20 Honest Insights on Making It To 30 Years in Marriage

Carey and Toni NieuwhofIn 2020, my wife Toni and I celebrated 30 years of marriage.

I love her more than I ever dreamed of.

And it’s also been a totally different experience than either of us thought it would be.

I love this picture of us leaving our wedding reception, because in many ways it show us stepping out into the world when we honestly had NO IDEA what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams.

I have no data on this, but I think leaders perhaps struggle in their marriages more than others do. Global crises make that even more complicated as all the stress at work comes home.

I hear from leader after leader who says it’s been tougher at home than they thought it would be. And Toni and I have had our share of struggles for sure.

If you’re looking for a post on marriage that outlines how couples should do 5 things that will make their marriage perfect, you need to read someone else’s blog.

The truth is, marriage is work. Hard work. But it’s wonderfully hard work.

Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible, and more deep joy than we ever realized existed.

I love her more than I have ever loved anyone or anything (except Christ, of course).

Our love has grown richer and better over time, but we’ve also had a few seasons where we wondered whether love had vaporized. There were seasons where the only reason it wasn’t over is because Jesus said it wasn’t over.

So we stayed. And our emotions eventually caught up with our obedience.

Through it all, Christ has kept us together and brought us a more wonderfully fulfilling relationship than either of us knew was possible.

On the other side of deep pain is deep joy. You’ve just got to make it there.

So what’s the key?

Well, there’s no one key, but here are 20 honest insights about making it to 25 years in marriage.

Some are observations. Some are directives. Either way, I hope they help WHEREVER you are in your marriage.

Toni and I will also be doing a live marriage Q and A on Monday, November 23rd 2020. We’d love to answer your and your spouse’s questions.

1. Love is a decision, not an emotion

My dad always told me that love is an act of the will. He was right.

Culture says that love is an emotion. It’s something you feel, not something you do.

Culture couldn’t be more wrong.

True love is a decision…a decision to place someone else’s well being above yours. To stick through the tough times. To love when you don’t feel love.

God isn’t thrilled with you all the time, yet he loves you. It’s a decision, not an emotion.

2. Your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience

There have been a few seasons in our 25 years where we stayed together simply because we were being obedient. (I’d say Toni had to exercise her obedience more than I did.)

So you stay when you feel like leaving. You stay when you feel like doing something irresponsible.

You just obey what you believe God has called you to do in the situation. I believe God has called me to stay married to one woman for life, and Toni believes God has called her to stay married to one man for life.

And in the process of being obedient, we both discovered something incredible: your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience.

Though the joy may have left for a few days, a few weeks, and once or twice, for a season, it came back. Deeper, richer and more abundant than we ever expected.

3. Don’t make tomorrow’s decisions based on today’s emotions

So you can see I’ve learned not to trust my feelings, because like the rest of creation, my feelings were victims of the fall.

A quick lesson: don’t make tomorrow’s decisions based on today’s emotions.

Sometimes we defied stereotypical Christian advice and went to bed angry. But at least we went to bed together. And reason usually returned with the dawn.

Thank goodness on those days when emotion clouded judgment we just decided not to decide.

There’s wisdom in that for life, not just for marriage.

4. Live your story…not someone else’s

You will be tempted to compare yourself to other couples and other ‘leadership’ couples you admire. That can be healthy. It can also be horrible.

Live your story.

I’ve heard famous preachers say they’ve never had a fight about money. I promise you we have.

You can feel terrible about that and think “what’s wrong with me?”, or you can bring that before God and work it out together.

5. Instagram lies

Nobody’s life is as great as they make it out to be on Instagram.

If you’re comparing your real life to someone else’s posted life, you will implode.

Not much more to say about that. You know what I mean.

6. Don’t put pressure on your spouse that only God can bear

I heard this from Tim Keller a few years ago (do not have a source…sorry).

With the disappearance of God from more and more of our culture, people have lost a sense of the divine and the majestic.

Consequently, our desire to worship—no longer directed toward God—gets directed at our spouses and children. It places pressure on them they were not designed to bear, and many marriages and families collapse from the pressure.

Pinterest has placed a ridiculous amount of pressure on wedding receptions and even home decor that the average family can’t live up to. The kind of majesty that used to go into a cathedral now goes into a two year old’s birthday party.

There is something fundamentally flawed with this, and the sooner you take that pressure off your spouse, off your kids and off yourself, the healthier you become.

7. You probably married your opposite

All those things you loved about your spouse when you were dating are the some of the things that will drive you crazy when you’re married.

We just get attracted to our opposites.

Knowing that is progress in itself, and will help you delight in your spouse (when he or she isn’t driving you crazy over said opposites).

8. Counsellors are worth it

Toni and I first started seeing a counsellor when we were in our mid thirties. I should have gone when I was in my twenties.

I don’t know where I’d be as a person, husband, father and leader without the help I’ve had from some incredible Christian counsellors who have helped me see where I need grace and redemption.

I resisted going to counselling. If you’re resisting, stop. There’s freedom on the other side.

9. Progress starts when you see that you’re the problem

We had a great couple of first years, but when tension arose I thought none of it was my fault.

After all, I had little conflict as a single guy, so who had to be bringing all this tension in my marriage? Couldn’t have been me.

I could not have been more wrong.

Now I just assume I’m probably the problem. And I usually am. It’s simpler that way…in life and leadership.

10. Your unspoken assumptions can sink you

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything…or so we think.

In the kitchen, I take an ingredient out, and then I put it back. And wipe the counter. Then I take the next step in cooking whatever I’m cooking.

Toni takes everything out, makes a glorious meal, and cleans up later when the food is cooking.

assumed my way was the right way. But there’s no right and wrong here, just different.

Yet we didn’t know what was driving our kitchen tension until we named it. Now we can laugh at it (most days).

When you surface the assumptions…you mitigate the conflict.

11. When you agree on values, you’ll agree a lot more

Because it’s often the little things you fight about, it’s important to understand where you agree on the big things.

