Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. But I almost forgot—until the grocery store reminded me with a slew of chocolate-covered everything. That, and my deadline to scrounge up two lucky shoeboxes for my kids to transform into festive carriers of tiny mail is lurking.

Confession: I’m not a commercial-holiday person. I do love love (and chocolate) but I’m not a big fan of the forced hype. I would rather go to dinner a week early to avoid the crowd. I would rather get a handwritten note on some random day than fancy jewelry on one that’s mandatory. And who really wants a gigantic teddy bear to store? I would rather save up “special days” (i.e. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Groundhog Day, really any day) and JUST GO SOMEWHERE.

Going somewhere with my husband is my love language.

We celebrated ten years of marriage this past summer. And while we certainly don’t have it all figured out, we do have a good marriage. One where we lean into grace and work to stay close and choose each other over and over again. I suppose we’ve had a whole tenth of a century to learn, grow, and make some imperfect progress.

But that first year? I fought ugly. I’m not typically a fighter, but there I was—getting loud, throwing stuff, and storming off when things weren’t going my way. And he would stay eerily calm (which frustrated me even more), debating the situation at hand in a battle of cool-headed words.

Marriage forces you to shed some serious selfishness, and having kids only drives the point home. We had issues then and we have issues now, just like everyone else.

But we’re not going anywhere—unless we’re going somewhere together.

An engaged couple recently asked for my best marriage advice, and it got me thinking: What is the most pivotal thing in a marriage? What would I tell myself or my kids is most important? What’s the deal breaker and the deal maker?

Millions of books and blogs and podcasts and sermons have been written or given in regards to a healthy marriage. How to get one, how to keep one, how to love the one you already have. I could talk all day about the importance of wide-open communication or keeping zero secrets or breathing life-giving words or being silly together or offering the benefit of the doubt or maintaining intimacy in the bedroom or dreaming as a couple or safeguarding your relationship with boundaries and accountability.

But I think there are ultimately two things that have tipped the scales for us in our marriage, and maybe they’ll speak to you as well:

Number One. God is the rock beneath our feet. Not just a side note or a cheesy cliché statement or the Sunday school answer, but the actual foundation of our life and marriage. We are imperfect people who serve a perfect God, and He is the ONLY ONE who can bridge our colossal gaps. When we need extra grace or unconditional love (which are essentials for a thriving marriage) He’s the way. And we simply cannot do it without Him.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)

Number Two. We’re not going anywhere. We are in this for the long haul, for the marathon version—and divorce is not an option. Even allowing those thoughts or words to be used as a threat or ultimatum can shatter trust, breed insecurity, and begin to erode the walls of marriage from the inside out. There will be times when the storms rage; days when the mundane knocks us off our feet. But there’s freedom in the mess when we cling to Him and to each other.

Even when he’s hangry and I’m hormonal, we’re not going anywhere.

“‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures,’ Jesus replied. ‘They record that from the beginning God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united in one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.'” (Matthew 19:4-6) 

So, my advice? Seek God. And don’t go anywhere—unless you’re going somewhere together.


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[*Note: If you are currently in an abusive relationship, this article is not advising you to stay. Get out. Get help. Seek safety first and counseling second.]