What Is the Answer?
MILLIONS of people get married every year because they believe that marriage will bring them the happiness that they seek. Yet their expectations often meet up with disappointment. So they get divorced, hoping this will answer their problems and open a door to happiness.
But is divorce the answer? What about some alternative arrangement to traditional marriage?
The Origin of Marriage
With human inventions, sufficient thought and experimentation almost always lead to improvement. So if marriage is of human origin, then the answer is, “Yes, it would be appropriate to experiment and make alterations so as perhaps to come up with a better arrangement.”
Well, then, what about the origin of marriage?
The 1977 Encyclopedia Americana, under “Marriage, History of,” notes: “Some scholars are inclined to trace the origin of marriage to pairing arrangements of animals below man. Studies reveal that a more or less permanent association . . . characterizes the anthropoid apes, with the association of the chimpanzee being monogamous and durable.”
Thus, marriage is commonly believed to have originated among subhuman creatures. However, there is no real evidence to support this view. The Encyclopedia Americana even acknowledges that “these more or less permanent associations between other than human animals are not marriages, for animals have no society to sanction them.”
This source goes on to claim: “While the original form of marriage is lost in the oblivion of the prehistorical period, it is safe to say that during historical times some form of marriage has been present in all societies. . . . the main forms of marriage are polygymy [a man having more than one wife], polyandry [a woman having more than one husband] and monogamy [men and women having only one mate].”
So the fact is that various forms of marriage already have been tried, in the past as well as the present. Yet, as The Encyclopedia Americana observes: “The prevalent form of marriage among all people today, and probably among people in all times, has been some form of monogamy, or the union of one man and one woman. . . it appears to be more favorable to the care and upbringing of children.”
Why has a union of one man and one woman always been the generally accepted form of marriage? Could it be because such marriage is of Divine, rather than of human, origin? When Jesus Christ was once asked about grounds for divorce, note what he said concerning the origin of marriage:
“Did you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matt. 19:3-6; Gen. 2:21-24) No, “the original form of marriage” was not lost in the so-called “oblivion of the prehistorical period.”
But you may ask, If marriage really is of Divine origin, why is there so much unhappiness associated with it? Could we not expect better results from something God created?
The Basic Problem
There is a basic reason why so many marriages are unhappy or end up in failure. To illustrate: When a manufacturer produces a product, he usually supplies instructions for its use, does he not? But what happens if the instructions are ignored? The product, even though of perfect quality, may break down and fail because of misuse.
So it is with marriage. Almighty God originated marriage, providing for couples to be joined in wedlock and to bring forth children in a family arrangement. God also provided instructions for family living. But when these instructions are ignored, despite the perfection of the arrangement, marriage can, and, as experience has shown, often does, bring unhappiness to all concerned.
Yet the arrangement itself is good, with real potential for bringing happiness, as even persons whose marriages have failed may acknowledge. Thus a 47-year-old New Jersey businessman, after a two-year legal separation, began courting his wife again, explaining: “What I missed was something that had taken a lifetime to build. I knew by a look, by a half sentence exactly what my wife was thinking. And, she is the only one who really understands me . . .
“I missed driving my kids to school every morning. I would take them out to dinner several times a week, but it wasn’t the same. The spontaneity and easiness of our relationship was gone. People need structure. They are taught for many years to value a home and a family and suddenly they think they can throw it all away—well, they can’t. I couldn’t.”
The Only Sure Answer
So the key to a successful marriage is following the guidelines of the Creator of marriage, Jehovah God. Yet this may be doubted. Nevertheless, the fact remains, the Bible’s guidance has helped many couples to enjoy a happy life together. Unfortunately, few persons know about the fine instruction that the Bible provides for husbands and wives, and fewer still follow that instruction.
For a moment, then, consider just a portion of the advice that the Bible gives couples: “Husbands must always treat their wives with consideration in their life together, respecting a woman as one who, though she may be the weaker partner, is equally an heir to the life of grace.” “You too, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself.”—1 Pet. 3:7; Eph. 5:33, The Jerusalem Bible.
Yes, husbands are to take the initiative in showing consideration to their wives. They have the greater responsibility for conditions in the family. The Bible shows why when it says: “A husband is head of his wife.” (Eph. 5:23) To many women in this world of women’s liberation, this may sound distasteful. But need it be? Not when the headship is exercised properly, in a loving way, with the husband considering the opinions, likes and dislikes of his wife, and even giving her preference when there is no issue at stake. In this way he follows the Bible counsel to show his wife consideration.
The Bible also urges: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands,” and, “The wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Eph. 5:22, 33) God purposed that a wife work along with her husband, serving as a helper, a complement to him. (Gen. 2:18, 24) What a fine arrangement this can be, especially when each partner follows this further Bible counsel: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely”!—Col. 3:12, 13.
When couples truly recognize that marriage is a Divine arrangement and when God’s guidance is sought and followed, then marriage can bring husbands and wives a lifetime of genuine happiness. Does this mean, however, that divorce is never the answer to marriage problems?
Ideally, it shouldn’t be. Yet the situation may arise where a husband or a wife flouts the sacredness of the marital arrangement and engages in sex relations with a person other than his or her marriage mate, or even with an animal. Such conduct is what the Greeks called porneia, or sexual immorality. And the Greek text at Matthew 19:9 states that porneia is the only basis on which Christians can properly get a divorce and remarry.
Unfortunately, God’s counsel is often not applied today, many times because people do not know about it. Then troubles usually result. We can learn from the experiences of others. So we invite you to read the following story of a young woman and her divorce.