Looking Beyond the Wedding
1, 2. Weddings in Japan present what instructive contrast?
TIME magazine (December 6, 1982) stated that in Japan weddings are a ‘$17,000,000,000 business,’ amounting to “an astonishing $22,000 per couple.” Yet “Japan’s divorce rate [is at] an alltime high; three out of ten couples will break up.”
2 In contrast, the newspaper Hokuu Shimbun said about a wedding of two of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Noshiro: “Both are zealous Christians, and based on that teaching they think, ‘The wedding can be simple but also one that has everyone’s blessing.’” Compared to the costly, elaborate weddings that are common, the simplicity of this wedding made it newsworthy. “Even so,” the newspaper pointed out, “the wedding was filled with the happiness of wishing the couple well for the future.”
3. How can your wedding day affect your happiness?
3 A couple’s attitude toward and the demands of a wedding can bear directly on their future happiness. Why? According to psychologist Dr. Sally Witte, “studies show that it’s not only stressful to have bad things happen to you, but good things, too.” Mental health experts indicate that getting married brings more stress on you than losing your job. Obviously, when the wedding is mammoth rather than modest, sumptuous instead of simple, the stress you feel will be more severe.
4. What often happens after elaborate weddings?
4 Further, many who get married nowadays focus so much attention—and unrealistic expectations—on the wedding that afterward there is a drastic letdown. A new wife related: “For months, everyone I knew seemed to be excited, not just me. But then the wedding was over in about a second, and when we got home from the reception, I was overcome by sadness.” A young man quoted in the book Getting Married said:
‘The period when you get engaged is supposed to be very glorious and exciting. Then you’re supposed to have a big, fancy wedding. That’s terrific. Then you go on a honeymoon, and that’s super terrific. You’re building up an expectation that something magical and fantastic is going to happen as soon as you get married. Then suddenly there’s that quiet. Suddenly you’re left all by yourself with this woman and she’s left with you.’
5. What perspective should Christians have as to their wedding?
5 All of us would agree that a couple should look forward to their wedding as a happy, special, momentous occasion, for they are taking a major step in their lives. Yet they will contribute to their own happiness if they avoid emphasizing the wedding so much that it overshadows what really is more important, their subsequent life as married Christians.
Preparing for a Happy Marriage
6. Before the wedding day, what is advisable?
6 Jesus stated a truism that unmarried people can apply: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) Yes, there is wisdom in considering a project before starting it. That is true of marriage also. Many marriage counselors advise their clients that prospective newlyweds take courses in, or go to workshops about, adjusting to married life and coping with potential problems. One counselor said: “If kids graduating from high school knew a hundredth as much about marital interaction as they do about computers, marriage would be a lot more satisfactory experience.”
7. Where could you find helpful information about married life?
7 Jehovah’s Witnesses have provided sound guidance in this area, guidance based, not on the shifting sands of human opinion about what brings success in married life, but on the perfect counsel of the Originator of marriage. (Psalm 119:98-105) Both The Watchtower and Awake! present a broad variety of articles on married life. You can better appreciate the abundance of such material by looking at the many subheadings and references under the topic “Marriage” in the indexes of the Watch Tower Society’s publications, such as the index for 1976-1980. Many articles about marriage are studied in the congregation, allowing prospective mates to hear practical observations from Christian men and women who have personal experience and are keen students of God’s Word.
8. If you were planning to get married, what beneficial step could you take?
8 If you are planning to marry, you should also consider relevant material published in other Bible study aids. For example, Happiness—How to Find It* has chapters dealing with money problems, sex and achieving success in family life. Making Your Family Life Happy* contains additional practical advice from God’s perfect Word. Some chapters are “Laying a Fine Foundation for Your Marriage,” “After the Wedding Day,” “A Husband Who Gains Deep Respect,” “A Wife Who Is Dearly Loved” and “Love, ‘a Perfect Bond of Union.’” Plan to go over that material with your future mate before your wedding. How beneficial it would be, also, for you to discuss that material together with a mature Christian brother whom you respect and who can offer helpful suggestions. (Proverbs 4:1-9) This will help both of you to keep your wedding plans in perspective relative to what is more important, your life together as a married couple.
Be Ready to Work
9, 10. (a) Why is a realistic view of marriage important? (b) How are Christians helped to have this?
9 We noted that many approach their wedding day expecting that “something magical and fantastic is going to happen as soon as you get married.” People with this unrealistic view are ripe for disillusionment, frustration and unhappiness. The fact is that a happy marriage takes work, far more work than all that went into a wedding, no matter how large it might have been. At a marital therapy session arranged by Professor E. M. Pattison, a young woman named Betty stated: “I had magical fantasies about marriage, only reinforced by living together. But there was no magic in marriage—just a lot of hard work.”
