Next month Emily and I will be celebrating 15 years of marriage. An amazing accomplishment for a guy like me. Considering how different we are from one another, it’s even more astounding…
She’s a “do it right now,” kind of personality.
I’m a procrastinator.
Her family owned a business.
I grew up in a lower middle class home.
She likes to dress up and go out.
I’d rather stay home and eat Mac n’ Cheese.
She has three different college degrees.
I’m a community college drop out.
She’s OCD and freaks out when everything isn’t clean and organized.
I haven’t taken my car through a carwash since 2018.
She likes to go on vacations.
I’d rather be at work…or at home eating Mac n’ Cheese.
They say that opposite personalities attract and I see how that is true. In fact most of our struggles come not from our differences, but from our similar personality traits.
We both like to be in charge.
We both believe that our way is the best way.
We both don’t like to admit when we are wrong.
In every way I can say that the challenges of marriage have led to more personal growth in my life than any other personal endeavor. In marriage you have two choices: Be who you are and refuse to change OR commit to personal growth and evolution for the betterment of the relationship.
This process isn’t easy, but it is a gift. That’s why I believe that in spite of the cultural norms of the day, marriage still works.
WHY DOES MARRIAGE WORK?
1. Marriage is Blessed by God
The marriage relationship was instituted and established by God with the creation of the first couple Adam and Eve. Jesus himself affirmed the marriage relationship as God mandated in Matthew 19.
Matthew 19:4-6 (The Message)
4-6 He (Jesus) answered, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh—no longer two bodies but one. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.”
There is no other relationship that is more sacred than when two people have been bonded together in holy matrimony. Some today dismiss marriage as being archaic and just a piece of paper. But in so doing they miss the significance of the open invitation by the Creator of marriage to come and bless the union. When God is allowed to work in us and through us, things always seem to work out.
2. Marriage is the Christian Example of God’s Relationship With His Church
In Ephesians 5 the apostle Paul gives instructions on biblical roles within marriage. He specially gives spiritual guidelines for both husbands and wives, as well as their role in the raising of children.
But he also gives this beautiful imagery of the marriage relationship compared to God’s relationship with His church.
Ephesians 5:22-32 (NASB)
22 Wives, be subject (or “lifter” in the Greek) to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
As married Christians, we have the ability to model to those around us how much God loves the world in the way that we love our spouse. Your marriage relationship could be one of the tools used to bring a sinner to Christ. What an awesome testimony for us to live!
3. Marriage Creates the Environment For a Family to Thrive
Not everyone is made for marriage. Jesus, who was a single man, also talks about this in Matthew 19 and Paul does as well in 1 Corinthians 7.
But for those who have the desire to grow and nurture a family, a healthy marriage creates the space for relationships to flourish. Most children pattern their behaviors from their parents. Ever notice how children easily pick up on the things that you say and how they mimic your goofy habits? The same is true in how we love, praise, adore, and encourage our spouses. Our children learn to do the same thing.
Take note however that our children often imitate the times in which we are hateful, unforgiving, harsh, and aloof with our spouse. The caution presented in this motivates us as responsible parents to strive for unity with our spouse.
For years in America, we’ve heard that statistics prove that marriage doesn’t work and that it hurts more than it helps. It’s easy to assume that when faced with the numbers.
The divorce rate has actually declined in America over the last decade, but this information is misleading. The truth is that fewer and fewer couples are getting married which is why the numbers of couples choosing to co-habitate is climbing significantly. Most of these couples living together without being married are millennials, the younger generation that has heard about the “dangers” of marriage and the negative impact of divorce. The statistics only prove their reason for hesitation…
Every 13 seconds there is a divorce in America.
The average marriage lasts less than 8 years.
As a nation, America has the 4th highest divorce rate in the world (Russia #1, Belarus #2, Gibraltar #3).
The average age of a couple going through their first divorce is 30 years old.
Wives are the ones who most often file for divorce at 66% on average, but that figure has soared to nearly 75% in recent years.
According to the University of Bowling Green, the divorce rate among people 50 and older has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
Jesus’ specific teaching on divorce is found and studied in Matthew 19.
Please understand that this piece was not written to criminalize anyone who has already been divorced. Some of the dearest people who have had the greatest impacts on my family, come from divorced homes. I have close friends who had a marriage that ended in divorce but have since remarried into a God honoring relationship. I have friends who separated from their spouse for an extended period of time…some of those relationships were able to be mended and others were not.
