What is the right age to get married? How long should you be engaged? Have you ever heard of a marriage that failed even though both people knew for certain they had “found the one” before they got into it? What exactly is it that makes a marriage work?These are common questions for anyone considering marriage to ask. What if you ask that question and find yourself uncomfortable with the answer? Should you not get married? Edi and I went through a lot of asking questions before we got married. One of the things that forced us to ask many of these questions was our age. Most people who fit in the statistical norms for marriage (mid to late 20’s, average intelligence, wealth, and appearance, etc.) don’t take the time they probably should to consider these things. We, on the other hand, had to wonder if we were getting married too young.
Believe it or not, I have been asked for advice about marriage repeatedly. I’m not quite sure what it is that causes people to think I might have something good to say, but they ask. The most common question I get asked by people (either considering marriage or already married) is “what makes a marriage work”. Well, that’s a complicated question. I’ve thought of a million answers to it. I could simply give one answer or I could expound for days. I’ll do neither here. I’ve reduced my philosophy down to three key points. One is a philosophy, one a practicality, and one a condition. Look carefully for guidance on age, age difference, engagement length, background etc. You’ll find none. I list these three things in what I believe to be the order of importance. Now, onto the 3 C’s of marriage.
Christianity: I seem to be harping on this don’t I? Why? Maybe because it’s the most important thing in the entire world to consider. Now before you throw stones, I’m not going to tell you all Christian marriages work and all non Christian marriages fail. In fact, divorce statistics prove otherwise. There seems to be little or no statistical difference between Christians and non Christians. If you look at those marriages that fail, however, you will ALWAYS find at least one of the two people straying from God’s principles of marriage. When I say always I mean 100% of the time, period. Unfortunately, we’re all human, and we don’t all understand Christianity the same, nor are we all capable of perfection.
When I talk of Christianity I am not referring merely to going to church on Sundays and drinking grape juice when they pass it out. I’m referring to living a life with the goal of being Christ-like (literally Christian). We can all see areas where we aren’t Christ-like. Would Christ lie? Would Christ cheat? Would Christ spend money foolishly? (Money is one of the top reasons for divorce!) Would Christ be angry and uncompassionate? Always think, What Would Jesus Do? Ok, enough on this point.
Communication: This is a practical issue. If you’re acting like a Christian, this should be a natural byproduct. However, not all of us are good a communicating. One of the biggest problems I see in marriages is the false idea that if the truth will hurt a lie might be better. Even if it’s just a little white lie, nothing could be farther from the truth! Pun intended. The truth may hurt from time to time, but if both parties are really prepared to act like Christians, there won’t be any truth worth covering up with a lie. Even in situations as bad as sexual infidelity, gross financial irresponsibility or just a huge mistake (wrecked the car today?), the truth will be better over the long term.
Also, get in the habit of talking with your spouse or fiancé about every topic under the sun. There isn’t any topic you shouldn’t be able to openly, honestly and frankly discuss with your spouse. Verbal language is for communicating. Don’t be ashamed to use strong frank words when necessary to talk about difficult subjects like emotions (tough for a guy), sexuality (tough for a gal), medical problems (can be tough for either), etc. Of course, don’t abuse the language either, and with a sensitive subject a little tact (or forewarning) is prudent. The bottom line is this, be nice to your spouse, but more importantly, be honest!
Commitment: This is a condition that is often not taken seriously enough when people get married. You must be committed to making it work. Notice I said ‘You’ not they. You must commit to doing everything in your power to make your marriage work. Want to reduce the possibility of getting a divorce? Don’t even consider it as an option! I have yet to hear a marriage
vow that includes the phrase “until we feel like it do us part”. Yet, that’s how couples act when they’re married. One or both partners intentionally does things that damage the marriage. How committed are you to your marriage? If your spouse asked you to quit your high paying job would you? If your spouse asked you to move, would you? If your spouse asked you to do a simple favor (like doing the dishes), would you? Wait a minute, that’s his (or her) job, right? My point is this, are you willing to commit to work, even when you don’t feel like it, to make your marriage work? If you’re so determined to make it work that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do to keep your marriage strong, then you’re on the road to true commitment.
There’s my marriage advice in a nutshell. I’ve read several good books on marriage. That’s another things you can do the keep things going in the right direction. And when you read marriage books, Always look for ways to improve yourself not your mate! I can’t stress that enough. If they ask for your help, give it lovingly. If you want to give them help do two things. First, help yourself (read a book, examine your habits, etc.) then ask them for their help. If you take the initiative to ask your spouse “is there anything you think I can do to be a better spouse?” they will tell you. When they’re done, they might even ask you the same question…
For my book recommendations, I’ll start with two by Willard Harley Jr.
His Needs, Her Needs – This is a great book for people thinking about marriage or already married. If your marriage is on the rocks, consider this other Harley book:
Love Busters – This book explores may things couple do to either strengthen or weaken the love they had going into the marriage.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray – This is a very popular book on communication. I found it enjoyable in that it enlightened me as to some of the differences between how men and women perceive communications.
If you think there are any books that simply must be added to my list, please email me. I’ll be happy to read the book and consider it for recommendation. I’ll only recommend books that I think are really top notch though. If I don’t happen to recommend your recommendation, I’ll recommend you write your own marriage page and recommend it yourself. Maybe I’ll even recommend your page 🙂