After the Wedding Day
1. How could the kind of cooperation that is described at Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 benefit one’s marriage?
YOUR wedding is past, and you and your mate are settling down as a new family unit. Is your happiness complete? You are no longer alone but have a companion to confide in, to share your joys and also your problems. Do you find Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 true in your case?—“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up. But how will it be with just the one who falls when there is not another to raise him up?” Is your marriage flourishing with this kind of cooperation? It usually takes some time and effort for this happy blending of two lives. But in many marriages, sad to say, it never happens.
2, 3. (a) What realities of life must be faced after the wedding day? (b) Why is it only reasonable to expect that adjustments will have to be made after a person gets married?
2 In romantic tales, the problem often is getting the two who are in love together. But then they live happily ever after. In real life, it is living happily afterward, day by day, that presents the true challenge. After the delights of the wedding day comes the daily routine of life: getting up early, going to work, shopping, cooking meals, washing dishes, cleaning the house, and so on.
3 The marriage relationship requires adjustments. You both entered into it with at least some expectations and ideals that were not very practical and realistic. When these are not met, some disappointment may come after the first few weeks. But, remember, you have made a big change in your life. You are no longer living alone or with a family that you have been with all your life. You are now with a new person, one you may be discovering that you don’t know as well as you thought you did. Your schedule is new, your work may be new, your budget is different, and there are new friends and in-laws to get used to. The success of your marriage and your happiness depend upon your willingness to adjust.
ARE YOU FLEXIBLE?
4 Some, because of pride, find it difficult to be flexible. But, as the Bible says, “pride comes before disaster, and arrogance before a fall.” To persist in stubbornness can be calamitous. (Proverbs 16:18, New English Bible) Jesus recommended that one be willing to bend and yield when he said that if anyone wanted your “inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him,” and if someone wanted you to go “for a mile, go with him two miles.” Rather than your arguing with someone close to you, the apostle Paul asked: “Why do you not rather let yourselves be wronged?” (Matthew 5:40, 41; 1 Corinthians 6:7) If Christians can go to such extremes to keep peace with others, surely two married persons in love should be able to adjust in order to make a success of their new relationship.
5. How might one think positively or negatively about one’s marriage mate?
5 There are opportunities everywhere for one to be either happy or unhappy. To which will you be alert? Will you focus on the positive or dwell on the negative? The new wife may think: ‘Now that we are married, where is that romantic man who used to take me out to interesting places and spend time with me? He’s settled into a rut. He takes me for granted. He’s certainly not the man I knew before!’ Or does she understand and appreciate that he now works hard to be a good provider for his family? And does this new husband notice that his wife works hard to cook and clean, at times is very tired and does not have as much time to spend trying to look glamorous? Or does he say to himself: ‘What’s happened to that attractive young lady that I married? She’s changed, now that she has her man’?
6. When husband and wife really work to make their marriage succeed, how does this affect their relationship with each other?
6 Both should be mature and realize that neither one has the time or the energy to do all the things that were done before marriage. Now is the time to show flexibility and accept the deeply satisfying responsibility of making marriage work. One person can ruin a marriage, but it takes two to make it work. Making marriage work is an achievement. Achievement implies accomplishing something despite difficulties. When the two of you join in this endeavor, a part of each of you blends into this achievement. This joint effort with a mutual goal ties you together; it binds you close; it makes the two of you one. In time this creates a bond of love surpassing anything felt in anticipation of marriage, and in such unifying happiness it becomes a pleasure to adjust to each other’s differences.
7. If decisions must be made, when is it good to be yielding?
7 Pride fades as love grows, and there is happiness not only in giving but also in giving in, yielding, when personal preference, and not principle, is involved. It may be the buying of some item for the house, or how to spend a vacation. When concern for the other’s happiness is shown, the couple begin to fit the apostle Paul’s words: “Keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—Philippians 2:4.
A BALANCED VIEW OF SEX
8, 9. What is the Scriptural view of marital intimacies?
8 The Bible is not prudish about sexual intercourse. By poetic figures of speech it shows the ecstasy this should bring to husband and wife; it also emphasizes that sex should be restricted to husband and wife. This passage is found at Proverbs 5:15-21:
“Drink water out of your own cistern, and tricklings out of the midst of your own well. Should your springs be scattered out of doors, your streams of water in the public squares themselves? Let them prove to be for you alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your water source prove to be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth, a lovable hind and a charming mountain goat. Let her own breasts intoxicate you at all times. With her love may you be in an ecstasy constantly. So why should you, my son, be in an ecstasy with a strange woman or embrace the bosom of a foreign woman? For the ways of man are in front of the eyes of Jehovah, and he is contemplating all his tracks.”
