July 31st will mark Emily and I's seven-year anniversary. It's hard to believe how quickly the years have gone by. We have shared moments of triumph, joy, and bliss and we have also shared moments of stress, frustration, and fear. We have been on the highest mountain with one another and fallen into the deepest pit. Through it all we've been together, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.
Em and I are no marriage experts...that's for sure. We've got a long way to go in the realm of selflessness and compromise. But I have learned, and I tell young engaged couples all the time, that if you are going to have a successful marriage, you must go into it with the understanding that MARRIAGE IS WORK! I think that couples must embrace the fact that marriage is something that must be nurtured and protected and these things require daily attention.
Marriage is like a garden. You must carefully consider what the seed needs in order for it to grow to its fullest potential. But if you abandon your garden and fail to give it the means to grow, then it will surely die. Nurture by thinking as your mate does and trying to understand why they have the needs that they do. If your wife is a talker, then let her tell you about her day when you come home from work. Ignoring her and acting as if you don't care is not nurturing. If your husband desires recognition then be sure to let him know that you recognize what he does for your life and how he improves it. Don't ignore him. To ignore the needs of your spouse is to contaminate the garden You must WORK to nurture your marriage. Another way to do this is to realize that marriage is not a 50/50 relationship. It is a 100% GIVE relationship. This totally contradicts today's "all about me" society. We have become such a selfish culture. Everything that we do is set to benefit me, myself, and I. But a marriage cannot be this way. We must have the mindset that "I will do whatever it takes to build up my spouse rather than to bring them down." It's so easy for us to air out the "dirty laundry" and spit off all the weaknesses of your mate...but what good does that ever do?.
Marriage, like a garden, must also must be protected. Sneaky foxes and birds wait patiently for the right moment to sneak in and steal from your garden. We live in a sensual society where the words "divorce" "swinger" and "affair" mean nothing to us anymore. We have become numb to them because our society, as a whole, has embraced lifestyles that are poisonous to a healthy marriage. Women sit and talk with other married women about how their husbands are emotionally detached and they feed on one another's negativity. Men refer to their wives as "the old ball and chain" and publicly disrespect their wives. The gravity of these situations weighs us down until ultimately we find ourselves looking for someone or something to fill the void in our hearts.(Enter the sweet-talking and sensitive co-worker or flame from the past.) You know where I'm going with this. Before you know it, you find yourself GIVING to another relationship. It's a vicious cycle that happens time and time again. We only have so much of ourselves to give. If we are giving it to someone or something else then we cannot adequately GIVE to our spouse what our marriage needs to survive. All of this can be avoided if we are willing to defend our marriage. Stay away from friends who joyfully take part in bashing their own spouse and who are quick to dissect your marriage. Stay away from smooth-talkers and especially those of the opposite sex who seem to be so interested in your personal feelings. Billy Graham and his team have been successful with never having any type of scandal that destroyed their ministry as it has to so many other successful evangelists. One of the reasons is because Billy Graham and his team made a pact with one another that they would never be left alone in the same room as someone of the opposite sex. That's defending a marriage!
I hear so many people who have struggling marriages use the phrase "well I'm just not happy." When did we start basing a successful marriage on an emotion? What if someone told you that their marriage was successful because "no one makes me as melancholy like they do."? Sounds kind of stupid doesn't it? Happiness is an emotion. Sadness is an emotion. But emotions come and go. How can we define our marriage, or the state of our marriage by something as changing as an emotion? One of my favorite songs is "The Weight" by Thrice. The chorus says "Come what may, I won't abandon or leave you behind. Because love is a loyalty sworn not a burning for a moment." Marriage is a covenant relationship with one another and with God. It's not a cool thing when you break a promise to someone, especially God!
Finally, I don't have all of this marriage stuff figured out. Quite frankly, neither does Dr. Phil! But I believe that God's Word clearly shows us that marriage is a covenant relationship. God created Eve for Adam so that together, they could enhance each other's lives. Notice that God didn't make Eve and a whole bunch of other women for Adam to choose from once all the others got boring or annoying. Covenant relationship is sacred and we must treat it that way. So when choosing a spouse ask yourself, "Could I dig a garden with this person?" If not, move on. If so, then start digging...there's a whole lot of WORK to be done!