Recently, while writing our new book, Married, and Still Loving It, a brainstorm hit ... or, you might say, sugar plums danced in our heads. We were interviewing long-married couples but thought of Saint Nick. "He's the one with a really long marriage!" What, we wondered, was going on with him and Mrs. Claus? We decided to find out, but North Pole communications can be crackly ... and noisy from all those toy-making elves. But we were lucky —we caught Santa in a jolly mood in his home, beside Mrs. Claus sipping hot chocolate by a cozy fire.
"Ho, ho, ho!" he exclaimed. "It's about time someone asked me about love and marriage."
"Really? What do they usually ask about?"
"Whether being naughty or nice really counts."
"Of course!" he boomed merrily.
We grinned. "So what can you tell us about love and marriage?"
Santa sipped his hot chocolate. "Maybe you won't want to hear our old-fashioned ideas."
"But that's why we're calling. You've been married a long, long time, and we want to know what makes you so merry."
"Ah," he instantly quipped, "Mrs. Claus is even merrier! You should see her right now baking the best pies elves ever ate."
"Send us a sample!"
Santa ignored that. "She wouldn't be merry, though, if I kept looking at your ads on your screens down there, promising love for buying products."
"Hey, those aren't our ads!"
"Good. Don't put the sleigh in front of the reindeer."
"What's that mean?"
"Just this: I'm not only jolly, I'm a saint." He let that slowly sink in, and then he asked with a laugh, "Now how do you suppose those two go together?"
"We'd love to know!"
"Listen closely," he said, "and I'll give you some secrets for a great Christmas. Believe me, Mrs. Claus and I took many years to figure all these out, so listen up: First, learn to listen to each other, and don't argue about your differences — celebrate them!"
We smiled. "That's exactly what the couples we interviewed said."
"Good. They get it. But here's something many don't get: Life is rough — for everybody. Accept it. Stop worrying and embrace your adventures! Be grateful you have each other, and find ways to laugh together. Love God, and love each other like crazy."
"Great advice," we said.
"There's more! Every day, count your blessings and give to others. My wife and I are really into the joy of giving, which is why I'm loading this sleigh!"
Amid the clatter of pies being lifted from the oven Mrs. Claus piped up, "I guarantee those secrets will be your best gifts this Christmas — better than pricey presents!"
We agreed and said, "The couples we interviewed told us great stories of how all that actually works."
"Really?" Santa threw another bag onto his sleigh and winked. "And here's another secret: In marriage, there's always room for improvement!"
We grinned. "So true! Our wives tell us that."
"Gotta go!" Santa announced. "Sleigh's loaded, and all those reindeer are pawing and prancing!"
He kissed his wife, then grabbed the reins. As the reindeer lifted his sleigh into the night, we tried to shake the sugar plums out of our heads. His contagious laughter boomed again, this time with a ringing, hearty, "Merry Christmas to all!"
Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the bestselling The 5 Love Languages® series, which has sold more than 10 million worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages. Harold Myra, longtime CEO of Christianity Today International, has written more than two dozen fiction and nonfiction books, including The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham. Together they've written Married and Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half — a book that offers wise counsel and practical insight on making marriage thrive in the later years.