Til Dissatisfaction Do Us Part, "Communication in Marriage". Part 2
By Norman & Ann Bales Of All About Families
Our wedding day was a memorable day in our lives. We enjoyed a time of festive celebration and left the scene underneath a rice storm with the words "'til death do us part" ringing in our ears. We're still celebrating our relationship forty years later.
When we entered marriage we felt a sense of commitment. We both ardently believed the words of Matthew 19:6, " . . . what God has joined together, let not man separate." We not only made a commitment between ourselves; God was both witness to and a partner in our commitment. I don't think either of us realized just how severely that commitment would be tested.
We would have to overcome competing agendas, two strong wills, personality clashes, an enormous amount of self-centeredness, distractions, misunderstandings and even human sinfulness to make our marriage last. Our commitment was tested the way a storm tests the foundation of a house, but we're still standing firm.
Contemporary marriages often fall apart because people don't enter it with a "'til-death-do-us-part" mentality. They may say the words in a ceremony, but in the back of their minds they've developed a "'til-dissatisfaction-do-us-part" frame of mind. When that's your mindset, God gets ignored, lives are shattered and the fabric of society is threatened.
Norman recalls the day he was handed a document stating that he had been granted a bachelor's degree with "all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto." He's still not clear on what all those rights and privileges are, but he's not going to give the diploma back. He comments:
"From the day I enrolled as a freshman until the day the Chairman of the Board handed me my diploma I was committed to graduation. My commitment was often tested in the four-year interval between matriculation and graduation. The taxpayers took care of high school tuition; I was responsible for college expenses. Before being permitted to don cap and gown, I faced countless exams and term papers. Then there were eccentric professors who got their kicks from seeing how much they could make students sweat. Of the freshmen that started the same day I did, only about 60 per cent actually received degrees. The difference between those who graduated and those who didn't was one of commitment."
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO LOW LEVEL COMMITMENT
There can be little doubt that many people who enter into marriage agreements today start with a low level of commitment. We have experienced a breakdown in societal attitudes concerning the practicality of staying married throughout the mutual lifetime of a couple. For fifty years or so, the institution of marriage has been forced to weather the storm of repeated attacks against it. In a book called, The Coming World Transformation, Frederick Lundberg said, "The family is dead except for the first year or two of child raising." The late Margaret Mead advocated two-step marriages. One step would provide for a sex partner and a second step would provide for the more mature task of child rearing. On top of this, marriage has been assaulted with self-centered agendas, low priorities, materialism and neglect.
Factors that contribute to a relaxed attitude toward commitment in marriage include,
- Fast-paced living.Our time is often regulated more by demands in the work place, pressures on the family budget and a desire to get ahead than by the needs of our spouses.
- Poor examples. Young people entering into marriage often have not seen strong role models in their parents.
- Alternative lifestyles. The percentage of people who live together without being married has skyrocketed in the last thirty years. It has gone from being shameful behavior, to being tolerated, to being accepted on equal footing in the public eye. A "significant other" enjoys the same status as a spouse in the minds of many people. We used to call it "shacking." Now we call it cohabitation.
- Lack of respect for the word of God. Many young people grow up without any exposure to the Bible at all. The world is filled with intelligent people who are capable of learning all kinds of technical information, but if you asked them to turn to the book of Isaiah, they wouldn't know where to start. They don't see the Bible as the "supreme court" sitting in judgment on human behavior.
YOU CAN'T EXPECT THE UNCOMMITTED TO WORK AT COMMUNICATION
Two important factors connect commitment with communication.
- Communication is hard work. You won't pay the price if you aren't committed.
- We communicate most effectively with those whom we love, honor, admire and respect. Those attributes require commitment.
WHY MARRIAGE WITHOUT COMMITMENT DOESN'T WORK
It conflicts with God's design. (Genesis 2:18; 2:20-22; Matthew 19:6)
- It prevents intimacy. We all crave intimacy and fear it at the same time. If we are uncertain about the commitment of our partners, the fear is increased and intimacy is virtually impossible. Intimacy requires a giving of ourselves. We are reluctant to give of ourselves to the person who insists that he or she is free to walk out tomorrow. Lack of commitment makes us vulnerable to manipulation.
- It lacks the "glue" that holds marriages together. Charles Sell is in his sixties and has been married to the same woman since he was a young man. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on marriage in America today. He makes this remarkable confession, "About four years into our own marriage, my wife confided to me that she had wanted to leave me during the first two years. Her words so shocked me that I can recall precisely what came next. 'I didn't leave you because I don't believe in divorce, God doesn't believe in divorce and my Aunt Vea doesn't believe in divorce.' Prior to our wedding, her aunt, whom she respected, took her aside and said, 'You stick with that man.' She did and we have built a terrific relationship not because we were instantly compatible, but because we were intensely committed." (Sell. Family Ministry. p. 82).
COMPONENTS OF COMMITMENT
- Social commitment. When a couple gets married, they make a legal commitment. They make themselves accountable to the laws of government. They seek the approval of their friends and relatives. That's one reason we have ceremonies and celebration. It's done out in the open to testify to the fact that a couple intends to make it work.
- Divine Commitment. (See Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14).
- Personal Commitment. - "Some people have argued that making the marriage contract legal makes it less personal. Some couples have said they want their marriages to be held together by love, not a piece of paper so they decide to live together without ceremony or license. Yet requiring it to be socially sanctioned need not make the marriage commitment less personal. It is not the church or society or even God that unite a couple in marriage; each is joined to the other by a personal decision" (Sell. p. 81).
As a 26 year old Jewish Psychiatrist, Victor Frankl was arrested by Hitler's Gestapo and confined to a concentration camp. He survived the death camp. How did he do it? At one point he reached the following decision, "They have taken everything away from me that I have - except my power to choose my attitude."
We will all face trials and difficulties in our marriages. We will all have a need to forgive and to be forgiven. We will all incite our mates to anger and feel the flush of anger ourselves, but we can prevail over those negatives if:
- We honor our commitment.
- We choose an attitude of joy.
" . . . the trick is to develop the right attitude in spite of circumstances that we find ourselves in. . . . But the bottom line is that happy couples decide to be happy. In spite of the troubles life hands them, they decide to be happy." (Dr. Les Parrott III and Dr. Leslie Parrott. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. p. 54.
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