Laying a Fine Foundation for Your Marriage
1-3. According to Matthew 7:24-27, on what does real success in life depend?
A HOUSE, a life or a marriage is only as good as the foundation on which it rests. In one of his illustrations Jesus spoke of two men—a wise one who built his house on solid rock and a foolish one who built on sandy soil. When a storm arose, and floodwaters and winds lashed the houses, the one on solid rock stood, but the one on sand fell with a great crash.
2 Jesus was not teaching people how to build houses. He was emphasizing the need to build their lives on a fine foundation. As God’s messenger, he said: “Everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them” is like the man building on solid rock. But “everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing them” is like the one building on sand.—Matthew 7:24-27.
3 Note that in both cases Jesus shows it is not just a matter of hearing wise counsel and knowing what to do. What makes the difference between success and failure is the doing of what the wise counsel says. “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”—John 13:17.
4. What are some things that we can learn from the marriage of the first human pair? (Genesis 2:22-3:19)
4 This is certainly true of marriage. If we build our marriage on a rocklike foundation, it will stand the stresses of life. But from where does this fine foundation come? From the Creator of marriage, Jehovah God. He started marriage when he brought the first human pair together as husband and wife. Then he gave them wise instructions for their own good. Whether they followed these wise instructions would determine whether they had an everlasting glorious future or no future at all. Both of them knew God’s instructions, but, sadly, they allowed selfishness to prevent them from obeying these guidelines. They chose to ignore the counsel and, as a result, their marriage and their lives collapsed like a storm-lashed house built on sand.
5, 6. What help does God provide for married persons and for those who are contemplating marriage?
5 Jehovah God brought that first pair together in marriage, but he does not personally make the marital arrangements for couples today. His wise counsel for happy marriages, however, is still available. It is up to each individual today who contemplates marriage to decide whether he will apply the counsel. God’s Word also shows that we can ask him for help in making a wise decision regarding a prospective mate.—James 1:5, 6.
6 Circumstances, of course, vary considerably in different parts of the earth. In many areas today men and women make their own selection of a marriage mate. But among a considerable part of earth’s population the parents work out the marriage, sometimes through a “matchmaker.” In some areas a man gets a wife only after paying a “bride price” to her parents, and the size of the price may even put the marriage out of the man’s reach. Whatever the circumstances, however, the Bible provides counsel that can help toward the enduring success of a marriage.
KNOW YOURSELF FIRST
7-10. (a) When contemplating marriage, what does a person need to know about himself? How can he find out? (b) What does the Bible say as to the validity of reasons for getting married?
7 What do you want out of marriage? What are your needs—physically, emotionally, spiritually? What are your values, your goals and your methods of reaching them? To answer these questions you must know yourself. This is not as easy as one might think. It takes emotional maturity to examine ourselves, and even then it is not possible to see ourselves as we really are in every detail. The Christian apostle Paul indicated this when he wrote, at 1 Corinthians 4:4: “I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah.”
8 On a certain occasion the Creator wanted the man Job to realize some facts that he was failing to discern, and God said to him: “Let me question you, and you inform me.” (Job 38:3) Questions can help us to know ourselves and to discover motives. So question yourself about your interest in marriage.
9 Do you want to get married to satisfy physical needs—food, clothing, shelter? Those needs are basic to all of us, as the Bible says: “Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” And the need for sex? That is also a normal desire. “It is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.” (1 Timothy 6:8; 1 Corinthians 7:9) Is it for companionship? That was a major reason why God established the marriage arrangement. Another was for two persons to cooperate together in work. (Genesis 2:18; 1:26-28) Accomplishing good work is a source of satisfaction and should have its reward: “Every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Ecclesiastes 3:13.
10 Persons in love have long viewed the heart as a symbol of their feelings. The Bible, however, asks a disturbing question about the heart: “Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Are you sure you know what is in your heart?
11. What basic emotional needs should be satisfied in marriage?
11 Often, physical attraction blinds us to other emotional needs. In seeking a mate, do you give sufficient weight to your need for receiving understanding, kindness and compassion? Basic needs of all of us are: someone to be close to, to confide in, to reveal ourselves to without fear of being hurt; someone who will not shut “the door of his tender compassions” upon us. (1 John 3:17) Can you give all of this to your mate, and will he or she give it to you in return?
