How the Bible Can Help Your Marriage
A YOUNG wife in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, found herself becoming frustrated in her married life. Her having to care for her home and four children without receiving any loving cooperation from her husband seemed to be weighing her down.
While she was in the Women’s Air Corps, she had developed a degree of independence. Now as a wife, what she read on ‘women’s liberation’ added to this. Finally she told her husband that she planned “to resign as a wife, mother and housekeeper and turn everything over to him.” You can imagine the result. As she put it, “Due to my radical views my husband withdrew more and more and our children became increasingly more difficult.”
If you are married, you likely can sympathize with this couple. No matter who was at fault, their situation was not pleasant. How nice it would be if such problems did not exist! But they do. What would you think as to the prospect for this marriage? Could the problem be solved? If so, how? Where could they get real help?
You may not have met up with so serious a problem. But no doubt you have observed that many marriages are fraught with problems. Perhaps there are areas in which you would like to see improvement in your own marriage. Individuals enter marriage full of mutual love and a desire to share happiness, but, in time, many are robbed of their joy by misunderstandings, conflicts and pressures. If the couple do not separate or get a divorce, their marriage may often be characterized by endurance, rather than enjoyment.
Just consider the extent of the problem. Under the title “Family Life in Danger,” the London Daily Mail said: “The lives of at least 250,000 people—parents and their children—are being adversely affected by divorce each year.” Early this year a headline in the United States read: “More ‘I Dos’ Ending in ‘I’m Throughs,’” a fact borne out by the rising divorce rate. That so many married couples experience serious problems has led numerous persons to believe that marriage should not even be viewed as a permanent arrangement. Said the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “There is a sizable majority in the [German] Federal Republic . . . who think that making marriage a temporary contract is a good idea.”
FOR SUCCESS: HELP FROM WHERE?
Yes, marriage problems are prevalent. Yet there is a source of real help. In the event there is room for improvement in your own marriage, you too can avail yourself of that help. Note what occurred with the family in Florida.
The husband’s boss at his secular work, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, invited them to attend a meeting at the Kingdom Hall. Then a weekly Bible study was arranged in their home. The wife says: “As we studied what the Bible says about headship, everything fell into place. We began to apply what we learned, and for the first time in our married life we began to be a family. My husband took his responsibility as a loving family head seriously. I, in turn, did not resent my part, and the children began to respond to this loving arrangement. The change in our life has been tremendous! I have watched my entire family ‘blossom.’”
Does that sound too good to be true? If you have similar difficulties you may feel, ‘It wouldn’t work for us.’ But is that really so? Why not go to the Bible for help? If you were having marriage problems, your friends might urge you to seek advice from a psychologist or a marriage counselor. Why? Is it not because they might feel that such a person has knowledge and experience that could help you?
Yet, when it comes to knowing humans, no one surpasses Jehovah, the Author of the Bible. He created man and woman in the first place, and so he has complete knowledge of our physical and emotional makeup. (Ps. 139:13-16; Job 10:9-13) He is aware of our deepest emotional needs. He can even read hearts. As First Samuel 16:7 says: “Mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”
Then, there is the matter of experience. At best any marriage counselor can offer advice based on what he or she has read or observed in some twenty or thirty years of experience. Jehovah, however, is the Originator of marriage. He has observed every marriage that has ever existed. He has seen millions of examples of what results if a husband or a wife acts in this way or that, what can be the outcome if he or she displays these certain qualities or does not. No matter what a couple’s problems, has not Jehovah observed far more similar cases than has any human counselor? He is the One to whom to turn.
How comforting it is to know that we can benefit from Jehovah’s knowledge and experience, for in the Bible he provides us with perfect counsel, counsel that can lead to happiness and success in marriage! As Psalm 19:7, 8 assures us: “The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice.” There are many different problems that have caused marriage difficulties. But let us consider just two examples of how the Bible can help to solve these problems.
Roles of Husband and Wife
A common problem in many marriages involves a failure of one mate, or of both mates, to accept and live up to his or her responsibilities. When one mate feels that the other one is thus negligent, friction develops. What can be done about that?
Recall the couple in Florida. They had a problem of this sort. Their course highlights an important aspect of the Bible’s advice.
Jehovah, in establishing the marriage arrangement, outlined dignified roles for both husband and wife. In speaking of these as “roles,” we do not mean “sexist roles” in which one sex is exalted and the other is debased in position or duties. These Bible-designated roles honor both parties and make for success and happiness in marriage. The husband is assigned the responsibility of being the loving head of the family, and the wife is to be a complement, a helpmate. Note this balanced advice: “Wives, be subject—be submissive and adapt yourselves—to your own husbands as a service to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church . . . Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . . He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it.”—Eph. 5:22-29, The Amplified New Testament.
This headship betokens considerate leadership, not harsh dominance. Do you not know of marriages where the husband either is harsh and dominating or is unwilling to accept his responsibility to lead and protect? Would not those marriages be helped if the husband applied God’s counsel, if he strove to provide loving, considerate headship for his wife? If you are a husband, do you think that this counsel may help you, too, in fulfilling your role?