Big things would include your faith, your approach to parenting, your philosophy of life, your priorities, your finances and more.

When you agree on your values, you’ll agree on a lot more.

12. Remember that if you leave, you take all your unresolved problems to your next relationship

This is simply true, and you’ve seen it 1000 times in others.

And you think you’ll be the exception to the rule.

You won’t be.

13. Pray together

Pray together. Out loud.

Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s awkward.

Yes, men resist it. And yes, pastors resist it.

Do it.

14. If you’re a guy, lead your marriage spiritually

My wife and I met in law school. A progressive, left-leaning law school.

Had I even suggested in any way that I was the spiritual head of a home, I would have been laughed out of the school. Or maybe arrested.

But three decades in, there’s no question I need to lead my wife spiritually.  In no way, though, is that authoritarian or even remotely about power. It’s about serving each other in love, humility and submitting to one another. My leadership needs to reflect Christ’s leadership (a servant’s attitude motivated by love), but it’s still leadership.

Most men resist taking spiritual leadership at home. Most male leaders resist taking authentic, Christ-motivated loving leadership at home.

Start leading in love.

15. Go on weekly date nights

In the early days we had no money for date nights. We went anyway.

When your kids are young, it’s especially important because most of your conversation is ‘transactional’ (you cook…I’ll drive the kids to soccer).

In the rough seasons, sometimes we’d spend the first half of date night resolving arguments we couldn’t finish in the hum of every day life. Not fun, but probably healthy.

But we had some awesome date nights too.

Don’t have time? Don’t have money?

Well, if you broke up, you’d date your new girlfriend.

So instead, date your wife. Your kids will thank you for it.

You’ll thank yourself for it one day too.

16. Don’t make your kids the centre of your family

In today’s culture, kids have become the centre of many homes.

Parents have stopped living for Christ and for each other and started basing all their decisions around their kids.

There are two problems with that.

First, your kids eventually leave…leaving you with a gaping hole.

Second, putting your kids at the centre of your home communicates to them that they’re more important than they are. And they know it. As Tim Elmore has suggested, this approach produces kids with high arrogance and low self-esteem.

Child-centered parenting produces self-centred kids.

The best gift you can give your kids is a Christ-centered, healthy marriage.

17. Take personal vacations WITHOUT the kids

We were one of the few couples among our friends who did this, but every year Toni and I would get away even for a night or two WITHOUT the kids.

Our friends would tell us it had been 3, 5 even 10 years since they’d done it.

I’m so glad we took the time to do that. It renewed and remade us. We made significant progress on our relationships so many times we did that. Plus…so much of it was fun.

18. Take family vacations every year

We also took family vacations every year. Often they weren’t glorious. We did what we could afford.

But our kids (now 23 and 19) tell us it was one of their favourite things growing up and something that really bonded our family.

I wrote more about why and how we took those vacations in this Parent Cue post.

Bottom line? You don’t have to go to Disney…you just have to go.

19. Figure out how to be a couple again BEFORE your kids grow up

When our then 16 year old drove off in the car with his brother on the day he got his driver’s licence, Toni and I were left standing in the living room waving good bye.

Then we looked at each other and said “Oh my goodness…before we know it, they’re going to be gone.”

We realized we had WAY more life ahead of us where it would just be us.

So we started new hobbies we could enjoy together (snowshoeing, hiking, cycling) and really worked on our friendship.

My favourite thing to do on my days off is to hang out with my best friend.

20. Open the gift of sex…it’s from God

There’s so much funk about sex. For the record, I believe marriage is the context God designed for sex.

The irony of course is that too many married couples lose interest in sex. I’ve met way too many people who tell me (because I’m a pastor I guess) that they live in a sexless marriage.

Significantly, our culture only glamorizes sex outside of marriage.

When was the last time you saw a married couple on TV or in a movie in a love scene? Right…you can’t remember.

You’re probably even thinking gross, I wouldn’t want to see that. (Not that any of us should be watching steamy scenes, but you get the point).

And now you see the problem.

Why, in our culture, is it not weird when a couple at a bar in a movie hooks up or a wife whose husband is out of town gets it on with her boss, but it is weird when two people who have committed to each other for life have sex?


Married people: sex is a gift. Open it.

The more emotionally, relationally and spiritually close you get to your spouse, the better it gets.

Okay, that’s about all I’m comfortable saying about sex. 🙂

Toni and I would love to answer your questions!

Do you or someone you know have a struggling marriage?

Maybe you’ve said something like:

  • “Our marriage problems are mostly his/ her fault, so why should I have to make the first move?”
  • We’re not fighting, but I feel disconnected”
  • “I can’t do anything right according to him/ her!”

Toni and I have experienced all of these things and learned how to come out with a better marriage on the other side.

And I’d love to help you do the same.

That’s why This Monday November 23rd, Toni and I will be hosting a live Q and A to help your marriage and the marriages of those around you.

You can find out more and register here!

What About You?

I could not be more excited about the next 25 years. It feels like we have a foundation for more joy, less pain, and more of Christ…together. It hasn’t been easy…but it’s been completely worth it.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have made it through 6 months, a year, 10 years or 50 years of marriage.

What are you learning? What’s helped you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

20 Honest Insights on Making It To 30 Years in Marriage


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  2. Louella on September 19, 2021 at 1:00 am

    Wow. I love these tips

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  5. Cinthya M on August 4, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    I really appreciate everything you said here. I could write more, but I just don’t have the energy. Just know that I’m thankful.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 5, 2021 at 12:28 pm

      No more needs to be said! Thanks Cinthya!

