Marriage Can Succeed in Today’s World
“Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:14.
1, 2. (a) What fact is encouraging with regard to the Christian congregation? (b) What is a successful marriage?
WHEN we look at the Christian congregation, is it not heartwarming to see so many married couples who have been loyal to their mates for 10, 20, 30, or even more years? They have stuck with their mates through thick and thin.—Genesis 2:24.
2 Most would admit that their marriage has not been without its challenges. One observer wrote: “Happy marriages are not carefree. There are good times and bad times . . . But somehow . . . these people have stayed married despite the [turmoil] of modern life.” Successful couples have learned to deal with the inevitable storms and crises that result from the pressures of life, especially if they have raised children. Experience has taught such couples that true love “never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:8.
3. What do statistics indicate about marriage and divorce, leading to what questions?
3 In contrast, millions of marriages have suffered shipwreck. A report says: “Half of all U.S. marriages today are expected to end in divorce. And half of those [divorces] will happen within the first 7.8 years of marriage . . . Among the 75 percent of people who remarry, 60 percent will divorce again.” Even countries that previously had relatively low divorce rates have seen a change. For example, in Japan the divorce rate has nearly doubled in recent years. What are some of the pressures that have led to this situation, pressures that sometimes manifest themselves even within the Christian congregation? What is needed to make a success of marriage in spite of Satan’s efforts to undermine that arrangement?
Pitfalls to Avoid
4. What are some factors that can undermine a marriage?
4 God’s Word helps us to understand the factors that can undermine a marriage. Consider, for example, the words of the apostle Paul concerning conditions that would exist during these last days: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
5. Why is a ‘lover of self’ endangering his or her marriage, and what is the Bible’s counsel in this regard?
5 When we analyze Paul’s words, we see that many of the things he listed could contribute to the breakdown of marital relationships. For example, those who are “lovers of themselves” are selfish and lack consideration for others. Husbands or wives who love only themselves are determined to get their own way. They are inflexible, unbending. Would such an attitude contribute to a happy marriage? In no way. The apostle Paul wisely counseled Christians, including married couples: “[You should be] doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—Philippians 2:3, 4.
6. How can love of money undermine a marital relationship?
6 Love of money can drive a wedge between a husband and a wife. Paul warned: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Sadly, Paul’s warning has come true in many marriages today. In their quest for wealth, many spouses ignore the needs of their mates, including the basic need for emotional support and regular, warm companionship.
7. In some cases, what behavior has led to marital disloyalty?
7 Paul also said that some in these last days would be “disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement.” The marriage vow is a solemn promise that should lead to a permanent bond, not to treachery. (Malachi 2:14-16) Some, though, have turned their amorous attentions to individuals other than their spouses. One wife in her 30’s whose husband left her explained that even before he left, he acted too familiarly, too affectionately, toward other women. He failed to recognize what was inappropriate conduct for a married man. She was deeply hurt when she saw this happening and tactfully tried to warn him of the dangerous path he was treading. Still, he fell into adultery. Even though kind warnings were given, the offending partner did not want to pay attention. He fell headlong into the trap.—Proverbs 6:27-29.
8. What can lead to adultery?
8 How clearly the Bible warns against adultery! “Anyone committing adultery with a woman is in want of heart; he that does it is bringing his own soul to ruin.” (Proverbs 6:32) Usually, adultery is not a spontaneous, impulsive act. As the Bible writer James pointed out, a sin such as adultery usually takes place only after the thought has been conceived and entertained. (James 1:14, 15) The offending spouse gradually ceases to be loyal to the mate to whom he or she vowed lifelong fidelity. Jesus said: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:27, 28.
9. What wise counsel is found at Proverbs 5:18-20?
9 Therefore, the wise and loyal course is the one encouraged in the book of Proverbs: “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?”—Proverbs 5:18-20.
Do Not Rush Into Marriage
10. Why is it wise to take time to get to know a prospective mate?
10 Problems in marriage may arise when a couple enter into that relationship prematurely. They may be too young and inexperienced. Or perhaps they do not take the time to get to know each other—their likes and dislikes, their goals in life, their family background. It is wise to exercise patience, taking the time to get to know the prospective mate. Think of Jacob, the son of Isaac. He had to work for his prospective father-in-law for seven years before he was allowed to marry Rachel. He was willing to do that because his feelings were based on real love, not merely physical attraction.—Genesis 29:20-30.
11. (a) What does the marital union bring together? (b) Why is a wise use of speech vital in marriage?
11 Marriage is more than just a romantic relationship. The marital union yokes together two persons from different family backgrounds and with distinct personalities, emotional makeup, and often disparate educational backgrounds. Sometimes it is a joining of two cultures, even two languages. At the very least, it brings together two voices with the ability to express differing opinions on all kinds of matters. Those two voices are a very real component of a marriage union. They can be constantly critical and complaining, or they can be warmly encouraging and edifying. Yes, with our words we can either hurt or heal our mate. Uncontrolled speech can put a real strain on a marriage.—Proverbs 12:18; 15:1, 2; 16:24; 21:9; 31:26.