10 A study of God’s Word should help to prepare Christians for the realities of married life. Why? First, because we know that all humans have inherited imperfection from Adam. Romans 3:23 assures us: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Just as assuredly, the imperfect human who is going to be your mate is going to fall short of some of your expectations. Once the routine of daily life begins, your husband may be impatient, have a bit of a temper, be somewhat lazy or tend to shirk his Scriptural duties as head of your family. Or, as you live with your wife, the closeness of marriage may reveal her to be somewhat vain, a shade bossy, at times critical or surprisingly interested in possessions.
11, 12. How is your being a Christian helpful as to improving the quality of marital life?
11 Your both being Christians with faith in the perfection of God’s counsel provides a basis for improvement. You may be able to discuss tactfully but honestly areas where each would appreciate seeing closer conformity to God’s advice. Use wisdom and discernment in selecting the time to discuss such matters, not doing it when one mate is clearly irritated or upset. The most good will be accomplished if, during such discussions, you earnestly try to avoid refuting your mate’s viewpoint. Instead, actually listen to and acknowledge your mate’s objection or request.—Proverbs 15:28; 18:13.
12 Occasionally such matters arise rather naturally while husband and wife share in their family study of the Scriptures. The very nature of that setting can be helpful, for it emphasizes that both have a sincere desire to accept God’s counsel as well as a desire to please his or her mate. This Scriptural interest in pleasing one’s mate accords with what the apostle Paul wrote: “Let each one of you [husbands] individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Ephesians 5:33; compare 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Cultivate Trust in Your Marriage
13. What is the situation as to trust between mates?
13 You will have considerable help in resolving any marital problems or conflicts if both mates cultivate a quality lacking in many worldly marriages—trust. The deplorable state common in those marriages is similar to what existed for a time in Israel: “Do not put your faith in a companion. Do not put your trust in a confidential friend. From her who is lying in your bosom guard the openings of your mouth.” (Micah 7:5; Jeremiah 9:4, 5) There was no trust between husband and wife, each being afraid that even private matters would unlovingly be spread about or misused. When such distrust exists, what hope is there that mates will work together to resolve differences and improve marital ties after their wedding day is past?
14. Why is trust so important in marriage, and how can we see this in the Scriptures?
14 As to the importance of trust, Professor Ned L. Gaylin* wrote: “There are two cornerstones to a workable, satisfying, and lasting marriage: love and trust. . . . Without trust marriage is at best a fragile contract of questionable viability.” Note how Proverbs 31:11 describes a good wife: “In her the heart of her owner has put trust, and there is no gain lacking.” Of course, her husband, an older man in the town, must have handled some congregational matters that he properly did not discuss with his wife. This was a kindness because his wife was not thus burdened with matters that she should not have known. (Proverbs 31:23; 20:19) Other than that, there must have been an open and trusting relationship. Each trusted the other’s love and felt confident that he or she could express inner feelings without being belittled or without such private matters becoming public information.
15. What can we learn about trust in marriage from Jesus’ dealings with his followers?
15 Trust is indicated also between Jesus and his figurative bride of anointed Christians. (Ephesians 5:22-32; 2 Corinthians 11:2) There were a few things that he did not tell the apostles while they were not able to bear them. Nor did Jesus divulge the day and hour of God’s great day; indeed, Jehovah had not disclosed that even to the Son. (John 16:12; Matthew 24:36) But aside from such few matters, Jesus was open with them. He was not known for exaggerated confidentiality or as being secretive and distrustful of those who would comprise his spiritual bride. He readily and at length communicated with them, even presenting things that they only later would grasp.—John 13:7; Mark 8:17.
16. How can trust contribute to a better marriage?
16 When you and your mate cultivate mutual trust, it will strengthen your marital bonds. You will have confidence that you can express your real feelings. And when you might discuss some difference of viewpoint or an area where one mate might make improvement, it will be less likely to be rejected outright or to result in defensive resentment. Instead, you will trustingly believe that your mate loves you and is sincerely presenting a view or suggestion that merits your reflective consideration.—Proverbs 27:6.
17. What is desirable as to our wedding, whether that is behind us or ahead of us?
17 This trust can be enhanced, too, by your reflecting on the tender, romantic feelings of your courtship and wedding day. Bringing to mind such warm memories will help you subdue any resentment or irritation. So if you are now courting or planning your wedding, do this in a way that will leave you with pleasant, peaceful, positive memories that will spark tenderness and other good feelings long after your wedding day is past.—Song of Solomon 3:11.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
Director of Marriage and Family Therapy Education and Training, University of Maryland.
What Have You Learned?
□ What practical steps may contribute to more orderly wedding receptions?
□ What is the aftereffect of many lavish weddings?
□ How can this affect your prospects for a happy marriage?
□ How can your being a Christian aid you toward marital happiness?
□ Why is trust between mates so important?