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50 Lessons From 50 Years of Marriage: Learning About God’s Blueprints for Marriage

By Barbara Rainey

First posted on

Fifty years ago when I (Dennis) married Barbara Ann Peterson I was a rookie, repeatedly failing to appreciate the dignity of the gifted woman, friend, partner, lover, and confidante God had brought me. Honestly, I barely even knew her.

Looking back, we both realize we had no idea what we were doing. We thought we knew each other so well and were so alike, but we were clueless. But God in His grace and kindness guided us because we were both committed to doing marriage His way. He helped us, orchestrated circumstances, provided generously for us in all our many inadequacies.

Even in the seasons when we felt helpless and hopeless, He was present and working on our hearts. We just didn’t always see His hand. Hindsight is clearer.

Now our 50th anniversary is coming up on September 2. After five decades of married life … after six children and (soon to be) 27 grandchildren … we’ve learned and relearned more than we can count. But we did come up with a list, and over the next four weeks we want to give you a selection. If you enjoy this, be sure to get the book, Our Story, that lists all “50 Lessons from 50 Years of Marriage.”

We hope this might encourage you in your life and marriage to keep on and never stop believing God, no matter what befalls you.

On our honeymoon near Steamboat Springs, CO

Lesson #1: The couple that prays together stays together.

In the first few months of our marriage, I (Dennis) asked a mentor this question: “You’ve been married 25 years. What’s the best piece of advice you can give me just starting my marriage?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he replied. “Pray with your wife every day.”

I said, “That’s it? Pray with your wife?”

“That’s it.”

So I went home and Barbara and I started praying together. It worked really well for a couple of months … until the night we went to bed facing opposite walls. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable position physically, it expressed where we were spiritually and emotionally.

There seemed to be a tap on my shoulder that night and it wasn’t Barbara. God was speaking to me in my conscience saying, “Hey, Rainey! Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?”

I said, “I don’t like her tonight!” God said, “Yes, but you made the commitment to pray every day with your wife.”

I faced a hard decision. Not praying would make me feel better but this was about more than satisfying myself. So I swallowed my pride, turned to Barbara, and said, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?”

We’ve both gone to bed angry or hurt which led to late conversations until we resolved our impasse and then prayed. Sometimes we’ve agreed to table the discussion until the morning so we could pray and get some rest. Over 50 years we have learned we are two strong-willed, stubborn and at times rebellious people who continue to choose to surrender to God together every day in prayer.

This has saved and transformed our relationship. Inviting Him to keep changing our lives, our marriage, and our family has been a cornerstone of our 50 years of marriage.

Lesson #3: God’s pattern for marriage gave us security: leave, cleave, and receive.

Because we were serious about doing our marriage according to God’s patterns, we were intentional, sometimes to a fault in our youthful zeal, about three truths found in Genesis 2:24. That Scripture says: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave (hold fast) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

With these words, God led us to make our relationship a priority over all other relationships except ours with Him.

  • Leave: We shifted our loyalties from our parents to one another. We chose not to depend on Mom or Dad for emotional or financial support, but only on one another.

  • Cleave: This word implies togetherness, keeping our covenantal promises, choosing to “stick like glue.” We learned to prefer one another, to involve each other in every aspect of our lives which resulted in growth in our unity.

  • Receive: “Becoming one flesh” is what happens when we leave and cleave. But becoming one is so much more than physical. This idea, oneness, became a central theme to our marriage. It is what happens when we both receive and yield to God’s will and purposes in our lives over a lifetime. Continuing to welcome your spouse into your life yields a beautiful outcome.

We have carefully guarded these three values God built into His marriage design even as we’ve made mistakes along the way. But as we return to Him and His patterns we’ve found increasing oneness and delight in our relationship.

At our first home in Boulder, CO

Lesson #4: Build your marriage from the same set of biblical blueprints.

What would our physical home look like if we had two different architects, two different sets of blueprints, and two different builders? We’d be living in a very strange and probably unsafe structure.

We learned the same would happen in our marriage if we weren’t building from the same plans. God’s plans. Building our marriage together from the same plans grows oneness. Loyalty to God’s ways over our own designs helps solve disputes over how to do our marriage.

As a result of sharing these biblical blueprints with others at Weekend to Remember marriage events for decades we learned to be more intentional in our own marriage. If you want to build from the same biblical blueprints for marriage, Barbara and I would encourage you to go to Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. It’s the best marriage insurance you could ever buy. We promise. We spent most of our adult lives helping to create it!

I hope these three lessons have been good reminders or new ideas you might want to add to your marriage recipe! It’s a relationship that never surpasses the need to grow and be refreshed. Oh, that’s another lesson …

Till next week …

Love this snippet from the Rainey's new book, Our Story? Get your copy here!


My Heart, Ever His: Prayers for Women (NEW from Barbara Rainey)

As we search for meaning in our world of shallow online relationships and glamorized selfies, many are returning to traditional and liturgical churches. The repeated words, benedictions, and historic hymns connect us to saints who have gone before, giving us a sense of belonging, richness, and transcendence. Written prayers, once cast off as archaic, are now welcomed as guides to tune our hearts to the heart of God.

In My Heart, Ever His Barbara Rainey shares 40 prayers for women. Readers can read and meditate on one prayer throughout the week or read a prayer a day for 40 days as a way to express the longing of our hearts to our Father who loves us even as he sees who we truly are. Like the psalms of David, these prayers are honest, sometimes raw. Barbara uses these transparent expressions of common female experiences to encourage us to surrender to Christ and help us see God as he is, not as we assume him to be. My Heart, Ever His provides a stepping-stone to help you become more transparent with God and discover his welcoming embrace.


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