But in all of these cases, I’ve seen the ability of God as he lovingly and mercifully picks up the pieces of broken hearts. Not one person is immune to the beauty of His restoration. Not one can escape His desire to rebuild what has been broken.
GO TO WORK
Emily and I have had the great honor of sitting in the company of several newly engaged couples in pre-marital counseling sessions. We enjoy telling old “war stories” of mistakes that we have made in our marriage (and there are many) and how we learned from them. As before mentioned, the process in us continues.
In the first counseling session I always make this point clear…marriage is WORK.
The old saying goes that “if work was fun they wouldn’t call it ‘work’ they’d call it ‘play.’”
Honestly, this is true. Even someone that enjoys going to their job everyday can at times find the work to be mundane, boring, or even annoying. Sometimes marriages can be that way.
What used to be an exciting and thrilling relationship often becomes stale and exhausting as life goes by and pressures and stresses mount. But marriage is not about feelings. It’s about commitment. Feelings and emotions are fleeting. You can beam with pride over the accomplishments of your child in one moment and then be raging with anger at them only seconds later after they’ve spilled juice on the new carpet. (That’s never happened in our house:)
We can’t let our emotions determine our commitments.
If you’re going to have a successful tenure at your place of employment, you have to be committed everyday. Whether you want to or not, you’ve got to get up and go to work. Even when your co-workers annoy you, it is imperative to press in harder to find ways to be productive with them so that the work can be accomplished. Marriage is like that sometimes.
You have to be willing to put the effort into your marriage. Take the time to consider the things that bring joy and pleasure to your spouse and do those things frequently. But also, take the time to consider the things that bring division and strife between you and your spouse…and don’t do those things.
Some married couples feel defeated because they feel like they argue all of the time. But I actually believe that if done in a respectful and non-threatening way, arguing with your spouse is actually a GOOD thing. When you are arguing with one another, you are voicing your insecurities, your emotions, and your concerns. Again, this needs to be done in a respectful way without name-calling and physical threats. Verbal and physical abuse has no place in a healthy argument or within a marriage.
Some are surprised when I tell them this, but the truth is that when you are in an argument with your spouse, you are letting out what you feel inside. It’s up to each of you to determine the different aspects of the expression that need to be adjusted. This is work.
The marriages that are the most in danger aren’t the ones that argue all of the time, it’s actually the ones where communication has stopped altogether. Refusing to communicate with your spouse is comparative to telling your boss “I quit!”
Don’t stop talking. For a marriage to remain healthy, there needs to be opportunities for honest and sincere discussion. No matter the issue, take time to work it out.
Because marriage is work, you’ve got to do the best that you can with it and always be thinking of ways to be better.
Here are some ways that husbands can work to keep the marriage healthy…
-Be helpful around the house and with the kids. Ask your wife if there is anything that you can do to help her this week. She might just need a night out with friends or an afternoon at home alone.
-Ask your wife about her day and take the time to LISTEN without offering advice unless it is asked for. You don’t have to try to fix everything. Only offer input if she asks for it.
-Compliment your wife and tell her how much you appreciate all that she does for you. Words can tear us down, but they also have the great ability to build us up.
-Be romantic by planning a surprise date, sending flowers to her, or leave her a love note in her dresser or on the bathroom mirror. You used to do these things all the time when you first met. Don’t stop dating one another.
-Kiss her for the sake of kissing her without any other motives.
-Be the spiritual leader for your family. This is a biblical mandate (Ephesians 5:21-25). Take your family to church. Lead them in prayer. Teach them what it means to worship God. Be the model of holiness for them.
Wives here are some tips for you too…
-Greet your husband with a smile and a kiss when he comes home. A man desires to be appreciated and recognized for his labor.
-Go the extra mile to fix your hair and put on your favorite dress when the two of you go out. Men are visual beings.
-Give him the space that he needs. Men tend to enjoy isolation more than women so be sure that he gets that TV, video game, house project, or golf time. He needs it.
-Make a personal investment in the things that he likes. Wear his favorite sports team shirt, suggest a movie that you know he will enjoy, or surprise him by bringing home his favorite candy or snack.
To some this list will seem difficult and to some it may seem like a piece of cake. But in either case, understand these are all just parts of a project called “marriage” and to make it work you have to work at it.