Do Marriages Still Work?

A few months after we married, I was at home one day working on my car. I needed something from the store in order to finish what I had been doing. So, I got in my car, went to the store and about 45 minutes later returned. When I got back, Charlotte said, “Where have you been? I was looking for you and you were gone.” I explained to her that I had gone to the store. Now I was pretty clueless. I had not said anything to her before leaving. I just left. After all, that is the way I did it when I was single. Of course, in my immaturity I defended myself. However, I knew she was right. Being married meant that I didn’t just look out for myself but for her as well.

We have now been married a long time. I really like this season of our marriage–a lot!

However, I would never want to leave the impression that marriage is easy or that somehow it just all works out. Unless a couple is intentional about their commitment and their love toward one another, marriage can become derailed. It can become boring, stale, and lifeless. In fact, if you listen closely to some people, you might wonder if anyone’s marriage really works.

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Yet, marriage doesn’t have to be this way.


Sometimes a couple will be busy with life and give little attention to either their marriage or what might be happening inside them individually. In fact, a couple can get blindsided. Several years ago, I read an article by Ginger Kolbaba entitled, “Surviving Temptation Island.” One story in particular got my attention:

About seven years ago, before I was married, I was performing in a play opposite a married man who’d recently become a first-time father. He and I got along famously. We joked, worked hard, had intelligent conversations about culture, faith, politics. I didn’t realize I was “fulfilling” a need he felt wasn’t being met at home by a wife who was a first-time mom grappling with all the insecurities and stress motherhood includes. I was simply trying to make our working environment enjoyable.

One evening he turned to me and said, “You know, if my marriage doesn’t work out, we should get together.”

I was stunned and ashamed. I knew I had to change the direction of that relationship—fast. In that situation, I wasn’t able to run physically. But I sure changed my tone in a hurry. I apologized for my unintentional misleading, and told him his first priority was to his wife and child—not to the theatre or the people there. Then I stayed as far away from him as possible. I learned a hard lesson in setting appropriate boundaries within a relationship.

Do marriages still work?

Yes, but first consider what a marriage really is:

1. Marriage is not just you and me. That is, we are not just two individuals who share the same last name and live in the same house. It is very easy to turn marriage into something me-centered. What am I getting out of this? What about me?

2. Marriage is not just us. I wonder about the couple who says, “We do everything together.” I wonder about the marriage where one person takes over the conversation and constantly talks about how we feel while the spouse typically remains silent. Marriage is not becoming a blob where each person loses any sense of individual identity.

3. Marriage is about you, me, and us. While married people have their own identities, they are committed to protecting, nurturing, and cherishing the “us.”


Question:

What is one of the most important things you have learned about marriage, either from your own experience or from observing others?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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19 thoughts on “Do Marriages Still Work?

  1. In my short experience, marriage is an intensifier of our relationship tendencies. If we are ordinarily selfish in our interactions with people at work, we will be extremely selfish toward our spouse. If we are regularly submissive and selfless in our dealing with others, those good qualities will intensify within a great relationship.

    Mariage can show us who we really are. It might be hard to look at, but it is plain as day.

    • Benjamin, it is great to hear from you! Good comment! I like the point that you are making. This may say something for the importance of growing in character and virtue long before we get married. Thanks!

  2. I think we have learned that marriage is about God, a partnership that participates in God’s call and mission. If our marriage is not drawing us closer to God, then we’ve missed something. And a distant second, always put the toilet seat down.

    • Phillip, it is good to hear from you. I enjoyed meeting you in Nashville a few years ago.

      Great point that marriage is about God. I love the way you express our partnership as “. . . a partnership that participates in God’s call and mission.” If this is true (and I agree with you that it is) this really does shape the marriage and has such implications in terms of behavior, priorities, etc.

      And yes, it is important that one put the toilet seat down. It does take a while to learn that though. 🙂

  3. We have been married 17 great years and we have 4 children. Our marriage like all others is unique. We spent alot of time apart with my military career that at times made it difficult. We both found God and welcomed him into our lives, changed our lives and our marriage flourished. That was after 5 years of marriage. I think the most important thing that we have learned, besides open communication and united fronts, was that God is the center of our marriage. If more people would allow God to be the center of their marriage, love each other truly, be commited to the relationship, the intimacy of the realtionship would just explode. Its not easy, but is it rewarding and fulfilling!

