For better or worse; for richer or poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish; ’til death do us part …

What special memories come to mind when you read these words? Do the sights, sounds and smells of your wedding day come flooding back? Have those memories faded because of a deteriorating marriage, or are they still vibrant because you’ve committed your lives to each other?

Renewing love keeps your marriage fresh and allows each spouse to continue learning about the other even after decades of marriage. Let’s think of a marriage on the spectrum between a bouquet of roses and a rose bush. A bouquet of roses is beautiful for a period of time, but soon the roses wither and die. But a rose bush, given time, water and fertilizer, will continue blooming for years. A marriage with renewing love woven into its structure is like this rose bush.

Barb and I are constantly searching for clues as to why many marriages remain strong through the years while others crumble. You’ve seen them, the couples in their 80s walking hand-in-hand, laughing, talking, even after decades of marriage. So what do couples this late in life have to say about remaining committed to each other?

Here are the kinds of responses we’ve heard:

“Gary and Barb, we take time daily to listen to each other and learn what the other has experienced that day.”

“It’s a little embarrassing, but Barney’s taught me that when I meet his sexual needs, he feels valued. When he prays with me, I feel so safe. When I spend time with him, he makes me feel like a million bucks!”

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“Mildred often reminds me that my words of belief in her are the only words ? next to God’s ? she really needs to hear. So I learned to speak up. We’ve been married fifty-four years, and I think the marriage is going to take!”

These remarks warm our hearts, knowing that there are couples who have not only made it through marriage, but have developed healthy, vibrant ones. These couples are true mentors and role models for us all.

So how do we get to where they are? The very survival of your marriage depends on recognizing the scope of the promise made on your wedding day. Renewing love says with absolute conviction, “Divorce is not an option. We’re married for life.” Barb and I have made a commitment to never use the word “divorce” in our marriage and we challenge you to do the same. On your wedding day, God glued your and your mate’s hearts together in a covenant to each other and to Him. The first step in making your marriage a divorce-proofed marriage is to commit to never walking away. Barb and I are serious about this. If you’re not perpetually experiencing renewing love, your marriage is in danger of heading in the wrong direction.

Where you are in your marriage is important, but where you’re headed is even more crucial. So what will you do to build a divorce-proofed marriage? Knowing that divorce-proofing is a lifelong process, we have one word of advice: Start with renewing love. It will set all the other loves in motion. You need the divorce-proofing elements of forgiving love, serving love, persevering love, guarding love and celebrating love to make your marriage last a lifetime. But without a deep commitment to experience ? and keep experiencing ? these various expressions of renewing love, you’ll lack the confidence that your marriage can survive the pressures of the twenty-first century culture.

Love may be a choice, but it’s more than a decision of the heart and mind. You must commit your full energy to nurture, feed and care for your spouse and your marriage, just like the rose bush. God’s design is that the person with whom you shared wedding cake will be the love of your life. Your commitment to that person must be renewed with each passing day so that your love will grow and deepen to a level of intimacy beyond your wildest dreams. This is no fantasy. It is a living reality for those who come to understand the meaning of love, and who commit to love in this way. Barb and I desire to strive for that reality in our marriage ? won’t you join us in working towards that goal?

Copyright © 2003 Dr.Gary and Barbara Rosberg, used with permission, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Adapted from Divorce Proof Your Marriage.

Married nearly 30 years, the parents of two married adult children, and grandparents of two, Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touches people of all ages. Together with Gary’s 25,000 hours of counseling experience and Barbara’s wise counsel and biblical teaching, they are America’s Family Coaches (AFC) — equipping thousands of families across the nation.