Marriage Advice From 40+ Years of Marriage!

Meet my parents, Bill and Terri Burt.

Mom and Dad at their homeRocky dog

On August 3rd, 1974 they got married. If you’re not great at math, I’ll give you the answer. They have been married for 44 years!

They have 4 children: Ryan, Christin, Justin, and myself, Erin. We are all married and my 3 older siblings make up the 9 grandchildren they have, as well as 6 grand-dogs.  They have a Shih Tzu named Rocky (pictured above), lived in the same home since 1984, and have changed the color of every room about 28 times. They have been through a lot and have learned a lot throughout their life.

My dad was a pastor for quite some time and also went through Dallas Seminary to pursue his doctorate in theology. My mom had a few jobs at first but once they had children her primary role was a stay at home mom.

I am here to tell you how they did it, a marriage that is, and how they continue to do it.

Unfortunately, 44 years together seems almost impossible today. But I believe that its possible. If they have made it through 44 years with more to come, I will too!

We sat down and FaceTimed for a couple of hours and talked about the questions. I saw them laugh, get a little emotional, go into depth on different topics, and I even learned a little bit. They both have a solid faith in Jesus Christ and that is one of the main reasons they have been able to make it through all kinds of seasons, whether they were good or bad.

Here are there answers, I sincerely hope you enjoy them and maybe learn a little too!

  1. What is the best thing about marriage?   

They both agreed on the same answer. Having a constant companion and friend. As I heard them talk about this my dad said, “it’s hard to nail it as one ‘best’ thing.” My mom said, “The whole experience is made up of good and bad times, and they (your spouse) will love you no matter what.”  

2. What is the hardest thing about marriage?

Communication. Learning how to act and react in meaningful and respectful ways. This is difficult because you have to be patient to have effective communication. You have to be willing to grow in your communication skills in order to have a healthy relationship. “Learning and understanding how the other person communicated was hard in the beginning, as each of us had our own ways of doing it.”   

My mom stated, “I wanted to talk it out, talk it out, talk it out, till we came to an understanding.” 

My dad stated that he “Only wanted to talk about something once, be done with it, and move on.” 

As my dad was talking he brought up the struggles couples will have with this topic. 

“Couples will have different struggles based on what triggers them and how each of them reacts to something no matter what they are communicating about.”

Both of them pressed on being able to learn how your spouse processes information and then learning how to respond in an appropriate way.

3. What do you remember most about your wedding day?   

Mom: “I remember being scared to death and thinking, ‘should I really do this?’”

She said she was nervous, scared, it was raining, and as she was getting her dress on she said

“I was so hungry I told my dad to go to the McDonalds down the street and get me some french fries!”  He did, and she ate Mcdonalds french fries while getting her wedding dress on.  She didn’t really cry during the ceremony but said my dad did. She laughed and remembered, “If he’s crying I can’t cry because I have to keep it together for the both of us!” 

Dad said he remembers the flowers that were imported from England and how beautiful they were. And how long the reception took as they had to shake hands and talk to everyone that came. 

4. What were some surprises about marriage that you learned after the vows were said?  

As they talked about this it seemed as if day to day habits were things they didn’t think about doing differently. For instance, pushing the toothpaste from the bottom side and not the middle or folding towels a certain way. Because each of them had grown up with different ways of doing things (as we all do), this came as a surprise to them.  

They also learned about some personality traits they didn’t see beforehand. My dad learned that his “my way or the highway” tactic was not going to work all of the time. My mom learned that her stubbornness was not going to work nicely either. They had to learn how to really work with one another and to do things “together” and not in their own ways. 

5. How do you handle arguments? How do you resolve them?  

Dad: “I learned that I couldn’t react. I had to listen first. Otherwise, I will say something I may regret” 

Mom: “You have to keep talking back and forth and learn to say things when they need to be said. You can’t let emotions get so buried below the surface to the point where they erupt. You have to listen and have open conversations.” 

When they were in the early years of marriage my dad was not good at apologizing, and because of my mom wanting to “talk it out” they had to navigate through arguments and realize what the other person needed. My dad needed time to “process information to have time to respond” and my mom had to learn to not beat the dead horse (those are my own words, sorry mom haha!).

