On the road to maturity, some folks get off too soon, especially when it comes to special relationships. It’s a life-long journey. On day, a woman sobbed, “My marriage to him was not meant to be.” I listened as she told a familiar story of two people who aren’t making their marriage workable and enjoyable, and implying their failure was pre-determined by some outside force. They married right out of high school and lacked the maturity it takes, she said.
We are told that half of “traditional male-female marriages” succeed. People go into marriage wanting it to work, and I have found through my counseling experiences that most marriages can work if those involved are willing and care enough to make necessary adjustments. It’s hard to change habits, attitudes and so forth, and many are not willing to do it. We change, not because our partner “nags” us, but for the sake of a better relationship. It’s easier to run away from a sticky, stressful situation than it is to work it out. Hard work? Yes, but it’s worth it!
It is said that a high percentage of youth grow up with poor preparation for marriage. Our society emphasizes the material aspects of life more than the emotional and spiritual side of bringing happiness to another person. Our marital conditioning, for the most part, is terribly inadequate. I’ve seen brides more concerned about the color of her bridesmaids’ dresses than the man she’s about to marry.
Here are a few reasons some choose to remain on the road to maturity:
- They understand the meaning of “love” and they express it freely. Unselfish love is willing to overlook warts and bumps. They seem to realize that little resentments and hurt feelings over “the small stuff” can build and can gather momentum. Some cultures regard romantic love as the most unsuitable base for marriage, and use other criteria such as parents choosing the mate. Wouldn’t you hate to live with someone you didn’t really love? Romantic bliss doesn’t always mean living on “cloud nine”. See Paul’s definition of love in I Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind…”, etc.
- Both are happy with the level and expression of intimacy. Sex makes us co-creators with God, and this makes it sacred. Couples would do well to check out books on “Sex and Marriage” at a local library, and to listen to what the experts say. This is an area where a lot of people know everything, but don’t.
- There is a real sense of permanence in their commitment. If a couple enters into a relationship with the idea that, “Well, if this doesn’t work out, there’s other fish in the sea,” kind of thinking, it often leads to a brief relationship. Don’t misunderstand me. There are times (because of various kinds of abuse) that it may be better and safer for the couple to part ways. Staying together for the sake of the children doesn’t do a lot for anybody. Children deserve happy parents, or they may grow up with the same kind of dysfunction.
- They are able to talk to each other, rather than confiding in someone else. Communication skills—being able to talk without exploding or hurting feelings—are so necessary to a good marriage. Respect for each other is very, very important. When a couple stops respecting or listening to each other, their relationship may begin to head south.
- They seem to value each other’s privacy, and they don’t try to control each other. Each person deserves to maintain their own identity, and not simply be a “shadow” of their mate, unless they choose to do so. It’s hard for “control freaks” to have a happy and workable relationship. Humans don’t own each other. They enjoy each other and share life at its deepest level. They seem to know it has a beginning and an end, so they try to make the most of each day.
- There is a definite spiritual quality in their relationship which may include praying together, attending worship services and so on. We are all basically spirit-beings, whether we realize it or not. But when we do recognize it, life takes on a whole different perspective. Serving people and each other through a vital faith in God is really the foundation for a good marriage. Like the bumper sticker says, “God wants full custody, not just the weekends.”
- They realize that everyone is hard to live with. This is a given. We bring our past—likes, dislikes, and expectations—with us. And, as I say, we must be willing to make changes over the years.
- Finally, they know that a good marriage has plenty of laughter. When you stop laughing with your mate, look out. In our kind of world, it takes a good sense of humor just to get through the day without being a total grouch.
Enough preaching; it’s time for a smile. A woman was teaching a Sunday School class, and here are some of the answers the children gave from her Bible quiz:
“The fifth commandment is, ‘Humor your mother and father’.”
“Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark.”
“Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.”