  6. Beth on August 2, 2021 at 11:23 am

    I appreciate this post, however, I won’t get to celebrate 25 years with anyone. Still single at 52 and a huge introvert. All I ever wanted was to meet someone, date, fall in love and get married. That has never happened. Hard to deal with when your parents were completely in love with each other and together for 52 years (my mother passed after a long illness. My dad will never remarry. He states he had the love of his life.). I was raised with good role models. I have continued to go on and live my life. Just depressing I will not get to experience the one thing I always wanted. Kind of hard to look to God when this is what I was given to deal with. Most everyone else stumbles onto their partner, I was just given a life alone. Hard to pray to God for help when obstacles have been thrown at you your entire life – put up for adoption, put through numerous foster homes which amounted to neglect, adopted by wonderful parents only to endure molestation at the age of 4 by a relative. None of those obstacles were my doing.

    • Nichole on August 2, 2021 at 6:58 pm

      Hi, Beth.
      Just came to say it is never too late for your to find hope, healing, and love. If you are not already connected with a therapist, you don’t have to suffer alone. Connecting with a therapist near you to process trauma has never been easier. This is your time, Beth. Take care and be well.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 5, 2021 at 12:36 pm

      Hey Beth,

      I’m so sorry to hear this, and I wish I could help, but I’m not sure if I’m the best person to help you.

      There are some really great Christian Counselors who specialize in the struggles that you’ve faced in your past. Would you be able to try to connect with one of them? They might be able to help you heal from what others have done to you in the past.

      I really hope you are able to find that healing. Seeing a counselor for my past has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made, and I would soooo encourage that everyone on earth do the same.

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  16. Pat on December 18, 2020 at 10:36 am

    I agree that love is a decision (as is staying married), but that is not going to necessarily mean happiness. You only live once and life can be really long. A bad marriage can be really grueling. There are deal-breakers (domestic violence, emotional abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, infidelity, etc.). So please stop making people feel guilty if they want to leave a grueling, hurtful or dangerous marriage. It’s great to stay married if it’s working, but if someone is abusing you, take care of yourself and get out – at least temporarily. No one should ever be made to feel that they MUST stay in a marriage.

  17. Pat on December 18, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Because I’m a Catholic, I have stuck out a very lack-luster marriage for over 30 years. I have not experienced great joy and we are not very close in any ways. But I have stuck it out for my faith and my children. Last week, I went to a virtual funeral. During the eulogy, the young man said that his parents were now together again in heaven. I DON’T WANT TO BE WITH MY HUSBAND FOR ETERNITY!!!! I PROMISED “UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART” AND THAT IS HOW I WANT IT TO BE! I WANT TO BE FREE IN ETERNITY! Please tell me that I don’t need to stay married for eternity!!!!!!!

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  21. Kaatje on November 22, 2020 at 9:36 am

    27 years… Ready to leave. What if the ‘season’ has been for years and years? What if your spouse is not interested in counselling? What if it feels like you (wife) are the only one who is willing to accommodate/make changes?

    • Janelle on December 1, 2020 at 7:10 pm

      I am in the same situation at 23 years. My only hope is in Jesus.

  22. Phillip T Kelley on November 21, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks for the great insights and advice. Going on 37 years of marriage and God continues to bless. Prayer and nightly time in God’s Word makes us newlyweds each day. Presently absorbing the 360 “Love Dare” devotional. Great up the great work and your passion to serve and minister to others.

  23. Dave Hall on November 19, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Great list! Sometime, would you dig into what it looks like to be the “spiritual head of household”?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 21, 2020 at 8:54 am

      That’s a great question. It’s changed a lot. Quiet humility. Mutual submission. That’s where it’s landed now. On the days I get those right, which is not every day, it feels more like the Kingdom of God.

  24. Andrea on November 18, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for this wisdom that comes from so much experience! I totally agree with #1: Love is a decision, not an emotion. I would add an adjective that Western culture tells us that love is an emotion. I am not saying that I think that arranged marriages are a perfect solution, but we have something to learn from other God-given cultures — that marriage is a commitment and emotions can follow that kind of decision.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 21, 2020 at 8:54 am

      Our concept of love has changed so much!

  25. Miss Vera on April 21, 2020 at 7:31 pm

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  26. Leslie Knight on February 7, 2020 at 11:58 am

    My husband and I will be married 25 years on June 24th, 2020. I prayed for my husband and met him on a blind date. Our marriage has consisted of 2 kids (19 and 16) and of course God, our Creator, and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our marriage has been through everything you can imagine, and at one point, when I thought we were going to walk away from it all, we went to Marriage Counseling. We are so opposite and so different from each other that we would not pick each other to the point of no return, but this past 2019, our world was shaken. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I had 4 months of Chemo, and 2 surgeries. Still have more to go through, but my wonderful and amazing husband prayed with me and even got me through it. Yes, we are different, but at the same time, I count my blessings for this man. Satan thought he could com e in and steal my joy with fear and anxiety, but he lost. My Faith grew stronger, my marriage got stronger, my relationship with my children got stronger, and I take one day at a time. I thank God everyday for my life, and I thank God for the vows that I made at the age of 21. Now at 46, some of those battles that my husband and I endured, were preparing us for harder challenges that we had to go through. I agree, Marriage is hard work and I truly believe if you put God I the center of your Marriage, he will guide you through everything. Thank you and God Bless! – Leslie

    • Joy on October 7, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      That is a really encouraging and heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing your life testimony and experience. It’s so moving

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 21, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Leslie…thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your cancer and struggles, and so grateful for the direction. Sanctification is the result of perseverance.

  27. Peggy on December 20, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for this article. After 27 years together, it’s good to reaffirm what we are doing alright on and what to adjust our expectations on.

    When people ask how we’ve stayed together, one of my saving graces is this: When another person (spouse, friend, stranger, etc.) messes up, I ask myself, “What was their intent? Did they mean to make me mad?” And 90% of the time, the answer is NO.

    Another thing I’ve added to our house is a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I receive a lot of peace and serenity near it. The more religious items I have in our house, the more any negative noise would go away. Our house doesn’t look like a shrine but there are some beautiful items (from stores or Etsy) that add to the goodness.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 21, 2020 at 8:56 am

      You’re so right…people often don’t mean to offend us. I’m also convicted by the fact that offence is something you choose to take. You don’t have to be offended.