12, 13. What realistic view of marriage is encouraged?
12 Therefore, it is wise to take the time really to get to know a prospective mate. An experienced Christian sister once said: “When you view a prospective marriage partner, think of perhaps ten basic requirements you would like to see in that person. If you can find only seven, ask yourself, ‘Am I willing to overlook the three that are missing? Could I on a daily basis tolerate those deficiencies?’ If you have doubts, step back and think again.” Of course, you need to be realistic. If you want to get married, know that you will never find a perfect mate. But, then, the person you eventually marry will not have found a perfect mate either!—Luke 6:41.
13 Marriage involves sacrifices. Paul highlighted this when he said: “I want you to be free from anxiety. The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval. But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided. Further, the unmarried woman, and the virgin, is anxious for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in her body and in her spirit. However, the married woman is anxious for the things of the world, how she may gain the approval of her husband.”—1 Corinthians 7:32-34.
Why Some Marriages Fail
14, 15. What can contribute to the weakening of the marriage bond?
14 A Christian woman recently experienced the trauma of divorce when her husband left her after 12 years of marriage and began a relationship with another woman. Did she notice any warning signs before the breakup? She explains: “He reached a point where he no longer prayed. He used flimsy excuses for missing Christian meetings and the preaching activity. He claimed to be either too busy or too tired to spend time with me. He would not talk to me. There was a spiritual alienation. It was such a shame. He was no longer the man I had married.”
15 Others report noticing similar signs, including neglect of personal Bible study, prayer, or attendance at Christian meetings. In other words, many individuals who eventually left their mates allowed their relationship with Jehovah to weaken. As a result, their spiritual vision dimmed. Jehovah was no longer a living God to them. The promised new world of righteousness ceased to be a reality. In some cases, this spiritual weakening happened even before the unfaithful spouse formed an attachment outside the marriage.—Hebrews 10:38, 39; 11:6; 2 Peter 3:13, 14.
16. What strengthens a marriage?
16 In contrast, one very happy couple attribute the success of their marriage to their strong spiritual bonds. They pray together and study together. The husband says: “We read the Bible together. We go out in the ministry together. We enjoy doing things together.” The lesson is clear: Maintaining a good relationship with Jehovah will greatly contribute to the solidity of a marriage.
Be Realistic and Communicate
17. (a) What two things contribute to a successful marriage? (b) How does Paul describe Christian love?
17 Two other things contribute to a successful marriage: Christian love and communication. When two people are enamored with each other, there is a tendency to ignore each other’s faults. The couple may enter marriage with exaggerated expectations, perhaps based on what they have read in romance novels or seen in movies. Eventually, however, the couple have to face reality. Then, minor faults or mildly irritating habits may become major problems. If that happens, Christians need to display the fruitage of the spirit, an aspect of which is love. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Love, indeed, is very powerful—not romantic love but Christian love. Paul described such Christian love, saying: “Love is long-suffering and kind. . . . [It] does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. . . . It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Clearly, genuine love makes allowances for human frailties. Realistically, it does not expect perfection.—Proverbs 10:12.
18. How can communication strengthen a relationship?
18 Communication is also vital. Regardless of the years that have passed, spouses should talk with each other and truly listen to each other. Says one husband: “We openly express our feelings but in a friendly way.” With experience, a husband or a wife learns to listen not only to what is said but also to what is not said. In other words, as the years go by, a happily married couple learn to discern unspoken thoughts or unexpressed feelings. Some wives have said that their husbands do not really listen to them. Some husbands have complained that their wives seem to want to communicate at the most inconvenient times. Communication involves compassion and understanding. Effective communication is beneficial for both husband and wife.—James 1:19.
19. (a) Why can apologizing be difficult? (b) What will motivate us to apologize?
19 Communication sometimes includes apologizing. That is not always easy. It takes humility to admit one’s mistakes. Yet, what a difference it makes in a marriage! A sincere apology can remove a possible future cause for conflict and pave the way for real forgiveness and a solution to the problem. Paul stated: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:13, 14.
20. How should a Christian treat his marriage partner in private and in the presence of others?
20 Also vital in a marriage is mutual support. A Christian husband and wife should be able to trust each other, to rely on each other. Neither should undermine the other or in other ways diminish his or her self-confidence. We lovingly commend our marriage partners; we do not harshly criticize them. (Proverbs 31:28b) Certainly, we do not demean them by making them the object of foolish and thoughtless jokes. (Colossians 4:6) Such mutual support is strengthened by regular expressions of affection. A touch or a quiet affectionate word can say: “I still love you. I’m glad you are with me.” These are some factors that can influence a relationship and help marriage to succeed in today’s world. There are others, and the following article will offer additional Scriptural guidelines on how to make a success of marriage.*
For more detailed information, see the publication The Secret of Family Happiness, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Can You Explain?
• What are some factors that can undermine a marriage?
• Why is a hasty marriage unwise?
• How does spirituality affect a marriage?
• What factors help stabilize a marriage?
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Marriage is more than just a romantic relationship
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A strong relationship with Jehovah helps a couple to make a success of marriage