Marriage today seems less binding than a cell phone contract. The average first marriage in this country lasts seven years. The average second marriage lasts five. As if the challenges of a first marriage weren’t tough enough, anyone who has been in a blended family will tell you about the myriad of additional trials this scenario presents; two sets of kids, two separate histories, two completely different life philosophies, parenting styles, and sets of baggage. And when two sets of careers and monies are mixed in along with the obligatory pre-nuptial agreements, it’s almost like admitting that the marriage is doomed to fail anyway.
Because of the legacy they’ve observed from their parent’s generation, most young people today are fairly pessimistic about the chances of a marriage lasting a life time. When you talk to them about marriage you can see that they yearn for the kind of intimacy possible only through a long lasting relationship, but they have little hope of having one themselves. Couples may spend hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars on the actual wedding day, but no energy, resources, or forethought whatsoever toward the marriage that follows.
Many people quickly discover that being married and staying in love are just plain hard work—too hard. Combine that intense struggle with our society’s instant gratification mantra, the court’s “no fault” divorce laws, and a cultural legacy of relative truth, and you have a recipe for divorce. Our Western culture does not like to suffer and so we shy away from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. When marriage is tough, many people just think its broken and go look for another mate who won’t be so much work. Unfortunately, the problem is generally with us and so follows us from relationship to relationship.
Ideally, a Christian marriage begins with both parties committed to loving God and each other. But later, after the “buzz” of love begins to fizzle, communication tails off, and spouses can start taking each other for granted; losing empathy, respect, and love for one another. Life is tough and instead of working as a team they begin fighting with each other in an attempt to get their individual needs met. We scream at and accuse our mates and then expect them to want to satisfy our needs. Each spouse soon loses the desire to meet the others’ needs and each loses sight of the fact that love is an action not an emotion. That is why the very action of meeting the other’s needs (acting loving) can lead to feeling the emotion of love. Without that action it is natural to slide into a state of need and self-indulgent gratification.
Marriage can still last a lifetime. My wife and I recently celebrated our 30th anniversary together. We could have gotten very good odds against our marriage succeeding—no one thought we would last. One of the things we’ve found has helped our marriage immensely is every evening we try to sit down and pray together before reading a portion of a book. Generally I read out loud to her while she knits or does some other repetitive task. Other times she reads aloud while I am fixing something that doesn’t require much concentration. This activity has allowed us to grow together and it helps us spend quality time together each day. It also creates great intimacy between us and prompts us to have quality discussions about important topics that we might never have talked about. However, this takes a significant amount of effort and commitment on the part of both spouses. It is very easy to take a day off and then never get back into it again. But I have noticed that when we as a couple are consistently praying and reading together, our relationship and marriage are at peak performance.
Your marriage relationship is a living, dynamic entity. It needs continuous nurturing, refining, changing, and fine tuning. Those that take it for granted and do not work at it are doomed to fail.
Gleaned from Rick’s book, Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half, by Revell Publishing, 2010. To find out more about our resources please go to www.betterdads.net.