Summary: In order to understand how to have a marriage that lasts, you must follow God’s instruction manual.
How to Have a Marathon Marriage
It’s interesting to find out what kids think about marriage. When asked how you decide who to marry, Kirsten, age 10 answered this way: “No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.”
Alan, age 10, said this: “You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.”
When asked to give the right age to get married, six-year-old Freddie said, “No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married.”
In answering the age-old question about whether it is better to be single or married, Anita, age 9, answered with some good insight: “It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.”
And, when asked how best to make a marriage work, 10-year-old Ricky perceptively replied: “Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.”
Our marriage has gone through several different seasons. We’ve had our ups and our downs. We’ve experienced things that were funny -- and other things that made one, or both of us, cry. That’s really the nature of marriage -- it’s dynamic.
I see at least three stages of marriage.
1. The first stage is the romance stage. Most every relationship starts off here. During the romantic season of marriage, couples demonstrate intensity. They focus only on each other. Their feelings are strong, their passions are unbridled.
They also are a bit idealistic. During this stage, the tendency is to put your partner up on a pedestal. He or she can’t do anything wrong. They write poetry to each other. Listen to how a love struck man describes the love of his life in Song of Songs 4:
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead [remember, this is a middle-eastern setting!] Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of David, built with elegance...
He continues to describe her physical attributes -- but I think I’ll stop at the neckline!
2. If the Romance Stage is the ideal, in the Reality Stage the ideal can turn into an ordeal. Suddenly what once attracted you to your spouse becomes the very thing that drives you crazy. By the way, one clue that you’ve left the Romance stage is when you start rolling your eyes at couples who haven’t!
Dullness may set in. Things are no longer so exciting. Nothing’s really new. Disagreements turn into the cold war. Some of you feel cheated and trapped. What started out as puppy love has gone to the dogs.
Several years ago I met with a focus group to get their ideas about marriage. One of the questions I asked them was this: What advice would you give couples contemplating marriage? One wife responded very quickly by saying, “Don’t do it.” A husband chimed in: “Bail, baby, bail.” I think it’s fair to say that these two individuals are living in the reality stage of marriage.
That reminds me of the young minister who was performing his first wedding ceremony. He was nervous so he asked for some advice from an older pastor. The experienced man told the young preacher everything he needed to do and then made one final suggestion: “If you ever forget what you’re supposed to say, just quote Scripture.” The ceremony went smoothly until he pronounced the happy couple husband and wife. At that point his mind went blank. That’s when he remembered the advice of the old preacher. So he quoted the only verse that came to his mind: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
3. The third stage is the rethinking stage. The Romance Stage is when we think of marriage as the perfect ideal; the Reality Stage is where the ideal can turn into an ordeal; the Rethinking stage is when you want a new deal. In this stage, you really have at least 3 choices.
Choice #1 is to settle for the blahs. Maybe you know that your marriage isn’t that great, but you figure there’s not much you can do about it. It’s like what Minnie Pearl says: “Getting married is a lot like getting into a tub of hot water. After you get used to it, it ain’t so hot.” Some of you have cooled off and are just living like roommates, as you pour your life into other things, ignoring your spouse. Others of you deliberately hurt each other by launching verbal attacks, put downs, and other unkind behavior.