12. Why is the satisfying of physical and emotional needs not sufficient for a happy marriage?
12 Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) What is your spiritual need? Does it relate to seeking a career? Riches? Material possessions? Well, do these pursuits bring inner peace and contentment? Usually they do not. So we need to appreciate that within all persons there is a hunger of the spirit that remains, even after all the physical needs are satisfied. Our spirit hungers for identity—to know who we are, what we are, why we are here, and where we are going. Are you conscious of these spiritual needs, and of the way to meet them?
13. For a happy marriage, what must you discern in addition to your own needs?
13 If you understand all these needs of body, mind and spirit, do you know whether your prospective mate also understands them? You must not only know your own particular needs for happiness in marriage but also discern the needs of your mate. You surely want your mate to be happy also. Unhappiness for one will mean unhappiness for both.
14. In many marriages, why do mates find that they are incompatible?
14 Many marriages end up in unhappiness or divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. Incompatibility is a big word, but its importance in marriage is even bigger. If two persons are not well suited as a team, the going can be difficult. Such a situation brings to mind the provision of the Mosaic law that mercifully prohibited yoking together two animals of different build and strength, because of the hardship it would create. (Deuteronomy 22:10) So, too, with a man and a woman who are not well matched and yet are teamed up in marriage. When mates have different interests, different tastes in friends and recreational activities, and few things in common, the marital bonds come under great strain.
15, 16. What are some matters that should be discussed with a prospective marriage mate, and how?
15 “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” the Bible tells us. (Proverbs 15:22) In considering marriage, have practical matters been discussed? How will the man’s work fit into the marriage? It will determine where you live and how much money will be coming in to meet practical needs. Who will handle the budget? Is there need for the wife to work, and is that desirable? What is to be the relationship with in-laws, especially the parents of both parties? How does each one feel about sex, children and the training of children? Does one want to dominate the other, or will kind consideration govern the relationship?
16 Can all these questions, and others as well, be discussed calmly and logically, and settled in a way that both of you can live with comfortably? Can problems be faced and solved together, and the channel of communication be kept always open? That is the lifeline of a successful marriage.
17-19. Why do family backgrounds have a bearing on compatibility in marriage?
17 Greater compatibility usually exists between two persons having similar backgrounds. The book Aid to Bible Understanding, page 1114, states about marriage in Bible times:
“It seems to have been generally customary for a man to look for a wife within the circle of his own relations or tribe. This principle is indicated by Laban’s statement to Jacob: ‘It is better for me to give [my daughter] to you than for me to give her to another man.’ (Genesis 29:19) Especially was this observed among the worshipers of Jehovah, as exemplified by Abraham, who sent to his relatives in his own country to get a wife for his son Isaac rather than to take one from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom he was dwelling. (Genesis 24:3, 4)”
18 Of course, this does not mean it is advisable for a person today to marry a very close relative, for this could produce genetic problems that might result in defective offspring. But family backgrounds do have much to do with the set of values people have. During childhood and youth a person’s conduct and feelings are naturally influenced by the family atmosphere. When the backgrounds of both parties are similar, they usually find it easier to ‘grow in the same soil and flourish in the same climate.’ However, persons with different backgrounds and origins can also make good adjustments in marriage, especially if both are mature emotionally.
19 Clearly it is beneficial if you can know something about your prospective mate’s family. But also see how he or she relates to the family—to parents and brothers and sisters. How does he or she treat older persons, or get along with young children?
20, 21. In selecting a mate, what view should be taken of individual shortcomings?
20 Notwithstanding all the precautions taken, you must still remember this: Compatibility between two persons will never be perfect. Both will have shortcomings. Some they may discern before marriage; some they will become aware of later. What then?
21 It is not the shortcomings themselves that make marriages fail, but it is how the partner feels about them. Can you see that the good outweighs the flaws, or do you focus on the bad and harp on that? Are you flexible enough to make allowances, just as you need and want allowances to be made for you? The apostle Peter said, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Do you have this kind of love for the one you contemplate marrying? If not, it would be better for you not to marry that person.
‘I CAN CHANGE HIM’
22-24. Why is it unwise to marry someone on the basis of his promise to change his ways or with the intent of trying to change the person?
22 Do you say, ‘I can change him’ or ‘her,’ as the case may be? But with whom are you in love? With the person as he or she is, or as that one will be after your remodeling efforts? It is difficult to change ourselves, much more so to change others. However, powerful truths from God’s Word can cause the individual to change himself. A person can “put away the old personality,” being made new in the force actuating the mind. (Ephesians 4:22, 23) But be very skeptical of a prospective mate’s promise to make a sudden change for you! Though bad habits can be corrected or modified, this may take time, even years. Nor can we ignore the fact that inherited traits and environmental factors have given us specific temperaments and molded us in certain ways to make us distinct individuals. True love can move us to help one another to improve and to overcome weaknesses, but it will not move us to try to force a mate into a new and unnatural mold that crushes his or her personality.
