How can we learn to still feel like newlyweds after years of marriage?

After ten years of highs and lows, Tiffany and Tim Thompson feel like newlyweds. Here's why.
How can we learn to still feel like newlyweds after years of marriage?

When Tim and Tiffany Thompson honeymooned ten years ago in Mexico, they had the time of their lives. Each day as they made plans, Tiffany would ask, "Should we do this? It's kind of crazy!" or "It's expensive!" But Tim kept telling her, "Hey—you only have a honeymoon once." On the final day of their trip, Tim said, "This has been the best week of my life. We should do this every year!"

Good idea, Tim. The Thompsons have kept their commitment to take a week off together—not every year, but an impressive "once every 18 months." They've been back to their honeymoon hotel so often the owners consider them regulars. "They'll even ask us to pitch in," says Tiffany, "and have Tim set out the umbrellas."

"When you're starting your life together, the feelings are just awesome," Tim explains. "Then, when you get back home, you rarely get the chance to be alone together. Our trips are our chance to pretend we're newlyweds again."

"Our friends think we're crazy," Tiffany says. "But maybe they're using their savings for a nicer car or a bigger house. We go on vacations. We need it to keep that 'newlywed-ness.'"

Newlywed-ness? Ten years later? Yep. Because regular honeymoons aren't the only thing the Thompsons do right.

Making the Promise

Every madly-in-love couple who step up to the altar intend to stay married, but the Thompsons were more determined than most. Tiffany's parents divorced when she was 15, and that break-up shook her ideas about trust and lifelong fidelity. Even when she and Tim had been dating for three years, Tiffany struggled with her dreams for the future. "I didn't know couples who were still in love or still pursuing each other," she says. "Most couples I knew were sticking it out for the kids or were co-existing like roommates."

But Tim's character drew her in. He loved God, he was "consistent and loyal," and the biggest appeal, according to Tiffany, "was that he's trustworthy."

On the night before their wedding, Tim got yanked out of his bachelor party to comfort a panic-stricken Tiffany. He found her sobbing, "I'm so sorry! I can't marry you. I'm just way too scared."

"He never batted an eye," says Tiffany. "He just said, 'Tiffany, do you believe God wants us to be together?' And when I said yes, he told me, 'I'll see you tomorrow at church.'"

By the next morning, Tiffany was fine. "Tim was the one who cried through the whole wedding," she says, laughing. "I was just really happy that I had the courage to get married."

"Me too," says Tim.

Above-Average Commitment

"One of the things I liked most about Tiffany was her determination to have a 'better-than-average' marriage," says Tim. "Our commitment to our marriage is one of our greatest achievements—that, and our kids!"

The Thompsons agree that their kids tie them together like nothing else, but having children also proved a challenge to staying close. "There was one time when we hadn't slept through the night in at least two years because the babies were so close together," Tiffany recalls. "I was pregnant, and Tim came home from work and I was still in my pajamas and crying! He handed me two tickets to Mexico. I couldn't believe it. I said, "How did you pay for this? 'We can't afford this!' Tim grabbed me by the shoulders and said, 'We can't afford not to!'"

Keeping their promise to be better than average has been hard work, Tim says. "The hardest part is just remembering to appreciate each other. I get caught between work and the feeling that I've got to be Superdad to four kids. Then I've got to be Superhusband, too? It's easy for us to end up taking care of the kids and all the other things, and just take our relationship for granted."

"I get so busy with church activities or another person to mentor that I don't always see what's going on under my own nose," Tiffany adds. "There was a time when I was so busy worrying about a pregnancy and my kids and my father, who was going through another divorce, that I didn't even realize Tim was struggling, too."

The Thompsons sat down with the pastor who did their premarital counseling, and he asked Tim, "Do you feel like Tiffany's really there for you?" Tim began to cry, which really got Tiffany's attention. Afterward, she and Tim made some changes—something they've had to do again and again.

Tiffany explains: "Tim will pull out the calendar and say, 'Just because Tuesday night doesn't have something written on it doesn't mean you can plan something. Cross it off and be home that night. Schedule it in!'"

Even couples who work at it find it difficult to stay connected, and the Thompsons hit their own dry spell late in 1996.

"I never thought I could get to a point where Tim wasn't the most important thing to me," says Tiffany, "but it seemed like the feelings just disappeared. It's not that anything horrible happened. We just got colder toward each other, and more critical, until we weren't too excited to be together anymore.

"But someone once told us that couples who stay married are not the couples who are always happy, but the ones who stay committed when they're not happy," she continues. "We were able to hang on and say, 'Okay, we're not head-over-heels in love, but we're still committed.'"

"Probably the thing that helped us most is that one night we unloaded all our unhappiness with each other at our small group," Tim says. That would be the Thompsons and three other couples who have agreed to stick by one another through thick and thin—the kind of support and accountability that marriage specialists recommend.

"The group met at our house, so we selfishly decided to spend the whole night talking about ourselves," Tiffany says. "We needed their support, their prayers, and we needed to talk about what was going on."

Tim says, "After everybody left, we pulled out our wedding video and sat on the couch in front of the TV, listening to our vows to each other other—"

"And looking at those smiling, young faces!" Tiffany interrupts.

"It brought us to our knees to remember where we started," Tim goes on. "We realized, 'That's what we want. What are we focusing on now?' We were spending too much time looking at the negatives and not enough time looking at the positives."

"We've both felt convicted about being too critical," Tiffany explains. "It seems so Christian to hold one another up to the standard of Jesus, but it's self-righteous to critically pick at each other's weaknesses or failings. Instead of being disappointed that Tim isn't the perfect husband, I should be realizing all the times when he's pretty darn close to it! But that's me: I'll notice the one time he forgot to take out the garbage instead of the hundred times he did."

It was a difficult time, but the Thompsons worked at remembering the positive. For a Valentine's Day surprise, Tiffany came up with 100 reasons why she still loved Tim. "I needed to do it as much for myself as for Tim," she says. "At first it was hard to come up with ten. Then I just flew on to 30. I got stuck at 50, but then I started listing some of the great memories we share. I made it to 100 reasons why he's such a blessing to me." So what's in store for the next ten years?

"Ten years from now, I hope we'll be beyond the issues we struggle with today," Tim says. "I'm trusting God that we'll mature."

"I'd like to find that we're deeper in love and that we've been faithful," says Tiffany, thinking of the unfaithfulness that broke up her childhood home. "I want to be a wife that my husband wants to be faithful to—and I want to be faithful to him."

Reprinted from our sister publication, Marriage Partnership, © 1998 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit

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