#025: 4 Commitments for Building a Successful, Long-Term Marriage [Podcast]

In this episode, I discuss what you can do to build a successful, long-term marriage. I’ve been married for thirty-four years, and this is something I care about deeply.

A Happy, Older Couple - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/kupicoo, Image #18795852

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/kupicoo

This last week, Gail and I spent four days in the Rocky Mountains with a handful of friends. We have done this every year for the last nine years. All of us have been married a long time. In fact, one couple—Scott and Jill Bolinder—were celebrating their fortieth anniversary. It is obvious they are still in love.

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But then we came back home to learn that another friend’s marriage was crumbling. His wife had just asked for a divorce, catching him totally off guard. It made me very, very sad.

I knew I had to talk about marriage in this episode. There is just so much at stake.

And, by the way, your marriage has everything to do with your effectiveness as a leader. Whether you realize it or not, as people observe your marriage and make several inferences about you and your leadership:

  • They learn about your priorities and what matters most.
  • They learn how you treat the people who are closest to you.
  • They learn whether it’s all about you or you are a team player.

If your marriage is going to survive—and thrive—you will need to be intentional about it. Great marriages don’t just happen. They are created. In order to build a successful, long-term marriage, you need to make four commitments.

  1. Commit to continuing education.

    You can do this in four ways:

    • Become a student of your spouse.
    • Read marriage books.
    • Attend marriage conferences.
    • Get marriage counseling.
  2. Commit to spending time together.
  3. Commit to following a specific set of boundaries.

    Here are mine:

    • I will not go out to eat alone with someone of the opposite sex.
    • I will not travel alone with someone of the opposite sex.
    • I will not flirt with someone of the opposite sex.
  4. Commit to speaking well of your spouse.

    This is important for at least five reasons.

    • You get more of what you affirm.
    • Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse.
    • Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities.
    • Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery.
    • Affirmation provides a model to those you lead.

Listener Questions

  1. An anonymous female caller asked, “What do you suggest doing when your husband would rather do e-mail and read blogs than talk to his wife?”
  2. Erik Fischer asked, “How did you and your wife make sure that you found time for just talking with each other?”
  3. Imaj asked, “What protective measures are there for single people who are in a serious relationship for the first time?”

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Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: Think about the couples you know who have been happily married for a long time. What are the habits or practices that you observe in their marriage that have served them well? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Somehow,  all this “marriage/relationships require a lot of work” stuff violates my personal sense of romanticism. In the end, it sounds more like some mutually beneficial arrangement. Which, I suppose, it is probably meant to be. 

    Speaking of marriage, just last week I happened to re-read one of my favorite novels of all time called Damage by Josephine Hart:

    We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved or unloved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without ever feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself, and we slip at last into place…

    A must-read for all married couples and those who plan on tying the knot. (Great movie with Jeremy Irons as well.) 

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Marriage is a strange beast. It’s a lot of what you mentioned Cyberquill.

      It can be romantic and magical. There are times when it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. It takes a lot of hard work. But that’s part of the wonder of it all. And I think it’s where the true romance comes from.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Hmm… *assumes pensive mien*

    • JosephPote

      Much of our societal view of romance leads us to believe relationships should not require hard work.  My experience is that all close relationships do require hard work, simply because we are all so uniquely different.

      In the end, if I value a person highly enough to want a close relationship with them, I should be willing to invest a lot of work into that relationship.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        I think the key is not differences but compatibility. Two entities can be very different and very compatible, or they can be fairly similar yet utterly incompatible.

        Strike two adjacent keys on a piano, like a C and a Db. Hear the dissonance?

        Now strike a C and a G, which reside much further apart on the keyboard. They harmonize perfectly. (Play a C and a G# together, though, and the sound will grate on your ears again.)

        Seems to me that the more incompatible (as opposed to merely different) two people are by nature, the more “work” it’ll require to establish and maintain a semblance of harmony; whereas the more compatible by nature, the more the relationship will “ease like water over a stone,” to use another phrase from the novel I cited earlier, without requiring to much conscious effort.

        • http://www.beyondthesinnersprayer.wordpress.com/ Barb

          As a member of one of those “incompatible by nature” marriages for almost 30 years now, I can say the growth that has come through our incompatibility has been priceless – well worth every trauma. Although I can certainly see the advantages of compatible. :)

          • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

            Of course. Figuring out how to fit a square peg into a round hole is more of a learning process than it is to simply use a round peg to begin with.

            Still, I prefer to view coming home as distinct from rather than synonymous with going to work.

        • JosephPote

          A valid point, Cyberquill!