  28. troy tracy on August 8, 2019 at 5:03 am

    I’m destroyed physically and emotionally my wife left on our 25th anniversary. I had no idea what happened. Why it was July 23rd 2019 still won’t answer any questions. Found out my kids she was seeing her ex husband from 30 years ago. She left him because of drugs and alcohol. His own family doesn’t even have him as a friend on Facebook. They say that I’m a good dad for his kids, which their my kids. They till him he’s a tird ect. Hadn’t gave the kids even a birthday card or Christmas card, anything in 25 years. My wife would tell the same thing and what good dad I have been. She is cheating on me and with him I don’t understand. Found the bank statement and their it is motel room 5miles from his house in the neighboring state. She always told me if you stay out past 2AM your cheating. So what does it mean when you don’t come home. Their is alot more but it hurts to much she told me it’s not about him. I’m not without blame my health got bad February the doctor took a absist in my neck out and missed and paralyzed me. She was with me and was scared to death. So was I. They said it was permanent. I said a prayer outloud in front of everyone. Ask God to give me the strength of Sampson .will what do you no I could move my right index finger..walking in a few weeks and she was there except for the drinking and gambling. She would come home to help me but was wasted. I had a pick line, it is a iv. She wanted to help. But I had to do it myself because she was going to accidentally kill me. She did not understand just thought I didn’t trust her or love her I guess. I love her with all my heart. But she was heartbroken. Well now I’m heartbroken. That’s enough.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 8, 2019 at 1:31 pm


      I am so sorry to hear this. Don’t go through this alone. Find a local pastor and church that will support you.

      Let our team know if you need help finding one. (dillon@careynieuwhof.com)


  29. Katrina on May 21, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you for this article. Today is our 25th wedding anniversary and I have spent my lunch time at work searching online for advice – irritated that my husband didn’t see fit to take the day off and we celebrate such a milestone together. Our marriage has had so many ups and downs and down and outs over 25 years, that I feel like it truly IS a milestone…and couldn’t for the life of me see why it doesn’t seem important enough to him to just blow off a day of work and celebrate together.

    Your advice is much appreciated, and I don’t feel so irritated anymore. But I do think I’ll bring your article to dinner tonight and we’ll have something to talk about. I’m feeling especially sheepish myself when reading #9. I’m more than sure that I’m the problem!

    Thanks for this!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 21, 2020 at 8:57 am

      How’d it go? 🙂 Hang in there, and I’m praying you guys can do the work to see the other side!

  30. Michael Bauer on April 14, 2019 at 10:55 pm


    You are a blessing to so many people. I appreciate every piece you do and I read most of them. This article in particular is written a bit differently than many of your other posts and I like your honest and raw prose. I just wanted to say thank you for your whole sphere of work to both present facts about the church honestly and truthfully, and to continue to inspire and give hope to so many. Please don’t quit doing what you do. You are talented and anointed for such a time as this. Thank you!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 21, 2020 at 8:57 am

      Michael…thank you.

  31. Lyle Williams on April 13, 2019 at 10:21 am

    My wife and I recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. Someone asked me
    how we did that and I responded by saying TWO WORDS………”YES DEAR!”

  32. R on December 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    My husband disagrees with number #14. I tend to agree with it. Any suggestions to deal with this? I feel like with no one leading, we have lost our way. (We are getting close to 25 years of marriage. Right now, “celebrating” seems like to strong a word, more like “surviving.”)

    Concerned wife

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 12, 2019 at 6:19 am

      Thanks for asking. And sorry I missed this comment. It’s an important questions.

      By leading I don’t mean domineering. I mean taking responsibility for my health and the health of our family. I hope that helps. I agree that when no one is leading, everyone suffers.

  33. shaybrownevents on December 24, 2018 at 7:21 am

    this article is so informative and useful.. this may help other in the following topic..thanks for sharing this with all

  34. Jennette Dudding on December 19, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Hi. Ok. 9 1/2 years. My husband is so blessed he’s not dead…true story. BUT you’re right, because I stayed I received handfuls of blessings I NEVER expected.
    You know what I wanna know? When people are standing up at their 50, 60th wedding anniversary’s WHAT ALL DOES THE “WEVE BEEN THROUGH ALOT” actually mean? Other families, abandonment, children with other people? Alcoholism? Drug addiction? Wait, I think I just answered my own question. Is the answer simple (and grossly understated) YES?

  35. Bose on November 29, 2018 at 7:00 am

    Thank you for this expository. God bless your marriage. I’ve been married for nearly twenty years and I’ve gained more insight from your blog.

  36. Michelle on November 27, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    My husband and I have both previously been married before. We are approaching our 5 year anniversary and I can unequivocally say that we are more deep in love now than ever before and that love continues to grow. I was thankful to come across a post like yours as to often I see headlines such as “5 signs it’s time to end your marriage” and I cringe. My husband and I knew going into our relationship what we wanted to do differently moving forward. We had also know each other as acquaintances for about 10 years prior to dating so we were familiar with each others skeletons. We’ve had our share of hardships in our first few years of marriage and worked really hard to not just point the finger at each other. Arguments are human nature, we will never agree 100% of the time but we both learned from our previously relationships that “fighting fair” takes effort and conscious thought. And, most importantly, it is not about being right or wrong as long as we both communicate as respectfully and directly as possible.

    Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to the next 20+ years to come in our lives and pray we will somewhat resemble what you have so eloquently written.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 12, 2019 at 6:20 am

      I so love this. Thanks for sharing. And yes, here’s to hope!

  37. Marcelus on June 22, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I really do love this. This article is a family revival. Thanks a lot Carey Nieuwhof. Please, can you also write some HONEST INSIGHTS ON MAKING CELIBACY A LIFE COMMITMENT?