9 However, it would be a mistake to overemphasize sex to the point of making it seem that the success of the marriage hinges on the couple’s sex life, or that it could compensate for serious shortcomings in other areas of the relationship. The flood of sexual material from books, movies and commercials—much of it designed to stir erotic desire—makes sex seem that vital. However, God’s Word disagrees, recommending self-control in all areas of life. Even in marriage, throwing off all restraint can lead to practices that cheapen the marital relationship.—Galatians 5:22, 23; Hebrews 13:4.
10. What are some things to consider that could help a married couple to adjust sexually?
10 Adjusting sexually is frequently difficult and may take some time after the wedding. This is usually due to a lack of knowledge and a failure to discern the needs of one’s partner. Talking to a respected married friend beforehand may help. Not only are a man and a woman made differently, they also feel differently. Consideration for the woman’s need for tenderness is important. But there should be no negative feeling of false modesty or prudery or feeling that sex is somehow shameful. Neither should it become an occasion of conquest, as it does with some men. “Let the husband render to his wife her due,” the Bible says, and “let the wife also do likewise to her husband.” And in so doing, this Bible principle is appropriate: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” If there is such love and desire to please on both sides, a good adjustment will be made.—1 Corinthians 7:3; 10:24.
DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE
11-13. When there are disagreements, what should we keep in mind so that the differences do not develop into serious rifts?
11 No two individuals on earth are exactly the same. Each one is distinctly different. This also means that no two people will agree on everything. Most of the disagreements may be trivial, but some of them may be serious. There are homes in which disagreements quickly give rise to shouting, pushing, hitting and things being thrown; one mate or the other may leave for a period of days or weeks, or they may simply quit talking to each other. It is quite possible to disagree without having such a situation develop. How? By facing up to a certain basic truth.
12 All of us are imperfect, all have flaws, and, despite the best of intentions, weaknesses manifest themselves. The apostle Paul found this to be true in his case: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” (Romans 7:19) We have inherited sin from our first parents. Perfection is beyond our powers. So “who can say: ‘I have cleansed my heart; I have become pure from my sin’?”—Proverbs 20:9; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12.
13 We accept our own weaknesses and make excuses for them. Can we not accept and excuse those of our marriage partner? We doubtless will readily acknowledge that we are sinners, but do we become defensive and reluctant to admit to a specific sin? And do we have the insight to understand that this reluctance to admit being in the wrong is typical of people, including our marriage partner, and do we make allowances? “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression,” says the inspired proverb. Doubtless you, like just about everyone else, subscribe to the principle of the “golden rule.” Jesus stated it in his famous Sermon on the Mount: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” Most people give it lip service; few practice it. Its sincere application would solve the problems of human relationships, including marital ones.—Proverbs 19:11; Matthew 7:12.
14, 15. (a) What can result when one unfavorably compares one’s marriage mate with another person? (b) Regarding what matters are such comparisons at times unwisely made?
14 We each like to be thought of and treated as an individual. When a person compares us unfavorably with someone else, perhaps viewing our qualities or abilities as inferior, how do we react? Generally we feel hurt or resentful. In effect we say, ‘But I am not that person. I am ME.’ Such comparisons are generally not motivating, because we want to be treated in an understanding way.
15 To illustrate the point: Do you, the husband, express appreciation for the meals that your wife prepares or do you complain that she can’t cook like your mother? How do you know how well your mother could cook when she was newly married? Maybe your wife does better than she did. Give your wife a chance to grow into her new duties and become proficient in them. And do you, the wife, complain that your new husband doesn’t bring home the salary your father does? What did your father earn when he was newly married? Even that doesn’t matter. What matters is the help you give your husband. Do you get up and make breakfast for him before he goes to work, so that he feels you support and appreciate his efforts? Does either one bicker with the other one over the in-laws, or disagree over the friendships to be cultivated or recreation to be engaged in? These and other disagreements may arise. How will you work them out?