          Yet, every piano requires retuning in order to maintain harmony…

          …and even with a well-tuned piano, only a skilled pianist with focused attention can avoid occasional discord…

          Beautiful music doesn’t just happen…it requires focused attention, hard work, and much practice…

  • http://www.dwaynes--world.blogspot.com Dwayne Morris

    A huge key for us is understanding and appreciating our differences. My wife is the planner/organizer and I’m the free-spirit. There are times when I lean into and yield to her ability to cover the details and then there times when she follows my lead in being spontaneous. I thinks its Dave Ramsey who says, “if you both are the same, then one of you is unnecessary.” We have learned that we make a better team than we do lone rangers.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. Gail and I are the same way: different in almost every way. But it gives our marriage a broader, richer palette of colors.

  • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

    Surrendering our expectations is key, because each spouse usually expects personal benefit over personal responsibility. I echo your recommendation of Gary Thomas’ book. It helps to move our expectations from the world of entitlement to the reality of serving our spouse. What we apply in social media also applies to marriage: choose to be more giving than taking and it all comes back around.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I agree on expectations. I read Gary’s book with my mentoring group this year. It was huge.

    • JasonEC

      Excellent point, Wayne. I would add that if we are seeking to get our fulfillment from our spouse as opposed to Christ, we are only setting ourselves up for failure. Christ is always capable of providing everything we need in our lives. A spouse will often fail. If we expect them to provide for our needs (emotional or otherwise) we are setting them up for failure. It’s so much better to turn to Christ for those “needs” and then view every positive thing we get from out spouse as simply a huge bonus. The whipped cream and cherry on top.

      • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

        Yes. So true! Thanks, Jason.

  • http://keikihendrix.com/ Keiki Hendrix

    Wonderful post with excellent tips. Today, my husband and I celebrate our 11th anniversary. How appropriate this post is! My marriage is the second most important relationship I have. Protecting it is a high priority.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt


  • Bill Siren

    Great post, Mike.  And I agree – we must be intentional about our marriage!   Let me add another great resource for your readers.  Take the 8 week Dynamic Marriage course offered at churches all over the country through Family Dynamics.  It is life changing for couples.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bill. Gail and I have actually been looking at this course. We are considering taking some couples in our church through it.

    • http://snappycasualblog.com/ kelsey williams

      thanks for the recommendation. waiting for the class to come to iowa!

  • Rajdeep Paulus

    Thanks Michael! I love reading about leaders who value their spouses. I completely agree that the respect level of their leadership jumps several notches when I see a leader investing in a thriving marriage. 

    On a personal level, I feel extremely aware of all the positive voices that have spoken into my marriage over the last fourteen years through books, classes, conferences and honest friends. I even composed a list of the top ten best tools we’ve used for our marriage [saw some overlap with the titles you mentioned :)] and the top ten hardest things to share after saying, “I Do,” on my blog where I often write about life after the vows and how GRACE and HARD WORK are key if you want more for your marriage. May God bless you and Gail with many more years of growing love and grace for each other! :) -Raj

  • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    I’ve been married for a little over two years. Those two years have been filled with a lot of change and trying, emotional times. The secret sauce that has strengthened my relationship with my wife has been great communication. 

    We always talk, even when what we have to say isn’t “convenient”. 

  • Cindy Sproles

    Those who have successful marriages, understand what it means to submit to one another. They understand this is not tyranny but it’s learning the give and take. Someone once said, “Freedom from having to have your own way all of the time.” It’s worked for us, 26 years.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with this. It’s worked for us too.

    • JosephPote

      “submit to one another”

      Yes, this is key.  It’s not about one spouse submitting to the other, or spouse trying to control the relationship.

      Rather it is about both partners submitting to one another, in love.

      Thank you, Cindy!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       26 year! Great Job!

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I appreciate your values and great advice concerning marriage.  I also congratulate you on the almost 35 years and hope your marriage continues to be blessed.  I hope others can learn from your example.  My only reservation about pointing out marital successes (it often happens at church, too) is that it makes people who tried their best but were torn apart by circumstances beyond their control (mental illness, addiction, abuse, violence, etc.) feel less worthy, more like failures.  That said, it’s not a reason to stop promoting long records of marriage, but just remember those who for one reason or another, and at times through no fault of their own, went through a divorce.  

    • JosephPote

      Yes, very good point, Dan, and one I can personally attest to. 

      Strong marriages are certainly worthy of celebration!  They require a lot of hard work by both partners, in order to be successful and fulfilling.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if there were same way to focus on the strength of the relationship or the level of committed sacrificial love, rather than the longevity of the marriage?

      I’m not sure that’s possible when looking at role models…but it would be nice…  ;-)

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        I like your point about focusing on strength and sacrificial love.  Sometimes it’s sacrificial love that leads to divorce, such as protecting children or self.