  38. Tony on June 18, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    I’ve been married for 27 years now… the year before our 25th, I took my wife to Europe for a couple of weeks. We first went into Paris and a couple of days later went to the Eiffel Tower. What she didn’t know was that I was going to re-purpose to her there. I even had purchased a new 3 diamond engagement ring to replace her old one (our bands are custom made). I even had a photographer secretly following us. So at the first platform up the tower at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant, I got on my knee, presented her new ring, and asked her to marry me all over again it front of the entire restaurant with a photographer taking shots of the whole thing. Everyone applauded. She said “Yes” and then cried because of how much work I had done to make this special for her.
    A couple of days later, we took the bullet train to Switzerland for around 4 days, then the bullet train up into southern Germany and stayed there for a week.
    The next year, I staged a wedding overlooking the lake; fully catered, flowers, photographer, an orchestra, DJ, family, and over a hundred guest (this I had to let her help with of course). The next day I took her to Australia for two weeks. Sydney (Manly Beach, and Bondi) for six days (we stayed an extra day to go to Hillsong (that’s a whole other story)). Ayer’s Rock for 4 days at the Sails, Cairns for four days (Trinity Beach), the barrier reef then back to Sydney.
    What you said about being opposite is true. She’s grounded, and I’m adventurous. I’m reckless and she’s timid. But I always try to make her life an adventure and she always keeps me cautious.
    But I love her so much… I will go through any means to show her just how much.

    • Pat on December 18, 2020 at 10:31 am

      Re-purpose to her? What’s that??

  39. Alan Rathbun on June 18, 2018 at 10:00 am

    When I first saw that there was 20, I was like, “c’mon man!” But honestly, you are spot on with all 20 points! My wife and I will celebrate 30 years next week and I’ve seen the pattern and felt the tension and know the joy we have now has been worth it all. Thanks for the article. Hopefully Twitter will recognize how blessed it is to receive this tweeted today. 😀

  40. James Pinheiro on June 17, 2018 at 9:47 am


    What a great read for Fathers Day. I really appreciate the honesty and I need to begin applying some of your thoughts to my marriage immediately! Rich content in your 20 points and very timely.

    Thank you,

    James Pinheiro

  41. Joe on June 17, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Thank you for the reminder.

  42. Char Seawell on June 17, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Yes to all but especially #19. We took a trip when our kids left the nest and looked at each other the first morning and both realized we didn’t know each other. That was 23 years ago. But the journey back to friendship and deep respect for each other, though fraught with bumps and bruises has been rich beyond belief. Now closer to 70 than 60, we have more love and fun together than I ever dreamed possible…. our game changer has always been to “Keep the bug in the jar”. Whatever issue we face, we imaginatively place it in a jar on a table and talk about the bug, not each other. But mostly, we stayed together because Jesus said “Don’t let go.” As you stated, we hung on until we found the Beauty in the ashes.

  43. Kimberly Morrow on June 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Wow…thank you so much.Your article was very helpful for me. I am not married but have been in a relationship for almost 4 years and we have a beautiful 2 year old baby girl. I got engaged about a year ago and throughout both of us working and taking her to school and whatnot I have not really had the time to plan a wedding as well as financially. We have been going through quite a rough patch this year and honestly I have been wanting to give up.It wasn’t like when you first meet someone and the first year is butterflies and rainbows…there’s been a lot of rough patches.Something though is telling me to not give up that Love is patient….I have been speaking with different people about my decision on if I were to leave or to go as well as my fiance.Looking at new ways to cope and keep going back and forth with myself on staying or leaving.Your article has given me much to think about. I have gone back to the church and I am currently revisiting my faith again…the more I do the more I feel God’s presence. Thank you for the article I hope to come to a conclusion very soon.

  44. David Andrus on April 24, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Carey:
    Thanks so much for the marriage article. My wife, Sheila, and I will celebrate 45 years of marriage and 44 years of ministry this year!!!! I can’t think of anything better than what you have shared. PRAISE GOD for your forum and communication skills!

  45. Walker on April 23, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Amen!! Using this advise going forward. God has shown me the error of my ways and am trying to lift up wife from now on>>>

  46. Adrijana on April 22, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    hallo , I am been married for seven years and we celebrate our marriage every months on the some day , so we celebrate to be together in bad and good days . We also put GOD in the center .Thank you for your story .

  47. Nathan Woodward on April 21, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    So very thankful for this wisdom filled post! I am marrying my sweetheart of two years in just over two months and I appreciate every bit of this advice as we are both working in ministry! Thanks Carey and team!

  48. Mary on April 21, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Thank you for the email linking to this post. I’m holding on to “There were seasons where the only reason it wasn’t over is because Jesus said it wasn’t over.”… as I realize I have for many seasons – approaching 19 years very soon. I’m weary but choosing to trust His lead even when I don’t see any progress. When the man you married is also your pastor and the ‘fish bowl’ life is for real- it’s even more challenging.

  49. Kathy Brunkhardt on October 22, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    We will be married 50 yers on March 23, 2018. God willing of course. The 20 hints you spoke about are right on!! We look in the mirror and see two 60 plus old people, but our hearts that are full of love and respect for each other, make us feel like the two 18 year olds who walked down that aisle so many years ago! Praise God for showing us the way and being the head over our marriage and family. We indeed are best friends who have weathered the storms and also enjoyed the beautiful blessings we have received during our last 49 years! We need more of these teachings for the next generations coming up. Thank you so much for your insight!

  50. PC on October 21, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I have been married 27+ years and was shocked when my husband had an affair. Broke my heart. Even typing the word affair makes my stomach still turn. It was about 3 years of anguish but I kept being obedient and faithful to my own vows as I fought against Satan trying to destroy another union. You see a few counselors and ministers gave my advice early on to divorce but I fought hard for Christ to restore and renew. That is what is happening now. I feel we easily decide to end things when it gets hard. It got really hard. I am still working through feeling loved and cherished like I used to. I keep looking to Christ though for that. I seek Christ everyday without Him I surely would have given up. Thank you for your honesty and encouragement. Before our struggles I thought so many marriages were “fine” but they aren’t. I just wish there was more transparency so we are able to encourage one another to be obedient and go for help when we need it.

