Married Life—Making It Happier
What can make marriage a success?
Whose guidance can lead to marital happiness?
How can communication problems be solved?
INFLUENCED by books they read on women’s liberation, Yasuhiro and his girlfriend, Kayoko, started to live together, thinking they could dissolve their relationship anytime. Only after Kayoko became pregnant did they legalize their marriage. Yasuhiro, however, continued to have doubts about the family arrangement. With the advent of financial problems and a sense of incompatibility, there was nothing to stop them from divorcing.
Some time after their divorce, and unknown to each other, both Yasuhiro and Kayoko started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. After a while, each learned of this and could observe the changes made in the other’s life through applying Bible principles. They decided to remarry. Now, with their godly view of marriage, they are willing to make sacrifices to solve their problems.
What made their second marriage a success? It was their respect for the Originator of marriage. (Genesis 2:18-24) The guidance given by the most experienced marriage counselor, Jehovah God, is the key that opens the door to marital happiness.
The Key to Marital Happiness
Marital problems can be solved and marriages saved when both mates apply what Jesus Christ said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Here is the key to marital happiness. Both husband and wife must love Jehovah before loving themselves or each other. This relationship may be compared to a threefold cord. “If somebody could overpower one alone, two together could make a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two.”—Ecclesiastes 4:12.
As the love of God means observing his commandments, the husband and the wife must put his laws and principles on human behavior first in their life. By doing so they are making a threefold cord of which the strongest thread is their love for Jehovah. And “his commandments are not burdensome,” says 1 John 5:3.
This leads to viewing marriage as a permanent arrangement. (Malachi 2:16) With such a foundation in their marriage, a couple will be moved to resolve marital problems instead of walking out of the back door by getting a divorce.
Showing Love for Your Nearest Neighbor
To have a permanent bond with your mate, you must nurture your love for him or her, your nearest neighbor. This love must be unselfish. Notice how the Bible encourages this principle: “Have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind, doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—Philippians 2:2-4.
Granted, it is difficult to do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism in this selfish world. When your mate does not take the initiative in showing love, unselfishness is even harder; but by putting on lowliness of mind, considering that your mate is superior to you, you will find it easier to give thought to your mate’s interests. The Bible admonishes us to have the mental attitude that was in Christ Jesus. He was a mighty spirit, but he “took a slave’s form,” becoming a man. Not only that, but when he was on the earth, he “humbled himself and became obedient as far as death,” which benefited even men who did not welcome him. (Philippians 2:5-8) By displaying this attitude, Jesus won the hearts of many opposers, and by imitating Jesus, so did his followers. (Acts 6:7; 9:1, 2, 17, 18) The same can happen for you. By viewing your mate as superior to you and keeping an eye in personal interest on the matters of your mate, you may gradually win his or her heart.
However, viewing your mate as superior does not require passive resignation of a wife to a husband’s tyranny, as has been the case in the East. Both the husband and the wife must view each other as superior in that each is willing to make sacrifices for the other. When a couple talk over their problems with this lowliness of mind, reflect an unselfish interest in each other, and follow divine counsel, they are well on the road to solving their problems. Let us now consider some of God’s counsel.
Let “the Marriage Bed Be Without Defilement”
Jehovah, who initiated the marriage arrangement, has a blueprint for the proper relationship between a man and his wife. When asked whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife on every sort of ground, Jesus Christ said: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.” He indicated that there is only one legitimate basis for divorce and remarriage by further saying: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.”—Matthew 19:3-9.
Extramarital sex, even if practiced in the name of love, is not loving at all, for either party. A man in central Japan was carrying on affairs with several women outside his marriage. His wife became suspicious and frustrated. Their marriage faced a crisis. Then the day came when one of his lovers told him that she was going to make her existence known to his wife and demanded that he marry her. “Such relationships make nobody happy,” he recalls with penitence. He came out of this mire only after hurting everybody involved. The Bible’s standard is clear-cut on this matter. “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) By observing this command, one avoids sexually transmitted diseases, marital strain, and the stress of a hidden love affair.
Husbands, Love and Cherish Your Wives
The principle of headship within the family has also been outlined by God. “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation,” states Ephesians 5:22, 23. Applying this counsel is not easy. “It was a mountainous challenge for me,” admits Shoko, who had been usurping her husband’s right to make final decisions. Thinking that a man should buy a house when he reached his late 20’s, she forced her husband to buy one she had gone ahead and found. When she learned the Bible principles involved, however, she began to view her husband in a different light. What seemed to be a passive and unmanly character was, when seen in proper perspective, discerning, humble, and meek.
