Marriage? What is it Good For?
There is a famous song entitled ‘War’ by Edwin Starr that was popular during the late 60’s that posed the question, “War, what is it good for?”
Today, one might ask the same question about marriage. There are fewer and fewer and people taking the plunge. Even when they do, marriages seldom seem to last.
So why take the plunge?
Genesis 2:24-Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Mark 10:8-9-And the twain shall be one flesh; so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefor God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.
Having been married forty-five years to the same person….I have a few ideas that I’m going to share. I’m no expert. I have no letters beside my name qualifying my experience. But since I’ve been in the ‘ranks’, so to speak, I’m going to offer some advice as we begin to approach the ‘wedding’ months.
The first and foremost element that I believe necessary in a marriage is that the core values of the couple must be the same. Religion, finances, and opinions on raising children, really DO need in-depth exploration before marriage to keep the promise of huge arguments on differing attitudes at bay.
The Bible is most explicit about the problems that occur when Christians marry non-Christians. You can find all kinds of Scriptural warnings…but the simplest one is this: YOU DON’T NEED TO BEGIN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A MAJOR POINT OF PHILOSOPHY TO ARGUE OVER.
Can some marriages work between an unbeliever and believer?
I am sure that there are those that may, but they take a lot of work. Resentment over a huge part of someone’s beliefs causes jealousy, bitterness, and anger.
Sometimes, it is simply easier to avoid a problem when you know it will be a problem..and that, I believe, is what advice God was trying to give us. He isn’t going to rain down His wrath on someone who unites with a non-Christian, He is simply trying to smooth our path. God knows that in uniting two different people into one ‘body’ is going to be fraught with difficulties. He also knows that the Christian will have a SPLIT attitude as to the importance of their allegiance from the very beginning. Go back to the Ten Commandments. He is pretty clear that HE is to come first. After that is the spouse. How long will a non-believer sanction that attitude before there will be trouble? Will that trouble cause the believer to drift away from God?
But maybe you believe you can ‘win’ them to Christ?
Um…that is like walking across ice with smooth-soled shoes. You become dangerously close to being thought a know-it-all or a nag. Not good. Better you should wait and really explore your relationship and pray before ignoring God’s advice.
People who may have become Christians after they are married are in a different position, but it is no less difficult. Believers want to share their Good News and are excited to be so blessed…but they often come on to their partners with such dogmatic purpose, they turn them off. Silence is sometimes golden in a marriage. Better you stand as an example rather than a harpy. Practice what is preached and pray…quietly…a lot. Then wait. God’s timing, not ours…
We covered religion so on to money. Unite a spendthrift together with a miser and you have another recipe for disaster. Money makes the earthly world revolve–but it also makes for some big arguments when it is the end of the month and credit card bills come in. Two people can’t live as cheaply as one. And no birth control is 100%. Unexpected illnesses or surprises can occur. Are you a planner? Or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type? That’s always good for some battles.
It’s the same with children. We all love the little dears…but like cute kittens and puppies they grow into surly teenagers. Those adorable babies keep you sleep-deprived, covered in messes, and worn to the bone even with the help of a partner. And we haven’t touched on whether we believe in discipline and how to undertake it. I have seen people argue over spanking and ‘time out’s with a ferocity that one could pay money to attend!
I’m not even going to touch politics as there is no solution. I think that falls in the same manner of praying quietly and waiting. Agree to disagree or you will constantly find each other going for the throat in discussions. Realize, God has control of the world and no matter WHO is elected, there are ultimately going to serve God’s purpose..and, sometimes, that means going through disasters.
Even if the three core values I mentioned are smoothed before your wedding, I have yet to mention in-laws (or as I feel they should be called: THE OUT-LAWS.) If you think it is tough to blend two people into one unit, just try bringing along two different families. There are cultural differences to contend with that run deep. Where do you eat Thanksgiving? Is there a stop-watch for visiting times so you don’t get accused of spending more time with one family than another. Are you expected to go into debt to attend your third-cousin’s fourth marriage in an outlandish wedding ceremony where everyone flies to the west coast? Guidelines must be established, and established early. Memorize the word ‘NO’ for both sides. Remember YOU are one unit together now and act accordingly. Sometimes, that may mean hurting your family–but your allegiance has changed. Your partner is now first in your family.
A couple can have totally different interests. I like opera. My husband likes ‘Golden Oldies’. He likes Vikings and dragons and hobbits, and toy soldiers. I like music and reading. He’d go to a sporting event. I’d rather attend a play. We are as different as can be but our ‘core’ values make a marriage work.
And don’t be fooled, marriage IS work.
It is a job.
A pleasant one, but a job nevertheless.
So what do you gain?
IF you are blessed, you gain a person who will sacrifice for you. IF you see signs of selfishness in someone you are looking to marry….RUN. There is no 50/50 of give and take all the time in a marriage. Sometimes, it is 90/10, or 30/70. Rarely, is it 50/50.
You gain a helpmate. A person who enjoys being with you. Who will love you through the ‘still in the haze of joy’ in the beginning of your lives together to the ‘aching and paining of aged bodies that can not longer practice the Kama Sutra if they wanted to.
You gain a different viewpoint. Hopefully, you find that the two of you are blessed with different gifts and attitudes that complement each other. Whereas, I am empathetic, my husband has the calmer nature. He is the dreamer type, while I keep things organized. He tends to ‘collect’ stuff and could be a hoarder if I wasn’t around to go through and purge now and then.
Marriage is also a protection. While wee know the advantages for raising children (one can sleep while the other stays up half the night waiting until they get home and are safe!) there are plenty of single parents who do an excellent job. The protection comes from learning how to solve problems and work through life’s good times and bad with someone who doesn’t run for the door at the first sign of trouble.
There are no fairytale marriages. The idea of spending your life with another person has to be so vital that it will carry you on after the first glow of sexual attraction fades until the moths have at it on the wedding dress. Marriage fulfills the instinctive need to find a best friend, a lover, and the person who would put your needs before their’s to support you when you need it. It is the person who will make you laugh when you really need it and simply hold your hand for the fun of it. This person will shed tears with you and for you. To be with them is to be happy. To be without them is to yearn for the moment when they will return.
Be very sure before you marry for when you marry the person you truly love, you have begun the greatest journey heaven can allow here on earth other than your journey with Christ….