“The trouble with some women is that they get all excited about nothing – and then marry him.” Cher
“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.” Albert Einstein
I’ve been fairly embroiled in the battle to strengthen and sometimes salvage marriages for the last 35 years or so. Sadly I’ve seen a few come to an end. But many have grown and strengthened – some have thrived.
In a culture that is increasingly hostile to marriages between a man and a woman, it is pretty amazing that any marriage could thrive. Comments like this one from Andy Rooney show the widespread cynicism among some of our 50 and older generation after all of their failures and disappointments. And their cynicism is not lost on the younger generations. Here’s Mr. Rooney’s assessment:
“Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize. For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”, here’s an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!”
So what’s the secret for those thriving marriages out there? Well for those I have had the privilege of observing to the point where I know they are truly thriving, and not just when they are in public – – I believe it is none other than what some call “the God Factor”.
Think with me a minute about the major problems marriages in our nation face.
– Passivity of husbands. Men were wired by God to be leaders in their home – always prayerfully assessing the state of things and how to improve them. But increasingly we are finding men to be passive and unable to lead – gladly deferring to their wives to shoulder more and more responsibility for the finances, hands on raising of children, etc.
– Resentment and bitterness of wives. As they lay their lives down for their families from early morning until late at night – day in and day out – and as they watch their husbands seemingly live to watch T.V., or play golf, or surf the web… resentment and bitterness sets in, and respect for their husbands goes out the window.
– Lack of self control. Addictions are destroying marriages at an alarming rate – whether it be addiction to pornography and lust, alcohol, drugs, food, work, or whatever. Enjoying a nice movie and perhaps a glass of wine here and there is one thing. But in many marriages there is an unquenchable thirst for these things on a daily basis – – and eventually destruction lies in its wake.
– Control/dominance of wives. For a variety of external reasons, and because women in the flesh or because of sin are often tempted in this regard – – wives sometimes tend to take command or control of their homes, finances, parenting, etc. This control/dominance typically results in bitterness and passivity in husbands and stress and anger for wives.
– Affairs. Whether merely emotional/verbal or sexual, it is not at all uncommon to find a husband or wife – often because of the issues mentioned above – deciding to look for greener pastures elsewhere. Much of the inhibition towards having an affair built into our society and culture of yesteryear is now gone. T.V. shows and movies make it look exciting. In reality few things in life are more damaging to marriages and children of these marriages than this.
– Financial stress and strain. Because most Americans worship the idol of financial prosperity and security, and because of the financial meltdown of the last five years or so, more and more couples are buckling under the relentless pressure to get ahead – or at least out from under the burden of debt that so many have acquired.
– Sexual dysfunction. We are told through media primarily, though also in the locker room or break room, that sex is merely a passionate physical act. Few come into marriage with understanding of how the physical is entertwined with the emotional, and mental and spiritual aspects of our lives and relationships. Few come into marriage prepared for the challenges that menopause brings. Few come into marriage with adequate understanding of the huge differences in the way a man and a woman are wired and the many things in life that can impact our emotions and passions regarding sex.
So how can God make any difference in such daunting challenges and problems?
Well let’s start with passivity of husbands. When a husband comes into a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ and begins to follow/obey Him daily through (among other things) daily meditation in the scriptures – – He will discover commands like: “love your wife as Christ loves the church” or “live with your wives in an understanding way, lest your prayers be hindered”, and he will thus discover that the way a man relates to his wife significantly impacts the way God relates to him. When a man takes a good long look at God’s original plan for marriage in Genesis chapters 1-3 and realizes how God gave Adam the responsibility to lead and protect his wife and what resulted when he abdicated that responsibility – he will find internal motivation to get off his butt and act for the sake of his marriage, and his relationship with God.
What about resentment and bitterness of wives? When a wife begins to truly walk with God, she will discover how powerful He is and how bent He is on changing her husband – if she cooperates with God and does things His way. When a woman learns through daily continual prayer to leave the changing of her husband to God, huge pressure eases off her shoulders, and she begins to see her husband through God’s eyes. When a wife learns to lay her life down to please God and God alone, she will begin to experience His pleasure and affirmation, and the need for her husband or children’s affirmation and gratitude will not be as great.
Lack of self control? When a husband and a wife begin to depend upon the Holy Spirit on a daily, moment by moment basis for the power to focus and concentrate and stay on task; and when they learn to find their identity and worth in who they are in Christ; and when they learn to walk by faith in who God is and what He has promised – – the drive to medicate and soothe and satisfy oneself with drugs, or alcohol, or sexual fantasy, or food or whatever begins to diminish. Self control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit according to Galatians 5:22,23. That means as we learn to rightly relate to and depend on Him – – self control is one of the results (along with love, joy, peace, patience, etc.). Wives do not need to fear their husband being alone in an office with his laptop or on a business trip alone in a motel room when they know He highly values and seeks the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his life.
Well this post needs to come to an end. But I hope and pray your pursuit of God will never end. He is the missing ingredient in most troubled marriages. He invented and designed marriage. He wants to be in the midst of every marriage. May He ever be more in the midst of yours (and mine).
P.S. Being around other husbands and wives who want this kind of God centered and God impacted marriage has been a huge resource and support for Anne and I through the years. Don’t try to do this alone!