Making a Success of Marriage
THE business of being husband and wife is the oldest enterprising partnership in the world. For nearly 6,000 years the institution of matrimony has been in operation. One would therefore expect that by now all its wrinkles would be ironed out and its difficulties solved. However, each year divorce figures continue rocketing upward and the percentage of successful marriages sinks ever lower. Why is this? Why do so many entering this vocation soon fall into bankruptcy? Young people are led to believe that marriage is a blissful state of complete happiness, contentment and success. Is it possible to avoid the host of hardships and troubles that often makes married life miserable? Important questions these, and both married and single persons should know the answers.
Reasons for separations and divorces are said to be many. Cruelty, desertion and nonsupport, marital unfaithfulness, economic problems, social position and standing in the community, physical and mental sickness, and incompatible dispositions are a few. The most frequent cause is attributed to sexual relations between husband and wife. A closer look, however, reveals that all these marital troubles arise from much deeper causes. Selfishness and the absence of true love, a deficiency in knowledge, understanding and wisdom, a lack of mercy, forgiveness, patience and self-control, a warped sense of justice, a misuse of power and authority—all of these are basic causes, and from them arise all the surface storms that bring woeful consequences upon those sailing the sea of matrimony. Not to be overlooked either is the great and powerful marriage-wrecker, Satan the Devil, who has done and is doing everything possible to mock and ridicule, break up and destroy the sacredness of wedlock.
All well and good, these are the causes. But today most people are not particularly interested in delving into the causes and whyfors of matters. Leave such things to the specialists and experts, is their attitude. What people want to know is how the results from these causes can be escaped. The important thing married people are interested in is how to get along happily and make a success of it.
Marriage is of divine origin and, when properly arranged and carried out, has God’s approval. (Gen. 2:22-24; Prov. 18:22; Heb. 13:4) It was Jehovah God that created male and female and made them to complement each other. Their characteristics should therefore complete, not compete with, one another. There is no issue drawn as to which is the “better half”. The physical strength, energy, initiative, determination and reasoning power of the male should not be antagonistic toward the female characteristics of devotion, sympathy, intuition, and motherly qualities and instincts. Nor vice versa. None should find fault or complain because they were not born of the opposite sex. (Rom. 9:20, 21) And because marriage is ordained by Jehovah God, in order for it to produce happy results it must be carried out according to his perfect laws as found in the Bible.
READ THE MARRIAGE RULE BOOK!
In studying God’s Rule Book the Bible one learns that the marriage covenant between a man and woman devoted to the Lord is most sacred and binding. The all-important ingredient for any marriage, according to God’s infallible Word of truth, is love. Without love no marriage will succeed. With it no marriage will fail. Apart from the definition of the dictionary, love is said to be the “perfect expression of unselfishness”. But it is not a cold, abstract and lifeless principle or truth. Love expresses itself in action. When there is true love there is a warm expression of unselfish devotion and affection between husband and wife. Love is a godlike quality, the “fruit” of God’s spirit, for Jehovah himself is the personification of love.—Gal. 5:22; 1 John 4:8.
Love is patient and long-suffering and forgiving. Love is kind, gentle and tenderhearted. Love is generous, considerate and constantly on the lookout for opportunities to do good to the mate. Love is not ill-mannered, resentful, hot tempered, mean, rude, insolent, vulgar, discourteous, or immodest. No, love is not selfish in any degree. It takes no pleasure in unrighteousness; it has no joy in the suffering of others. Consequently, if love is the activating motive in the hearts and minds of husband and wife there is no problem between them too big to solve.—1 Cor. 13:1-8, 13, NW.
For example, take the matter of sexual relations between man and wife, said to be the primary cause for marriage failure. Often such marriages result from an extravagant heat of selfish passion. The license certificate, instead of representing a sacred covenant of partnership, is looked upon as a convenience which removes social stigma and legalizes the lustful and selfish cravings of the weakened and sinful flesh. Little wonder that people with such a selfish beat of the heart soon tire of each other and begin seeking ways and means of escaping the bond of wedlock. With no regard for God’s law of love these individuals also have no regard for His commands against covetousness and adultery, and in their lewdness they commit all manner of sexual abuses. What does it matter to them that unfaithful Israel was destroyed for her abominable whoredoms?—Ex. 20:17; Jer. 5:7-9; 29:23; Matt. 5:27-30; Heb. 13:4.
How different when couples are motivated by a true expression of devotion and unselfishness one toward the other! Each seeking the other’s welfare and pleasure in all things. Each desiring to satisfy and please his mate rather than himself. Each faithful and true to the other. What joy and peace there is in such a family! What an uplifting force for good if society in general followed the Bible’s precepts and commands in this matter! No men lusting after their neighbors’ wives. No women playing the harlot with other men. Venereal diseases and all associated evils would soon die out.
WIVES IN SUBJECTION TO HUSBANDS
Man and woman were not created equal in power and glory; the man came first and was given special prerogatives. (1 Cor. 11:8, 9) Man united with his wife, the two became one, but headship still remained in the man. Even as Jehovah is head over his wifely organization, and Christ is head of his espoused church, so also the head of every marriage arrangement properly resides in the husband. This is the theocratic regulation and it works for unity, peace and harmony, and if altered, confusion and discord are bound to result, as was the case with rebellious queen Vashti in the ancient Persian empire.—1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23; Esther 1:10-20.