This principle requires husbands to be aware that they are under the higher authority of Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Being under Christ’s authority, a husband is to love and cherish his wife the same way Jesus loves his followers. (Ephesians 5:28-30) Thus, a Christian husband will thoughtfully consider his wife’s feelings, wishes, and limitations before making decisions.
“Seasoned With Salt”
Hisako had problems communicating with her husband. Whenever she tried to discuss something with him, he would shy away by saying: “Do as you please.” Hisako recalls: “I think a lack of tenderness on my part was the cause of our problem. It might have been better if I had talked at a slower tempo.” Today, she and her husband can discuss matters with smiles on their faces. The change has come about since Hisako applied the following counsel: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” (Colossians 4:6) As food seasoned with salt is more palatable, well-thought-out words uttered in a gracious manner are easier to take. (Proverbs 15:1) In fact, just by being considerate in how you talk, marital discord can often be prevented.
Yes, loving Jehovah God and respecting his principles really does work. Love for Jehovah motivates you to view your marriage as a permanent bond and helps you to be determined to preserve it. God has provided sound guidelines that will help you to deal with all marital discord and solve your problems, however mountainous they may seem. No, in most cases divorce is not the door to a happier life, but the applying of Bible principles is. You can open that door by cultivating your love for Jehovah. Why not learn more about his counsel from the most authoritative marriage guidance book, the Bible?
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When Divorce Is an Option
ALTHOUGH the Bible makes allowance for divorce and remarriage on the grounds of fornication, the adultery does not automatically end the relationship between husband and wife. The innocent spouse has the option of either obtaining a divorce or not.—Matthew 19:9.
Yasuko faced this decision. Her husband had made another home with his mistress. Her husband’s mother blamed Yasuko and said: “It’s all your fault that my son is behaving this way.” Yasuko wept day in and day out. Many gave her advice, but none condemned her husband’s affair. Then, her own mother, who had started to study the Bible, told her: “In the Bible, it is clearly stated that committing adultery is wrong.” (1 Corinthians 6:9) Yasuko was very much relieved to know that there is still a standard for good and bad in this world today.
Now Yasuko had a choice. Although she thought of divorcing her husband, she could see after studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses that she was not doing her part either. So she decided to test the Bible principles in solving her problems. She started applying them. (Ephesians 5:21-23) “It was not easy,” she recalls. “I kept experiencing relapses again and again. Many were the times I prayed to Jehovah in tears.” As she changed, her husband gradually changed too. Some five years later, her husband severed all ties with his mistress. Yasuko concludes: “I am convinced that obeying the Word of God is definitely beneficial.”
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Sexual Incompatibility and Divorce
MANY couples cite sexual incompatibility as their reason for divorce. Pointing out where the problem lies, a book dealing with today’s changing family arrangement, entitled Sekkushuaritii to Kazoku (Sexuality and Family), says: “A monogamous marriage arrangement and erotomania sex information today do not go hand in hand. The flood of sex information distorts conjugal Eros and shreds ordinary affection to pieces. Not just the merchandising of sex but pornographic videotapes and comic books that depict female bodies as commodities pervert human senses and hearts. Thus, wives are afflicted with [their husbands’] rapelike sex, and husbands who are rejected become impotent.”
Immoral publications, videos, and TV programs distort sex. They do not teach what constitutes real enjoyment of matrimony. They also destroy the trust that a husband and wife must cultivate in order to have a successful marriage. Psychology Today states: “Trust enables you to put your deepest feelings and fears in the palm of your partner’s hand, knowing they will be handled with care. While feelings of love or sexual excitement may wax and wane over time, ideally, trust is a constant.”
Sex is not the pivot on which a successful married life turns. A wife who has gone through difficult marital problems says: “What encouraged me most were the words in the book Making Your Family Life Happy: ‘Generally speaking, if all the other relationships in the marriage are good, if there are love, respect, good communication and understanding, then sex will seldom be a problem.’”a
The real bonding agent between spouses is not sex but love. Sex without love is futile, but love can stand alone. By putting sex in its place, not making it the center of their lives, a couple can enjoy their partnership and solve the problem of sexual incompatibility.
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Respecting Bible principles will help a couple to communicate freely