    • Kurt, you express this so well. I appreciate you explaining that you and your wife have experienced a military career with the time spent away, etc. It is good to hear that in a situation that must be very, very challenging at times that it is still possible to experience a joyful marriage. Thanks so much for your comment, Kurt.

  4. A loving relationship is hard work. We must continuously be very intentional in nurturing our relationship. Love is not just a feeling, it is a decision day by day and sometimes minute by minute to cherish the one with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life. The most important thing I’ve learned is to be best friends and that marriage cannot be put on auto pilot if you want a deeply committed relationship.Howard is my soulmate and I am the most blessed woman on the planet!

    • Ginger, your first sentence is a keeper. “A loving relationship is hard work.” Isn’t that the truth! I really like your emphasis here on the importance of being intentional. As you suggest, a loving marriage just doesn’t happen. Rather, it is going to require an investment. Thanks so much.

  5. I want to love her more than I need her to love me.
    Cherish is a very important word. Taking for granted is a huge no-no.
    Accepting her includes her thoughts, feelings, attitudes, desires, goals and dreams. Accepting means not trying to change, coerce or control her.
    The 100% rule: if we can’t agree on something 100%, we don’t do it.
    If life is about loving God and neighbor, she is the first and foremost neighbor I am to love, sacrificially and unconditionally.
    I want my wife to be able to say about me what Ginger said about her husband; and I cannot assume that she would just because I think I’m such a great guy.

    • Darryl,

      I hadn’t thought about Howard as my closest “neighbor”….thanks for that image. Thanks also for your first sentence about wanting to love your wife more than you need her to love you…that is a powerful thought. I so need/want Howard’s love and physical affection….and knowing how big my need/want is, makes me realize how “big” trying to love him “more” really is…Wow! A marriage based on that philosphy in action would just “explode” with love if we could do that consistently. A lot to chew on. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  6. One of the greatest blessings that I have learned is the concept of the “5 Love Languages”. This book speaks so many truths about how we show and perceive love to and from our spouses. It really opened my eyes to understanding that love is not just about me giving of myself how I want to give but about what my spouse needs me to give in order to feel the love I have for him. It’s one of my favorite books about loving relationships and the concepts taught work very well applied to children as well.

    • Marnie, so good to hear from you! That book has been a blessing for a lot of people. One of its values is that it helps the reader understand the value of trying to understand his/her spouse and not just seek to be understood.

  7. Darryl,

    I hadn’t thought about Howard as my closest “neighbor”….thanks for that image. Thanks also for your first sentence about wanting to love your wife more than you need her to love you…that is a powerful thought. I so need/want Howard’s love and physical affection….and knowing how big my need/want is, makes me realize how “big” trying to love him “more” really is…Wow! A marriage based on that philosphy in action would just “explode” with love if we could do that consistently. A lot to chew on. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  8. Thanks, Ginger. When I wrote that I didn’t know whether it would make sense to anybody else. I hope it has taken a little pressure off my wife.

  9. “I was stunned and ashamed. I knew I had to change the direction of that relationship—fast. In that situation, I wasn’t able to run physically. But I sure changed my tone in a hurry. I apologized for my unintentional misleading, and told him his first priority was to his wife and child—not to the theatre or the people there. Then I stayed as far away from him as possible. I learned a hard lesson in setting appropriate boundaries within a relationship.”

    I totally agree with the author that a resetting of original boundaries was necessary, especially when she noticed his response to her. I’m so glad that she told him his first priority was his dear wife and child – not his career or relationships at work. What I’m sad to read though is that she then “stayed as far away from him as possible” instead of reframing the friendship and continuing a godly influence on him – unless of course she recognized in herself a response to him that gave her cause to fear and run because she could not trust herself.

    Lots to think on here….

  10. Thanks for sharing this post. It is so important to maintain strong marriages. Really felt the point concerning having three identities within marriage was spot on.

    I think that way of viewing marriage allows for people to truly be themselves, while also developing a relationship with the other person. It requires more work, because you have to get to know your spouse as an individual. There likes, dislike, etc…And you have the freedom to be yourself and let your spouse affirm that.

    I posted about this idea recently
    http://www.studyyourbibleonline.com/?p=267