"The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ's words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism - for that is what the words 'one flesh' would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact - just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument."
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
I have been thinking about marriage, lately. I am asked quite frequently how did you stay married 27 years? How do you stay in love? Love songs, romantic comedies, romance novels all portray the fuzzy, exciting, wonderful feeling of “falling in love”.
Mark Twain observed, "Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century."
And I agree with Mark Twain, although, it doesn’t have to be a certain number of years, but a comfort and peace that comes from knowing that person “loves,” i.e., accepts, puts up with, endures you…even through trials, thick or thin, the worse times, through sin, through addiction, through sickness (either spiritual or physical).
There is great power that comes when you know you have blundered or been a failure or an embarrassment and that other person still hangs with you.
Are we a people that keep our promises? Did we promise to stay with him or her so long as we still felt “in love” with them or did we promise to stay no matter what.
Are we a people that keep their commitments? C. S Lewis said, “A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry.”
I have been asked many times, but why stay together when we are no longer in love? Or one is “still in love” or still committed to the relationship, but the other has wandered, or is caught up in undesirable behavior.
What then? We all know that socially, economically, academically, and mentally that children fare better in a two parent home.
But there is a far more important reason to stay together, or to stay with a partner that is cold or self-centered.
Let’s go back for a minute, to the concept of “being in love”. We all know it is a fun, exciting, wonderful feeling. Is it the best feeling in the world?
Would you give anything to feel it? Or are there other feelings more desirable?
C. S. Lewis said, “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last, but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love.”
Notice that Lewis said that “ceasing to love” doesn’t have to stop just because one is not “in love”.
Anyone that has been married a long time can bear witness to this principle.
After I was shortly married, I remember attending a 50th Wedding Anniversary of a couple where the gentleman remarked, “Well, here’s to 25 good years and 25 bad ones.”
I thought, “That’s horrible, that he would think that, let alone say it aloud.”
Now years later, I understand his wisdom and understanding of marriage completely.
True love is not merely a feeling. It is a deep commitment to a cause.
People stay together through will and the deliberate decision to never leave. To never say or think the “D” word. (Divorce). A promise, that Fito and I made when we married, although, I must admit, the “D” word has entered my thoughts on occasions, I always think of other reasons to stay together, and I keep plugging along.
Habit, as always, is powerful, and can save us when we are too tired or worn out to save ourselves. Develop the habit of being married, of staying together.
Grace or graciousness is another character trait that can save a marriage. Talk to any couple that has been married a long time and they will tell of times when one spouse wandered or strayed and the other spouse waited patiently and then was gracious upon their return.
I met a woman, several years ago, when I was struggling in my own marriage, and she had waited 17 years for her husband (who had decided he was gay) to change and to return.
She had been gracious and had allowed him to remain in the home, to help her rear the children. She never uttered the “D” word. She prayed, fasted, and read the scriptures. She did not condemn him or belittle him in front of the children. She hung on when she was not “in love”.
This is true charity, to love someone when they are not lovable.
This is the greatest gift you can give another person.
We give this gift freely to our children—so—why do we not give it to our spouses?
Through intimacy, we have become one with each other. Scientific studies have shown as we share our DNA with each other through intimacy, we actually absorb parts of each other’s DNA and become more and more alike through the years.
That is one reason intimacy should be reserved for only one person. And this one person should be our other half, our best friend, our confidant.
Haven’t you ever gotten mad, steaming mad at a friend? Haven’t you forgiven them? You still love then, even though you don’t like them at the time.
“Being in love” comes and goes. We need to understand that is it a passion, a feeling, it goes up and down, back and forth, and is not constant.
However charity, commitment, duty: this deeper comforting love is what helps people to keep the promise. Or as Lewis said, “It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
C. S. Lewis also stated, “The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.”
This is the cry of our day: What of my happiness? Why can’t I have fun? What about my wants? Why should I be the only one?
Let’s say you live in a beautiful house on a hill with a magnificent view. Would you leave the house and go live somewhere else because you are tired of the view?
There are many who do. Instead of counting their blessings and seeing each day anew; they simply go on to what they perceive are more exciting, more beautiful views.
If they choose to stay, however, even after the first thrill fades away, they are rewarded with a quieter, more enduring happiness and lasting interest. A comfortable, restful peace that comes from being at home.
One woman told me after being in her second marriage for several years: “All I did was trade ticks for fleas. I should have stayed where I was.”