        • JosephPote


          Thank you, Dan, for pointing that out.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree. This is a message for people who are married. If I was speaking to people who were divorced, I’d have a different message entirely. Thanks.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        I’ve often been reminded that God divorced his own people and understands the pain and suffering of divorce.

        • JosephPote

          Yes…and since God, Himself, divorced the northern Kingdom of Israel, we must recognize that, sometimes, divorce is the godly path in a given situation.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Does the Bible use the language of “divorce” for this? I could look it up, but I thought you might now. I know that the language of marriage is definitely used.
            This is a very interesting observation. Thanks for commenting!

          • JosephPote

            Yes, it does. 

            In fact, Jeremiah 3:8 uses two terms for “divorce,” first a less formal term that may be translated as either “divorced” or “sent away,” then the more formal legal term “writ of divorce.”

            In other words, the terminology used here is so clear as to leave absolutely no doubt of the intent.

            God, speaking thru Jeremiah, said, “I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce…”

            And we know, from a historical perspective, He did exactly that.  God divorced the ten northern tribes of the  Kingdom of Israel, causing them to be scattered among the nations…though not the two southern tribes of the Kingdom of Judah, who are the ancestors of modern-day Israel.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Okay. Thanks. This parallels Jesus admonition that unfaithfulness is a legitimate (though not mandated) cause for divorce. Thanks.

          • JosephPote

            Yes, it does parallel the words of Christ in Matthew 19.

            However, the passage in Jeremiah helped me to make an important distinction between divorce being sometimes “permissible” and divorce being sometimes “God’s direct will” for a given situation.

            As a follower of Christ who is more interested in “God’s best” than in what is “permissible,” this was an important distinction, for me.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            That makes sense. Thanks.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            Here’s one reference, Michael:

              Jeremiah 3:8 “And I saw for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away and given her a bill of divorce.”

            That said, I don’t think we should ever use God’s example of divorce to condone marital divorce.  We know the Bible has many other comments about divorce. 

            Another thought: does adultery always refer to sexual acts, or are there other forms of adultery (emotional, spiritual, etc.)?

            Perhaps some thoughts for future posts.

          • JosephPote

            “…I don’t think we should ever use God’s example of divorce to condone marital divorce.”

            I respectfully disagree, Dan.

            God demonstrates godly principles and godly behaviors in His own interactions with mankind.

            Clearly, since God, himself, divorced the Kingdom of Israel, divorce is sometimes God’s will for a given situation.  Certainly God does not act outside His own will.

            This important passage recounting God’s own behavior cannot be overlooked in any serious study of the biblical perspective of divorce.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            You’re right, Joseeph.  There are some cases when the situation does call for divorce and God’s example can and should be used.   What I meant to say is that we shouldn’t use God’s example to condone divorce as an easy way out of any given marriage.  Sorry about the misunderstanding, but I think we’re actually on the same page here.

          • JosephPote

            Yep!  Sounds like we’re on the same page…and like we’ve had some similarities in life experiences…

            Thanks, Dan!

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            (thoroughly enjoyed this dialogue!)

          • Joe Pote01

            Me too, Michele! So much so, that I promptly looked up Dan’s website and invited him to my blog!

            Blessings to you!

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            Great idea.

    • JosephPote

      One other thought on this, Dan…sort of thinking out loud, here…

      We (as a society and as Christ’s church) need to learn to recognize that divorce is not necessarily equated to failure.

      If one partner fully and wholeheartedly keeps their marriage vows, daily living out their sacred oath to love, honor and cherish, then they have SUCEEDED in honoring their vows, regardless of their partner’s behavior and regardless of the longevity of the marriage.

      It is the wholehearted keeping of the vows that is worthy of celebration.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        I agree, Joseph.  But I think that’s a hard thing to do: to keep vows even when a marriage has ended.

        • JosephPote

          Sorry, I did not make myself clear, Dan.

          I did not mean continuing to keep the vows after the marriage had ended.

          I meant wholeheartedly keeping the vows all the way to the end of the covenant…whether the covenant ends in death or in divorce.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            Ah, much easier done.  I’ve actually stayed single since divorce and still maintain a friendly relationship, but still know that reconciliation would make life unhealthily harder on all involved.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Excellent point. I know the pain in those cumstances are very difficult and we tend to lump “failed marriages” all together—especially in the church. Thanks for making the distinction— it was helpful to me.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        You’re welcome.  I agree that it’s easy to categorize people based on marriage and divorce.  It’s also a topic I discuss in my second book, “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy” due out in early 2013.    

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          Awesome! Who is publishing it?

