I was married at age 23 and have been married to the same woman for nearly 43 years. It is the first and only marriage for both of us. I also spent the last 40 years as a Lutheran pastor, during which time I talked with a number of people about their marriages and read many things about marriage. The purpose of this Instructable is to share some of the best from what I have learned in the hope it will help some people see their marriages made better. I will make only limited reference to Christian or biblical material, and then in an informational way, not in any kind of moralizing way. No one will feel he or she has someone preaching at them.

One of my books said divorce is one solution to marriage problems, but not always the best one. Divorces are expensive in money and to the self-esteem of those involved.

I once saw an advertisement that said trees are a renewable resource. Marriages are also renewable, at least much of the time. Small gestures of kindness can often make a big difference. One study found sample couples who contemplated divorce, but did not end their marriages, discovered that after five years those marriages were better than ever. (Mention of that study comes in a link to an article later in this Instructable.)

The photo is of my parents on their 40th anniversary. By their 50th my father was suffering with Alzheimer's. My mother died in the year of their 60th anniversary. My father had died two years earlier.

Step 1: The Scarlet Letter

Not many marriages survive infidelity, although some may. If you are married make a pact with yourself that you will not allow yourself to be in any situation that could lead to emotional or sexual involvement with someone other than your spouse. We all need to set boundaries for ourselves in multiple areas of life and hold to them. Marriage is only one area where we set boundaries for ourselves. 

I once read a news story that said marriage makes men better men, and that makes them more attractive to other women. Attention from women is flattering. Make it a point to respond to flirtations in any form carefully and politely; but, in a matter-of-fact, unaffected manner. These may be a woman's fingertip tap on a man's forearm, a coquettish smile or wink, compliments dripping with honey, small gifts when it is not your birthday, comments hinting at double entendre, a woman draping parts of her body seductively in your personal space, or finding excuses to be in your presence. A man and a woman once worked in the same office and recognized they were strongly attracted to each other, although married to other people. They made an agreement with each other that they would never be together in a room unless others were also in the room.  

Yes, there are women who cheat on their husbands, and when they do, they inflict tremendous damage to the husband's self-esteem. But, allow me to treat this as if it is more of a problem with men than with women. Men imagine they are too clever for anyone, especially for a wife, to suspect anything. They deceive themselves. A man once took his wife to the office Christmas party. He introduced her to just about everyone in the room. During the evening the wife noticed she had not been introduced to one particular redhead. It was then that her intuition kicked in and she knew her husband was having an affair with the redhead. As one book said it, women usually know because of a thousand little things, not because of any one big thing.

Infidelity by a husband is a huge betrayal of a wife's trust far greater most men can imagine. And, as another book said, every affair eventually comes to an end. When it does, the crashing is really, really awful. An affair just is not worth all of the costs. Over the last 40 years I have heard several people confess their sexual affairs to me. Never once have I heard anyone say, "I am really glad I did that." Rather, they are steeped in remorse.

See the next step for a discussion of Internet pornography and its effect on marriages. 

The title of this step and the graphic are a remembrance of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hester Prynne, one of the principal characters was forced to wear a red letter "A" sewn to her clothing because she was found to be pregnant out of wedlock. The scandal of the story was that the father of her unborn baby was the village pastor.

