Bible Studies

What Constitutes Marriage?

Advice About Marriage to Man Considering the Plight of Being Single

A good marriage is the best worldly thing there is, but a bad marriage . . . well, it doesn’t get much worse than that, especially where children are involved.

Never marry somebody and think that after the marriage the person will change—we have a hard enough time changing ourselves; when we try to change somebody who is this side of puberty, the results usually backfire. 

The core of a good marriage begins in a shared spiritual foundation, then in basic human friendship and lastly in the physical, romantic/sexual aspect.  Yet our romance/sex dominated culture reverses this, and the results are devastating.  First, are we united on the fundamentals of faith and life?  Then, are we friends?  Lastly, are we physically attracted to each other?

The kind of love that sustains a marriage is fundamentally an act of the will, not the emotions.  Emotions are to follow the course set by the will rather than standing at the helm.  We can fall in and out of love many times in life.  That’s one reason why, in a context warning about divorce, we are commanded twice:  “Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth . . . So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:15, 16.)  If I don’t find myself guarding my spirit, I may soon find myself “falling in love” with somebody at work, or even in a Bible study, no matter how wonderful my marriage is.  What some folks regard as “being in love” is simply a neurosis, a rather pleasant kind of obsessive personality disorder, sometimes accompanied by a good measure of anxiety.  But it doesn’t last—that’s good, or otherwise we wouldn’t be able to focus on the tasks of everyday life very successfully. 

We can put romance back into a relationship that has gotten stale—chiefly by praying about it and acting out what we did in the early days of the relationship:  going out on dates—they don’t have to be expensive, but the occasional trip to a motel can work wonders—giving little gifts, mailing love notes, shaving, using after shave and brushing our teeth before making our moves, rather than attempting to push sex when the other person is exhausted.  Remember, too, that men and women are different and not just in their plumbing:  sex is fundamentally a genitally centered act for a man; for a woman, it’s a part of the tapestry of the whole relationship.  When a man wounds his wife’s heart, she has trouble responding to him.

Never forget that everybody struggles with feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, and that includes our sense of who we are sexually.  Sometime around the onset of puberty, a boy notices other boys as they stand at the urinal.  He takes no thought of the five fellows to his right; it’s the bizarre situation on his left that haunts him down the corridors of time, especially when his wife isn’t acting like the star of a porno-film.  The same thing happens with girls.  Dressing out for P.E., little Ellie Mae doesn’t consider the other twelve year olds who look like twelve year olds, she’s overwhelmed by her childhood friend who suddenly looks like she’s eighteen.  Ellie Mae eventually develops a somewhat larger than average bust size, but she always thinks of herself as small busted, an image regularly reinforced in popular culture.  Maybe the Taliban was on to something with those burkas—just kidding.

We all bring our pasts into our marriage—wounds, fears, guilt, dreams, joys, assurances and delusions.  We are all more self-centered than we will admit, even to ourselves, and all of us are at least a little bit “mentally ill.”  Sooner or later most people will think, and a few idiots will actually say, “I married a completely selfish person.  You are so self-absorbed that you are completely out of touch with reality.  You are a self-righteous, censorious . . .”  Okay, okay that’s a bit hyperbolic.  But hyperbole usually is employed in a marriage spat, and trust me—the bigger your vocabulary, the less likely you are to win over your spouse.  There is no perfect spouse, and there are no perfect marriages.  It’s how it is after Eden—get over it!

You never really get to know someone until after you’ve been married to her for a while, but you can get a much better idea of what people are like as you observe them in non-dating situations over the long haul.  Participation in a Sunday school class or Bible study group can sometimes give you a picture of people, not only in terms of what they believe, but also about how they treat other people and whether or not they have a teachable spirit.  A person is a fool to marry somebody who doesn’t have a teachable spirit.

When you think that you’ve found Ms. Right, get to know her parents.  Like a timed-release medication, her genes have programmed her to become like them, not only physically, but, barring the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, also in terms of her personality as she gets older—there is so much more influence of genetics on the human personality than most people want to admit.  But another big issue is how she interacts with her parents.  If she is rude, sarcastic and disrespectful to either parent, you can probably bet the 401K that she’ll end up being that way to you after the honeymoon is over. 

Speaking of the 401K, stay out of debt, live on a budget and have two checking accounts if you need to in order to keep from fighting over who bounced the check.  And because lots of problems come about over people’s failure “to leave father and mother,” never—I mean NEVER—borrow money from your folks.  One man’s necessity is another man’s luxury.  When I’ve loaned you money, I have bought the right to tell you how to spend your money in minute detail.  Don’t ever loan money to relatives, give it to them—after all, that’s what’s probably going to happen any way.  So spare yourself the anger and resentment to start with and just tell them it’s a gift.

How do you know that the honeymoon is over?  The awakening will probably take place sometime after your spouse, running late for work, rushes into the bathroom to brush her teeth without letting you first finish your time on the toilet.

Bob Vincent