Putting up walls just doesn’t make relationships better. Tear them down by dealing with anger.

A GREAT resource that will help you get to the heart of communication struggles is War of Words by Paul Tripp. My wife and I went through this with a group and it was awesome!

QUESTION: How do you keep current with your husband/wife?

4 Rules of Communication: Be Honest (Part 1)

Communication is king in any relationship. Communication is king of kings in marriage. But playing by the rules is vital.

Let’s be honest about things. In our marriage I am the talkative, extrovert.  Laura (my wife) usually knows how I feel. My wife is quiet, reserved, and gentle. Sounds good right, I talk, she listens! (except this would be breaking 1 of the 4 rules of communication!)

However, I realized years ago that our relationship was not deepening. Our intimacy didn’t seem or feel close. And our conversations often just dealt with surface issues. Honestly I didn’t know my wife’s love language. Find out how to learn your spouse’s love language here The Five Languages.

I’ve learned that good communication takes effort and intentionality. It only took me 13 years of marriage to figure that out! And all the effort and work is worth it!

What are the 4 Rules of Communication?

There are 4 rules of communication that are important for any relationship. These rules come right from the bible (Ephesians 4:25-32). These rules are especially important and essential for a thriving marriage.

Rule #1… BE HONEST

Ephesians 4:25 says, Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (NIV)

Here are two things to consider, a few examples, and a question…

  1. Speaking truthfully is an active command. Honesty is more than not lying! It’s actively telling your spouse what’s true, sharing openly what’s bothering or troubling you.
  2. Problems cannot be solved unless you express them. You don’t want to attack your spouse (we’ll deal with that in rule #3). But you do want to address problems, frustrations, and conflict. Don’t let the small irritation become a wedge in your relationship.
  3. Examples. (1) Outright lying is out. Bad idea! (2) Conflict between our body language or tone and the content of what we say is out. (3) Disguising the message, passive-aggression, and/or innuendos is out.

QUESTION: What is one area you tend not communicate honestly with your spouse about (i.e. how they make you feel, your feelings in general, your dreams, use of time, hobbies, or parenting philosophy, just to name a few)? How can you be more intentional about being honest in that area this week?