We’re delighted that Penelope Swithinbank has provided this Guest Blog for us …
July 16, 1977.
It sounds even to my ears a long long way back in history. I was very, very nervous – a shy young teacher, whose school summer term had finished only two days earlier. HE had just graduated from Cambridge. We’d already been engaged for nearly two years, but he had a fourth year of studies to finish and we had decided to wait. I walked down the aisle on my father’s arm, wearing the veil my mother had worn at their wedding, and which her aunt had worn years before that.
We learnt our vows by heart, determined not to say them to the officiating minister, the wonderfully Welsh Vicar, John Gwyn-Thomas, but to each other. As we turned and held hands and looked deeply, we promised. We promised FOREVER – no matter what: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death us do part. A promise that has been stretched to its limits on many occasions. But we promised in front of human witnesses – our families and friends – and in front of God.
What have we learned in 35 years?
That the promise still stands. A promise is a promise is a promise. The best times are those when together we truly seek to serve and follow the Lord and His plans for our lives. He has given us enormous blessings, gifts, privileges and experiences. Not least, a wonderful family of children, children-in-law and grandchildren. But best of all, each other, to love and to cherish, from this day forward. For ever. It’s our promise and our love.
But there are a few other things I have learned as well! Because it has not been plain sailing all the way – like any married couple we have had our share of ups and downs, good times and not-so-good times and some downright bad times. Years ago, we threatened over the phone on one occasion during a time of severe stress that we might just leave each other. And apologised and hugged as soon as we were together again later that day. Stuff happens; we are human; and life can be a severe test of the promises of marriage. What I know now, in no particular order, is this:
- Most things look, feel, ARE better after a hug, an arm rub and something to eat. Together.
- Never ever ever criticise your spouse in public or run them down or belittle them or humiliate them in any way. I once wrote: A wife should be her husband’s biggest fan. (It applies the other way round too) Build them up to others, praise and polish them and their achievements to others. And whatever you are thinking, save it for home to voice aloud. By which stage it will probably be less important anyway. And your moment of praising will affect your own attitude too.
- A spouse can do what no-one else can do: pray for their partner at the deepest level. Because we know one another so well, we know how to pray for them better than anyone else does. And if the snoring wakes you at night take that as a moment to lay hands on them and pray for them. It might just be a God-given opportunity!
- Keep on with dating after the wedding too.All those weeks and months of special date nights don’t suddenly cease after the Vicar pronounces you are “man and wife
together.” Nicky and Sila Lee taught us years and years ago (yes, we went to their wedding!) to put date nights into our diaries before anything else goes into the schedule. Date night is important – whether you are going out or staying in (which for us often depended on children and finances for years!) If you are staying in, don’t just do what you normally do in the evenings. Make it a special time with the best china or the finest wine glasses, candles on the table; take a bubble bath together; have a good pillow fight; arm wrestle; learn to give great massages … (dot dot dot as they say in Mamma Mia)
- Sexy is a state of mind not body. And anticipation is very powerful: talking about it, leaving little notes, kissing often, sending an anticipatory text message, having coded allusions even when in front of the children or other people. It is also a great stress reliever.
Penelope is a widely recognized international speaker for conferences and retreats and the author of “Women By Design”. She and her husband Kim have three children and six small grandchildren. She and her husband have moved from a large busy London parish to their home area near Bath, in the southern Cotswolds where they are opening a retreat house.
Read Penelope’s full article here.