“Did you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”
– Matthew 19:4-6
Ah, wedded bliss… Or not. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2009, half of all marriages end in divorce.
In the United States, almost 7 million households consist of unmarried couples – both with and without children. In 1960, that figure was 0.42 million. Drawing another contrast, as of 2009, only 36% of first marriages were still intact, compared to 73.5% in 1960. The average marriage lasts 8 years, not “til death do us part.” Today, over 30% of children live with a single parent. Despite the trend these statistics show, in 2007, 80% of high school seniors polled said that a good marriage and family life were “extremely important” to them.
Why are so many marriages failing? Why is an institution that goes back to the very beginning of the human race beginning to die? Could it be because more and more people today are selfish to the extreme? Could it be the attitude brought about by the facile accessibility of divorce in modern times? The attitude of “if it doesn’t work out, we can just get a divorce,” has likely contributed to the premature failure of not a few marriages. Add to that the subliminal messages that the media and celebrities send to the general public by glorifying these lifestyles and we have a culture where marriage is no longer a sacred bond and having children out of wedlock is not just a lamentable reality, but actually a planned occurrence in many instances.
The marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (pictured above) ended after only 72 days, in what has been dubbed by many as an extremely elaborate publicity stunt. This blatant disregard for the sanctity of marriage has outraged some and been dismissed as comical or unimportant by others. Some have even observed that, in their opinion, this offense committed by the reality TV star has degraded the institution of holy matrimony more than the legalization of same-sex marriage has.
Prior to 1973, homosexuality was officially listed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Since it was removed from that list, there has been much lobbying for “gay rights.” In 1979, 75,000 people participated in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Washington, D.C. In 2000, Vermont became the first state in the country to legalize civil unions between gay or lesbian couples, but did not refer to these unions as marriage, which was still defined by the state as a union of heterosexuals. On May 17, 2004, same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts. Legalization of same-sex civil unions in Connecticut and New Jersey followed in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In 2009, Iowa and New Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage, followed by Washington, D.C. in 2010 and New York in 2011. And just this year, Washington and Maryland legalized same-sex marriage as well.
I must emphasize here that I am not a homophobe; I do not hate homosexuals. But I am content to be guided by God’s view of homosexual acts and therefore find said acts repulsive. (Read Romans 1:26, 27 in any Bible translation.) This is not to say that I believe homosexuals are bad people, or are lacking in good qualities as human beings. I am horrified by hate crimes; I believe that acts of violence against our fellow human beings for any reason are beyond despicable.
This being said, a good friend of mine often complains of the fact that homosexuals demand “equal rights,” and have gay pride parades. But, as she points out, there is no heterosexual pride parade, and that spells inequality – in favor of homosexuals. Interesting perspective.
Why, as humanity “progresses” are the values that once formed the backbone of societal structure being sneered at? Dare I woefully prophesy that, if left to this course, it will be heterosexuals who will one day have to fight for “equal rights”? As a practice that once was strongly condemned becomes legal, accepted and eventually preferred, what other behaviors will be legalized?
But let us return to the original institution of marriage. What can be done to have a happy and healthy marriage? Besides the obvious detrimental behaviors of cheating and physical abuse – in my opinion, both “dealbreakers” – what should be avoided in order to build a strong, loving marriage?
• Communicate clearly, politely and frequently. Explain yourself, speak in a kind manner and with kind words. Make sure you listen.
• Spend time together often. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate date night; even performing simple mundane tasks – such as grocery shopping, cleaning, etc. – together on a regular basis will strengthen your relationship.
• Forgive. With the exception of the aforementioned “dealbreakers,” most other shortcomings on the part of your spouse are likely “small stuff” not worth holding grudges over. Remember, no one is perfect, and it’s definite that you will make mistakes that need forgiving as well. Be patient.
• Laugh together. Have fun together. Take time to remember what made you fall in love with one another. Look at your wedding album and other photos taken throughout your relationship.
• Function as a unit. Stand by your commitment. When you said your vows, you joined yourself to your spouse, so what affects one affects the other. Make decisions together and support one another.
• Be affectionate. Make your spouse feel loved. Make your marriage your first priority.
• Have reasonable expectations. A real human being is not going to behave like a character from a romance novel or look like a supermodel.
• Be honest. A strong marriage is built on trust.
• Yell and scream, use abusive language and/or body language, or hurl insults at your spouse.
• Belittle your spouse in public or private.
• Undermine your spouse’s decisions or say “I told you so!” when they fail.
• Expect the impossible.
• Use sex as a weapon.
• Give the silent treatment.
• Use guilt to get your way.
• Subscribe to the thought process that “he/she married me, so they just have to put up with my bad habits/obnoxious behavior/rudeness/etc.”
At the end of the day, remember, you and your spouse are both on the same team. Don’t work against each other, work for the common good – your marriage. Keep the spark alive, or rekindle it if need be. If you make a happy, healthy marriage your goal and priority, you will have – and be – a loving and loyal best friend and partner for years to come.