Marriage has taken a beating, and it has more than a bleeding nose.
We have all known of marriages that seemed doomed from the beginning, and sure enough didn’t survive the test of time. But something has changed. Many strong and healthy mar-riages that have been an example to others have collapsed. Christian matrimony has not been immune to attack. What is going on and why now more than ever?
Committed couples are suffering the same difficulties that are afflicting our world. As Christians, we may think ourselves separated from present culture, but we are ill affected, aware of it or not. We are living in a world where pleasure, entertainment, and the avoidance of suffering are top bill. Man is at the center of this worldly culture. We live in the “disposable society”. Cultural forces and destructive spirits have the marital camp surrounded. But isn’t the devout Christian immune? Doesn’t faith insulate us and protect us?
We lay our marriage before Christ and we trust that He will protect it, but we must be active and involved in safeguarding and renewing this vocation on a daily basis. Where is the enemy and what forces destroy a good marriage? The ultimate enemy is Satan and he has his methods of destruction.
David P. Murray reminds us, “In wartime, it is essential that we know our enemies. In a day when marriage is under sustained attack, it is therefore wise to identify it's enemies and also its allies and friends.” Let us look at three enemies of marriage, some ways to protect against these assaults and how to fight back. There are more than three, and we’ll look at some of the others in a future article.
Busyness & Lack of Time for Communication The telephone, Internet, TV, work and even church & family, can be the enemy of a marriage. A marriage web site says they “steal precious time from us and greatly reduces the amount of time a husband and wife spend together. Indeed, some people spend more time in the week with their TV than with their wife or husband. TV also brings unhealthy values into our homes. Most programmes, especially the "soaps", degenerate and trivialize marriage. They make it seem so normal, common and easy to be unfaithful and indulge in immorality”. The telephone is often an unwelcome guest in our home, robbing us of occasion to talk and be with our spouse. Work and volunteerism, when obsessive or over demanding of our time, lead to stress, pressure and burnout. We can find ourselves neglecting of our home life, careless of our children and especially our marriages. We are in a world that is sucking hours from our precious relationships. All things must be in balanced moderation. In an article in the Stornoway Free News, Mr. David Murray cautions us, “Time together sounds so easy but is increasingly hard to achieve. A husband and wife must not become a couple who is only together when they are in bed. There must be a deliberate and disciplined organ-izing and planning of each week to ensure they have time together and at least one evening off together each week. The halcyon and leisurely days and evenings of courtship and early-married life soon disappear in life's routine busyness, especially when children appear on the scene”. Time taken to talk is a divorce buster. Make sure activity in your life doesn’t cram your spouse out of the scene. How much time are you making for your spouse? Are you talking through problems and being one of mind & body?
Pornography and Impurity Steve Wood, founder of The Family Life Centre says, “The venom of Internet Pornography is slowly killing the spiritual life of millions of Christian fathers. At every Men's conference I have spoken at over the past four years, I have encountered men addicted to Internet pornography. Men from every region of North America, who attend church every Sunday, are silently addicted to pornography. Scores of wives have contacted the Family Life Center alarmed about their husband's addiction to pornography. These wives are fearful about pornography's corrosive effects upon their husbands, their marriages, and their children.” We are immersed in a culture of impure images; magazines, billboards, television advertising and programming. Standards in modesty in dress and behavior lure men and women into a world where people become objects of pleasure and cease to be seen as children of God. Mr. Wood points out that “A March 2000 national survey conducted by Zogby and Focus on the Family found that one in four American men seek sexual fulfillment online. Nearly one in five Christians gave the same response. Yes, Internet pornography has spread to men in the Church, yet many men have told me they have never heard a single word about pornography in their church.” Any form of lusting poisons a marriage. Jesus warns us that even lusting in the heart is parallel to adultery. Sexual purity is essential to a strong marriage.
Focus on the Family offers the following web site to help fight this particular enemy: - http://www.pureintimacy.org/ The Family Life Centre is also a good resource - http://www.familylifecenter.net/strugglewithporn.asp There are also some very good books available on both of these sites that will help a wounded marriage. Women are not invulnerable to the temptations of impurity.
Both men and women need to avoid situations that put purity at risk. Keep your movie and TV selections clean, keep custody of your eyes and change the channel on inappropriate thoughts, and get help for addictive behaviour. Publications and books should feed our souls and minds and draw us nearer to God. We are not immune from the influence of racy writings or body-focused magazines. Fill your days and nights with wholesome activity. Start today and make a covenant with your eyes and heart so as to honour your vows of fidelity. Wanting it All Time for some tough talk. This world gives such confusing messages; Men be strong, but not too strong…be more like a woman…sensitive and attentive…be a leader…women are just as effective…move over…don’t be so aggressive…fix the problem…Be a mother…be sexy…the gentler sex…be strong…be feminine, …be more like a man…take charge…get out there and work…women are nurturers, the heart of the family… get a life…don’t be a door-mat…women are helpmates…find yourself.
