Let me get this out of the way: There are no perfect marriages.
All husbands and wives struggle with relationship difficulties. Yet many people insist on believing in an impossible marital ideal. Don’t place hope in the unattainable goal of uninterrupted marital bliss. You will only set yourself up for repeated disappointment. Those who live active and demanding lives in a fallen world are bound to experience the stresses and frustrations that test marriages. Frankly, I am suspicious of anyone who claims a trouble-free marriage. We certainly don’t want to be like the man who never argues with his wife because they never talk. Where there is no movement, there is no friction.
Some marriages give the appearance of harmony because one partner bends to every whim of the other. These are dysfunctional marriages. Don’t be fooled by them. I recall a newly married person proudly declaring that she had a better marriage than many others who had been married much longer. This was easy for her to say because her marriage had not withstood the inevitable tests of time. Thankfully, there are marriages that have withstood the tests and are meaningful and mature examples for young people. The number of such marriages, however, is decreasing.
There are far too many marriages in our communities that are hanging together by very thin threads. When marriages are like this, it is almost always due to significant patterns of neglect. Make no mistake: a good marriage takes work! It requires commitment and sacrifice on both sides.
Many husbands and wives do not enjoy the meaningful companionship they long for because they are unwilling to invest the time and effort necessary for attaining it. Neglect, complacency, assumptions, taking each other for granted, negativity, loss of good-will—these are the more subtle threats that ruin marriages.
Another reason some marriages don’t survive is the refusal to seek help. Those who find themselves in an extended or often repeated “marital rut” usually need the assistance of a wise counselor to successfully navigate a difficult season. Wives are generally more willing to accept counsel than husbands. The ever-so-tender male ego has held many couples in marital misery.
Don’t be like the fool depicted in the OT book of Proverbs. He was doomed to his foolishness because he refused to accept correction and counsel. There are many seasoned counselors who can help you understand and work through obstacles to meaningful companionship.
Remember, “Two are better off than one, because they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up…Two people can resist an attack that defeats one person alone. A rope made up of three cords is hard to break” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12).
The “third cord” of a meaningful and lasting marriage is God. As husbands and wives cultivate their relationship with God individually, they make strong contributions to their marriages. We were made by our creator to live in a personal relationship with him. He has graciously opened the way for this to be possible (see: John 3:16,17; 14:6 ). Visualize a triangle with husband and wife at the lower corners and God at the top. The closer you move toward God, the closer you move toward each other.
If your marriage is in trouble and your mate is unwilling to recognize it, you can always seek help for yourself. Ask God to use your marital difficulties to refine your character and strengthen your relationship with him (see: James 1:2-5).
After more than twenty-five years of marriage and raising four energetic children, my wife and I have learned many lessons about marriage. The road has not always been smooth but we have made some basic commitments that have helped us. Although I am not available to counsel every troubled marriage, I am pleased to recommend a list of the basic commitments that have helped us. You can access this list at: