Fifty years—half of a century—that is a long time. This past week my wife, Anna and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

(I’m not bragging, because Dizzy Dean said, “If you’ve done it, it is not bragging.”) I am delighted to have reached that milestone.

So what are the ingredients of a long marriage? I want to share with you what I have learned, not from research, but from the school of hard knocks.

First and it should not take long for any husband to learn this, “If mama’s not happy, ain’t no body happy.” That axiom needs no explanation.

Second, never use the “D” word. Divorce should not be an option. Never use it as a threat. If it is considered an option, one will think about using it.

Third, make your mate a priority. Children and careers are important, but do not let them over shadow or crowd out your relationship with your spouse. Find time, make time, for each other. Have fun together. Enjoy each other. Keep your promise to be faithful. Be quick to forgive and forget.

Fourth, and this may be the most difficult. Remember there is only one person in your relationship that you can change. (For the slow to learn, that is not your spouse.) As you change for the better, you will see your spouse transformed before your eyes.

Fifth, love each other. Never let the love go out of your marriage. What does that look like?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

To see how you are doing, go back and put your name in place of love and see how well you measure up. Tell your spouse you love them. Show your spouse you love them. Remember love is a verb and verbs show action. Let love be more than something you say, let it be something you do, something you are.

Finally, make sure God is a vital part of your relationship. He will give you strength during the difficult times. He will give you comfort during times of grief. Praying together may be the most intimate thing you do.

He will help you in ways you never imagined. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccl. 4:12 NIV) If you practice the above, you will find the love in your relationship will continually grow deeper and stronger.

Dr. Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) has been a member of the Oklahoma Senate since 2014. Prior to that he served as the senior pastor at First Christian Church, Grove, for many years.