My advice is to not seek for thrills. Do not teach your children to seek for thrills. Thrills are short lived and do not bring any lasting joy.
Be careful what entertainment you choose so that you are not sending the message that you cannot have fun unless you are doing something new, something exciting, something varied each weekend.
Teach yourself and your family to enjoy the quiet moments. To be kind and gracious to each other.
Lastly, I do want to mention one more important concept. I see more and more of this and it is a scary trend.
Intimacy in marriage is not just physical.
It includes emotional, spiritual, and personal.
You should never tell another person anything you would not say if your spouse were present.
This even includes two women speaking together, or two men.
A woman shouldn’t be telling another woman personal things about her marriage, and vice versa. No gender or marriage jokes. No vulgar comments. No belittling or small comments made about one’s partner.
If you had a close friend of the opposite sex before you were married, they can no longer be that close. You no not email, call, or text a person of the opposite sex on a regular basis once you are married.
You do not chat, go out to lunch alone, spend time with other individuals.
Most affairs happen with a person that was close to the couple.
You have to constantly be careful that you are not emotionally close to anyone, except your spouse. When you take a great picture, or see something exciting: your first and only desire should be to send or tell your spouse first. If you think of sending the picture or message to someone else, then you are emotionally attached to them more. That hurts a marriage.
So each couple has to constantly watch out for ways they might be betraying emotional intimacy and work to be each other’s best friend. That means going to chick flicks and watching war movies—together—not separately, or with other friends.
It means going to the dress store, or the sports event—together. It means getting excited about the mundane. Listening, not just nodding.
It means turning down a luncheon, or telling an individual you cannot go because you have a rule that you cannot be alone with a member of the opposite sex. It means guarding your thoughts, your actions; constantly thinking and being aware.
Asking yourself: would this make me jealous if my spouse did it? Would I talk about that if he or she were here? Would this disappoint them?
The best thrills in life are not fast and furious, nor costly or away from home.
The best is waking up each morning, knowing that that lump next to you loves you no matter what. Even though you’ve gained some pounds, your hair is gray, you were a fool last week, and a royal ______ five years in a row. They saw you through the worst. They stayed by your side. Yes, there are still disagreements. There are still times when you wonder what possessed them to do that.
But you are one. You know that it will somehow work.
Stay the course. Wait. Wait and pray. You will be guided as to what course to pursue. And if somehow your first marriage did not work; wait. Wait and pray.
Marriage, and a good one, can still be yours. And it will be worth the wait—I promise.
The adjective complementary means serving to complete or supplying mutual needs.
The adjective complimentary means flattering or given free as a courtesy.
A Complementary Marriage
What does it mean to complement one another? Too many times, we are taught by society that men and women are too different, they are opposites. They think, communicate, and work completely contrary from each other.
We are led to believe that we cannot be best friends. We are taught to look for a best friend from our own sex, do activities with friends of our own sex, and confide with those of our own sex. It is perfectly acceptable for women to have ladies night out and for men to gather in their man caves.
Couples feel that their spouse is only someone with whom they discuss children, school events, sports, money, and work.
Why would a guy watch a chick flick, or why would a girl watch an action movie? Guess what? Marriage is about give and take.
In marriage, we must blend together. We must put our desires on hold. Yes, that means the guy will watch a chick flick instead of making his wife go off to find other companionship.
And yes, girls, that means you will sit through a game or hunting program to show your husband you want to be with him, no matter if the activity is not your first choice.
Support is another defining word of complement as ‘serving to complete’ includes supporting one another. Also, as the complementary couple completes each other and works to supply each other’s mutual needs that the two together make a product that is superior to just one by itself.
All the research, literature, and wisdom clearly show that most of the time, two parent families produce children that are more stable, confident, and healthy.
Nonetheless, if you are alone, there are many things you can do to make sure your children have positive exposure to adults of both sexes.
First of all, find a church family where your children will have model examples, surrogate parents/grandparents that can fill in the spots you cannot.
Even couples need to do the same to surround themselves and their children with other families and couples that can teach, mentor, and lift you up and encourage a marriage that rises above the petty and the norm. Where respect, compassion, and care are hallmarks not exceptions.
Second, allow your children to have service opportunities. As they serve in the community, church or neighborhood, they will meet people who will help them see and understand the great talents, capabilities, and differences of each sex.