Gee, I never thought of this subject for an Instructible. <br> <br>I met my Wife-to-be in 12 grade school, she told a friend I was Mr Right, and she was going to marry me. She told me the same on about date 19. It was about 18 months of working out all the details. That all started in back in 1968. It has been fun, I have enjoyed it 99.98% of the time. We just work out the little problem, even when at first they don't seen so small, a year later they do. We have two Great kids, and four Great Grand kids. <br> <br>Her Parents had been married twice each by the time we meet, My Parents did 52 years together. We are shooting for 60 years at this time. Then we may aim at a new target. No sure, just have to wait and see. <br> <br>Jake
Jake,<br><br>Thanks for your comment and for looking. This summer I am to conduct a wedding for a couple currently working in another state. We will probably have some pre-marriage counselling sessions together by means of Skype, but I wanted to prepare a lot of what I would tell them by means of an Instructable and have them read it. I had thought a few months ago about gathering things I have learned about marriage through my career as a pastor and through a bit more than 40 years of being married, and making it available in the form of an Instructable. A friend on Instructables who is also a pastor encouraged me to do it. I put it aside for a while. Making an Instructable on staying married seemed an especially good idea because divorce is so frequent at present. <br><br>Congratulations on meeting a very good wife so early and on your years together. I have heard a few stories of women meeting someone and knowing immediately he was the man they would marry. It reminds me of the adage that you chase her until she catches you. I have also known of marriages in which one partner had to be convinced this was the person who would be a life partner.<br><br>Marriages are all different. It is good you have enjoyed yours most of the time. Some experience real struggles and barely stay together during periods of a few years until one or both parties become more settled and the marriage stabilizes. I remember hearing of a couple that had a very volatile relationship. They could not live with each other, but could not live without each other, either. Thank you, again.
Marriage is a place were both parties need to be wiling to bend 80 degrees from what seems right from their upbringing. A &quot;try it, you may like it&quot; attuitude.<br><br>It only seem weird the first two or three times.<br><br>Remember your Dad never had a iPhone!<br><br>Next time, it's my guess.<br><br>Speak sweetly, as you may have to eat those word, tomorrow.<br><br>In my world, I picked jobs, She picked homes!<br><br>Never argue with the Cook!<br><br>Very best of God lead writing in you book.
<p>Thank you for this. My husband and I have been married for 33 years and haven't ever seriously considered divorce. We joke that the reason we're still together is plain laziness, but really, I don't know where I'd find someone else that would put up with me!</p>
Thank you for looking. It is never completely. Our hopes and expectations do change over time.
I think the 1000 hours rule is true. My now wife and I used to talk on the phone for hours every night. She became my best friend, and we learned much about each other that way. I married her when I was 22. 20 years later and we're still married :-)<br><br>Thanks for sharing your insight!
Thank you for sharing your experience.
To start I am a Roman-Catholic, Native American,&nbsp;military member that has been married for the last 27 years. My now wife and I, after knowing each other as friends for a year and half and dating one another for a year, decided to become engaged, which lasted for almost 2 years. When I asked her to marry me, before she could answer, I told her that she was the best friend I had ever had, and to think on it for awhile before she answered me. I did not want her taking it lightly at all. Before we parted that evening I told her I would not call or come see her for at least 2 - 3 weeks, as not influence her decision at that time. But I did tell her if she needed me she could call at any time. When we finally did meet up again I was so scared of what she would or would not say I almost didn't want ask her for the answer. As we sat and looked at each other before she could answered me I explained to her my goals and what I wanted in life and in a wife. I told her I knew I was not any,where near being perfect but that I was who she had seen for the last four years. That the person I had seen in her for that same time was exactly who I was looking for ( strong willed, supportive, a good and dependable person to share the rest of my life with) That I did not want children until we were able to take care of ourselves and also what my career plans were. I told her after God she would be my #1 priority in life until our children came along and that while&nbsp;the word &quot;Divorce&quot; was not in my dictionary, &quot;Faithful &amp; Loyal&quot; were. If she chose me as I had chosen her she should read what the vows of marriage meant and understand it was a lifelong commitment. So while I stood there afraid that after laying it all out in front of her, thinking that I was about to spend the rest of my life alone, she got on her tippy toes, looked me in my eyes and said how long will we have to wait or don't you want a family of our own. When I told her it would take me at least 4 years to get in a stable position to provide a safe place for us to start that family she smiled and said&nbsp;it shouldn't take half that long working together. In the time before we were married we were best friends, confidants, conciences, and supporters as well as faithful to each other and our beliefs ( we still are).&nbsp;What I am trying get across to you is that our meeting was purely by chance as we were not high school sweethearts, did not live in the same county, and had not met before, even though we knew and know a lot of each others family. But we made a very serious decision in getting married. After witnessing my own parents divorce I decided to never ever marry or fall in love, or even have kids because of my experiences. But watching my grand-parents and meeting&nbsp;my wife&nbsp;made me believe otherwise. I guess what I am trying to say is this,&nbsp;the key to a good or even better marriage&nbsp;may be found in those pages, but the key to a great one has to start before you ever say &quot;I do!&quot; We have gone through some rough times in those 30 some years together, but they have always been together even when we were thousands of miles apart we were still together. I have had older people tell me when you have been married as long as I have you will understand, only to listen and find out they don't know half as much as they think (Men &amp; women). Some of them were even married half as long as us or were on their second or third marriage. They were&nbsp;either very brave or very crazy.&nbsp;And yes while praise and friendship are great to have you never let yourself be in a situation that someone can insinuate what you were doing, even if it is not true perceptions can destroy a good relationship let alone a precarious one. Sorry for the rant, some times these little words strike a note and&nbsp;have big impacts, weather they are good or bad is on the individuals. Congratulations as well, on finding that right one for yourself. With God and the right person in your life all things seem possible and most are! I look forward to reading more.
