Family Life—How You Can Have Success
BY FAR the majority of persons agree that family life and happiness are related. In one survey, 85 percent of the men said that they “feel that ‘family life’ is very important to a happy and satisfied life.” Yet you may know of many men who have chosen to get divorced. More and more women, too, are opting for divorce to end marriages marked by boredom, conflict or oppression.
2 We cannot change what others do. But we should be interested in improving our own family life, especially the relationship between husband and wife. We might all well ask: ‘How is this relationship in my home?’
3 The Creator is the Originator of the family arrangement. (Ephesians 3:14, 15) He provides practical advice that has helped many, many couples to enjoy success in family life. That same advice can benefit you.
PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM THE FIRST MARRIAGE
4 In the opening portion of the Bible, we find a record of how God began the first human family. Some time after Jehovah God had created the first man, Adam, He said:
“‘It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.’ And Jehovah God proceeded to build the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman and to bring her to the man. Then the man said: ‘This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. . . .’ That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”—Genesis 2:18, 22-24.
5 Notice that the first family did not result from two persons just deciding to live together. God authorized the marriage and they were joined in a permanent union. Before the highest Authority in the universe, Adam accepted Eve to be his wife.
6 When a man and a woman take the steps required to form a valid and recognized marriage, they publicly commit themselves to each other. (Genesis 24:4, 34-67; Matthew 25:1-10) No such commitment is made when a couple simply lives together without benefit of marriage. Instead, their relationship is one that the Bible terms “fornication” or “adultery.” (Hebrews 13:4) Even if they profess to love each other, their relationship will likely suffer in time because it lacks the firm commitment of marriage that the Bible shows to be crucial. For example:
A 34-year-old woman explains: “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but the commitment of marriage makes me feel more secure. . . . I love the comfort of having admitted to ourselves and the world that we intend to stick together.”
A 28-year-old teacher shared his realization: “After a couple of years, I began to feel as though I were living in a void. Living together [without marriage] provided no future orientation.”
In a study of the matter, sociologist Nancy M. Clatworthy found that couples who made a commitment by getting married, but who had not lived together before marriage, expressed “a greater feeling of happiness and contentment.”
7 The Bible account of the first marriage can also help us to avoid problems involving parents and in-laws. Such problems, according to one marriage counselor, are among the most common. Yet before there could be any problems with parents and in-laws, the Bible said of the first marriage: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.”—Genesis 2:24.
8 Naturally, most of us love our parents. The Bible even encourages us to provide them with material aid in their later years, if it is needed. (1 Timothy 5:8; Deuteronomy 27:16; Proverbs 20:20) But the Scriptures emphasize that, upon marrying, your mate becomes your closest relative. Your husband or wife becomes the first one to love, care for and consult.
9 This view discourages a married person’s ‘running home’ to parents if problems arise. And it helps parents to appreciate that, upon getting married, their children “leave” and form independent families, even if custom or finances require their living near or with the parents for a time. It is fitting for children to value and perhaps draw upon their parents’ wisdom and experience. (Job 12:12; 32:6, 7) Yet what Genesis 2:24 says is a caution against parents’ trying to direct or monitor the lives of their married children. Yes, applying this Bible counsel can contribute to marital success.
HOW MANY MATES?
10 We can also see from the Genesis record that God provided just one mate for Adam. In some cultures a man is permitted multiple wives. But does polygamy lead to family happiness? To the contrary, experience shows that it often leads to deep jealousy or rivalry, as well as the mistreatment of older wives. (Proverbs 27:4; Genesis 30:1) Both polygamy and the putting away of wives by divorce existed among the ancient Hebrews. God, while tolerating that, gave the Israelites laws to prevent gross abuses. In discussing the matter, though, Jesus directed attention to God’s will as indicated in Genesis. When asked about divorce on various grounds, Jesus said:
“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 . . .’? . . . Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart. . . . Moses [in God’s law], out of regard for [the Hebrews’] hardheartedness, made the concession to you of divorcing your wives, but such has not been the case from the beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.”—Matthew 19:3-9.
11 Jesus made it clear that among his followers the standard would be, not polygamy, but having just one mate, as God had arranged in the beginning. (1 Timothy 3:2) Recognizing God’s wisdom and authority in this regard is a step toward happiness.
12 The same is true with what Jesus said about divorce. When it is possible to get a divorce easily, divorces abound. We see that today. But God considers marriage to be permanent. True, Jesus did say that if a person’s mate is guilty of “fornication” (Greek, porneia, meaning gross sexual immorality), thus becoming “one flesh” with another person, the innocent party may get a divorce and remarry. Yet, otherwise, the Creator views a married couple as permanently united. Those who recognize God’s authority in the matter thus have greater reason to work at strengthening their marriage and overcoming any problems. (Ecclesiastes 4:11, 12; Romans 7:2, 3) Hence, rather than causing unhappiness, this view is an aid to achieving success in marriage. Experience shows that.
13 ‘Still,’ persons may feel, ‘some marriages have serious problems, or the couple just does not get along.’ What then? There are other practical things that we can learn from the Bible.
A HUSBAND WHO REALLY LOVES HIS WIFE
14 A key to family success is how a husband views and treats his wife. But who is to say which is the best way? What the Bible says about the first marriage again comes to our aid. The record explains that God used some of Adam’s own body to produce a mate for him. The Bible later expanded on the matter:
“Husbands ought to be LOVING THEIR WIVES AS THEIR OWN BODIES. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation.”
15 Some men may think that they should be harsh or remote in dealing with their wives. But the Author of marriage says that a husband should deeply love his wife and show that love. To be genuinely happy, a wife needs to feel sure that she is genuinely loved.
