What’s the Secret to Happily Ever After?
By Rhonda Stoppe
My dear friend Vi was married for 42 years to Curt, the love of her life. When I asked Vi to tell me about how she and Curt met, she said, “We were in college, on a choir tour. I played the piano and he was going into music ministry, so we were a good fit.” Vi jokingly added, “Although, when you play the piano and you marry a minister, you’re never quite sure if he married you for love or because he needed a pianist!”
Throughout their married life, Vi and Curt served the Lord in full- time ministry. Vi often referred to their marriage as a waltz through life divinely choreographed by the Lord. Their waltz came to an end when…
Curt was diagnosed with cancer at age 68. As his health failed, Vi never left his side. On the last day of his life, Curt looked at his sweetheart and said, “Vi, am I dying?” To which Vi tearfully responded, “Yes, dear—you are dying.”
And then in the joyful spirit Curt so adored, Vi whispered, “Curt, you are going home to see Jesus! What is the first thing you want to say to Him when you see His face?”
Curt closed his eyes and smiled as he considered the moment he would stand in the presence of the Lord. And then he looked into Vi’s gentle eyes and said, “I am going to thank Him for giving me you.”
Every time I tell Vi and Curt’s love story at a women’s event tears fall all over the room. I think partly because we all love a happily-ever-after love story, but also I think it is because we as wives long to be the kind of wife to whom our husband on his deathbed would say, “I’m going to thank God for giving me you.” Rather than, “ Thank God it’s over! Jesus says we won’t be married in heaven so I’ll wave to you if we pass on the streets of gold.”
So how do you build a marriage like Vi and Curt’s? How do you enjoy a love that lasts through the test of time, a love your children will want to emulate? What’s the secret to a happily-ever-after love story your grandkids will one day tell their children about long after you are gone?
I’m glad you asked because we are going to unpack secrets to help you become the wife you long to be—the wife you meant to be on the day you said, “I do.” And along the way, your husband is going to hear some insights from my husband. So let’s get started, shall we?
I love being in love. From the depths of my soul, I have had an adoration for my husband that has only grown deeper over the past 30-plus years we have been married. Is this adoration a result of being married to a perfect man? Of course not—even though as a young bride I was convinced all of my happiness would be realized on the day I said, “I do” because my husband had promised to be my happily-ever-after.
On the day of our wedding, I walked down the aisle clutching my father’s arm because I was trembling. I could hardly believe the day I had dreamt of was finally upon us! I had spent six months planning our wedding, and by the time we were to say our vows all I could think of was that I would soon be Mrs. Steven W. Stoppe. (I remember writing my new name over and over again just to establish how I would sign it—did you do that?)
I was so nervous as all eyes turned toward me, the bride, who was wearing the biggest hat-veil thing anyone had ever seen! And then, when my eyes met Steve’s, nothing else mattered. It took my breath away to see him looking so incredibly handsome in his white tuxedo. (Big hats for veils and white long-tailed tuxedos were in fashion in the 1980s—so don’t judge me!)
As our eyes met, I remember thinking, I cannot believe I am actually marrying this amazing man. I am going to be the best wife he could ever ask for. Did you feel that way when you got married?
Steve and I wrote our own wedding vows—a real challenge for my not-so-romantically inclined guy. But he was a good sport, and he wrote wonderful words promising to love me “as long as God shall give me life”—as Steve so sweetly whispered into my ear that day. As a reminder of our promises to one another, the vows we wrote have hung on a wall in our home ever since that day.
To my delight, for our honeymoon, Steve planned a monthlong trip that included driving to see a number of national parks across the United States. What a thrill it was to have an entire month to enjoy ourselves as husband and wife! (Although I have to admit, the nights that we camped out were a bit challenging when I learned how important it was to be near a restroom after lovemaking—can I get a witness?)
Steve’s “Aha Moment”
I’m sure that any illusions of grandeur Steve may have had about me when we got married were dashed during the second week of our honeymoon, while we were in Yellowstone National Park.
After a couple of weeks of travel and a lot of fast food, I had gotten pretty constipated—I’m just keepin’ it real. You can imagine how uncomfortable I was whenever it was time to be romantic. So Steve decided to help out his poor bound-up wife by giving me a couple of laxatives—something I had never taken before. He assured me if I took the pills before bedtime, I would have a most satisfying bowel movement in the morning, and all would be well.
At Steve’s prompting, I took two pills. The next morning nothing happened. So we decided to just enjoy our day at Yellowstone and try again that night by taking some more laxatives.
When we drove into the park, we went straight to see the geyser called Old Faithful. Both Steve and I were excited to watch the hot water erupt out from the crater in the ground. We were impressed by how high the water shot up into the sky—so much so that Steve decided it would look even more impressive to view the spectacle from a higher vantage point.
So up a nearby mountain, we hiked. Old Faithful spouts at regular intervals throughout the day, and we calculated that we would be able to reach the top of the mountain just in time to see the geyser shoot forth before dark.
Well, I probably don’t even have to tell you what happened next. As we hiked and I was getting exercise, my innards began to make the most horrible gurgling sounds. As a blushing bride, I attempted to keep my husband from hearing the atrocious noise. However, the more we hiked, the clearer it became to me that the little pills, along with my morning coffee, were beginning to do a mighty work in my intestines.
Ashamed, I had to tell Steve what was happening, but I assured him I would be able to make it to the top of the mountain in time to see Old Faithful in action. But a short time later, I began to realize not only would I not be able to make it to the top, but I was also in danger of not making it back down in time and to a bathroom before I experienced my own geyser spouting out!
Poor Steve—I know he was torn over what to do. He really wanted to continue the hike. I am sure he secretly evaluated the possibility of letting me make my way back down to the bathroom by myself but then realized this was one of those “for better or worse” moments in which he had promised to love me just two weeks before.
In the end, we hiked slowly down the mountain. I had to stop several times to compose myself before I could go on. And all the while, Steve was laughing hysterically. I am happy to report I did make it to a restroom in time!
By the time I got out, the sun was setting and the park was about to close. So Steve never did have an opportunity to hike back up that mountain.
Listen to Rhonda share their honeymoon story.
Rhonda Stoppe, the No Regrets Woman, has mentored women for more than two decades. Steve Stoppe has pastored First Baptist Church, Patterson, California, for 19. After 37 years of marriage, they’re still head-over-heels and ready to share their secrets to building a no-regrets marriage. They’ve appeared on Focus on the Family and together write books, speak at marriage conferences and rescue troubled ministry marriages at their ranch in Northern California. They have four happily married children and ten grandchildren. To invite Steve & Rhonda to speak at your next event, and for more resources & videos, follow their social media links and connect with the Stoppe’s at NoRegretsWoman.com.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs including FamilyTalk, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and hosts The No Regrets Hour. She speaks at women’s events, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and homeschool conventions. Sharing the gospel is her sweet spot––she’s an evangelist at heart.