Take for instance Gladys and Tom (names changed to protect the innocent). These two lovebirds met at the beginning of WWII. Tom only having a month before he shipped out to sea, ran down to the corner jewelers and bought the only ring he could afford, then drove like a madman in his dad's DeSoto to pop the question to his girlfriend of only two weeks - Gladys.
After a shotgun wedding and a passionate kiss goodbye, Tom was shipped off for three years without seeing his ladylove; handwritten letters being the only form of communication.
Yet, when the shipped docked and Tom came down the plank, there she was, just as beautiful as he had remembered. Picking up where they left off, it wouldn't be long and little Tom, Jr. would make his arrival. Life would go on for years and years through hardship and trials. There would be days that Tom and Gladys didn't "feel" in love. There were numerous disagreements and differences of opinion, yet one thing remained...commitment. They had committed to love one another, to never go to bed angry, and to stay together no matter what. Tom and Gladys just celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary, and they've never been more in love!
Then there is Bob and Cathy. They met at a local bar. Since the two of them had bad track records with previous spouses, they decided to live together to see if they were compatible. Bob worked hard at his construction job and paid for his half of the bills, and Cathy kept up with her half through tips she made as a waitress. After a couple of years and a couple of kids, they decided to make their union legit. They got married in style - huge ornately decorated hall, big wedding party with lots of family and friends, and a reception that would be talked about for days. Sadly, the marriage began to crumble soon after. Bob and Cathy fought about everything, and one or the other would leave when times got heated. Eventually they split up after one of them began seeing a co-worker, leaving nothing but a trail of bitterness and regret.
So what was the difference between the two couples? What was the key to the success of one marriage and the failure of another?
- A firm foundation. Though it was never mentioned, the first marriage was built on a firm foundation. Every contractor or architect knows that a structure must be built on solid rock for it to survive the test of time. The same holds true with marriage. If a marriage is built on anything other than a deep faith in God, the structure will crumble, crack, or at least sway during times of trial and storm. Jesus said that a wise man builds his house on the rock. So, when the rains come down, the streams rise, and the winds blow and beat against the house, it will not fall because it has a firm foundation. (Matthew 7:24-27)
- Never-ending forgiveness. Your spouse will fail you. He or she is human and will say (or do) things out of frustration, stress, selfishness, or fatigue that may tear at your heart. Forgive. Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
- Never go to bed angry. You may have heard that tip before, but it's worth repeating. Anger only breeds bitterness. The more you dwell on how you've been wronged, the more harm will come to your relationship. Swallow your pride and choose to be the peacemaker. If you make a point to resolve your issues before bed, then the morning will be afresh with new possibilities.
- Resolve to never use the "D" word. The two of you should agree at the onset of your relationship that divorce is not even an option, and therefore, cannot be brought to the table of an argument or crisis. Our society has gotten so good about dodging responsibility and commitment, yet a good marriage stays in the game even when the outcome looks bleak. You never know what may happen in the last few minutes. Talk it out, but also learn how to listen. Marriage is hard work, not instant success.
- "We" not "me". When you marry, you no longer have the sole rights to your time, your body, or your stuff. You've now entered a partnership, therefore, must set aside self and find ways to please your spouse. "...Serve one another in love; love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13-14
- Forsake all others. Protect the boundaries. Never confide in a person of the opposite sex other than your spouse. The temptations are endless these days. Whether it be at the workplace, on the internet, or even church, people are often driven by feelings. When we begin to share personal thoughts or struggles with someone other than our spouse, an emotional attachment begins to take hold. We begin to "feel" that this person understands us, unlike our spouse. Don't even go there. Your feelings will deceive you. Run from any situation that may put you in temptation's way. "Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well...let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth." Proverbs 5:15-18
Bob and Cathy on the other hand, wanted immediate results. Commitment was not clearly defined in their relationship, so when the going got tough, well...the tough got up and went. Neither had a relationship with God, and they were living out of a "me" centered world. They had no heavenly guidance or strength to tap into for help in troubled times. Failed relationships in the past brought nothing but old wounds and bad vibes to the new union, and it was spelled B.A.G.G.A.G.E.
Can you relate to either of these scenarios? Your circumstances may be a bit different, but somewhat the same.
For those with a broken relationship, there is always hope. God can change even the hardest hearts and repair what's been destroyed by the enemy. I've seen it! But, if it's too late...perhaps your spouse has married someone else, then begin praying even now that God will change you and prepare you for the possibility of a future relationship.
Marriage is worth fighting for. So for poor old Rick...well, we are going for the Gladys and Tom scenario. He's stuck with me for at least another 47 years. ;)