  51. […] Be more honest in your public talk. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. (We have a great marriage overall, but we’ve had to fight for it. I wrote about that here.) […]

  52. James Morgan on July 31, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    My father (an ordained Minister), precided over my wife and my cerimony. In the counceling that was held prior to the cerimony (yes, he did counceling before agreeing to oficiate), he gave the best advice I have ever heard. “The Marrage License is nothing more than permission to exclusively court one another.” My parents remained married until my father’s passing, and wife an I have just celibrated our 25th. I am thankful for the advice that I received and would like to pass it on. Marrage is hard work, it takes woking together, it involves more arguments and appologies than I wish to admit to, there will be bad times and good times, there will be times that we both just wanted to give up, but in the end, we stayed together because “I am still courting the Love of my Life”.

    • Nan Principe Crockett on April 21, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      James Morgan, I would love to quote your father. What was his name?

  53. Ninsiima christine on May 19, 2017 at 3:19 am

    I’m totally blessed by this article it holds facts and truth of everyday life of marriage no fiction but most of all I love the decision to be obedient to Christ instead of our feelings I can testify I would have left but I always remember it was ordained by God and I choose to please God not what I feel. God bless you brother

  54. Donald E. Graham Jr. on May 9, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Great article Carey! Hips, eyes, and thighs, should not be the barometer by which a man should measure a potential wife. A wife who has a relationship with God would be more ideal. Why? Because she is able to stand at the intersection of his awesomeness and ugliness, and still encourage him to “better his best.” When life deals him a bad hand, she helps him to reshuffle the deck and look at the problem with a new perspective. At the end of the day, a marriage is valued by what a husband and wife are willing to sacrifice for it. ????❤️????????


  55. Adam Johannes on April 11, 2017 at 4:40 am

    I disagree with the opinion to, basically put a low priority on your Kids. It’s very ‘of the world’ to just focus on you, and if you focus attention on your kids then they will grow up spoilt. It’s not true. Kid’s can strengthen a marriage much more than a night at the movies. When you have kids, your marriage changes and you can make it for the better, and enjoy the whole family that god has given you. It’s too easy to forget your kids. Put the hard work in and have both a great marriage and great time with your kids.

    • Sarah on July 5, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Good point! I think what the author of this article means is that your priorities need to stay in check…God #1, spouse #2, kids &/or you #3.
      If you put your kids above your spouse, then it will not only mess up your relationship with your spouse, but it will also create a loss of respect from your kids to your spouse (which wouldn’t be fair to them), and it would make your kids think they are more important than your spouse.

  56. Alison on February 19, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Great article. The link for Comparison Trap teaching doesn’t lead to the video or teaching…

  57. Kim on February 15, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    This is an excellent list! My husband and I have been married for 22 years and at year 18 it almost ended but God had other plans. The last 4 years have been better than the previous 18 because we learned some of these very lessons. A year ago January my husband accepted Christ! While our marriage is not perfect, we are now equally yoked spiritually. Putting Christ at the centre of our marriage has been key.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 15, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Kim…this is wonderful. Such good news. Thanks for sharing!

    • Grace on June 17, 2017 at 2:36 am

      That’s great to hear. My husband and I have been married for almost 18 years in August and I’m honestly feeling out of love with him. It’s been rough and I’m not happy since he isn’t spiritually leading us. Any advice..lonely season in marriage.

      • Leslie Knight on February 7, 2020 at 12:07 pm

        Get marriage counseling. I’ve been there, and I am celebrating 25 years in June this year and also a breast cancer survivor. There were times I could not stand my husband, but it was something in myself that I was not dealing with. I needed to get real with myself and my husband. Plus, I had 2 children and at times, just needed a break. My husband and I were workaholics, and decided see needed a change. So, we had date night, family, night, church night, etc. Glad I stayed, Marriage is not easy, but counseling helped us and it helped me. I even went back to school. Good luck!

    • Denley on February 17, 2018 at 12:56 am

      That is inspirational my name is Denley and Kim the state of Texas took our kids because we are Christians and I stayed married to my husband, is this not right? Now my husband filed divorce! Pretty bad stuff

  58. melissa on February 15, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Love this article because it’s the absolute truth about marriage! I’ve been with my spouse for 6 years, married for 4 1/2. The hardest part of it was after we married and moved in together. Wow! Talk about wake up calls! If we would’ve allowed our emotions to rule our marriage, I’d probably have hit him over the head with a baseball bat! (OK. Not really. But married people understand that joke. ???? ) I did marriage preparation, and it’s honestly done us wonders! It also helps that we built our foundation on faith and friendship first.

  59. Jen on June 14, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    I celebrated my 25th anniversary alone only because the Lord took my husband home after 24 1/2 years. This is a great list. I might add:

    Communicate. Don’t isolate.

    Give the benefit of the doubt.

    Laugh together.

    Don’t forget the little things. Bring him coffee. Buy her favorite candy bar once in awhile. Make a wish together on a dandelion.

    Treasure the gift God gave you in each other. Remember what made you fall in love. Tell them what you appreciate about them. Remember to say thank you. My husband would thank me for dinner every night, whether it was something special or just leftovers. I would often recognize sacrifices he made for our family.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 15, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Thank you Jenn!. This is so touching and I’m so sad for your loss.

  60. Beth Marshall on April 24, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    This is pure gold.
    My husband, Paul and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary in June. Wow- that was quick!

    I would add:
    – be your husband/ wife/s #1 fan; and never forget you’re on the same team.

    – say kind things to and about your spouse.

    – life is too short to be serious all the time. Don’t forget to laugh every day.

    Carey, your blog and podcast are a gift to smart people who want to be smarter!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 25, 2016 at 4:54 am

      Thank you Beth…and congrats. Those are GREAT tips!