Thank you for your comment.
Just want to say thank you, and God bless you
God bless you. Thank you.
Have you written a book on marriage? I really enjoyed your instructable.
Thank you for looking and for taking the time to read all of that. I retired in June 2012 after 40 years as a pastor. I wanted to put those things down in writing before I forgot them through lack of use in retirement. In addition, I was to perform the wedding for a young couple at the end of that month, but logistics meant we could not meet together several times to discuss things like this. So, I wrote the Instructable and sent them a PDF copy I downloaded. What I wrote in that Instructable is all borrowed from others with the exception of only a couple of things. I feel I still struggle with too many things in my own marriage to publish an actual book, even if I could fill all of the pages. Thank you for the compliment, though.
The Five Languages of Love is a great book to read. My son recently got married and both of them loved this book. Thanks for sharing this instructable. Have a splendorous day! <br />Sunshiine
Thank you.
Could you apply this to an unmarried, young couple?
By &quot;this&quot; do you mean the whole Instructable, and by &quot;an unmarried young couple&quot; do you mean someone dating, but living together?
I am hoping this information will help salvage my relationship. Thank you for sharing your insights. Not being Christian, I did find your explanations of your Biblical references helpful and were not deterring to me. Thank you.
Thank you for looking at this and for your comment. If both husband and wife are willing, just about any marriage can be salvaged. Unfortunately, I have also seen people decide on a divorce and then play what I have called &quot;divorce games&quot; in which each works hard at hurting the other because of personal pain. This can go so far as squandering resources the couple has built up just so the other will not get them. If attitudes have not yet become stone hard, it can be very helpful to confess to the other any personal failures in the relationship and ask the other's forgiveness. It is to be hoped the other will respond in like manner, but may not. That is a painful risk. I wish you well and hope your marriage can flourish again.
Marriage is a divine institution that is in danger. Someone once joked that for every marriage two end in divorce. My brother and I were raised by our divorced mother. I witnessed as a child her tribulations while raising us. I promised to my self to keep a strong marriage for the sake of my children. Today my wife and I cannot hug without our children making fun of us. How I wish that they could understand how lovely would have been watch my parents show love to each other! Thank you for posting Phil! I like the pictures of you and your lovely wife together.
Thank you for your comment. It took me longer than I would like to admit to grasp your joke about two marriages ending in divorce for each marriage solemnized. I know the figures given would have us believe one of every two marriages ends in divorce. While I was checking references for this Instructable I saw a corrective that said it was really more like four in ten marriages end in divorce. That is not much better, I know. &quot;No fault divorce&quot; is a big part of the reason why. One source I have said that most who divorce wish afterward they had tried a little harder to make it work. One of our problems is that many people do not see marriage as a divine institution. I have heard Christian wives speak about how much it means to them that their husbands take a primary role also in the spiritual leadership within the family. A family going to church together does not guarantee the marriage will last, at least not by itself; but, regular Sunday attendance at a good church does help. If nothing else, it helps to nip my own pride and arrogance that would otherwise create more problems in our marriage. You and your wife are on the right track, even if your kids giggle at you. Newscaster Paul Harvey always used to say the best thing a father can do for his kids is to love their mother. Studies have shown that displaying affection openly is a very healthy thing in a family.
Thank you Phil for your kind words. And I am sorry for the misunderstanding of the joke, what I meant was that for every couple that gets married, two other couples file for divorce, and at that rate everybody will be single! That always happens when I type faster than the speed of my mind (typing at the speed of a bullet train and thinking like a steam locomotive). Thanks again and please keep sharing your wisdom!
I was wondering today: what will happen to Phil?<br><br>Thanks for sharing this excellent instructable. I think the youth today lacks of patience, and that is the first cause of divorces. <br><br>Besides, we parents were too lazy for teach them to wait, to lack luxuries (today many luxuries are considered &quot;first necessities&quot;), to work hard, etc.<br><br>You know that I have enough trouble reading English, so I'm going to copy the text in my GPS to read it at night in bed before sleep.
Osvaldo,<br><br>What you are describing sounds just like the young people in the USA. Sadly, many of them simply live together without marriage. They think that prepares them for marriage. But, studies show living together before marriage actually leads to less stable marriages.<br><br>I am sorry we do not speak the same language. Reading this would be less work for you if we did.
