Jesus said, “… a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (Matthew 19:5). Unfortunately, statistics across North America tell us that there are a significant number of occurrences where it could be said that “one is divided into two”.
I have had considerable experience with pre-marriage counseling, marriage counseling and post-marriage counseling. I have enjoyed the first immensely, the second can be somewhat dubious and the third is usually quite sad.
Some years ago now, I observed a married couple across from my desk. As I endeavored to extract information from them they answered me politely. However, their demeanor toward one another was anything but amicable. Their body language was negative and when they addressed each other it was in snap and snipe style. I remember thinking to myself cheerlessly, “Different faces, different places but the same old stuff!”
First, let’s get it straight. Marriages don’t fail…people do! And there are many reasons that people fail in their marriages. However, I have concluded that there are four primary enemies to marriage – selfishness, childishness, cowardice and covetousness. All of these tend to be self-focused, not others focused and sane and reasonable married couples know very well that enjoyable marital functionality is based upon giving, not getting (the getting is procured through the giving).
In addition, all four of the aforementioned are internal forces, not external ones. In other words, marriages may occasionally face adversarial pressure from the outside, but even when this is the case, marriages will typically be pulled down from the inside out, not from the outside in. In fact, it has been my observation that outside challenges will often strengthen a marriage if the challenges are dealt with properly by the couple.
Ephesians 5:21 is a verse that I request all pre-marriage couples to memorize. It is relationally pivotal and powerful. It says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And incidentally, if practiced, it will erode and ultimately eradicate selfishness, childishness, cowardice and covetousness.
I asked a fellow recently if he was enjoying the car that he had purchased. He replied, “Yes, when it works!” I suppose marriage is a little bit like that…we like it when it works. But let me change the wording a little bit. We will enjoy marriage, not when it works, but when we work at it!
I have said for years that marriage has many enemies but no creative alternatives. Greek poet Homer said, “There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”