If the husband is the head it follows that the wife must be in subjection to him. “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord.” Even if the wife is consecrated to the Lord and her husband is not, still the principle applies. (Col. 3:18, NW; 1 Pet. 3:1) Wrote Paul under inspiration: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.” And again he says: “Let the women keep silent in the congregations.” If they do not understand a matter “let them question their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in a congregation”. (1 Tim. 2:11, 12; 1 Cor. 14:33-35, 40, NW) Does this mean that a woman is to remain dumb at all times? Not at all. Paul is writing concerning congregational matters and he is saying that women should not openly dispute, debate or wrangle over a matter and thus challenge and disgrace the man’s position of headship.
Some men, lacking understanding, take these Bible texts to mean that wives are only ornaments and conveniences around the house, to be seen but not heard. They conclude that the wife should have no voice in domestic matters and it is the husband’s exclusive right to make all decisions without consulting the wife either before or after. Worse yet, some senseless husbands seize hold of God’s words to Eve, “thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee,” as a divine edict to them to lord it over their wives and treat them as slaves or beasts of burden. (Gen. 3:16, Dy) Nothing is farther from the truth as set forth in the Bible. There is absolutely no warrant in Scripture for domestic dictatorship, bossism or domineering brutality on the part of a husband.
Women are not cows or pieces of property that become exclusive possessions of husbands to do with them whatsoever they please. A woman does not lose all her godly rights and liberties upon marrying. Actually, marriage is a partnership in which both the contracting parties give up a certain amount of the freedoms associated with singleness: “The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.” (1 Cor. 7:4, NW) Instead of a husband’s enlarging his possessions and expanding the domain over which he can rule as a feudal lord, in reality he must share what he has with his newly acquired mate. From then on two mouths must be fed, two bodies clothed, and the hazards of sickness and accident are doubled. One consolation: if the double load is properly distributed by love twice as many hands carry it!
HUSBANDS, LOVE WIVES AS OWN SELVES!
Take special note of Paul’s counsel: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” Christ was no dictator. Unselfishly he laid down his life for the congregation. Husbands should follow his example. “In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself [the two are one flesh], for no man ever hated his own flesh, but he feeds and cherishes it, . . . let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Eph. 5:25, 28, 29, 33, NW.
A man never intentionally does injury to his own body. He never humiliates himself before his friends, nor does he sit around a clubhouse gossiping about his shortcomings. You never find a man browbeating himself. Why should not a husband show the same love for his wife, his own flesh? When a man stubs his toe he never beats the toe because it made him stumble. No, he cries out in pain hoping his browbeaten wife will tenderly apply a soothing ointment. Why, then, should this same brutish fellow lash his wife with his tongue, or with something worse, if she makes a mistake, stumbles or falls?
How different when God’s law of love and unselfishness is followed! “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Col. 3:19, NW) “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one . . . Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, exercising brotherly love, tenderly affectionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling, but, to the contrary, bestowing a blessing.”—1 Pet. 3:7-9, NW.
Ah, yes, live with your wife according to knowledge of God’s commands and with understanding of his fundamental laws of nature. Consider the biological constitution of the female, her limitations, her cycles, her vicissitudes, which greatly affect her mental processes, disposition and temperament. God does not overlook these feminine restrictions; neither should husbands. (Lev. 18:19; 20:18) You husbands, look upon your wives as if they were delicate instruments, finely balanced, and give them the same gentle treatment you give the delicate organs of your own body. Showing love and tenderness is not displaying masculine weakness, nor is it showing reverence. Perish the thought! “Assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel” has nothing to do with the wrongful practice of setting women above men on a pedestal of worship. Bestowing tender affection upon a wife causes her to respond with “deep respect for her husband”, and this is the way it should be.
“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest.” (Eccl. 9:9) Continually scolding, finding fault and complaining about what she does or fails to do is not the way of love. Remember, it is just as irritating for a wife to dwell with a whining, cantankerous husband as it is for a man to be cooped up with the continual verbal drippings of a contentious and nagging wife.—Prov. 19:13; 27:15.
All the other problems that cause friction in married life will also disappear if the simple counsel of the Bible is followed. You wives, cultivate the happy habits for holding husbands, as set forth in Proverbs 31:10-31. You children, recognize and obey your father as head of the family. You fathers, ‘preside over your household in a right manner.’ (Deut. 6:7; 11:18, 19; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:2-5, NW) None are perfect; all make mistakes. Be therefore humble, asking forgiveness of each other, and never let the sun set while you are still in a provoked state of mind.—Eph. 4:26.
Truly the Bible has more worth-while counsel and instruction on the subject of marriage than all the books ever written by men. And besides, it tells about God’s new world of righteousness which will shortly remove all demon rule and its wicked influence on married life. What glorious opportunities lie ahead for Armageddon survivors! So you folks who are now married and who have prospects and hopes of living in that new world—the sooner you line up with the theocratic rules of life, the sooner you will begin enjoying the blessings of a successful marriage.