Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
My wife and I have been happily married for 42.5 years plus a few days. Was it always wonderful? No, but most of it. What wasn’t wonderful provided us both a chance to grow. In my presence, my new father-in-law told his daughter that she was welcome to come back to visit, but she would never have a home with him. He was letting her know that she had to be totally committed to the marriage.
In some ways, that total commitment led to some of our most heated arguments. I learned that some battles were best to be left alone. My wife learned how stubborn I was, even when both sides knew I had already lost.
So, why am I talking about divorce?
In US 40-50% of marriages end in divorce (Amer. Psych. Assoc.). About half of divorced adults remarry, 50% of men and 54% of women (US Census Bureau).
Do people still believe in total commitment to anything, anymore?
I am not a psychologist or a graduate of divinity school or a sociologist. I am just a married man who has made his marriage work, or better said – I am one half of a partnership that made a marriage work.
So, maybe the best way is for me to tell you the things to do and the things to avoid to guarantee a happy marriage. After all, I have over 42 years of experience.
I’m still thinking.
Alright, there have been a lot of books written about marriage and making it work, but none of them seem to work. You’ll always get to some crossroads that the book doesn’t cover.
Our biggest problem for most of our marriage was over the church. My wife was raised Catholic (now Presbyterian). She was fed up with the priests who couldn’t or wouldn’t answer her questions. My wife has a lot of questions. Sometimes, I shrug them off. Sometimes, we have wonderful conversations about deep subjects. We may not always agree, but we find agreement on enough points to keep it from becoming an argument. When we started dating, my wife expressed that she was dissatisfied with the Catholic church. Yet, she was brought up in that atmosphere and old habits are hard to break. She would always fix fish on Fridays. I would complain. She would counter with fish being good for you and the family didn’t eat enough. I would burst out with “Pick any of the other six days!” It was around our 40th wedding anniversary that she started throwing fish on any day other than Friday. Why did it upset me? I saw the traditions being more superstition than a true relationship with God.
My wife became a true believer in the year 2000, near our 25th wedding anniversary. Why did I marry her? Isn’t the big problem with broken marriages being unequally yoked? My wife was a natural empathic person. She put everyone else’s problems ahead of her own, to her own detriment. How could anyone who exhibited sacrificial love to that extent not be a Christian? Back to Mark 9:24, I believe but forgive me for my unbelief. She had been raised in the church, but she never had that “All In” moment. It took a vision. Afterwards, she was on fire. This stuff is for real.
Our biggest regret is that her transformation came after the boys left the nest.
As for me, I became a Christian as a senior in High School. I was on a Lay-Witness Evangelism team while in college, but the Vietnam War and my wonderful draft lottery number of 4 caused my priorities to shift. You could say that I was the seed among the weeds that, for a time, got choked. By the time my military commitment was over, I had a family. I had a wife that would possibly have left me if I suggested a vow of poverty. I had two boys that counted on me. I volunteered at the church and with the Boy Scouts. I wrote poorly written books at night. Nothing seemed to work, because I was making the world thing fit instead of following God’s direction. God’s direction just didn’t make sense. I feared having want, instead of trusting in Him and allowing God to provide.
Now do you know why I hesitated about speaking from my experience as a successful husband? It could be that stubbornness may have been one of the things on which my wife and I could agree.
But let’s get down to the bottom line. When my wife got upset with one of my emotional tirades, she knew that I was getting upset, because I deeply cared for her and the boys. When I saw the same emotional moments in my wife’s reactions during an argument, it was because she loved me and the boys and she felt helpless in trying to fix the problem.
The bottom line is love. I could use the cliché about not doing 50%, and meeting in the middle. That never works, the practice or the cliché. For marriage love to work, it has to be sacrificial on the part of both parties.
Will you fight? Of course. I was Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner for our district in South Carolina. We were planning our monthly meeting. The agenda every month was to teach the district’s scout leaders things that would help them the following month with their meetings with the boys. We always met in the back room of a steakhouse in Aiken, SC, chowing down on their salad while we discussed ideas. My wife was a staff member as well as a couple of other couples. I have no idea what started the disagreement, but she put her foot down on something that we were going to do and I had other ideas. I realized the roundtable meeting would get to be too long if we both got our way. We finally compromised. One of the other ladies pulled my wife aside, ”I didn’t think you ever fought.” My wife answered with a question, “You thought we had the one and only perfect marriage?”
Goalcast posted a video of Lou Holtz giving a commencement speech at a small college in Ohio. His final words for everyone to remember were, “Trust, Commitment, Love.” Those three words will help you succeed in life, but they will help you succeed in marriage even more. Yet, most importantly, both participants in a marriage need to be God-centered with a strong relationship with Jesus founded in Trust (or Faith), Commitment, and Love for Him. The success of my wife’s and my marriage has only come through relying on God.