Lasting Marriages: The Keys to Making it Work

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It's a sad fact that more than half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and Christian marriages are a big part of that statistic.

But what about the other half?  What are the keys to the marriages that do last?  Many of these successful couples say it takes more than love to make it work.

When you look at Robert Skinner and Tia Harding, it's pretty clear that love is in the air.

After a year of dating, the Christian couple is planning that trip to the altar and they have high hopes for a loving and lasting marriage.

"I believe we put God first in all things and he'll direct our path and he said every good man's steps are ordered by Him," Skinner said.

"I believe first you have to communicate with God first and then with your spouse and if communication remains in the marriage you won't have to worry about a divorce," Harding added.

It's fair to say that for most couples starting out in marriage, separating or divorcing never comes to mind.  But after the wedding is over and reality sets in, what is it that makes some couples work through the hard times while others call it quits?

Some 28 years and three kids later, Ron and Gwynn Bergthold's marriage is still going strong.

"You just have to have that commitment to love each other and it's not emotion, it's not a feeling," explained Ron Bergthold.  "It is a commitment all the way through the marriage."

His wife agrees but admits it has not always been easy.

"When we get upset with each other I have to think of what's best for him not just me," she said.  "I have to get over my selfishness and go, how can I help Ron, what's best for him and us together."

And what about couples who find themselves "losing that love feeling" soon after tying the knot?  Marriage expert Jennifer Ripley encourages newlyweds to be patient with the process and with one another.

"Everybody has that feeling after they get married at some point whether it's five days or five months or five years later," she said.  "'What did I do?  What is it I'm supposed to be doing here?' And really that's the point at which God takes us I think from the honeymoon period where everything's beautiful to, 'Now are you going to develop a deeper character?'" 

Ripley points to "four Cs" in developing that character.

First, covenant because that's how God defines marriage, followed by committment, communication and confession.

"You see these couples that have been married for 50 or 60 years, you see them go through many things, but they've held their commitments to each other," Ripley said.  "They've prioritized the relationship as a covenant, they've communicated well they're very considerate of each other, they confess, they forgive, they rebond with each other."

Research also shows that couples who view their vows as sacred are more likely to stay married, reinforcing the idea that marriage is a covenant not a contract to be taken lightly.

Roy and Izola Jones had that in mind when they said "I do" 42 years ago.

"I think about the things we said to each other on our wedding day and I saw how significant they were, how meaningful they were rules to live your life," Roy Jones said.

"It's me accepting him without trying to change him into my image of what a husband should be," Izola Jones added.  "Instead my job is to love him, is to respect him, is to accept him and sometimes to forgive him even."

Studies also show that friendship between husband and wife is a big plus.

"If you were an alien observing relationships and you look at how best friends talk to each other and how healthy marriages, people in healthy marriages talk to each other, it looks exactly the same," Ripley explained.

That is pretty evident when you look at the Jones'.

"We were friends first," Izola Jones said.  "That friendship helped us through until we learned some sense until we started maturing."

Meanwhile, Tia and Robert's wedding is just weeks away.  The lovebirds admit they have a lot to learn about marriage, but say they are ready to embark on the journey together.

"We're not perfect.  There's going to be flaws," Harding said.  "It may be some ups and downs but we're willing to work it out."

*Original Broadcast Date: August 11, 2009.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.