So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15
Henry Ford, the industrialist who put the world on wheels, after fifty years of married life was asked how he managed to stay happily married. His reply: "I've treated marriage like I've made automobiles--just stick to one model." It's regrettable that he didn't follow his own advice.
Even so, more than a few who do "stick to one model" find that happiness in marriage eludes them. They have worn the same wedding ring for 20, or even 30 years, yet most of those years have been marked by strife and unhappiness. Their commitment may be strong enough to stay married but not strong enough to resolve the issues that keep them from being happy.
Do you ever ask the question, "What happens from the time a couple stands at a marriage altar with glowing eyes and burning hearts and the time they stand before a judge to ask for an annulment or a divorce?" "Is marriage the sole cause of divorce?"--reads the slogan on a sweatshirt I saw recently.
Sometimes the blow that shatters a relationship comes like a bomb that you didn't expect, but more often it is like a slowly growing cancer which infects your relationship and calluses your feelings. That must have been what happened to the person who described marriage as "a condition in which a woman never gets what she expects, and a man never expects what he gets."
Instead of "holy wedlock" marriage becomes "unholy deadlock." While divorce is not the will of God for His children, neither it is the will of God for us to be in relationships that harbor anger, bitterness, and distrust. Both are wrong in different ways.
"It just can't be the will of God for me to remain in an unhappy relationship," people tell me. While they are partly right--it isn't God's will for two people to harbor bitterness and anger--they are far off course thinking that to change partners will change the emotional temperature of their lives.
What happens when a marriage goes wrong? In one sentence, "Love has begun to wither and die." We've taken each other's love for granted, and the abuse produces a wilderness in our lives.
After 50 years of marriage, an old gentleman was asked the secret of his good marriage. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old watch. "This is it," he said. What did an old watch have to do with marital happiness? "When Sarah and I got married, her dad took me aside and gave me a package saying, ‘This is all you need to know about marriage.’" Holding up the watch he said, "This was inside it." Pressing the stem of the old watch, the cover flew open and engraved on the face of the watch, now 50 years old, were the words, "Say something nice to Sarah every day!" "That," he said, "has been the secret of our happiness.
Years ago, Irving Berlin tenderly wrote, "I'll be loving you, always, with a love that's true, always. When the things you've planned, need a helping hand, [I'll be loving you,] always." While those words are sentimental and slushy, they are untrue. God only knows how many times I have asked couples, "Do you love each other?" And I hear the mumbled response, "I used to love him [or her] but I don't know if I love him any more after what has happened."
How do you keep love alive? By not presuming on each other, by acts of kindness, by remembering love is a fire that must be rekindled every day.
A closing thought: You can start over but you never start again. You can change partners but you never go back to the genesis of a relationship and start from there. Think about it.
Resource reading: Ephesians 4:20-32