16. What is wrong with the theory that violent quarrels help to resolve difficulties?
16 Some modern psychologists contend that quarrels are useful in resolving difficulties. Their theory is that frustrations build up, generate pressure and finally explode into a violent quarrel. In the heat of such angry exchanges, resentments long held in are blurted out, aired and disposed of—so the theory goes. Until this happens, the frustrations are held within to simmer and stew, and then boil over at a later time. But there is grave danger that such heated outbursts may cause you to say things you do not mean, and wounds may be inflicted that are beyond healing. You may wrong the other person so severely that a barrier is raised that you cannot thereafter breach. As Proverbs 18:19 warns: “A brother who is transgressed against is more than a strong town; and there are contentions that are like the bar of a dwelling tower.” The sound counsel found in the Bible is: “Quit before the quarrel breaks out.”—Proverbs 17:14, Revised Standard Version.
17. What might be done to prevent disagreements from building up inside oneself and reaching explosive proportions?
17 Far better than letting disagreements build up inside you until they reach explosive proportions, discuss them as they arise. Brooding over a wrong almost always causes it to seem worse than it really is. Discuss it now or forget it. Is it only a passing remark? Let it pass. Does it need discussing? Has your mate done something that distresses you? Don’t bluntly condemn; try raising the point in question form, or making a suggestion that will open it up for discussion. For example, you might say: ‘Honey, there is something I don’t understand. Could you help me?’ Then listen. Try to understand the other person’s viewpoint. Heed the warning of Proverbs 18:13: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” None of us like it when someone jumps to wrong conclusions about us. So, rather than react quickly, endeavor to discern the intent or motive behind the act. Do as Proverbs 20:5 advises: “Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up.”
18. What might help us to dispel negative moods?
18 Are you given to moods? A moody person is difficult to live with. Some contend that moods are beyond our control, being governed by chemicals in the brain. Whether that is so or not, feelings are contagious. We may be either cheered up or depressed by those around us. Music can create various kinds of moods in us. Stories also can do this. The thoughts we harbor in our minds affect the way we feel. If you brood on negative things you will be depressed; by an act of will you can force the mind to think positive, optimistic thoughts. Think on them. (Philippians 4:8) If you find this difficult, try some vigorous physical activity—do some hard work, even if it’s hoeing weeds or scrubbing a floor; get out and jog or walk in the woods, or, better yet, find something helpful to do for someone else—anything to direct your attention and energies elsewhere. It is far better to nourish a good mood than to nurse a bad one. And it’s much more fun, for you and most certainly for your mate!
19. How might one deal understandingly with the moods of one’s marriage mate?
19 However, there are times when events grieve you deeply, or severe illness and pain afflict you. Or, in the case of your wife, monthly cycles and pregnancy greatly vary the secretion of powerful hormones that affect the nervous system and the emotions. A woman may be experiencing premenstrual tension without being consciously aware of it. It is a major factor that the husband should keep in mind so that, instead of becoming exasperated, he can show insight. In such special circumstances both husband and wife should recognize what is responsible for any change of temperament and respond in an upbuilding way. “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.” And, “a true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”—Proverbs 16:23; 17:17.
20-22. (a) Why is undue jealousy to be avoided? (b) What might be done to give one’s marriage mate a feeling of security?
20 Is your marriage partner jealous? It is proper for a person to be jealous of his reputation, and of his marriage also. As adrenaline will start a heart beating again, so jealousy arouses the soul to the defense of something cherished. The opposite of jealousy is indifference, and we should not be indifferent to our marriage.
21 But there is another kind of jealousy, one induced by insecurity and fed by the imagination. Such unreasoning, overly possessive jealousy turns the marriage into an unpleasant prison where trust and true love cannot survive. “Love is not jealous” in such a manner, and obsessive jealousy “is rottenness to the bones.”—1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 14:30.
22 If your mate has just cause for feeling insecure due to jealousy, remove that cause immediately. If there is no real cause, do all in your power to build up the confidence of the jealous one, by words and even more importantly by your actions. Reach for the heart!
23. What might beneficially be considered when a person is inclined to seek the help of outsiders in resolving marital problems?
23 Can outsiders be of help in resolving disagreements between married persons? Possibly, but they should not be called in unless both marriage partners agree to it. First, “plead your own cause with your fellowman, and do not reveal the confidential talk of another.” (Proverbs 25:9) There is a special risk in asking in-laws to arbitrate. They are not likely to be impartial. Wisely, the Bible says: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.” (Genesis 2:24) The same applies to the wife in relation to her parents and her husband. Instead of asking parents or in-laws to arbitrate, taking sides with one mate against the other, the husband and wife should stick together, recognizing their problems as ones that they share and that need to be worked out together. To appeal to outsiders without the other partner’s consent demeans both in the eyes of others. If you will communicate openly, honestly and lovingly, there is no reason why you should not be able to solve your problems yourselves. Other mature persons may be consulted for advice, but the solution ultimately rests with you and your mate.