We expect so much now. We’ve analyzed ourselves to death and we’ve lost sight of the answers. We no longer know our masculine/feminine roles. We’re confused. Expectations have become unrealistic and we compare our marriages to fantasy marriages. We see the lives of the rich and famous, the “beautiful people” and we look at what we have and we feel disappointment. Commitment, responsibility, faithfulness, steadiness and service are replaced with the desire for excitement, indulgent behaviour, instant gratification, and the feeding of self. We see walking away from our challenges as the solution. Why should I hang around for this? We blame and we find reasons for abandoning our vows, our spouse, and our children. As a people, even as a Christian people, we are worshipping the great “Me”. Mankind has tried to recreate itself in its own image rather than embrace Almighty God’s perfect plan for man and woman. We vow, make covenant with God and then want to change the plan, and alter the rules. We want it all. In our search to fulfill ourselves we’ve lost ourselves. Time for us to be “big”, and keep our promises and commitments. Time to become selfless, people of sacrifice and service. Time to be real and abandon worldly behaviour. Today take some time to think of how your spouse blesses you. What is right in your marriage? How are you serving and sacrificing? Are you both giving or are you focused on your own desires and wants? Is your marriage ordered? Are you living the life as man and woman in a worldly way or by God’s rules? If something needs to change, sit down and pray together, talk about it and start making those changes.
The foundation of a strong marriage is prayer, both spouses praying together, regularly and often. Perhaps you already have a strong marriage. Keep praying and working toward an even better marriage. Be diligent in safeguarding your marriage and do not take it for granted.
Now lets look at three other problem areas threatening matrimony. 1. Denial Organizations such as Retrouvaille and Recovering Couples Anonymous (RCA) are international organizations that help couples rescue a near-failed marriage. They remind couples of the need for honesty when tackling marriage difficulties. The first move requires getting past the root problem of denial. Many couples go on for years knowing their marriage is in serious difficulty and avoid dealing with it. By denying the problem, other grave conditions take root and can eventually lead to the demise of a relationship. By looking the other way, we end up substituting what should be healthy time and experiences with our spouse with “other” activities. While in denial we can kid ourselves by engaging in excellent (or not so excellent) matters, all the while evading problems. As frightening or overwhelming as it can be, the best route is to look truthfully at what ails a marriage. This doesn’t mean looking for trouble by nitpicking at trivialities. We’re talking about serious trouble. The first step to healing is admitting there is something wrong and that we need to fix it. It isn’t going away on its own and by sweeping it under the carpet, we are neglecting our vows to each other. By praying and getting spiritual direction, we should examine ourselves, our behaviour, and deal candidly with our messes. Don’t pretty up what is ugly. The following statements are offered by RCA to consider. They help in evaluating denial. · It is easier to be with other people than it is to be alone and intimate with our partner. · If I really let my partner know what I've done or what I'm feeling and thinking (who I am), I'll be abandoned. · We either avoid our problems, or feel we are individually responsible for solving the problems we have as a couple. · We get upset about little issues rather than express our feelings about larger ones. · We deal with conflict by getting totally out of control or by not arguing at all. · It is easier to avoid, hide or medicate our feelings than it is to express them. · I would rather be somewhere else or doing something else on a consistent basis than being with my spouse.
These are just some statements to pray about. We should be attending to problems with courage, humility, love, and by embracing truth. If you have been avoiding dealing with serious problems in your marriage, with God’s help make a decision to do something about it. Be real.