23 Some have in their minds an image of their ideal, and they try to fit every passing infatuation of theirs into this image. Of course, no one can measure up to an impossible dream, but the infatuated one hangs on tenaciously and tries to force the other person to fulfill it. When this fails, he or she is disillusioned and searches elsewhere to find the imaginary ideal. But such ones never find their ideal. They seek a dream person that does not exist beyond their own fantasies. Persons who think like that are not good marriage material.
24 Perhaps you have had such dreams. Most of us have at certain times in our lives; many young people do. But with increased emotional maturity we realize that such fantasies must be put aside as impractical. In marriage what counts is reality, not mere imagination.
25. What is the difference between real love and infatuation?
25 Real love is not as blind as many think. It will cover a multitude of shortcomings, but real love is not oblivious to them. It is infatuation, not love, that is blind, refusing to see the problems others can foresee. It even submerges its own nagging doubts; but be assured they will surface later on. Close your eyes to unpleasant facts during courtship and you will certainly face them after the wedding. Our natural inclination is to put on our best appearance with someone we hope to please or attract, but in time the full and true picture is seen. Allow yourself that time to see the other person as he or she really is, and be honest in presenting yourself as you actually are. The apostle’s exhortation at 1 Corinthians 14:20 could also apply in seeking a mate: “Do not become young children . . . become full-grown in powers of understanding.”
COMMITMENTS MADE IN MARRIAGE
26. According to the Scriptures, how binding is the marriage tie? (Romans 7:2, 3)
26 One should soberly consider the commitments made in marriage. If the commitment of either person is not strong and solid, the marriage will rest on a shaky foundation. In many parts of the world today, marriages are made and then quickly broken. Often it is because the persons entering the marriage did not view the commitment as morally binding, taking the position instead that ‘if it doesn’t work out, I’ll end it.’ Where that viewpoint exists, the marriage is almost doomed from the start and, rather than bringing happiness, generally produces only heartache. The Bible, by contrast, shows that marriage should be a lifelong relationship. God said, of the first pair, that the two “must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18, 23, 24) For the man there was to be no other woman, and for the woman no other man. God’s Son reaffirmed this, saying: “They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” Only sexual unfaithfulness would be a just basis for breaking the marital bond.—Matthew 19:3-9.
27-29. (a) What does a woman do well to look for in a prospective marriage mate? (b) What might a man wisely look for in a prospective marriage mate?
27 In view of the seriousness of marriage, a woman who wants to be successful in it does well to marry only a man that she can respect—one who is stable and balanced, has sound judgment, is able to handle responsibility and is mature enough to accept helpful criticism. Ask yourself: Will he be a good provider, a good father to any children that may bless the union? Does he have high moral standards so that you can both be firmly resolved to keep the marriage bed honorable and undefiled? Does he manifest humility and modesty or is he proud and opinionated, one who wants to flaunt his headship, who thinks he is always right and is unwilling to reason on matters? By associating with the man for a sufficient time before marriage, these things can be discerned, especially if Bible principles are held to as the standard for judgment.
28 Similarly, a man who takes the success of his marriage seriously will seek a wife that he can love as his own flesh. She should complement him as a partner in establishing a home. (Genesis 2:18) Being a good homemaker is a demanding career of varied responsibilities. It calls for demonstrating talents as a cook, decorator, economist, mother, teacher, and much more. Her role can be creative and challenging, offering many opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. A good wife, like a worthwhile husband, is a worker: “She is watching over the goings on of her household, and the bread of laziness she does not eat.”—Proverbs 31:27.
29 Yes, both do well to give thought to what they see—to evidence of personal cleanliness and orderliness or lack of it; of diligence or, instead, of laziness; of reasonableness and consideration as opposed to stubbornness and egotism; of thriftiness or of wastefulness; of thinking ability that makes for enjoyable conversation and spiritual enrichment as contrasted with mental laziness that makes life a monotonous routine of caring for daily physical needs and little else.
30, 31. Why can immoral conduct during courtship hinder one’s enjoying a good marriage?
