Is Marriage Failing?

Has the institution of marriage let us down? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Readers of the blog know that for all intents and purposes, I am still a Newlywed and this has been a major learning experience. I often look forward to my male friends who are single getting married themselves so they know the joy of it, but at the same time want to prepare them for realities. Marriage is awesome, but it is also something that requires work.

My wife and I are both diagnosed with Asperger’s. This makes our marriage even more interesting. Something we discovered early on was that while there are many ways we have to say “I love you,” some are unique to us. Her cooking me something is such a way and wanting to buy me something is a way. For me, I am all about knowledge and one way I have done so is by ordering books on marriage and reading about being a good husband.

I also listen to podcasts. One I’ve found quite enjoyable is Marriage Today with Jimmy and Karen Evans. (Link below) I think the advice given is often quite good and my wife and I have started the pattern of listening to an episode together and then discussing it. We listened today to one on God’s indestructible plan for marriage. After that, we discussed what the subject was, how women need to feel loved and secure and how men need to feel respected and honored.

We then talked about ways we do this for each other and then talked about ways we don’t do this for the other and how we’d like to see change. We also set up a rule that we want it to be that when she does not feel loved by something I do, she can tell me without fear of criticism or defensiveness, and when I don’t feel respected by something she does, she can tell me without fear of criticism or defensiveness. It doesn’t mean that the person speaking is right, but they do have a right to speak. I really think this would be a great rule for many marriages to follow.

However, there was one point I disagreed with on the show and that was when Jimmy Evans said that the institution of marriage was failing as more and more people were unmarried than ever before and divorce was becoming more prevalent. Some of you could be wondering “With unwed mothers, homosexuality on the rise, and cohabitation without marriage rising, how could you say the institution of marriage is not failing?” Some of you I hope have caught the distinction, and it is one my wife caught immediately when someone gave her the same kind of statement.

The institution of marriage does not fail. People fail the institution of marriage.

You see, the system works great. It’s God’s idea. It’s just the people that are in the system are often problematic. Why is this? One reason that comes to my mind immediately is how self-centered each of us is. We are all constantly looking out for #1.

Sure. The husband is more than willing to help with taking out the trash, but there’d better be sex in it for him or else he’s going to be upset. Meanwhile, of course the wife is willing to have sex with her husband, but he’d sure better be sure to paint the kid’s bedroom!

This can sadly happen and in each case, each person is looking out for #1 and not seeing the joy in helping their spouse just for helping them. Okay men. You’ve spent all day cleaning up the house to surprise your Mrs. and then think “I bet she’ll want to show me how much she appreciates this!” Let’s suppose that wasn’t on your mind really when you started, but now it is and of course, it’s all you can think about it.

Question. If she does not give you a really good time tonight, are you going to feel hurt?

Let’s hope the answer is no. She is not under obligation after all. There is nothing that says that if you do X, she must have sex with you. Keep in mind however men, that women will say you are never more attractive to them than you are when you’re doing housework. (On a forum I belong to, there was a thread once called “Female porn” that consisted of pictures of men fully clothed doing housework.)

If she does, well you can certainly enjoy that! If she doesn’t, what do you enjoy? You enjoy that you got to show love to your wife and please her. Perhaps if she is not interested, she has her own reasons and it might just be that it does not mean anything whatsoever about her lack of desire for you. Instead, just let it be. It’s not much of a gift of grace to her if you give of yourself only so you can get something in return. Keep in mind we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, which means sacrifice.

Now as to the women, so you spend all the time prettying yourself up waiting for your husband to get home from work. You’ve had a nice and long shower, put on his favorite perfume and the nicest make-up, fixed his favorite dinner, and you have those rose petals on the bed while you’re wearing a very revealing outfit all for him and have that romantic evening all planned with some nice romantic music. When he comes home, he is pleased and the night goes exactly as you wanted.

And now you go to sleep that night and think “I’ve shown my husband a great time. I hope he’ll paint the kid’s bedroom tomorrow.”

What if he doesn’t? What if the guy is still a bonehead who has not caught on as to how much this means to you? Do you get angry? “I did all this for him and he doesn’t do this for me?!” (oh how tempting it can be for us!) Or, do you delight that you showed your husband love? Note however I think this wife is on the right track. Women. You find men doing the housework attractive, but it is certain that if you nag your husbands, they will find that unattractive and will NOT want to meet your request. In fact, the way to get your husband to have more interest in your desires is to have more interest in his. One of the best things you can do in this case is to seduce your husband.

Marriage is the best way to draw you out of yourself and start you focusing on another. As you live with the other person, you have to learn how to change. You can no longer think about just what you want. Perhaps I want to spend some time in study and my wife wants to watch a movie. Am I willing sometimes to forgo that for the joy of my family, or will my wife always be second to academia? (For those concerned, we do often watch movies together at home).

Perhaps the Mrs. has been busy preparing herself to head out the door, but her husband sees her getting ready and suddenly has other things on his mind. Okay. Maybe you are too busy at this point, but does that mean you have to give a flat no? How about something like “I’d really love to right now, but I have to get to work, but I will be thinking about you all day today and if you have things ready when I get home, I will also be ready.” Be assured of this women. You will be on his mind ALL DAY!