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            I’m using Create Space and Kindle and self-publishing again.  My strategy at this point is to get a few books under my belt (it’s part of a trilogy) and then look for traditional publishers.  I write for the love of writing as much as I do for potential financial success, although, I wouldn’t mind a retirement nest egg from future sales.

  • Margie

    Thanks so much for this! I do hope that you and Gail can take some couples through a marriage Dynamic Marriage course, although I am not familiar with the course, I do know that you and Gail have a strong marriage and your thoughts expressed here are good ones. After 25 years of marriage and 4 before that of dating on and off, I say: Forgive! Forgive yourself, forgive your spouse, ask your spouse to forgive you, even when you feel wronged. This is hard! But God is good and marriage is a blessed sacarament by God. (I am NOT talking about abusive relationships where distance, at least temporarily is needed to work out marital problems.) I’m talking about every day marriage because it is hard. God will help you forgive. And the other thing is pray. Pray for your marriage, pray for all marriages, pray for the institution of marriage as a sacrament, pray the marriage prayers, there are many set forth, including bible verses. Pray and talk to God about difficulties even before you talk to your spouse or a friend. Getting your words out in the open to God (or on paper) helps you focus — has helped me focus. Prayer and forgiveness help you believe the best in your spouse and in yourself, these two things also allow you to feel the love of God in your heart and that is a balm that heals many wounds. God bless us and keep us close to Himself! Have a great day!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      These are really good words, Margie. I spoke with Fr. Stephen about the course yesterday. We’re excited about the possibilities.

  • http://twitter.com/ryancohara Ryan O’Hara

    Admittedly, haven’t listened to podcast (perhaps the answer’s there), but have scanned the post above.  I’m  curious why you used phrase long-term, not lifelong?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I meant the same thing. Lifelong would have probably been a better choice of words. Thanks.

      • David & Shelley Hess

        Yet “long term” is technically more correct, simply because it is not “lifelong” until we have taken our last breath.  Both work!  I appreciate the sensitivity from both of you.

        • JosephPote

          Unless you’re born married, “long term” is more technically accurate, I reckon…  ;-)

      • http://twitter.com/ryancohara Ryan O’Hara

        Thanks Mike. I appreciate your candor, humility, and your investment in spreading ideas that can change lives. 

  • JosephPote

    Good post with great tips, Michael!

    I would add another reason for investing in a marriage: because that is what is required to fulfill the sacred vows to love, honor, and cherish.

    Sometimes, I think we get too focused on avoiding divorce, and pay too little attention to wholeheartedly fulfilling sacred vows.

    Marriage is not about divorce avoidance. 

    Marriage is about loving, honoring, cherishing, encouraging, helping, and supporting the person to whom we have sworn a solemn oath of allegiance.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is a valid point. In fact, my initial outline for this episode was all about divorce avoidance, based on the recent encounter with my friend. However, I broadened it for the exact reason you mention. Thanks.

      • JosephPote

        I’m glad you broadened it!  :-)

        Thanks, Michael!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      That’s a good distinction to make and helpful for putting the emphasis where it should be.

      However, even though you are 100% correct that marriage is not about divorce avoidance, I have seen many marriages that, by not being realistic about the reality of divorce, (and choices that lead there) suffer that exact fate.

      So our emphasis should focuses on loving, honoring, helping—but we must remain aware of the consequences of an “unhealthy marriage.”

      Just like a doctor who tells me that I would be a much healthier/happier person if I eat right and exercise—he will also share with me that if I don’t eat right and exercise that I could develop high blood pressure or have a heart attack! —I think the focus is still on motivating healthy living. Wouldn’t you agree?

      But, like I said at the beginning, you are right, the purpose of the covenant of marriage is not to simply avoiding divorce. It’s the divine mystery of how two people become one!

      Thanks, Joseph!

      • JosephPote

        Yes, I agree that the two are certainly related. 

        A healthy emphasis on wholeheartedly living out the covenant vows will tend to lead to a healthier relationship which is less likely to end in divorce.

        Likewise, an awareness of the possibility of divorce may spur us on toward a deeper commitment to our covenant vows.

        However, in many of today’s churches, I see an unhealthy emphasis on divorce avoidance, rather than on wholeheartedly living out the sacred covenant vows.

        Comparing the marriage relationship to our relationship with Christ, my concern should be on living my life in accordance with His will and learning to be conformed to His image.  If my only emphasis were on avoidance of Hell, that would be a sign of a very immature Christian with a shallow level of commitment.

        Thanks, Barry!

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          Well said!

  • Paula

    “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16) Jesus could be close to sisters and talk to them privately without having sex with them, and so can men following Jesus. When you walk by the Spirit, you do not need your own set of boundries. Then you WANT TO do like Jesus, and then you can both travel in His service and eat together with a sister in Christ without committing adultery, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”. (Phil 2:13)

  • JasonEC

    This is a great post and full of good stuff. I would suggest there is one conspicuous thing missing. A 5th thing we should commit to: 

    5. Putting Christ first in your marriage. 

    Getting our fulfillment from Him takes so much pressure off of the marriage to provide for all of our emotional needs. It allows us to view all of those things that our spouse does for us as a huge bonus instead of looking at them as inadequate in those times we feel like we’re not making it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Fair point. Thanks.

  • http://www.RosalieGarde.com/ RosalieG

    When we were raising preschoolers and I was an at-home mom I craved adult convo.  My husband was in the habit of eating dinner and quickly running off to the TV or computer.  I finally devised a plan that worked for both of us.  We decided to have “tea time” after dinner.  One of us would make tea and we would take it into the “clean room”, the one the kids hadn’t messed up–the livingroom.  We’d sit in our wing chairs sans children and talk over tea.  It was almost like having a meeting at work.  We made some big decision there.  There were other days we sat and had nothing much to say, but we were together.  The time was pretty well set by how quickly we drank our tea.  It made a world of difference.

  • http://www.abiolaomodele.typepad.com Abiola O. Omodele

    I’m glad you shared this Michael, thanks.  I like the 3rd commitment.

  • Shelley Hess

    Exceptional Podcast Michael!!! 

    Thanks so very much for adding icing to the ‘wedding cake’ that is the beginning of David’s (my precious husband) and my day.  Explanation?  It’s only just 8 a.m. here.  And we’ve actually been married many years, but it’s a celebritory wedding every day, by God’s grace and then to the best of our abilities. 

    We’ve begun (daily, intentionally, almost ‘no matter what’) our day at 5 a.m. (at this season of our lives) with a wonderful hour together, touching base, reaquainting, sharing how each has grown/changed/reflected on events, followed by our ‘corporate’ (together) time with Christ in His Word and in prayer, and then your podcast over breakfast.  Yes, really. 

    Having read the first two paragraphs of your post and knowing the value beforehand, David and I both agreed to listen immediately, intentional about this NOW decision because this will likely be the only window of opportunity (when we are alert and invested) in what will be a very busy day for us both. 

    Every word is rich with wisdom, knowledge and insight gained from years of experience, both yours and others, and we thank you so much for the positive reinforcement as well as the gentle yet purposeful admonishment where the Lord desired to speak to each of us this morning. 

    We’ll be listening again, and perhaps again. 

    Thanks for the book recommendations.  We own two which we gratefully embrace, and now will have a third that we’ll likely read together!  Thanks for such a clear outline.  There’s so much we heard that we can add to our life together like fertilizer to the roses, for God’s glory! 

    We didn’t arrive where we are overnight.  It’s been many years, one step at a time, some of them seeming impossible at the time (and they were, but by God’s grace and in His strength)!  And we haven’t arrived (not till after our last breath :-) ), thus love the continuing education component which you chose to place first.  You know we embrace that, yet had never thought of it in such clear, concise context. 

    Thank you, Brother.  We’re grateful for your sensitivity to Jesus’ leading, and then your prompt response.  I know you’ll have a great day, NO MATTER WHAT!!

    Oh, and an answer to your request.  Right off the top of my head, what stands out to me in the lives of couples we know who have an excellent, blessed marriage is their CONSISTENT PUBLIC praise of and encouragment to each other.  You detailed this in your podcast.  I seek to model that, God willing, learning and growing each and every day, one step at a time!

    God Bless You Michael, Gail, your daughters, their husbands and children, the blessed legacy you have created! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Shelley for your very kind and fascinating response. All the best to you and David.

  • Michele Hansen

    My parents had a deep enduring love for 25 years.  It was Mom’s second marriage due to divorce and Dad’s due to his wife’s sudden death.  They showed their love and deep gratitude for each other every day.  People just looking at them could see the devotion and unwaivering love their partnership was built on.  They endured the hard times and celebrated the good times together. 

    People seem to assume today that you can get “out” of a marriage if it’s not making you happy.  They don’t realize they need to make the marriage a key focus of their day every day.  It’s like a child that needs your attention, time and love to grow.

    • Laura Bennet

       You are so right, Michele!

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  • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

    “What’s more important? Your daily dose of Starbucks, or a date with your spouse?” Love it! 

    Thank you for the answer to my question Michael. I do think it all comes down to intentionality with the time and the money and the desire to grow closer vs. the natural tendency to grow further apart. 

