Marriage is simple, relationships are hard. All that most people need to get married are some blood tests and a license in most places. I'm sorry to say that is about all the effort that far too many couples put into getting married. They do not take the time to prepare for or consider the consequences of the step that they are about to take. That is something that can definitely come back to haunt a couple later.
Anyone considering marriage has to decide what kind of life they want to live. If you're a Christian (someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior), you certainly would not want to jump into a union that could ruin any chances you have for a normal and happy Christian Life. However, I see this happen everyday and the number one cause is that a Christian decides that God says it is alright for him or her to marry someone that is not a Christian and has no interest in the things of God. The Bible clearly states in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV):
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"
Let me back up a bit. As a Christian, it's not just your responsibility to marry another Christian, but one that you believe will be able to live the kind of Christian Life that you are living or plan to live. The rules are no different for Christians than for anyone else. You cannot change someone. If they have similar likes, dislikes, beliefs and interests: you are on the right track. Once you have established those basics, the next and possibly the most important consideration is whether or not you have gone to God in prayer about the whole situation?
Let's face it, God is not some cosmic puppet master who decides each and every thing we do. On the contrary, he gives us guidelines to follow in His Word and allows us to make up our own minds (or, in some cases, make decisions like we had none). That is both good and bad. There have been many times when I wish that God had just told me what to do, exactly what to do! However, if he did I would not be me and you would not be you. We would not serve him out of love, but out of fear and necessity.
A Christian, like anyone else, must find a companion that is compatible with them. Before you walk down the aisle, ask the questions that need to be asked and discuss your individual and common plans for the future. Talk about careers, money, commitment, honesty and children. Those are the five things that are more responsible for broken marriages than anything else. If you cannot agree on those things, do not get married.
A few years ago I met a women whose life was destroyed because her husband took off with another gal. He left her with little financial support and lots of kids. When she asked him why he did it, he told her that she was not the person he thought she was when they got married. Of course, that's no excuse and it's a bad one anyway. However, she did tell me that there were many things that she kept back from her husband before they were married. As he discovered her secrets one by one, the emotional pressure became too much and he gave into temptation. Honesty is not just the best policy when it comes to a relationship, it's the only one that works.
It may be that you or your spouse became a Christian after marriage. God tells us that when that happens, the couple should still try and stay together as long as both are willing to do so. The hope is that the Christian will be able to shine in such a way that he or she will be able to convince their partner to also become a born-again Christian. This is not God's perfect Will, but it is his permissive Will. We remember that Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that divorce was permitted by Moses because people are sinners, but it was never God's plan. Let's look at His Words in Matthew 19:3-8 (KJV):
"The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so."
Divorce should always be the last resort to solving marriage problems. I know that some would say that is easier said than done, but it's worth the effort to try and preserve a marriage that can be saved. Study after study shows that people are almost never as happy, satisfied or fulfilled after a divorce, as they were while they were still married. In fact, they tend to become more unhappy as time moves on because many will no longer feel safe or comfortable in a longterm relationship.
By the time most couples make the decision to end their marriage, they have grown so far apart that they can barely remember the times when they agreed on anything. If you are there and still want to try and save your marriage, it is not going to be an easy road back. When you get lost on a trail, the best thing to do is to go back to where you started and try again. The same is true of relationships gone sour. The key to reuniting in your love and commitment for each other is to start over and talk about what brought you together in the first place.
I will not even try and say that all marriages are salvageable. When things like abuse, dishonesty or adultery are brought into a relationship they create a hard and fast wall between any couple that may not be able to be torn down. This is especially true for people that marry over and over again without really thinking about the consequences of their actions to themselves or others. When relationships like those fall apart, it's an almost natural occurrence because chances are that neither person should have been involved with the other in the first place.
Let's look again at something that Jesus said about divorce during his earthly ministry:
"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." Matthew 5:31-32 (KJV)
It's important to understand that Jesus was talking to Jews who were trying to live under God's Law which was given to them by Moses. Christians are not under the law, but I believe that the Lord has provided a good example of what marriage should be. When two people come together as man and wife, they should stay together at all costs. You should think about divorce as a last resort and do everything possible to avoid it.
Relationships take work and that begins with being considerate. We all have good and bad days, but that never gives you the right to be mean spirited to your mate. Likewise, when your mate is upset or angry, you should be ready to exercise some self-control and not ramp things up by doing or saying things that you will regret later. It is all about respecting your partner the same way you respect yourself. You have become one flesh. You need to watch out for each other and act as a single unit. That's does not mean you cannot still retain your individuality.
It was probably your individuality and your partner's that first attracted you to each other. You don't want to lose that, just modify it to the extent that both of you act in unison when it comes to each other's welfare. Whatever you do must be weighed in the balances of your marriage. Instead of making a decision for one person, you are essentially making a decision for two. Whatever you do will somehow affect your mate.
I have been married to the same wonderful woman for many years. We both married when we were in our twenties. It's fantastic to be able to look back over our long relationship and share memories. It wasn't always easy, but we had a commitment to each other that overruled every other consideration. God's Word was always a comfort to me during our marriage. Whenever I got upset with my wife, I remembered how many times God reminded me in His Word to always consider and respect the wife of my youth. He promised that would lead to joy and it has.
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