30 Sincere respect for each other is a key ingredient to a successful marriage. And this also applies to expressions of affection during courtship. Undue familiarity or unbridled passion can cheapen the relationship before the marriage begins. Sexual immorality is not a good foundation on which to begin building a marriage. It betrays a selfish unconcern for the other person’s future happiness. The fierce heat of passion that momentarily seems to forge an unbreakable bond can quickly cool and, within weeks or even days, the marriage may turn to ashes.—Compare the account of Amnon’s passion for Tamar related at 2 Samuel 13:1-19.
31 Displays of passion in courtship can sow seeds of doubt that later give rise to uncertainty as to the real motive for the marriage. Was it merely to provide an outlet for passion, or was it to share life with someone who is genuinely appreciated and loved as a person? Lack of self-control before marriage frequently foreshadows lack of it afterward, with resulting infidelity and unhappiness. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Bad memories left by premarital immorality can hinder a smooth emotional adjustment to marriage in its early stages.
32. How can immoral conduct during courtship affect one’s relationship with God?
32 Even more serious, such immorality damages one’s relationship with our Creator, whose help we seriously need. “For this is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; . . . that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother [or, reasonably, of one’s sister] in this matter . . . So, then, the man that shows disregard is disregarding, not man, but God, who puts his holy spirit in you.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.
A ROCK FOUNDATION
33, 34. When one is choosing a marriage mate, what qualities do the Scriptures show to be far more important than physical appearance?
33 Will your household, your family, rest on a foundation of rock or one of sand? In part it depends on the degree of wisdom used when selecting a mate. Beauty and sex are not enough. They do not erase mental and spiritual incompatibility. The counsel in God’s Word is what provides a rock foundation in marriage.
34 The Bible shows that the inner person is more important than the outward appearance. “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain,” says the inspired proverb, “but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.” (Proverbs 31:30) The apostle Peter, a married man, speaks of “the secret person of the heart” and “the quiet and mild spirit” as being “of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Peter 3:4) God ‘does not go by a man’s outward appearance,’ and we can benefit from his example by guarding against being unduly influenced by just the external appearance of the prospective marriage mate.—1 Samuel 16:7.
35, 36. (a) Why is it important to marry a person who has faith in God and in his Word? (b) To what extent would you expect a prospective mate to be manifesting that faith?
35 Wise King Solomon contemplated life and came to this conclusion: “Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The Israelites, in covenant to obey God’s law, were specifically commanded not to make marriages with persons who did not share their form of worship, lest it draw them way from the true God. “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son. For he will turn your son from following me, and they will certainly serve other gods.”—Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.
36 For similar reasons the admonition was given to those in God’s “new covenant,” those in the Christian congregation, to marry only “in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33; 1 Corinthians 7:39) Rather than manifesting bigotry, this is motivated by wisdom and love. Nothing can give greater strength to marriage ties than mutual devotion to the Creator. If you marry a person who has faith in God and in his Word, and who understands it as you do, then you will have a common authority for counsel. You may not feel this to be vital, but “do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Even within the Christian congregation, however, one does well to be sure that a prospective marriage partner is really a wholehearted servant of God, not one who is trying to live on the fringe of Christianity while leaning heavily toward the attitudes and practices of the world. You cannot walk with God and run with the world.—James 4:4.
37, 38. (a) Why should one avoid rushing into either courtship or marriage? (b) To whose counsel do those considering marriage do well to listen?
37 “Who of you that wants to build a tower,” Jesus asked, “does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not be able to finish it.” (Luke 14:28, 29) The same principle applies to marriage. Since God views marriage as a lifelong union, the selection of a mate should certainly not be rushed. And be sure that you yourself are ready to finish what you have begun. Even courtship is not something to take lightly, like a game. Playing with another’s affections is a cruel sport and the emotional bruises and heartache it causes can last a long time.—Proverbs 10:23; 13:12.
38 Prudent young people considering marriage do well to listen to the counsel of older persons, especially those who have shown that they have your best interests at heart. Job 12:12 reminds us of the value of this by asking: “Is there not wisdom among the aged and understanding in length of days?” Listen to these voices of experience. Above all, “trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
39. How can the Bible be of assistance to persons who are already married?
39 Many who read these words may already be married. Though to some extent your foundation has already been laid, the Bible can aid you to make adjustments where needed, with rewarding results. Whatever the state of your marriage, it can be enhanced by further reflection on the Creator’s counsel on family happiness.
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Can your marriage withstand stormy times?