“Never, never, never give up!” This exhortation by Winston Churchill is one of the British statesman’s most-remembered quotations. It was adapted from a speech he gave in 1941 at the Harrow School in London, England.
His complete, original statement was, "Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.''
At the time, England was in the early stages of World War II, and it served as a rallying cry to persevere in the face of great adversity. More than 70 years later, Churchill’s exhortation still makes good sense for any pursuit in life. It works if competing in a marathon, struggling to establish a successful business, working for a college degree, striving for a promotion at work, trying to learn a new skill, or even building a marriage. Maybe especially in building a marriage.
Today marks our 41st wedding anniversary, a milestone that is more the exception today than the rule. I cite this not for self-commendation, because if anything, my wife Sally deserves a gold medal for putting up with me over the years. We didn’t adopt it as a motto, but “never, never, never give up” has played a big part in our marriage spanning four decades.
Sometimes couples are asked the “secrets” to their longevity. You didn’t ask, but here are some quick words of advice I’d offer for achieving a long – and loving – marriage:
1) Marry relatively young. If you wait to marry until your 40’s, reaching 40-plus years of marriage will require living into your 80’s.
2) Live a long time regardless. Even if you marry in your 20’s, you’ll still need to enter your seventh decade to attain a 40-year marriage.
3) Don't use the “D” word. If you never utter the word “divorce,” it never becomes a possibility. Too many couples, when they encounter difficulties in their relationship, say something like, “Well, maybe we should just get a divorce.” Suddenly it becomes an option on the table. So don’t do it.
The first two, of course, are in jest. There’s some other advice, however, my wife and I have followed through the years that has truly made a difference for us. It’s here for your consideration:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…each one of you must love his wife as himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:25). Too often in a marriage, one spouse looks to the other for meeting all of his or her needs. When it says Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, it means He willingly died for His “bride.” He didn’t have to, but was willing to sacrifice Himself for the one He loved. This, the Bible says, should be the attitude of the husband.
Interestingly, wives aren’t commanded to sacrificially love their husbands, but to respect them. I’m hardly an expert on the dynamics of husbands and wives – other than what I’ve gained through trial and error. But one noted authority on marriage, Dr. Willard Harley, has observed one of the foremost things men desire in a marriage is admiration, to be respected. Sadly, when they don’t receive that in marriage, some are tempted to seek it elsewhere.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). These words are often recited at wedding ceremonies, but too frequently forgotten before the reception starts.
This passage says love isn’t merely a warm, fuzzy emotion. It’s a commitment, a determination to make something whole and beautiful by the merging of two imperfect, broken human beings who resolve to seek the best for one another.
We all desire to be happy in marriage, but never-ending happiness and perpetual bliss are the stuff of fairy tales, not real-life marital relationships. There will be sadness and strife, anger and frustration. My wife and I have weathered financial problems, career hurdles, parenting challenges, illness (open-heart surgery and cancer treatment) and other forms of adversity. If anything, these difficulties have all made us stronger and drawn us closer together.