They did have some marriage counselors they went to throughout the first few years but as my mom said, “We got a lot of bad advice in the ’70s. Humor helps”  

She says you have to laugh through the situation sometimes. Humor makes it better.

6. How has marriage changed you individually and why?  

Mom: ” I grew up and matured. I was extremely shy and introverted. Marriage helped me to come out of my shell. And I am not as soft-spoken as I used to be.” 

Confrontation used to be an issue but as she has grown it has been a strong suit of hers.

Dad: “I Always thought, before I got married, that I wasn’t a self-centered person. I also didn’t realize I was a perfectionist.”  

He quickly learned that he was a selfish person. He said, “Marriage is not all about me, it’s about you.”

7. What were some hard times that you guys had to go through the last 40+ years?   

As I said earlier, my dad was a pastor until around 1997. They decided to leave that profession and the church they were going to. Through that lifestyle, they had a lot of hard decisions to make and they moved a few times. Nothing was “easy” in the pastorate.

For some of the hardest times, they both agree that “Leaving the church was very difficult.”

Moving away from family was also hard. They had moved from Des Moines, IA to Cedar Rapids, IA. Then a couple of years later they moved to Dallas, TX. And then to their home now, Mason City, IA. Mason City was the smallest town my Mom had ever moved to and as she said, “I was not fond of it at first.”

Mom: “I dealt with everything at home and your dad was so busy and focused on work that I was by myself.” She didn’t know anyone at first and it was hard to get connected with the community.

While moving they tended to be focused on separate things and not focused on each other and their marriage. As they think back my dad said, “It would have been easier to have a married couple that we both looked up to and to take advice from” in terms of difficult and stressful situations.

8. Did having children make it harder? What was the impact on your relationship?   

Mom: “It was hard for me as I was the main caretaker. Each time we moved the kids were in different stages of life. We were focused on different things with kids.” 

Dad: “I was more focused on work. Very busy when I came home to them too”

After having 3 children, being a pastor in a new place my dad stated that “I was wiped out and the end of the day. At the end of a whole year, there were times I couldn’t function.”

They have also often times said that my brother Justin and I have grown up knowing a different family than my oldest siblings. Mostly because of the stage of life my parents were in, where they lived, and going through job changes.

9. What are some of your favorite memories together?  

When my parents moved to Dallas, TX, my dad attended Dallas Theological Seminary, and they said, “we had some fun times together.”

They did a lot of traveling, had a bit more free time in their schedule, a good community around them for support. They were able to spend time with family that lived in New Mexico and make a few more memories.

Mom: “It was just fun to be able to go out and do things with the kids and experience new memories with other families.”

10. What has God shown you through your marriage?   

Mom: “You have to be pretty selfless.”

Dad: “You may think that you know yourself, but self-discovery only happens when the core of who you are is challenged in the context of a marriage relationship. That relationship requires self-assessment at new heights. And, because I can only work on my own shortcomings, the process to a mutual oneness takes longer than most have the patience to accomplish. So, hang on for the ride and maintain your trust in the Lord.”

My dad also quoted the verse James 1:3 “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

Dad: “All marriage is the testing of your faith. It is valuable and joyous”

11. What were some expectations you both had before going into marriage that was not met or unrealized?  

Mom: “I don’t know that I had expectations back then – specific expectations. However, I always thought we’d live near family. That wasn’t met.”

Dad: “Relationships grow better over time. I thought it wouldn’t take as long as it did. Terri said that I had an expectation that she would be outgoing. That didn’t happen and I had to figure out how to move forward.”

12. Last question, what is the best piece of advice you have on getting married? 

Dad: “Because it takes two strong individuals to learn the “marriage dance” – the rhythm of married life- be ready to experience the full gamut of personal emotions and challenges. Learn to rely on Jesus! A third party, neutral, may be necessary to get through the personal emotions and challenges.”

Mom: “You have to be honest with yourself, your spouse, how you feel and your expectations – if you have any. Learn to talk out your differences.”

 

Man! It really does take 2 strong individuals to make a marriage work. My husband and I have definitely changed and grown in ways we didn’t know we would and realized that it isn’t always going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

I hope you all enjoyed this and learned a little something! I would love for you all to share this.

Keep persevering guys!

Thanks for reading,

~Erin

James 1:2-4 NIV “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.