In June, my wife and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Since about half of all marriages now end in divorce, what is our secret to lasting happiness? As I often like to say, we are soul-mates, very similar in our nature, beliefs, likes and habits. That has been immensely helpful to us, and it is not an accident that we are so similar. After a conservative Biblical upbringing, she had joined the church that I pastor and is steeped in my sermons!
A few recent articles in the mainstream media offered very good advice for young people contemplating marriage. A Wall Street Journal special report, “Rules For A Happy Life” (3-30-14, C1) concluded that the more you have in common with your spouse, the greater the likelihood of marital happiness. That suggestion should not be a shock to anyone, and yet far too many people marry for superficial reasons, such as looks alone, or they rush to the altar with whomever they happen to find who is eligible at the moment they desire marriage. The article listed quite a number of areas that matter to happiness in a marriage according to the study; of course, the two big items are politics and religion, but there was much more. The article presented such things as musical inclinations, interior design styles, color preferences, and food likings. In addition, since it is usually too politically incorrect to reveal such things, ethnic similarity should also be mentioned. The media usually suppresses the fact that inter-racial marriages have a significantly higher divorce rate, although the exact figures are nearly impossible to track down. Yet our young people should be informed that marrying someone of your own background and its particular culture does indeed improve the chances for a happy and successful marriage.
Some of the “happy marriage” items that were listed in the Journal article you might never even think of. For example, the time of day that you like to do your shopping was a humorous head-scratcher for me. That would not have been my first question on a date!
Those who marry for money should take the advice of billionaire music and film producer, David Geffen, who says, “Show me someone who thinks that money buys happiness, and I’ll show you someone who has never had a lot of money.” No, money does not buy happiness, as witness the many rich sports and movie stars who are divorced, often multiple times.
My wife and I both tend to be very strong-willed individuals. Such a combination could easily spell conflict and trouble for a marriage. Yet, we live pretty much a serene, happy life together. In thinking about it, we have so much in common that there really is not a lot that we could argue about.
The Bible has much to say about marriage. “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22) A good marriage is one of the best things that can ever happen to you.
The Apostle Paul advised, “If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all.” (I Cor. 13:1-2, Phillips) Yes, the faith to move mountains is nothing without love.
The Prophet Micah warns us in chapter 7, verse 5, “Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.” Be careful what you say! It is not always a good thing to try to tell everyone their supposed faults, especially one’s wife! For the apostle wisely advises us in 1 Peter 4:8, “above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins.” The Amplified Bible adds, “forgives and disregards the offenses of others.” Proverbs 10:12 concurs, saying, “Hatred stirs up contentions, but love covers all transgressions.” If we love one another, we will forgive their transgressions against us.
The apostle John advised, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren…My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16, 18) We should show our Christian faithfulness and love by our actions and our lifestyle.
On many of the hot button issues of our day, we find ourselves at odds not only with the ungodly but with a growing number of Christians (in name) who criticize or think us hateful for upholding Scriptural moral values. In John 14:23-24, “Jesus answered and said…If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings…” Obedience to God is sometimes hard, often politically incorrect, but it is love, not hate!
An article by Sam Roberts in The New York Times was titled, “To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered.” Yes, less than half of American households are married now, a steady decline from the past. Figures from the American Community Survey, released by the Census Bureau, found that only 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples. Many children are brought up in one-parent households, which is neither easy for the parent nor beneficial for the children. There is little “peer pressure” now to encourage settling down in a stable marriage.
In his newly released book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Do’s and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living A Good Life” (Random House), American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray has much to say about marriage. He suggests that people marry young, because there is a “symbiosis, where two people become more than the sum of the individuals.” A couple who made their way together in life have a set of shared experiences and the satisfaction of knowing “that you wouldn’t have become the person you are without the other.” Murray, too, advises marrying someone similar to yourself, and that if “you think that you can change your beloved after you’re married, you’re wrong.” I would add that, sometimes, that is a very good thing! I am glad that my wife is still so much the girl I fell in love with. Over thirty years we have been through so much together, and I have appreciated her standing by my side.
As a loving father, I can only hope, encourage, and pray that God will lead and guide my own young daughter in the major decisions of her life. Above all, I pray that in the declining moral and spiritual atmosphere we see today we all realize the importance of being loving, guiding moral lights to our own children and to the younger generation.