You often hear it said that people have bad marriages, but in fact, this is not true. Marriage is a God instituted covenant between a man and a woman, and it is good. That has never changed."The institution hasn’t failed – people are failing to work out their problems. Couples are simply giving up and walking away, or simply have no idea what they can try next. The good news is that even “soured” relationships can be healed. Things can change. People can change. Marriages can be better than they ever were before.
The Silly Putty-like malleability of the institution [marriage], in fact, is the only reason we still have the thing at all. Very few people... would accept marriage on it's thirteenth-century terms. Marriage survives, in other words, precisely because it evolves. (Though I suppose this would not be a very persuasive argument to those who probably also don't believe in evolution).
In sharp contrast with our culture, the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. That means that love is more fundamentally action than emotion. But in talking this way, there is a danger of falling into the opposite error that characterized many ancient and traditional societies. It is possible to see marriage as merely a social transaction, a way of doing your duty to family, tribe and society. Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family's interest. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual's happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees GOD as the supreme good - not the individual or the family - and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feelings AND duty, passion AND promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.
It is not we as individuals, then, who must bend uncomfortably around the institution of marriage; rather, it is the institution of marriage that has to bend uncomfortably around us.
After God, who is the central core pillar to any Christian marriage, there are four important marital relationship foundations. These are:* Self-Esteem - if you don't love yourself you will find it almost impossible to accept love from others.* Friendship - a strong friendship will sustain your marriage even when feelings of love are harder to find.* Laughter - it will improve your quality of life, your health and your relationships* Romance - feeling close to your partner can be the glue which holds your relationship together through the rough patches, but the absence of romance causes a void that problems will easily fill.
As soon as we confront concrete marriages with other foreign images-such as well-being, happiness, a home for children-marriage appears to be senseless, withered, moribund, and kept alive largely by a great apparatus of psychologists and marriage counselors. Marriage is dead. Long live marriage!
Maybe the difference between first marriage and second marriage is that the second time at least you know you are gambling.
The mature response, however, is not to leave; it's to change -- ourselves.Whenever marital dissatisfaction rears its head in my marriage -- as it does in virtually every marriage -- I simply check my focus. The times that I am happiest and most fulfilled in my marriage are the times when I am intent on drawing meaning and fulfillment from becoming a better husband rather than from demanding a "better" wife.If you're a Christian, the reality is that, biblically speaking, you can't swap your spouse for someone else. But you can change yourself. And that change can bring the fulfillment that you mistakenly believe is found only by changing partners. In one sense, it's comical: Yes, we need a changed partner, but the partner that needs to change is not our spouse, it's us!I don't know why this works. I don't know how you can be unsatisfied maritally, and then offer yourself to God to bring about change in your life and suddenly find yourself more satisfied with the same spouse. I don't why this works, only that it does work. It takes time, and by time I mean maybe years. But if your heart is driven by the desire to draw near to Jesus, you find joy by becoming like Jesus. You'll never find joy by doing something that offends Jesus -- such as instigating a divorce or an affair.
Never before in history had societies thought that such a set of high expectations about marriage was either realistic or desirable. Although many Europeans and Americans found tremendous joy in building their relationships around these values, the adoption of these unprecedented goals for marriage had unanticipated and revolutionary consequences that have since come to threaten the stability of the entire institution.
While it only takes one spouse to be friendly, it takes both spouses to be friends. When both spouses are unfriendly, the marriage is marked by conflict and coldness. When one spouse is friendly and the other is unfriendly, the marriage is marked by selfishness and sadness. But when both spouses each make a deep, heartfelt covenant with God to continually seek to become a better friend, increasing love and laughter mark the marriage.