24, 25. What might a person do if pride interferes with the resolving of a marriage problem?
24 “Do not be conceited or think too highly of yourself,” the apostle Paul advises. (Romans 12:3, New English Bible) He then adds: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10) Sometimes when our pride is injured it helps to reflect that we are not really so big. Certainly we are not big in comparison to the earth, and the earth is itself small in the solar system, which, in turn, is tiny in the universe. In Jehovah’s eyes “all the nations are as something nonexistent . . . as nothing and an unreality they have been accounted to him.” (Isaiah 40:17) Such thoughts help to keep things in perspective, to see that disagreements may not involve such vital things after all.
25 At times a sense of humor may also help us to keep from taking ourselves too seriously. To be able to laugh at yourself is a mark of maturity and smooths out many rough spots in life.
“CAST YOUR BREAD UPON THE WATERS”
26, 27. What Bible principles should be applied when one’s marriage mate does not respond to efforts to settle differences peacefully, and why?
26 What if your mate does not respond to your efforts to solve differences peacefully? Follow the Bible’s advice: “Return evil for evil to no one.” Jesus is our model to copy: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return.” The common practice among persons is to return like for like. But if you take this course you let others shape you, make you what you are. Actually, they make you what they are. To let this happen is to deny yourself, what you stand for, the principles you hold dear. Instead, copy Jesus, who holds true to what he is, unchanged by the weaknesses of those around him: “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”—Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 2:23; 2 Timothy 2:13.
27 If you are strong enough to stop a cycle of evil with good, you may start a cycle of good. “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Proverbs 15:1) A mild answer does not come from weakness but springs from strength, and your mate will sense this. Since so many return like for like, your breakthrough with goodness may switch the cycle from evil to good. Certain scriptures indicate this. “The one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.” “With the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.“ (Proverbs 11:25; Luke 6:38; Ecclesiastes 11:1, Revised Standard Version) It may take time for your goodness to bring in a harvest of good from your mate. You don’t sow seed one day and reap on the next. Nevertheless, “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; . . . So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:7-9.
28. What are some of the fine principles found in the Bible book of Proverbs that can help to promote a happy married life, and how?
28 Here are some scriptures and questions for married couples to consider:
Proverbs 14:29: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” If you give yourself time to think, do you not often discover that there’s no good cause to be angry?
Proverbs 17:27: “Anyone holding back his sayings is possessed of knowledge, and a man of discernment is cool of spirit.” Do you keep your spirit cool, and hold back words that would make your mate’s spirit hot?
Proverbs 25:11: “As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it.” The word that is right at one time may be wrong for another time. Are you perceptive as to what is the right word at the right time?
Proverbs 12:18: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” Before you speak, do you stop and think what effect your words will have on your mate?
Proverbs 10:19: “In the abundance of words there does not fail to be transgression, but the one keeping his lips in check is acting discreetly.” Sometimes when upset we say more than we mean, and we are sorry afterwards. Do you guard against this?
Proverbs 20:3: “It is a glory for a man to desist from disputing, but everyone foolish will burst out in it.” It takes two to argue. Are you mature enough to be the one to stop?
Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred is what stirs up contentions, but love covers over even all transgressions.” Do you continually rehash old disputes, or do you love your mate enough to put them behind you?
Proverbs 14:9, “New English Bible”: “A fool is too arrogant to make amends; upright men know what reconciliation means.” Are you too proud to make concessions and seek peace in your marriage?
Proverbs 26:20: “Where there is no wood the fire goes out.” Can you stop arguing, or must you have the last word?
Ephesians 4:26: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.” Do you dwell on differences and thereby prolong the misery for both yourself and your mate?
29. What are some basics to keep in mind when seeking to maintain a happy marriage?
29 Wise counsel benefits only when it is put into practice. Try it out. Similarly, be willing to try the suggestion your mate makes. See if it works. Who is to blame if something goes wrong? That’s not important. What is important is how things can be made right. Be flexible, air differences, talk them out, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Communicate! If you ‘love your mate as you do yourself,’ it should not be too difficult to adjust to the marriage relationship and to make it a happy one.—Matthew 19:19.