7 Essentials of a Grandparents’ Marriage Model

written by Bev Phillips
2 · 14 · 22

On Valentine’s Day, we send cards to each of our 14 grandchildren (as well as to their married parents and our single adult children). It’s a special opportunity to express our love for each of them. But we hope our model of 50 years of marriage will impact their views and beliefs about love and marriage even more powerfully than the fairy tales or cultural examples they encounter throughout their lifetimes. There are key areas to keep in mind as we seek to model a healthy, God-honoring marriage in this second half of life.

ATTITUDE

 When we were in a university Christian group (a long time ago), a question often used to encourage one another was, “How’s your PMA?” (i.e., Positive Mental Attitude). Especially as we deal with issues of aging bodies, aging parents, changing finances, illness, housing moves, job changes or retirement, it is a temptation to become negative or critical. By choosing to have a hopeful frame of mind and positive perspective, we are an encouragement to our spouse and to others around us. Chuck Swindoll is quoted as exhorting us, “Don’t age before you’re old.” Let’s decide to live as fully and happily as possible together and not just exist until we die. Give your family a reason to honor, respect, and imitate you.

COMMUNICATION

Communication remains a vital key to a healthy marriage regardless of our age or length of time together. New barriers may crop up, such as hearing loss or feeling as though the issues and discussions are repetitive. Seek help with hearing aids if needed and be sensitive to facing your spouse, speaking clearly, and being willing to repeat if requested. Just as important is continuing to grow in the skills of being a good listener and speaking truth lovingly in a way that brings you together rather than pushes you apart. Deal with problems when they’re small; don’t be a “stuffer.” Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a mutually-approved position. Always be respectful in your conversations, whether they are in public or private. Grandchildren will notice. I recall taking one of our children to visit my grandparents when my grandfather was nearly deaf. All the adults were using raised voices when speaking with him and my young son whispered to me, “I feel really sorry for Great-Grandpa – everyone is always yelling at him.”

SACRIFICE

The more two people learn to defer to one another in a loving way, the better they will be at living sacrificially. Releasing my own wants or plans for the benefit of my spouse, our children, or grandchildren demonstrates the same kind of sacrificial love that our Savior Jesus Christ has for us. There may be times when I need to alter my schedule in order to serve the needs of my husband and, likewise, when he may do the same for me. 

TEAMWORK

Marriage is about teamwork. Work together as you face challenges or conflicts. Find common interests and spend time together to accomplish mutual goals. At the same time, allow time for separate activities and support each other’s interests. For example, my husband enjoys certain crafts which I do not; I helped him set up the space where he can keep his supplies and work on this hobby. We serve together in some areas of ministry at our church and, at the same time, have other areas of service that we do individually. It’s important to remember that, in marriage, we are partners, not competitors.

ROMANCE

Regardless of our age or length of time married, romance is still important. Physical contact is a way to literally “stay in touch” and may include a quick kiss, a hug, holding hands, or a pat on the back. Although health concerns that come with aging may change the ways we interact, physical touch is still necessary. We always have a hug and quick kiss as a morning greeting (we often arise at different times) and don’t change this habit if grandchildren are visiting. Especially for the grandchildren who have divorced parents, this is a healthy way for them to see affection. Of course, romance may also include small gestures of affection such as cards, notes, flowers, or inexpensive gifts.

LAUGHTER

Laughter is one of the ingredients of a healthy marriage. Have fun together. This may require intentionality, time, and planning. Or it may be the spontaneous product of that positive mental attitude described earlier. Proverbs 5:18 (NASB) instructs “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (I believe this also implies “the husband of your youth”.) Include your other family members in the fun. Ask yourself, “Am I enjoyable to be with? Do I refresh or drain people?” Make it your aim to not allow years, trials, or difficult circumstances rob your marriage of joy. This joy comes first from a close relationship with Jesus and spreads out from there as you share it with others.

MUTUAL COMMITMENT

Hold onto the mutual commitment made when you first said, “I do.” Let your children and grandchildren see a living example of faithfulness to one another in your words and actions. Since we made those marital vows in 1971, we’ve experienced times that included “better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health.” We took those vows seriously as more than just romantic words. With a regular watering of God’s Word in our lives, we will see the weeds of disappointment, comparison, self-centeredness, fear, ingratitude, and resentment decline. Love is an action and more than just a fairy-tale feeling. Watching this kind of commitment will make a profound impact on our adult children and their children.

Our goal is not just to stay married but to grow as a couple and as individuals as we seek to know God, bringing glory and honor to His name. We know our marriage can have a powerful influence on our children and grandchildren. Psalm 34:3 (NASB) expresses the desire of our hearts to our family and friends: “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.”

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Bev Phillips

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