  61. Melissa Richard Hall on March 23, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Have been married to my husband for almost 7 years this coming September. Loved your points on everything…. Especially the comments about counselling and seeking it out. We are there not bc we are having problems… But rather we both come from emotionally distorted households. On my hubbies side, just about everybody from his own parents has been divorced at least once and considers it acway of life. : (

    On my side, nobody is divorced ( except for 1 dysfunctional, mentally ill aunt). Rather, on my side including my own parents, everyone seems to believe in staying married no matter what… Or better yet…”boasts” about the length of time they have been married, while the quality of such a long marriage is full of bitterness and resentment— unhealthy still!

    So b/c of these 2 opposite extreme backgrounds, my hubby & I find ourselves there: mid 30’s../seeing a marriage counselor on a monthly basis in our recognition and own effort to not repeat the same generational sins in our own family. Talk about feeling ” messed up” for life though coming from such extreme opposite ends of dysfunction! Especially, when my side still holds the belief that ” you shouldn’t have to tell a total stranger you personal problems…. You should be able to deal with them on your own”….a quoted statement from my own baby boomer father, who was suicidal as a young adolescent, doesn’t and hasn’t attended church since I was a young girl, insists that he us still happily married to my mother while simultaneously avoids doing anything together with her, and even still to this day.. resents his own deceased mother of 6 years ( my grandmother whom I favor & admired so dearly). Oh & did I mention…he — my dad professesvto be a ” Christian”. I STRUGGLE w/ that claim!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      Hey Melissa…love what you’re doing to start a new era in your family, marriage and life. Way to go.

  62. Christy Matt Annie Fonseca on July 18, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I have been married to my husband for nearly 15 years. We were married at age 22 and 23. I have only ever been with my husband and we’ve always remained faithful to one another. We have a young daughter that has severe classic autism and God is the only glue that keeps us out of the 80% divorce statistic. There has been much pain, like you mentioned in your terrific article/blog, and much joy. God has remained our focus and led me closer to Him than I could’ve ever thought possible. We cannot do date nights out or take vacations due to our daughter’s limitations of what she can handle without meltdowns, but we’ve recently learned to carve some private time out for each other. I’ve wanted to leave many times when I’ve been repeatedly hurt (emotionally) by my husband, but God’s word says he hates divorce and that I should forgive as He forgives all of us unconditionally. I think it’s important to realize that telling/communicating to your mate what you NEED, expect, desire, and depend upon is a GOOD THING. I always felt like if he didn’t know how to anticipate my needs, he just didn’t love me enough….that whole comparison thing came into play! As naked as it made me feel to put all my needs and feelings out on my sleeve, it’s making an AMAZING DIFFERENCE for the better. I found out what I didn’t expect—-that my husband REALLY LOVES ME and…WANTS TO MAKE ME HAPPY! He literally didn’t know how! He said, “I’ve never been married before!! You’re my only….even though it’s been 15 years, I’m still LEARNING!”. He was right….and I’m still learning also because he’s my only. It’s hard for me to speak up when I feel like he’s dropping the ball on helping me out, but I HAVE TO. ESPECIALLY BEFORE I get bitter and angry. I tell him, “Okay, I waited too long to say anything and I’m starting to stew about it, BUT….I need more help from you while my surgery site on my hand heals because I’m feeling overwhelmed and resentful at you.”. He wasn’t MAD! He had NO CLUE until I fessed up! And here’s the BIG thing….when MY NEEDS were MET (sexually and emotionally) from him that I needed, I washed dishes while he sat on the couch playing a game on his phone. AND I WAS NOT ANGRY. I was NOT bitter, resentful, or feeling like a slave while he relaxed!!! I even told him, “Hey! I have all I needed, so I’m not upset doing this myself.”.

  63. Gabgabsgabstergabby Gabrielle on June 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Wow this is something I read at the right time. I was ready ro make a harsh decision based on my right now emotions. Right before reading this God told me the reason my husband and I go through so much is because we don’t pray together at all. Ans that we should pray together. For so long I was frustrated that he wouldn’t take the spiritual lead and do this more and I felt like if I asked him about it , it would put me in a vulnerable position.(crazy i know) But I had a problem with showing him vulnerability for fear of , everything.lol But this was awsome to read and something to really hold on to along with Gods word. Talk about confirmation ! Married almost 9 years this July

  64. Tony Barwick on June 3, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Hey Carey, I was so stoked to read this blog! I’m South African and my wife is American. We are complete opposites and come from very different cultural backgrounds. Sometimes marriage is like two porcupines in a small box. One thing we’re starting to learn is capitalizing on eachothers strengths instead of seeing them as opposing forces or negative attributes. We run an organization in Cape Town, South Africa, called Yebo Life and started working together the same month we got married! This weekend, June 7th, is our one year anniversary! I look back and marvel at how God has grown and matured the two of us in this short time and look forward to what He has in store for us! I can relate to so many things you wrote! Thanks so much for the wisdom-packed share!

    Heart to God.
    Spread the Stoke.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks so much Tony! Congrats on `1 year. Sanctification happens in marriage and through marriage. I think God uses marriage as a vessel to build us into the people he sees us becoming.

  65. Scott Soliz on May 27, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    On POINT! Great article Carey. Colette and I will celebrate 25yrs this year and together for 29! Marriage is tough and we have the opportunity to help younger couples by telling them how we, and by God’s grace worked through it. Anything you love you have to fight for and #13 and #14 are so important in a marriage especially for the men. Our wives want someone to lead them, not by pulling them along but by lifting them up. God has also showed me in so many ways that #7 was so very important in our relationship as husband and wife and I have the ability and advantage now to “Live my life Backwards” so that I can see why He did this for me. He gave me my beautiful wife and all the things that are completely opposite of me to “save me from MYSELF”! The things that used to drive me crazy I love so much about her and we now and get to see that play out in our 19 year old son who is a great mix of both! Thanks for your leadership and posts, you are making a difference in this world for God’s Kingdom!

