I catch buses quite a bit these days. And I find it interesting to hear some of the conversations going on. Last week 2 young guys at the back were chatting away, and up came the question, “Do you have a girlfriend”. “No”. “Why not?” “Because it’s not worth it. Next thing up comes marriage, and then it’s downhill all the way”.
I did have a chuckle to myself. It was a funny response—but it had a lot in it just the same. Is marriage really downhill all the way? I guess it depends who you marry. I have often said that if you’re not happy before you get married, don’t consider that your partner will make you happy. This is a complex matter, with many issues bubbling away in a relationship between a husband and wife. If you’ve found the right partner, you are blessed indeed. I certainly have, and I am grateful to God for my wife.
Serious marriage problems don’t happen overnight; they creep up on people gradually. And shockingly, research shows that, on average, people live in misery for six years or longer before seeking help. You start to be angry and frustrated with each other, even if you don’t want to admit it. We live in a world today in which marriage is seriously overlooked, downplayed, and even avoided by many. It’s sad that many view marriage as a simple contract for legal purposes and never truly see it as an institution from God.
It seems that most people who leave their marriages never receive help at all; they just leave. And that’s why marriage counselling is so vital. In the olden days, couples were required to attend a certain number of classes before the minister agreed to marry them. I’m not sure if that still applies today. I realise many marriages end in divorce, and I’m no expert in offering advice. I just want to say today that marriage need not be downhill all the way. Marriage can be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of life.
Let’s face it. Marriage and conflict go hand in hand. It’s impossible for two people to live under the same roof without arguing from time to time. That, in and of itself, is not a problem. And although there are many problems in marriage that can never truly be completely resolved, if you find yourselves having the same argument over and over and over with no appreciation of your partner’s point of view and contempt at the end of the fight, you may be headed for trouble.
Your marriage will become very unpleasant and you will begin to focus on the negatives of your relationship. Or you will avoid spending time together. You will begin to feel defeated and hopeless. You might start to wonder if you are in the wrong relationship. This, without question, should be a red flag. But, chances are, your parents did not know how to handle relationship difficulties and conflict well. Very few people do. And if they didn’t know how to handle them well, you probably don’t either. I guess you see this a lot—families handle disagreements badly with harsh words and angry outbursts. It happens everywhere, and especially in the confines of marriage.
It was Mae West who rather famously said, “Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.” Sometimes it appears that most people share Mae’s cynical view of marriage. Divorce is so common that hardly anyone thinks of it as a tragedy anymore—except, perhaps, the ones experiencing it. Somewhere along the line the idea of permanence was thrown aside. ‘Till death do us part’ is still part of most wedding ceremonies, but we wonder if the two people take the words seriously. Everything doesn’t go downhill after marriage unless you and your spouse stop loving each other (love is a verb, remember) and stop choosing to be with and for the other one. Marriage is not a destination—but simply a fork in the path of your whole journey together.
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The Bible has a noble view of marriage. It is to be a lifetime plan, not a convenience that can be disposed of in a solicitor’s office. The love of husband and wife is, at its best, a hint of the deeper love between a human being and God. Proverbs 18:22 says: “A man’s greatest treasure is his wife—she is a gift from the Lord”. What a difference it would make to realise marriage is a gift from God. It was his idea—God said, “It is not good for man to be a lone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
The institution of marriage is ordained of God. It was God who noted our need for one another. Let’s do all we can to build a firm foundation for a happy and contented marriage. It doesn’t mean everything will flow smoothly—but it will be worth it. It certainly won’t be ‘downhill all the way’.