No. You can’t do everything every time, but what would happen if in marriage each person put the needs and desires of the other above themselves? Why most of each person’s needs and desires would be met. What do we do when we seek to look out for #1? We seek to meet our needs and desires. A major difference with the first way is that in this case, we not only get them met, but we also grow in holiness and character as we reach beyond ourselves into the other.

Someone I worked with once asked me what the best way to learn forgiveness was. I answered to get married. In marriage, you spend a lot of time being forgiven and giving forgiveness because all your faults are displayed there for the other person to see and there’s nowhere to hide.

For we men, we have to learn to love with grace. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, a tall order that should fill us with terror when we see how badly we are failing obviously. The women are to love as the church loves Christ. Some women might be saying “Well that’s a relief because the church doesn’t do that one well!” It would be a mistake to think that way. The church is the body of Christ and the church is to love Christ as if they were loving themselves. How many of us are good at doing that with the other?

It’s not a surprise to me then that so many people try to take the easy way out to avoid this, but the easy way will seldom produce exemplary results. “Marriage is just a ritual” The problem is with the word ‘just’. The ceremony is certainly a ritual in a sense, but it is much more than that. The wedding day is a day that will change your life forever.

Ah. Such a risky manuever! Let us go without risks! We will try each other out first! We will see how we do and if we think we are doing well, well then we might consider marriage.

Do you like being tested? Now some of us are rare exceptions in that when test time came at school for me, I was thrilled. I thoroughly enjoyed a good test. That is because I knew the subject and could pass it and thus, that meant that I had an easy class.

What if the test was never-ending? What if the test was every day? What if you were tested on every comment, every action, and every fiber of you being? Would that be a good test? What if it was not your knowledge that was being tested, but rather you that were being tested?

What if this test determined whether this person would love or respect you and your entire future happiness could depend on this?

Are you able to be free? No. You must walk on pins and needles. Your time in the bedroom cannot be as passionate if you know that you must please this other person. You cannot seriously think about having children if you know that this other person might not be around to help raise them. How can you plan to buy that house if you could be left with a mortgage when the other person abandons you?

For a married couple, they are to stay together no matter what. Whatever happens, one makes the best of it and loves and/or respects anyway. For the couple that is living together, it is but a sham.

“Okay,” I have heard several single guys ask me. “What’s the big deal? If I’m in love with this woman, I want to have sex with her. Why should I wait?”

You know what. That’s a good question. Why should you wait? Another good one is “Why shouldn’t you?”

For single men who are willing to take this risk, you are playing a very very dangerous game. I was relieved when one friend I have who started dating already told me they were making sure that if their relationship went well, there would be no sex until marriage and that that goes without saying.

For too many guys, even Christian guys I know, it sadly does not go without saying.

The dangerous game is that this is something dynamite that will forever change the fabric of your relationship. In ancient times, most marriages were arranged at birth. Today, many still are. How did that work? The two people who never knew each other come together after the wedding for the first time. This was usually where something like a bloodied sheet would be shown so all could celebrate the marriage being consummated.

That act was what it took to begin forming the bond. Were it not that the future of the human race is built upon having children and that sex is something designed to be very pleasurable, I suspect most men would never get married. However, it is that drive for the female that makes us want to be with her and the act of sex increases that desire all the more. Don’t think it can happen and the fabric of your relationship not change. It most certainly will.

Marriage creates the perfect bond for that. This is why Paul even told men and women to only abstain if they agreed beforehand and to come quickly together lest the devil use their lack of self-control. Obvious reason even for Christian couples? Both will want more and it will quickly become something highly important in the marriage.

Marriage helps to stabilize this drive. The man knows he must work to please the woman and provide for her as she meets his need for respect. The woman knows that she must be gracious and loving so that her husband will be able to meet her need for love and security. Sexual intercourse will also be a great security for her as it will be a great affirmation of respect for him.

Why wait? Because you want to save that for the person you’ve committed your whole life to. “Well I already know she’s the one!” Okay. If you’re so sure, you should be willing to wait. Is she not worth waiting for? You can rest assured, there will be times in marriage when you have to wait. You might as well learn now.

Thus, if she is the one, wait and you will have her eventually. If she is not the one, then you can be sure you are saving yourself for the right one.

But it could just be our drive for our personal pleasure is greater than our drive for personal holiness.

And maybe that’s what the problem is at root. We are lovers of self rather than lovers of God. If you are in a marriage and you do not love your spouse, do not give me this nonsense then that you love God. Now sadly, if in the case of a situation like abuse, it could be you have to separate, but I’d also be praying for your spouse to be convicted and repent and return to holiness. Most of us are not in these situations and how can we be lovers of God and not lovers of our spouses? John told us we cannot say we love God if we do not love man who is in His image.

Let us then reach beyond ourselves and love God and love our spouses, for the glory of God, and show the world the institution of marriage is not failing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Info on Marriage Today can be found here