  66. Christy McGee on May 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

    This is really helpful. Thank you! often on our few date night outs we spend the whole evening talking about the kids. This scares me as I think “do we not have anything else to talk about?” I really need to be more cognoscent about directing the conversation to other topics! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 28, 2015 at 6:14 am

      Thanks so much Christy. And YES! You are so right. Or…go on another date night that’s truly a date night once you’ve worked out your kid issues! Sometimes the answer is to take more time so all of life is dealt with well. 🙂

  67. Karly on May 25, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I enjoyed reading this. It was honest and well-written.
    #16 is one I will have to remember in the future. It’s a very good point and I think parents don’t realize they still have a life after their kids leave the nest.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 25, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      Karly…thank you for this. It was a huge surprise for me. I have more energy now that my kids are grown than I did when they were babies!

      • Karly on May 25, 2015 at 10:41 pm

        Haha! That’s good to hear!
        Now that you mention it, I’m also noticing my parents definitely have more energy now that all the kids have left home.

  68. Joanna Rhoden on May 25, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Been married for only four years, but I’m oddly thankful to have access to articles like this now before we have kids. It’s good to reflect on; thanks for publishing it!

    With so many of my friends getting married at this age, I keep telling them “Jesus is the greatest romance in my life.” We put too much pressure on our spouses nowadays to “fix” or “fulfill” things. At one point in my marriage I had to tell my husband that something was wrong with me and I didn’t know what it was but that I knew it was up to Jesus to fix it. Long story short is that the Lord did fix it. Our Marriage is better off for it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 25, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      Joanna…thank you! What a great perspective.

  69. Eric on May 22, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Good stuff, brother!
    Three I’ll add:
    1. On most decisions, but especially big, life-changing decisions, let you spouse come to their own conclusion about what to do, even if it means you don’t get to do what you feel “called” to do, even if it’s glaringly clear that that call is from God. Christ doesn’t force His Bride, but can handle her ways. Leading the way by modeling “submitting to one another one t of reverence for Christ” and respecting her free-will decision (after countless time talking and praying together) cannot be overestimated. While Christ does not need you, but wants you to join him, he’s also patient with you in your hesitancy; too, be that with your spouse. #massivedividends
    2. This is linked to #16, which deserves a post all its own!
    I’ve stated early on to our kids that, while God has given them to us for a time for us to be their parents, really – in eternity – a few decades won’t be material: the first, permanent, and eternal relationship that I see my kids having with us is as brother or sister in Christ….
    3. 99.5% of the time, “happy wife makes a happy life”, but there are (many!) times where what you’ll do/say will hit a sore spot with her. Discerning if that particular time is the 0.5% is really important. There are times when you, as husband, need to step aside and let her first Husband, Christ, deal with her directly and where none of your efforts will help, indeed they’ll exacerbate the situation. Christ’s patience and lead when she goes through those tough patches and your recognizing when you’re out of your league (but *do* point her to Christ!) is where phenomenal growth will happen, and you’ll be thankful that God is the Head of your household….

  70. Hadley Brandt on May 22, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Thank You Carey! Amy and I will also be celebrating our 25th later this year and have experienced many of the joys and challenges you address in this post. Your insights are inspiring me to look back at our past 25 years through this lens with even more magnification, but most importantly, to look to the next 25 years with even greater expectations. Congratulations to Toni and you!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Congrats Hadley! I love the way you’re looking at the moment…as a foundation for better things. Me too! Have a wonderful celebration.

  71. Murf on May 22, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Thanks Carey! I sent this to my wife, and my four children, and one of my children’s fiancee. This is worth reading, pondering, and absorbing. My wife and I are at 31 years which I tell everyone have all been bliss-filled (Haha…). Seriously though, I appreciate your honesty and openness. My favorite line: “There were seasons where the only reason it wasn’t over is because Jesus said it wasn’t over. Amen, to that brother.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2015 at 9:54 am

      Congrats on 31. So glad you stuck it out! And I’ll bet you are too!

  72. Cailey Dumler on May 21, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    This post could not have come at a better time. We are going through extremely difficult time with one of our children (who is young adult and not living in the home.) It is causing much heartbreak but thankfully, we pray together, we cry together, and we get through it together. We make sure we connect with each other. I can relate to you in that we have made sure we had time away from the kids overnight. At first it was difficult but I quickly realized I came back a better daughter of Christ, wife, and mother. We are almost to our 24th anniversary and I can’t wait to see what the next 24+ years hold for us. Brent is my best friend and I cannot imagine my life without him. Thank you for this amazing post. I am using it as reflection to help me evaluate how I am doing in these areas in our marriage. Happy 25th Anniversary to you and Toni! May God bless you richly!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2015 at 7:06 am

      Thank you so much Cailey. You and Brent are incredible servants of Christ and parents…praying for you!

      • COOK BRENDY on January 25, 2021 at 3:04 am

        I never believe my husband who left me will ever come back to me, my husband is back with the love spell of DR IFADE

  73. Rick Theule on May 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

    “There were seasons where the only reason it wasn’t over is because Jesus said it wasn’t over.”

    Yep. I found this out later. I was the cause and my incredible wife was obedient.

  74. Brent Dumler on May 21, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Congrats to both of you on the big ‘Silver.’ I absolutely LOVE this post. My bet is the longer someone has been married, the more of these insights they can relate to.

    My wife and I have been married for almost 24 years (coming this August). We’re right behind you, Carey. And I can 100% relate to all of these!

    What have I learned? The challenges that come with each new season of marriage NEVER stop. So, embrace them and grow closer to each other and God through them. Otherwise, the opposite will occur.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Thanks Brent! Congrats man. Love and appreciate your support and friendship.

      • Doug Mathers on April 13, 2019 at 7:15 am

        Nicely written. I would edit number 7: it probably “feels” like you married your opposite.

        The perception of opposites results because we only have two points of data. Those two points become the opposite ends of our personal spectrum. If we could see all the other data, we would likely see that we are far more alike than different. This is why going back to values is critical. We find unity in values and cooperate in methods. For example: Creating a budget begins with value clarification. Then we work together to spend, save and give.

        That said, putting the ingredients away as one prepares a meal is the right way.

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