I am convinced that man is not the most intelligent animal. Just look how he conducts himself in life to reach this simple conclusion. Regarding marriage, today I'm not sure that's a good idea to forcibly unite for life, beyond what religions say. <br><br>Regarding the international financial crisis, it seems to me the only predictable consequence of conduct that humanity has maintained for decades: consume, consume, consume. <br><br>But I am also a believer in the pendulum of history, and that the pendulum is damped not only failed, but often accelerates itself. So soon, &ndash;in historical terms&ndash;, we again will go through medieval times.
I've never been to <a href="http://www.medievaltimes.com/" rel="nofollow">Medieval Times</a>. Seen their commercials on TV a few times and it just looks like a chicken dinner to me. Ha ha ha! What have you been up to?<br> <br> Consumerism only works when there is room for growth. Last I looked the planet we live on is a finite space. So we've two options open to us, 1 reduce the number of consumers, or 2 find new resources.<br> <br> The latter is proving to be technically unfeasible as of now, but the former we can manage. Our other option is to develop a new model where we can all get by. We might not be smart enough to do that though.<br> <br> If you are a fan of historical cycles maybe you will enjoy this?<br> <br> <a href="http://www.tony5m17h.net/2012.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.tony5m17h.net/2012.html</a>
No, Fred, I'm just fond of talking about what I don't know, like the majority.
Kids today are just stupid. Just like we were!
Yes, the man is the same man, here, in Europe and in Asia. Today, yerterday and tomorrow. Please read my response today to Phil.
Probably true.
Thank you so much for this 'ible! My wife and I have been married 4 months today! I had never thought about it before meeting her, but she said she had always planned on doing pre-marital counseling and I had nothing against it. This wasn't just a slam-bam-thank you ma'am counseling, either. 14 separate sessions. It was great, though. We really learned a lot, both about each other and ourselves. I definitely recommend pre-marrital counseling to anyone. <br><br>We went into our marriage with the mindset that divorce is not an option. This is the first and last marriage for both of us. We hope to see 50+ years together!
Thank you for your comment. Congratulations on your marriage. It sounds like you had some good preparations. It is good you regard divorce as not an option. There are people these days who speak of &quot;starter marriages&quot; like buying a home to live in for a few years before moving on to something more desirable.
Well you know how the vow goes, til death do us part ... so the other option if it doesn't work out could be messy!
You know why divorces cost so much? Because they're worth it! heh just kidding Phil. Keep on trucking.
Thanks, pfred.
This was wonderful to read! I am no where near marriage, but I think this advice can even be used in close friendships. <br><br>Thank you for taking the time to write this! :)
Thank you for looking and for commenting. I am glad you liked it. <br><br>When you said you are no where near to marriage it made me remember a young woman I helped with a problem. She had dated several jerks and was about to decide jerks were the only guys available. She was about ready to settle for a jerk at some time in the near future. She met a really decent guy and told me later she could not believe the difference between him and the jerks she had been dating. For what it is worth, when you are ready for marriage, wait for someone who meets your standards on what a marriage should be.
How wise of you to start with adultery. In our times, there is little public regard for chastity. There are stories of open marriage, lovers on the side etc. Despite most of the public writings on this subject, in my experience, adultery ruins a marriage - whether or not the couple divorces.
Thank you for looking and for your comment. Adultery in a marriage is a tough thing to overcome. There is now also a website for people who want to make a connection just so they can commit adultery. The site owners would probably like me to mention their name and URL, but I will not. I would think there would always be the temptation to bring up the spouse's failure in the heat of an argument. I have always said I would not want to be walking down the street with my family when we encountered a woman with whom I had had an affair coming from the other direction. There would be some awkward glances. Then would come the questions: &quot;Who was that, daddy?&quot; I am thankful I will not have to have any moments or questions like that.
!!!!! Phil, dude you are an instructable machine. And I'm always surprised at what you come up with. I haven't read this one yet, but I look forward to it. My generation needs an army of men and women like you who are willing to invest in others and work to make the world a better place. <br><br>Keep it up bro.
Thanks. If you take a casual look at history, things seem to fall apart during some periods, but then come back together again later, only to fall apart again still later. I remember people talking about coarse language in the public arena. Fifty or so years ago that was not tolerated. Now you hear coarse expressions in media all of the time. People will get sick of it and coarse language will again not be tolerated in the public setting. Likewise, there are times when marriage is respected and other times when it suffers a lot. People get about so close to an extreme and they jump back in panic when they see where it would lead.<br><br>Things like marriage are part of my day job as a pastor (soon to be retired). Most of my other Instructables are about hobby interests.
Excellent ible for 200!<br>We were married as teens and my wife and I are now going on 17 years together. Wish I could look back over 50 years and say, &quot;Let's do it again.&quot;
Thank. I hope it is helpful to all who can use it. Congratulations on your 17 years. 50 always seemed so far away. Now, at nearly 43 years, it is not so far away at all.
Thank you for posting this 'ible! You have no idea the light that has shone to light my way to a better, stronger marriage to my wife!!
Thanks. I am glad you found something useful. Your wife will appreciate your efforts.
that she will, that she will. I am going to have her look at this too. maby she might spot something that she needs to work on too. i know i did! (i mean that i found some things i need to work on...hahaha)
Nice article, Phil. Step 12 is something I think more people should be in tune with.
Thanks. If we all worked on Step 12 we would probably never have enough time to work on any of the other steps, but it would also pretty well cover any remaining bases, too. Thanks for looking and for reading it.

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