2. Social Pressure Speaking about “social pressure” and marriage can encompass a great deal. It can refer to the global political attack on the institution of marriage, and it can be something as troublesome as a relative giving unhelpful advice. We encounter daily social pressure on home life and it can have the effect of distracting us from doing what is best for our marriage and ultimately best for our family. The external assault on matrimony is acutely felt and can really cause damage. Your relationship with your spouse is a light to the world; your marriage and mine are cornerstones for society. We have a lot to offer this present culture, starving for the values and virtue found in matrimony, but we must also insulate our holy relationships from unhealthy influence. We must give to family, friends, community, country and world, but we must be secure and strong in our marriage first. That means being of one mind in important things and knowing who we are as a married couple. Perhaps a well-meaning friend assails us on our decision to home school or the guys at work don’t get why your wife is at home when she could be bringing in some extra income. Maybe church members think you should be more involved than you are. These are all social pressures on married life. By establishing your priorities and goals as a couple, you set boundaries that keep your marriage healthy. If I find teatime at the neighbour’s is just a gossip session that entails beefing about our husbands’ shortcomings, this amounts to lack of loyalty and can insidiously eat at my marital relationship. We have to evaluate what social pressures are in our lives that are a detriment to our marriage. It doesn’t mean checking out of the world, but rather making adjustments and changes so that under God, our spousal relationship is first and solid. If your marriage is being dragged off course due to social pressure, get back on track by sitting down with your spouse and re-establishing parameters. What does your marriage need? What outside forces are damaging your unity? What do you need to do about it? What is the Christian way to go about this? Talk about it. 3. Family Life Can our own family life be a danger to our marriage? Children are a blessing from God, and those little “blessings” bring with them many demands on our time and energy. Life is full and busy in our homes, especially as home schoolers. Most of us are pretty tired by the end of the day. Sometimes or maybe often, our beloved spouses get precious little of us and are relegated to getting from us whatever is left over if anything at all. We know that our children need us and both father and mother are willing to sacrifice for the love of their little ones, but we can actually have a false understanding of child rearing if it has meant that our marriage takes last place. If our marriage is on the lowest rung of the ladder of importance, we will face some pretty nasty consequences. Intimacy is the first victim of ill-ordered family life. If we make little time with our spouse to share our joys, concerns, ideas, and issues of life we are cheating the opportunity for intimacy. Intimacy comes out of making time with each other to the exception of everyone else. Intimacy can also come about as a result of joyful family time, but it is essential that we work at our union one to one. The essential immunization against infidelity is intimacy. The Forever Families organization states, “The No. 1 cause for the breakdown in marriages today is the same issue that causes infidelity. Couples aren't prioritizing their marriage," says Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist and author. ‘People spend time on their careers, their kids, community affairs, hobbies, sports. But they take their spouses for granted. It just doesn't work that way." In other words, to have a strong marriage, your spouse must come first.’” Focus on wooing your partner, as opposed to taking his or her love for granted. Win his or her love on a daily basis. Daily courtship is holy and beautiful. On our wedding day we promise to honour and cherish our spouse all the days of our life. Do you need to refresh the covenant you made with each other? Here are some suggestions from the Forever Families website on how to honour your spouse in right order and thus foster intimacy (www.foreverfamilies.com): · Spend time having meaningful conversations. Set aside a few minutes each day to talk with your spouse. Talk about what you did during the day, what you've been thinking about, what you're feeling. Avoid discussing conflicts during this time. · If these conversations don't come naturally, try sitting down facing each other and doing something relaxing at the same time, like having a cup of coffee or listening to music you both like. · Go on a date with your spouse once a week and choose an activity you enjoy doing together, such as watching a movie, eating out, dancing, and bowling. Consider the cost of a babysitter (or a grandparent or family member –my insert) an investment in your marriage and family. · Share your fondest dreams with your spouse, no matter how impossible or outlandish they might seem. · Be honest with your spouse. Don't keep secrets from him or her. · Regularly attend church... Nurturing your spirituality together can be a powerful way to increase your bond. I would add praying together daily and being open to life-giving intimacy. We are living in a culture of death. Your marriage is hope in this world. Your marriage is a means to your own personal holiness. Your marriage is a sign of God’s life among us. Let me quote from Professor Scott Hahn who has written and taught extensively on marriage. …“We need, therefore, a lot of humility and patience before God and before our spouse. We need to recognize ourselves for who we are, with our weaknesses. We need to recognize Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives and of our marriages and families, and a source of the daily graces we need. We need to see that the speck we have detected in our spouse's eye is not normally as big as the beam in our own. We often exaggerate the faults in our spouse because we have not allowed the Lord to show us our own problems. But if there is one truth I really believe that we need to live more than any other, it's forgiveness. Jesus Christ has forgiven the Church. He has washed her. He has cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word. He has given to us His own Holy Spirit, so that we, as His bride, might be pure and holy. Therefore, the Christ-Church relationship gives to us the greatest principle of forgiveness. That is the way we live our daily lives.” I started these articles asking how it is that Christian marriages are buckling and caving in. We are vulnerable to sin and common pitfalls. To think otherwise is foolish. Yes indeed, marriage is taking a beating and we are in a war, but by making selfless and godly choices we can preserve and protect our sacred unions.