16 A husband’s ‘feeding and cherishing his wife as his own body’ involves his striving to be a good provider. Yet he should not be so occupied with earning a living that he overlooks spending time with his wife and displaying warm interest in her as a person. Further, no sane man, even when irritated, is hateful or brutal to his own body. Hence, what the Bible says rules out a man’s being violently angry with his wife.—Psalm 11:5; 37:8.
17 The first woman was made to be ‘a complement of her husband.’ (Genesis 2:18) God recognized that the man and the woman had a different makeup. That is still true. Women usually differ from men in their qualities and ways. He may be decisive, she more humanly patient. She may like groups, he preferring solitude. He may stress punctuality, she being more “relaxed” about time. The Bible comment about God’s creating Eve to be “a complement” should help husbands to understand such differences.
18 The apostle Peter urges husbands to ‘dwell with their wives according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel.’ (1 Peter 3:7) That “honor” includes accommodating the different tastes that a wife may have. A husband may like sports, but his wife may enjoy window-shopping or watching ballet. Her taste is just as valid as his. Honor allows for such differences.
19 A wife’s moods, affected by her cycles, may sometimes puzzle a husband, and maybe the wife too. But he can contribute to their mutual happiness by trying to understand and ‘dwell with her according to knowledge.’ Often what she needs most is to be tenderly held close while he converses with her in a loving way.
A WIFE WHO RESPECTS HER HUSBAND
20 Since the wife must also do her part if there is to be a happy family, the Creator offers guidance for wives too.
21 Right after telling husbands to love their wives, the Bible adds: “On the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) In the case of the first marriage, there were factors that naturally should have caused Eve to look up to her husband. Adam was created first. He had greater knowledge and experience in life, even having received directions from God.
22 But what about marriages today? If a husband sincerely tries to apply the Bible advice discussed earlier, this most likely will stimulate respect on the part of his wife. Even where a wife may excel in certain ways, or where her husband may fall short, there is reason to develop respect—out of regard for Jehovah’s arrangement, of which the family is a part. The apostle Paul wrote:
“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.”—Ephesians 5:22, 23.
23 This is not to say that the husband is to be a know-it-all tyrant in the family. That would be contrary to Christ’s loving, considerate, understanding example. God urges wives to look to their husbands for leadership. On significant family matters husband and wife may consult together, like functioning parts of one body. Yet God holds the husband primarily accountable for the family.—Colossians 3:18, 19.
24 Experience shows that what the Bible says on this subject is sound. As a wife works to merit her husband’s love and care, and looks to him for guidance in family matters, she will often find that he more willingly shoulders his responsibility and discharges it in a loving way.—Proverbs 31:26-28; Titus 2:4, 5.
WORKING TOGETHER TOWARD FAMILY SUCCESS
25 Communication is a vital element that is lacking in too many families. One social scientist observed: “Most married couples don’t listen to each other, and many get into fights as a result.” We are bound to have irritations, frustrations and disappointments in life. How can we prevent these from harming our marriage? Good communication helps. Be careful not to take it for granted, only to find that you gradually speak with each other less and less.
26 Work at communicating. Do you really make it a practice to discuss your activities and feelings? Often we are in too much of a hurry to speak and we fail to hear what the other person is saying. (Proverbs 10:19, 20; James 1:19, 26) Rather than just biding time for a chance to speak, listen, try to understand, perhaps responding, ‘Do you mean . . .?’ or, ‘Are you saying . . .?’ (Proverbs 15:30, 31; 20:5; 21:28) A husband or a wife who sincerely listens to the thoughts and feelings of the other person will be less likely to act in a selfish or inflexible way.
27 Communication becomes even more valuable if a couple will discuss mutual problems in the light of Bible counsel. For example, an excellent groundwork for discussing family income and economic plans is found at 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19 and Matthew 6:24-34. Much Scriptural advice about common aspects of family life is found in the book Making Your Family Life Happy.a
28 Since the Bible’s advice comes from the best authority on marriage and family life, Jehovah God, it stands to reason that, if we patiently and consistently apply it, its counsel can help us in working for success. Thousands of Christian couples around the globe have done this with happy results in their marriage.
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
How can we work for more success in family life? (1-3)
What part did commitment play in the first marriage, and why is it vital? (4-6)
What can we learn from the first marriage about parents and in-laws? (7-9)
What practical lesson can we learn from Genesis about the number of mates? (10, 11)
The Bible encourages what view about divorce? (12, 13)
How can husbands apply the Bible counsel for them? (14-16)
What should a wife’s being “a complement” mean for a husband? (17-19)
The Bible urges a wife to have what view of her husband? (20-22)
Why can wives trust that this counsel will help? (23, 24)
What role does communication play in family success? (25-28)
[Box on page 80]
“During my married life,” explains a man from the western United States, “I had acquired everything I wanted materially—a beautiful home, cars, boats and horses. Yet these things did not bring me happiness. My wife was not interested in the same things I was. We were always quarreling. I was smoking marijuana to find peace of mind.
“I spent most of my weekends away from home hunting. Also, my work took me away some. This led to a life of adultery. I didn’t think my wife loved me, so I moved out and became involved with one woman after another until my life seemed at a dead end.
“During this time I read the Bible some. Ephesians chapter five convinced me to try again with my wife. I realized that she had not been submissive, nor had I taken a proper lead. But on a business trip the next week I again committed adultery.”
A friend suggested that if he really was interested in God, Jehovah’s Witnesses could help him. He continues: “The Witnesses did help. One of the overseers in the congregation spent time studying the Bible with me. Because of the big change in my way of life, my wife joined the study. Now for the first time our family life is a happy one, and even our two girls can see the difference. There are no words to describe the wonderful happiness that my wife and I have found in applying the Bible in our lives.”
[Picture on page 85]
Communication—vital for a happy marriage