    I know my wife and I have had more success with date nights in the more recent future, and more struggles with our schedules to make it happen. I take comfort however in the fact that we have had more struggle to make it happen as a sign that we are actually trying to make it happen!

    We just celebrated 10 years of marriage last month!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Congratulations to you Erik! Thanks for your question and for being a constant encourager!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill


      Erik, I had my Iphone plugged into the car and was listening to Michael on the way to work— I was actually taking a sip of my Starbucks as he said those exact words.

      Made me laugh! I will say though, in my defense, that it was home brewed Starbucks that I had in a travel mug!

  • Laura Johnson

    Two primaries in long/strong marriages I have seen: loving God more than each other, and prayer.

    • Jim Martin

      Laura, what you said in once sentence is so important.  Great points!

  • http://twitter.com/Joel_Schmidt Joel Schmidt

    All of the “I will not ____ with someone of the opposite sex.” rules are critical.

    Years ago when I was grad student, I had a part-time job. My manager was a young woman about my age. When she was in town, she’d often take me out for lunch. Free lunch for struggling grad student, so what’s the big deal, right? Wrong. One day a friend who had seen us laughing it up at lunch together asked my wife if everything was okay at home. We never went to lunch together again.

    I now advise others, especially young couples, to use such caution, which is often met with the same obliviousness I used to have. We really need to hold all marriages up in prayer.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Great illustration of how something simple can be taken out of context! Better to avoid the appearance of impropriety—especially in today’s culture. Plus, the boundaries that you are willing to set up show your spouse how much you care!

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Making time together is key.  Pray together daily.  Go out on a date together weekly.  Get away together a couple times a year without the kids.  These are things that have been modeled for us and that we try to replicate in our own marriage.

    I would also recommend the Family Life Weekend to Remember marriage conference.  We’ve gone a couple of times, and it has been worth it!  Here’s a link with some more info:

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      We’ve gone as well, and it was excellent. Thanks for sharing the link, Jon.

  • Trevor Acy

    Kate and I are engaged to be married in November. We were hoping to attend Dr. Gary Chapman’s “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted” conference this weekend in Jackson, MS. We are also blessed to both have parents that are still married (just celebrated my parents’ 40th anniversary earlier this year).

    As we rode out Hurricane Isaac last week we were able to discuss our plans after marriage even more in-depth than we had so far. The future is exciting and full of possibilities that we will tackle together as one.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Congratulations! Sounds like you are building a great foundation for a beautiful marriage.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4FCD5DDSMYRPSUOCRGRQ5FLBAQ Ashlee

    What if you and your spouse don’t have things in common to talk about and how do you explain to your spouse that you are emotionally spent and need time to yourself?

    • Rachel Lance

      Great questions, Ashlee, I wonder if your mutual commitment to each other is enough, at least at first. Can you set out together to discover something that you enjoy sharing? It’s part of the journey of marriage, that intentionality of seeking out things to enjoy together.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       I think that’s one of the reasons Michael suggests Strength Finders (or even Myers Briggs for that matter) Because it will help your spouse discover that you are possibly an “I” (introvert) and that you need to be alone, at times, to get charged back up. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you don’t communicate about it then unresolved tension and second guessing become the norm! I suggest take Myers Briggs or Strength finders and talk about it! —I make a comment here because I am an “I” and I need my space and time too.
      Great question, Ashlee!

  • Grant

    A timeless piece, especially today which is our 26th anniversary!

    Two things that kept us together is the “no drama” rule.  No over-reacting, no pouting, no game playing.  The second rule was we would never threaten or even suggest we were thinking of a divorce.  It just wasn’t an option for us.

    Saturday, our oldest daughter walks the aisle.  I hope she learned a lot from us.

    Jackson, MO

    • Jim Martin

      Grant, I really like the two rules you mentioned.  No drama.  No threat of divorce.  Marriages can be challenging enough without drama and divorce threats.  These only seem to complicate things.  

      Congratulations on your daughter’s wedding.  

    • Rachel Lance

      Congratulations and happy anniversary, Grant! Thanks for sharing your additional guidelines.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Oooh, I like the no-drama rule. A good guideline for the whole family, not just the marriage.

  • Laura Bennet

    Can I add two other resources? My husband and I are reading and discussing Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge and finding it the most helpful book at understanding the deeper things that make a marriage work or fail. It’s so good that we are on our second time through it in the past 6 months, and we bought it for all our adult kids. Another great resource that offers a different viewpoint regarding covenant vs. contract relationships is Unlocking the Power of Family by Daniel Brown. The insight gleaned from these two books has been unbelievable.

    • Rachel Lance

      Thanks for the recommendations (and glowing endorsements!). I really like the Eldridge’s work, will definitely have to check out that title.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Just ordered Love and War—thanks for the recommendation!

