“Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Kindness is the cause. Til’ death do us part is the length.” -Fawn Weaver
If my dad was still here, my parents would be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary on August 4th. Even though Dad is with the Lord now, we still celebrate my parents’ marriage because it’s still a relationship worth celebrating. Few people had a union like my parents. Not only were they each other’s best friend, but they truly respected and acquiesced to one another. My dad sought out my mom’s opinions and never dictated to her, and my mom couldn’t wait to drop everything to help him. My dad made dinner for Mom every Mother’s Day (with or without my help) and joyfully hung laundry and vacuumed before guests arrived. My mom took care of my parent’s paperwork/bills and they made a great partnership with their business, sharing duties and working out of each other’s strengths. Dad brought Mom flowers and Mom would regularly rub Dad’s feet. Never once did I hear them yell or fight; any disagreement was handled with kindness and restraint. Ideal, you may say. And yet, circumstances (vocation, finances, depression, etc.) often demanded more than they had to give. Even through the dry spells, I knew my parents would make it to the other side. I knew divorce was not even in their vocabulary (emotionally or practically). They were delightful devoted for the long race.
Statistically, America’s rates of divorce settle between 40-50%, but what is even more staggering to me is the duration of the average marriage: 8 years. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but few are pushing through to even reach the first major milestone of 10 years. Culturally, people believe that living together will solve the problem of flunked marriages. After all, if “I just test drive my partner” I’ll know if they are “compatible” to live with me or not. But the facts don’t lie: living together prior to saying “I do” can increase your risk of divorce by 40%. For if you start off by communicating, “you aren’t valuable to me and I’m not committed to you enough to take a vow,” why would it end with a different attitude?
If boiled down to the purest extract, the health of our relationships rests in honor. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Is it about me? Who is more important in this marriage? How do I serve when I’m not getting what I want/need/desire? What is love and who measures it? Do I give respect only when I deem that person worthy of it?
How you answer these questions says a lot about the success of your relationships (both in nuptial bliss and with friends and family).
A great marriage doesn’t come from pairing two perfect people, but from mutual edification, respect, and forgiveness. It’s giving the other person grace to fail and encouragement to keep moving forward; we don’t give up even when our emotions say to do so.
Ephesians 4:2-3: “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Colossians 3:14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Ephesians 5:25: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”
Want a healthier marriage, friendship, or familial bond?
Ask yourself how you are doing (not the other person) on these points?
Do you submit to their needs/wishes? Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” You don’t do it for them as the final act, or for yourself (to get something back), but out of your love and reverence for the Lord. His glory motivates–or should–our actions. So regardless of how well they reciprocate, we can continue to love, because it’s all a gift to God.
Do you love them with your love language or theirs? 1 Corinthians 16:14: “Do everything in love.” I’m super guilty of this one. Quality time and acts of service are biggies for me, but my husband loves physical touch (something that hasn’t been overly important to me since I’ve had 3 children. You can guess as to the why. Even so, I know that rubbing my hub’s shoulders or scratching his back or just giving him random kisses means more to him than they do to me. He doesn’t necessarily care if all his laundry is done, if the meal is waiting for him when he gets home, or if I’ve mopped the floors and cleaned the toilets. Love them in the way that means the most to them.
Do you prioritize reconciliation over rights? 1 Peter 3:7:“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” Do I seek to get in the last word, prove my point, belittle their lack of rational processing, or do I humbly acknowledge my own weaknesses and need for grace? Am I quick to lay down my pride and say, “I’m sorry” without making excuses for my rude or malicious words?
A great marriage begins by becoming a greater follower of Jesus Christ. Beth Steffaniak