26.1.11

Making a marriage last



I'm always amused by the people who say that in order to have a good marriage you need to have regular date nights, or get away together a few times a year, or sit down and have talks that analyze your relationship. It amuses me because we've never gotten away with each other since we had kids, we go on a date perhaps once a year, and the talks I tried to have were ultimately frustrating and created more problems than they solved.

It's not that these things aren't good and all. They're often pleasant, except when you are unhappy with each other, because then you are just stuck alone with nothing to distract you from the fact that you are unhappy with each other. But they are not the secret to a successful lasting marriage.

What is it that gets one couple through where 9 others go their separate ways? Why does one marriage survive the rough patches that we all hit, and another doesn't?

You want to know what it takes to make a marriage last?

Sheer bloody minded determination. *

Yes, you read that right.

Determination and a whole lot of grace.

Every relationship has it's rough patches. Many marriages that last for several decades endure years of rough patches. No relationship goes on and on without one or the other wanting to quit from time to time. People aren't perfect. They hurt each other, most of the time by accident.

This is where most marriages break up. They quit because it's hard work to stay together. It might require growing up, learning to forgive, to not hold grudges, to be less selfish. In order to make it through you have to believe that quitting is not an option and be willing to change in order to make it work.

If you are wondering why one would bother staying in a marriage at that point you perhaps have yet to reach the point in your life where you value character over comfort and I will have to write another post to explain why that's important.

But here's the other reason. You stay, you stick it out because one day, the two of you have pressed and rubbed and sharpened each other to the point that there is the joy, and love, and friendship that you went into this contract hoping for. You reach a point where it just gets better and better.

But here's the other part. Every marriage that lasts and reaches that point is a miracle, a testimony to the redemptive and graceful presence of God in each of them. For it is not on our own strength that we give grace to one and other. We make the choice, but the power to live it out comes from somewhere else.

But we do choose each and every day, and the determination in that choice is what really gets some people through the places that make everyone else quit.

Those other things, dates, getaways, flowers, in the worst case they are just techniques that people use to avoid making an actual commitment. In the best case, those are simply the result of a choice made to stay and work on it. They are not the means, but the result. If they were necessary then most marriages prior to the last 50 years or so ought to have failed. Interesting that the reverse is true, isn't it? (Ask your grandparents if they had a weekly date night or yearly romantic getaway. I bet they will tell you they found the romance in the day and life right around them or they didn't find it at all. Mine of course also go dancing once a week... now that they have the free time.)

My grandparents, in the middle, are almost to their 65th anniversary.



*I'm not ever advocating staying in a situation that is abusive where you or your children are in danger. Just to be clear, that's not what this is about.

4 comments:

  1. I love this.

    It reminds me a bit of W. Berry's Unsettling of America..

    I've been reading your blog spottily (is that a word?) for a bit. Came on over from Journeymama. Thanks for your wise words. I always enjoy reading.

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  2. marriage is hard work, well said!

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  3. If you're equating date nights with the need for silly romantic notions, I wholeheartedly agree that they are useless and unnecessary, and take the focus off what is truly needed.

    And yet date nights are at the top of the list of recommendations for couples we counsel simply because most struggling couples have neglected to invest in their marriage. It is absolutely possible to focus on each other regularly without making the effort to go out anywhere, but most people do not have that level of commitment when the tv and phone are right there to distract, especially if their marriage is already on a downturn.

    So, just as a half-hearted "commune throughout the day" doesn't replace the need for specific time of reading the Bible and praying, couples need to purposefully have times when they focus on each other and the marriage, however that may look. For most couples, that means date night.

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  4. You're right Tamra, you do need to be intentional in some way to have a relationship. I still say it comes from the choice to work on it and not the other way around.

    I've run into people who said, "we tried everything they told us to do and it just didn't work, we're getting a divorce".

    It shows a lack of commitment, treating marriage like a trial offer they can return in 60 days if they don't like it.

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