  • Giblesc

    Even though my husband of 14 years & I were married in a church, we didn’t have God as #1 in our individual live or our marriage.  For the first few years we had a lot of fun, but then by year 5 it came crashing down.  We each had put each other on the top of a pedastal (think top of the cake) instead of God being at the top.  Both of us each fell off, of course, and then we got humbled.  Neither wanted to try it our way any longer so we decided to put God on top and now it all revolves around us honoring Him, which means we have to honor each other.

  • http://toomanymeds.com/ Alex Barker

    Great podcast Mike and I agree with your “old fashion” views.
    I take my boundaries seriously. I won’t even ride in a car with another woman if I’m alone. 
    A lot of people say “whoa” when I mention it. If a woman needs a ride and I’m alone, I’ll offer my car to her and wait to be picked up. 
    I’ve only had to do this once while married.  The woman who needed the ride was initially shocked (somewhat offended) that I wouldn’t drive her home. “I mean, it’s only a ride home Alex”. I declined and said that I had work to do, which I did, and that my wife would gladly pick me up. Much later (Months after when she started dated a wonderful man), she thanked me that I “respected” her. That made me feel great. 

  • brandongerard

    Thanks for sharing.  My wife and I will be celebrating 8 years in 2 weeks.  I have to say this was a fantastic statement that really made a new mind-shift for me. –  Become a student of your spouse.  –   I will be putting this to use. We have changed dramatically over the last 8 years.  I need to get back in touch with my wife and relearn what’s important for her.  

    • Rachel Lance

      That’s one of my favorite phrases too – I love the intentionality it implies. Congratulations on 8 years, and here’s to being a lifelong learner!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I liked that as well. I thought about Strength-finders 2.0, and realized I need to go back and memorize my husband’s top 5, truly study them.

  • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

    As great as the podcast is, I’m not so sure the comments were even better. I only wish all of the screaming and yelling “commenters” on some other blogs could read this comment string as an example of how reasonable, thoughtful people can disagree and bring the discussion to a whole new level. 

    I celebrated my fifth anniversary with my wife this year. Things haven’t always been easy, but it has strengthened our commitment. We will also appreciate the good times a lot more in the future. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned through five years of marriage is to, for lack of a better term, “pick your battles”. I know I’ve made too big of a deal out of things that I shouldn’t have done, and I probably haven’t stood firm on things for which I should have stood firm. Lessons learned all around. I particularly liked the reinforcement of one-on-one time, regardless of circumstances. Stephanie and I value just taking sub sandwich meals from a local shop and sitting along the river talking. For less than $15, we can have a few hours of serenity away from our two boys (4 and 8 – my stepson from my wife’s prior marriage, which does bring a different dynamic into our own marriage!).

    • Rachel Lance

      So glad this post resonated with you, Dallon, and yes this really is an exceptional community of readers!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I was thinking the same thing myself. I am so proud of our community here.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      I am with you 100%! I can get very tired of the non-productive, and sometimes detrimental, conversations at other blogs.—blech.

      Congrats on 5 years!

  • http://www.dadrenaline.com/ Christopher Pilon

    I can’t tell you enough how important this podcast was for me…and my wife.  We actually listened to it together not because we feel there are problems with our marriage, but because we know firsthand how a marriage must be the constant, intentional work of two people.  Both of us were hurt very badly in our first marriages where our spouses left us.  Fortunately, we found each other just a few years ago and we are very cognizant about how we treat our marriage and each other.  

    We have read plenty of books on marriage, had great pre-marriage counseling with our pastor, and have spent plenty of time discussing our love languages.  But, I believe it comes down to many of the simple things you write and talk about.  For me, specifically, I think speaking well of my spouse was something I normally haven’t thought about even though I think very highly of her.  It’s something that I am going to make an effort to do more, both in front of her and when we’re not together.

    Thanks, Michael, for what you do.  Your blog and podcast are a constant help to me as a husband, father, and writer.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Christopher. I am so glad this was helpful.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Christopher, thanks for sharing your story. It’s inspiring to read about an intentional, successful second marriage, and I have great respect for all you’re doing to honor your relationship.