If you are a wife, would you not respond favorably if your husband was a loving head and applied this advice: “You husbands should try to understand the wives you live with, honoring them as physically weaker yet equally heirs with you of the grace of life”? (1 Pet. 3:7, New Testament in Modern English) This is how the wife in Florida responded when her husband took his responsibility as a loving family head seriously. She says: “I, in turn, did not resent my part.” Note: “my part.” What she meant was her responsibility to follow the Bible’s counsel to ‘be submissive and adapt yourself to your husband,’ looking to him for leadership and guidance. That may not be easy, especially if problems have already developed. But if you as a wife have such a problem and truly desire improvement in your marriage, applying that counsel may be well worth the effort. Do not think that being a true helpmate is demeaning. It was Jehovah himself who said that the wife is to be her husband’s “helper,” but He also described Himself as a “helper,” only not as a “counterpart” of us humans. Surely that does not downgrade God, does it? Neither does being a helper downgrade you.—Gen. 2:18; Hos. 13:9; Heb. 13:6.
“I am willing to try, but my mate will not,” some may feel. True, the greatest success comes when both mates follow God’s counsel. Yet improvement is possible even if only one mate holds to the Bible.
For instance, a woman in Georgia admitted: “I wasn’t happy with my marriage.” Maybe both she and her husband were at fault, but she says that, for her part, she neglected her home duties. “My house was always dirty, and my children weren’t as clean as they should be.” In August 1974 one of Jehovah’s witnesses met her. Soon, in her home, they began a study of the Bible counsel on “Building a Happy Family Life.”* The results were soon apparent, even though her husband did not share in the study. After only six months, she wrote: “As I studied the Bible, things started happening. I was keeping house better, my children were cleaner. Little by little my marriage started to go right. Jehovah has blessed me since I’ve been studying the Bible.” As she came to fulfill her Bible-assigned role as a wife, her marriage improved.
Communication in Marriage
Dr. Theodore I. Rubin, who writes on family problems, recently commented: “Using my mail as a criterion, the most common problem seems to be the poor communication within the family. . . . This is especially true of husbands and wives.” In fact, a Canadian study revealed that poor communication between mates ranked first among marital problems, being listed in 92 percent of the cases.
Likely you can see that even the small amount of Bible advice that we have here considered would, if followed, greatly relieve the problem of lack of communication between husband and wife. If a husband ‘loved his own wife as the Christ loved the church, protecting and cherishing her,’ would he not talk with her, confiding in her and listening to her? Sociologist Jack Balswick observed: ‘Women expect their spouses to have the ability to share emotions, to share feelings, to say “I love you.” Yet affection and love are the most difficult feelings for most men to express.’ But surely a husband is aided to do just that when he knows that Jehovah God urges him to do so and when he sees that his wife is making the effort to be ‘submissive and adapting herself’ to him. No doubt about it!
Regarding a wife’s communicating with her husband, a factor that may bring tension and cause him to be unresponsive is nagging on her part. The Bible does not ignore this factor. It offers frank counsel, such as: “Better to live out in the desert than with a nagging, complaining wife.” (Prov. 21:19, Today’s English Version) Further, it says, wisely: “As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it.” (Prov. 25:11) It may not be “the right time for it” just as soon as he gets home from work, or when he is under some pressure or is absorbed in another matter. A wife applying the Bible’s advice will consider such things and will ‘adapt herself to her own husband.’ This will make conversation more welcome.
Of course, sometimes today a lack of communication results when one of the mates has been offended or hurt by the other. In addition to stifling communication, resulting resentment may affect the couple’s sexual relations, or their mutual efforts in handling the budget or in dealing with each other’s relatives.
Does such a situation sound familiar? You probably can think of couples who have experienced this very thing. It may have happened even to you. Does the Bible provide counsel that could be applied to solve this difficulty? It certainly does. On one occasion Jesus spoke of a person who was taking some step to please God but realized that his brother had something against him. Jesus said: “First make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift [to God]. Be about settling matters quickly with the one complaining against you.” (Matt. 5:23-25) How beneficial it is when married persons too ‘settle matters quickly’ if one has a complaint against the other! So, husbands and wives who accept God’s advice do well to try to communicate kindly with each other about any hurt feelings or offense. This, in turn, will make for better communication on other matters. It will increase happiness.
We have considered here just two of the main problems in marriage, those involving headship and communication. There are other factors that may rob some marriages of joy: Jealousy, sexual dissatisfaction, in-law trouble, conflict about children, alcoholism, violent temper and others. Maybe you feel that one of these is harming your marriage. The wisest counsel on any of such problems is found in God’s Word. He knows what is best.
We urge you to turn to the Bible. Learn from it what Jehovah advises. Jehovah’s witnesses in your area will be glad to help you. Take advantage of opportunities you have to study the Bible with them, for they are pleased to aid persons to learn what the Bible’s counsel is. By following in your marriage the course indicated in Proverbs 3:5, 6, you may enjoy a rich blessing: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart . . . In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”