One sex is not superior to another. One is to not lord over, demean, or make fun of the other. I hear “jokes” all the time about mentor women, about marriage, or about how one sex has to put up with or endure the other sex. This simply should not be allowed.
As the two individuals become one couple, they truly do become one. One in purpose, one in passion, one in heart. Both work hand-in-hand to do a great work.
Each is necessary and each provides its own type of thinking, its own individual way to do things and its own singular thinking that when brought together; create a winning combination.
Forty-one years ago I climbed into the driver’s seat of an 18-wheel semi-truck with my beautiful wife, Jan, and our infant son, Scotty. We were taking a heavy load of construction materials across several states.
In those days there were no seat-belt restrictions or infant car seats. My wife held our precious son in her arms. Her comment “We sure are high off the ground” should have given me a clue about her feelings of apprehension.
As we made our descent over historic Donner Pass, a steep section of highway, the cab of the semi suddenly and unexpectedly filled with thick smoke. It was difficult to see, and we could hardly breathe.
With a heavy rig, brakes alone are not enough to rapidly decrease speed. Using the engine brakes and gearing down, I frantically attempted to stop.
Just as I was pulling to the side of the road, but before we had come to a full stop, my wife opened the door of the cab and jumped out with our baby in her arms. I watched helplessly as they tumbled in the dirt.
As soon as I had the semi stopped, I bolted from the smoking cab. With adrenaline pumping, I ran through the rocks and weeds and held them in my arms. Jan’s forearms and elbows were battered and bleeding, but thankfully she and our son were both breathing.
I just held them close as the dust settled there on the side of the highway. As my heartbeat normalized and I caught my breath, I blurted out, “What in the world were you thinking? Do you know how dangerous that was? You could have been killed!”
She looked back at me, with tears running down her smoke-smudged cheeks, and said something that pierced my heart and still rings in my ears: “I was just trying to save our son.”
I realized in that moment she thought the engine was on fire, fearing the truck would explode and we would die. I, however, knew it was an electrical failure—hazardous but not fatal. I looked at my precious wife, softly rubbing the head of our infant son, and wondered what kind of woman would do something so courageous.
This situation could have been as emotionally hazardous as our literal engine failure. Gratefully, after enduring the silent treatment for a reasonable amount of time, each of us believing the other person was at fault, we finally expressed the emotions that were churning beneath our heated outbursts. Shared feelings of love and fear for the other’s safety kept the hazardous incident from proving fatal to our cherished marriage.
We all regularly experience highly charged feelings of anger—our own and others’. We have seen unchecked anger erupt in public places. We have experienced it as a sort of emotional “electrical short” at sporting events, in the political arena, and even in our own homes.
Children sometimes speak to beloved parents with tongues as sharp as blades. Spouses, who have shared some of life’s richest and most tender experiences, lose vision and patience with each other and raise their voices. All of us have regretted jumping headlong from the high seat of self-righteous judgment and have spoken with abrasive words before we understood a situation from another’s perspective. We have all had the opportunity to learn how destructive words can take a situation from hazardous to fatal.
However, to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree is powerful and sorely needed in today’s world. We can and should participate in continuing civil dialogue, especially when we view the world from differing perspectives.
The writer of Proverbs counsels, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). A “soft answer” consists of a reasoned response—disciplined words from a kind heart. It does not mean we never speak directly or that we compromise truth. Words that may be firm in information can be soft in delivery.
Too many time, though, the language of anger and doubt and blame is used—a language in which the entire human race seems to be surprisingly proficient.
There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other across wide distances of belief and behavior and across deep canyons of conflicting agendas. It is impossible to know all that informs our minds and hearts or even to fully understand the context for the trials and choices we each face.
Fully owning the limits of my own imperfections and rough edges, I plead with you to practice asking this question, with understanding regard for another’s experience: “What are you thinking?”
When our truck cab filled with smoke, my wife acted in the bravest manner she could imagine to protect our son. I too acted as a protector when I questioned her choice. Shockingly, it did not matter who was more right. What mattered was listening to each other and understanding the other’s perspective.
The willingness to see through each other’s eyes will transform a misunderstanding into true communication. Each of us can experience this, too. It may not change or solve the problem, but the more important possibility may be whether true understanding can change us.
As we practice decency and professionalism through compassionate language by having empathy for the feelings and context of others; It enables us to transform hazardous situations into learning moments.
Adapted from an article by w. Craig Zwick