A few weeks back, my wife and I celebrated our 37th anniversary. I often find it sad when people find this amazing. Then when people discover we were married young, I was 18, she was 19, they are even more astonished.
The surprise on their part is somewhat contradictory to me. Being a minister involves me in a few more weddings than most people, and I’ve never met anyone, who, on their wedding day, expected to get divorced.
With that said, awhile back, I was talking to a 16-year-old girl who told me she, “couldn’t wait to meet her second husband.” When I asked her what she meant, she explained that all the first marriages around her had failed. Her parents, both sets of grandparents, all of her friends’ parents were on their second marriages. She went on to tell me she “knew” her first marriage would only be a trial. This first marriage would last five or six years (until she had a kid or two), end in divorce and a few years after that she would marry the man of her dreams. Honestly, I feel sorry for whoever marries this girl; she has the divorce planned before she decides on the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
Volumes of books are in bookstores and libraries speaking on the complexity of marriage, but from my 37 years of experience, it is less complex than people think. Marriage is hard, it is difficult, but overall, it is not complex.
What causes marriages to fail? Three basic problems — a misunderstanding of love, a lack of commitment and a lack of looking forward.
First Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter. The chapter gives a definition of love. If I were to sum up the definition, I would say, “The opposite of love is selfishness.” No relationship will work if one or both parties are thinking, “what’s in this for me.” Relationships will only last when both parties are looking out for the welfare, wants and desires of the other party.
Another misunderstanding of love is that true love is not a choice. Jesus commands us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27,35). As with every command from God you have a choice to obey or not to obey. God will not command you to do something you have no control over. Loving someone is not something controlled solely by the emotions, it is a conscious choice we make.
With couples, there is some attraction. The attraction may be physical, or similar interests, or a shared a life experience or any number of other things, but something has brought them together. Often this attraction is misconstrued as love, and the couple will enter into marriage. When the attraction wears off the couple believes they have fallen out of love and don’t realize there was never any true love there all along. The opposite of love, which is selfishness, kicks in and the couple, at best, start living separate lives, even though they may be living under the same roof.
The lack of commitment is an offshoot of the absence of love. Some may say you can commit to something without loving it. As an example, many people appear to be committed to their jobs but hate going into work every day. The truth is they are committed to something they love. They love their families, and the family has needs. Therefore, they go into work every day to earn the paycheck that provides the necessities of the family. The commitment is to the family, not the job. Some people are unwilling to suffer situations they don’t like for the sake of their spouse. If this is the case, there is an absence of commitment to the relationship.
Lastly marriages will fail because of a lack of looking forward.
Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” No relationship will go without an argument from time to time, but marriages last when decisions are made before the questions ever come up.
The discipline of children, God, religion, handling of finances, relationships with the in-laws, long-range goals, what is done on a day by day basis now to reach the objectives of the future. These items only break the surface of what a couple should talk about before marriage. And more than just talking about these things, they need to be agreed.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”