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  • Julie

    I first read the blog and then made sure I listened to the podcast and I’ve been thinking about it for days.  I just can’t agree with your boundary of not going out and sharing a meal with a person of the other sex.  In the podcast you address this issue but being a women in sales, owning my own company, being the only employee there is no way your “solution” would work.   I have to ask if you go out to lunch with a male vendor or play golf with a male colleague alone?  If you do then I find that by not allowing  a women the same playing field to create a business relationship with you  then it is a bit discriminatory.  You say it is in the name of marriage and religion but in my view it is just another hurtle put in front of me because I am female.    I’ve gone so far in my thinking and frustration with this point of view to equate it as putting a burqa on me.  Based on the other comments my point of view is contradictory but with all that I’ve accomplished in my life having this “platform” harm my ability to do business in my chosen profession and industry frustrates me. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Julie. I appreciate you thinking it through. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.
      By the way, I don’t equate my guidelines with the principal of fidelity to my spouse. In other words, being faithful is the important thing. Our guidelines may differ based on what we know of our selves, our life circumstances, etc. The important thing is preserving the sanctify of marriage. If you can do that without my guidelines, no problem!
      Thanks again.

  • http://marcellapurnama.com/ Marcella Purnama

    I really love the point of “speaking well of your spouse”. I am not yet married (but currently in a relationship) and I always speak well of him in public.

    I have a question though. Sometimes, by speaking well of your partner in public, doesn’t it mean like ‘neglecting’ or ‘turning a blind eye’ towards his weaknesses? Will it deprive him of the incentive to work on his mistakes because he feels like he’s already ‘good enough’?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I don’t think so. Occasionally, you may need to talk about some issue where he needs to improve but this should always be done in private. I can’t think of a single exception. Thanks.

  • Marilyn

    A little out of my comfort zone with this comment, but here goes.

    In your post and comments, you place quite a bit of emphasis on the Harley and Eggerichs materials. On the topic of sex, I’ve found both authors to be pretty one-sided……lots to say about what husbands want and the importance of a wife meeting her husband’s’ needs, but very little to say about female sexuality. Would you please consider supplementing your recommended materials with something by a Christian sex therapist who provides a balanced discussion of male AND female sexuality? This would be especially meaningful to me in light of the fact that you published the (IMO) very one-sided Driscoll marriage book.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t think I have ever mentioned Willard Harley on my blog or podcasts. Also, I didn’t publish the Driscoll book; it was published after I left Thomas Nelson.
      Can you recommend someone you feel addresses female sexuality adequately? I am wide open to your suggestions. Thanks again.

  • http://www.dougsmithlive.com/ Doug Smith


    I got married on August 12th! Thank you for this podcast and thank you and Gail for being examples to us!


  • http://twitter.com/coachingcm Craig Morton

    Hi Michael. One of the best books I’ve read on marriage is called the “5 love languages” by Gary Chapman.  I’ve been married for 6 years and we’ve always had a good relationship but this book took us to a new level.  Anybody else read it? If not, I highly recommend it.  Thanks

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. I recommended it on the show and in the show notes above. (There’s a link.) Thanks.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4ECRIXBM24IABIFWSIHZZDMRI4 robin

    thanks for sharing.

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  • JaceyVerdicchio

    Hi Michael, I loved this podcast.  It prepared me to help a friend who came to me for advice about a struggle in her marriage.  Some of the advice I gave her came straight from this podcast!  Also, I have a question: can you explain the reason behind not sharing a meal with someone of the opposite sex one on one?  Is coffee different?  Happy hour?  

    To me, eating a meal together seems safe, assuming the atmosphere isn’t romantic and it is lunch as opposed to dinner.  However, you have many years of experience with business relationships and marriage, so I would love to get further insight so I can decide if this is a boundary I’d like to set for myself as well.  Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/TrinaKLee Trina Lee

    Michael, I love the fact that you are a huge fan of  ‘Love and Respect.’ By any chance are you familiar with Emerson Eggerichs’ daughter’s site Love and Respect (Now): http://loveandrespectnow.com? Joy does a great job of translating the love and respect message for those 18-35 years old. It’s a great resource for your younger readers, whether they are married, single or divorced.

    For anyone who checks out LRN, be forewarned that it’s impossible to watch just one of Joy’s videos and then stop.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Sorry about my belated (second) comment, but I’m a bit backed up listening to your podcasts. I just got around to this one. 

    You say you prefer to hire people that are in good, stable marriages and that have passed the dinner test, because people that aren’t in good, stable marriages may have a negative effect on the organization. 

    Does this mean you’re reluctant to hire singles because they’re not in good, stable marriages? Do your alarm bells go off when you meet an applicant over, say, 35 that isn’t (and never has been) married? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Nope, that actually doesn’t bother me at all. I had two singles working on my executive team at Thomas Nelson.

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    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

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  • Lindsay Rausch

    I recently found your podcast and I have been listening through the archive. I work in a field within a company where it is not uncommon for me to be the only female on my teams. That being said travel to other facilities and meals while on the road do happen on occasion. I try to not get into the situations that could give the view of impropriety; but it is often out of my control as to who is on these trips. Do you have any advise for being in this situation?

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