Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure~ Hebrews 13:4
I am convinced there are two kinds of people in this world.
There are those who are good at math and those who are not. I fall squarely into the not-so-good-at-math category. My aversion to anything math-related could probably be classified as some sort of a neurosis or phobia. When confronted with a complex math problem I can actually feel my brain overheating, seizing up and shutting down like an oil-deprived engine.
Therefore, I will do anything short of sin to avoid any sort of math-related activity.
There is one exception to my firm no-math policy: statistics. It’s the only kind of math I actually enjoy, maybe because it’s easily applicable to real life. Last week I came across a statistic that got my attention. Researchers from the Gottman Institute have discovered that not only do forty percent of marriages end in divorce, half of the couples who stay married report being unhappy or very unhappy in their relationship.
It was by far the gloomiest news I have heard in ages. Half of all people who DO NOT divorce claim to be miserable in the most significant human relationship we experience. It’s no wonder our society has so many issues with rage and alcohol abuse.
The study went on to explain that there are two behaviors that appear to offer protection against both divorce and marital misery: kindness and generosity. Personal experience has proven the research to be true. Kindness and generosity are indeed vital to a healthy, happy marriage. No one sane wants to be married to a mean cheapskate.
As important as kindness and generosity are in a spouse, they are not the only behaviors that contribute to long-term happiness. Kindness and generosity are traits that grow out of other even more vital attitudes and behaviors. Kindness and generosity will never take root in a relationship that is lacking in other areas, including:
Respect– 1st Peter 2:17, Ephesians 5:33, 1st Peter 3:7
Respect means to hold a person in high esteem. Respect is real when it’s shown by giving honor and by openly displaying admiration and appreciation for what your spouse does and who they are as a person. Respect is at the heart of all healthy adult relationships. No other positive behavior will flourish over the long haul in a marriage that is lacking in mutual respect.
Loyalty– Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:9
Loyalty is about more than just sexual fidelity. Loyalty is also about how we choose to speak about our spouse in front of other people and how we treat our spouse in both public and private. Loyalty is linked to our priorities concerning time, outside relationships and even how we spend money.
Cooperation– Ephesians 5:21
Sometimes it’s called teamwork or collaboration. The Bible calls it mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21). Whatever you call it, marriages fail when it’s missing. Cooperation is the unwavering commitment to work together on things and pull in the same direction. Cooperation comes down to our willingness to give up a little bit of what we want, or think we need, for the good of the other person and the health of the relationship.
Forgiveness– Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:32
One fact you can count on in this world is that people, even the best people, will inevitably disappoint and fail you. But it’s okay because you will undoubtedly end up disappointing and failing other people. We are all disappointing failures at some point in our lives. The key to making a relationship work between two imperfect people is the daily commitment to forgive and let go.
Selflessness– Philippians 2:1-5, 1st Peter 4:10, Romans 12:3
We live in a time and a place when self-centeredness has, for all intents and purposes been enshrined as a virtue. We are constantly encouraged to “consider your own needs” and “focus on what makes you happy.” The Bible gives an entirely different set of messages, including: “consider yourself with sober judgment,” “do not think more highly of yourself than you ought,” and “serve rather than be served.” Nowhere do these messages matter more than in marriage.
One of the things I like about statistics is that, unlike other forms of math, they are not fixed. A statistic can be changed. The unhappy state of a marriage does not have to be permanent. I am convinced that any marriage can be a happy marriage. Respect, loyalty, cooperation, forgiveness, selflessness, kindness and generosity are the behaviors that define and comprise love. When these behaviors become standard operating procedure in a marriage, the people in that marriage cannot help but be happy.