How to Be Happily Married
Marriage is pretty much “a fact of life” in the United States. A poll by the Barna Research Group showed that 4 out of 5 adults in the US have been married at least once. Unfortunately, that same poll revealed that about 1/3 of those marriages had ended in divorce. It is a safe and logical assumption that those marriages which ended had first endured intense unhappiness. Probably a considerable number of those who remain married have experienced some intense unhappiness, as well.
Since the odds are pretty strong that you will at some time marry, it seems reasonable that we should consider what it takes to be happily married. A good starting point might be to see what the scriptures say about relevant topics. We have examined several related scriptures in other “marriage” articles in this series. Let’s borrow a tidbit of wisdom from the Old Testament prophet, Amos: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3 (KJV)
It is amazing how many couples attempt to “walk together” when they don’t even agree about where they are going! Long before couples marry, they should have serious discussions regarding their values, goals, and desires. Unless they find substantial common ground, it is logical and reasonable that they should agree to be friends and nothing more – and look for spouses with whom they have more in common. To assume that you’ll remake your spouse to match your own values and desires is worse than a pipe dream – it’s a recipe for disaster!
There is another side to this discussion, though. The truth is that a substantial proportion of married couples DID NOT do their homework before choosing a mate. If you find yourself in such a predicament, what can you do now? Is it possible for your marriage to be transformed? Is there any way that an unhappy marriage can be revived and restructured – or should you just divorce and start over? (For a Christian perspective on divorce, see our companion article, “Is it OK for Christians to Divorce?”)
Before we go deeply into the practical discussion, does the Bible address this topic? In fact, the early Church probably had more reason to discuss this topic than to modern folks – since the Christian faith was the exception, rather than the rule, and many new believers found themselves with changed ideals, married to spouses who did not share their new faith and values. The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Corinth to answer some of their questions, and this was one of them. His answer? 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 (HCSB) “…if a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him.”
So is the unstated portion of Paul’s advice something to the effect, “Just grit your teeth and live in misery…?” NO! God intends that we be happy, and that we look for ways to “build one another up”.
There is a very important first step, though. If you are having difficulty in your marriage, you need to stop, remember the thoughts and feelings which led you to marry in the first place. Did you love him/her? Did you have high hopes and aspirations? It is possible to restore those hopes and aspirations, if both of you are willing to make a sincere effort. Remember, it’s completely irrational to expect your spouse to meet desires and expectations which you have never expressed! Meaningful communication is absolutely essential to a happy marriage. If communication is missing in your marriage, you must take immediate steps to restore it.
If you’ve been told that marriage is a 50/50 proposition, somebody has lied to you! There are times when you must go ‘way beyond the magic “half-way” – and in turn, there will be times when you receive far more than “your fair share”. Be willing to go far beyond 50/50 – at least 90/10 – toward meeting the needs and desires of your mate. When you do that, you may be surprised how quickly the favor is returned.
As a first step, make special arrangements to eliminate all distractions, and have a long “heart to heart” talk. It’s important that you be completely honest with one another, and that fault finding and complaining not be part of the discussion. It’s OK to express feelings – when you clearly identify them as such – and it’s important to be willing to hear and understand your spouse’s feelings, as well. Until you have honestly shared your thoughts and feelings with one another, you will not – in fact, you cannot – begin to resolve the problems.
Has your relationship soured to the point that you aren’t capable of talking without becoming enraged with one another? Or are you in danger of reaching that point? If you can’t sit down and calmly discuss your thoughts, desires, and differences, then you should seriously consider enlisting the aid of a qualified “referee”.
A trained and experienced Christian Marriage Counselor may literally make the difference between a happy marriage and a bitter divorce. Don’t allow pride to prevent you from seeking help. If you had cancer, you’d clearly understand the need for professional intervention. Shouldn’t you be willing to do the same for your marriage, if it has “cancer”?
For those of you who find this discussion uncomfortably close to home, please – seek out the assistance of a professional Christian marriage counselor. Do it now, before the illness in your relationship becomes terminal!
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