According to the American Psychology Association’s 2021 website, 90% of people in Western culture marry by age 50. 40-50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. For subsequent marriages, the divorce rate is even higher. If you are a young person dreaming of marriage, children and the idyllic white picket fence, these numbers can be daunting. Getting married doesn’t seem to be the problem: making it last is.
We know what a disastrous relationship looks like. For many, we have seen this by experience growing up in a household that looked nothing like Ward and June Cleaver of days gone by. My generation showed us the Partridge family, a single mom successfully raising her children alone. My generation also had as a TV example “The Brady Bunch”, in which two families blended and raised their children together. In both shows, everyone was happy and all issues were resolved.
Our 40 somethings had as an example for relationships “Friends”. We were now seeing that living together before marriage or just living together without marriage was ok. A new step was added into our relationships. .Living together and then marriage became the acceptable way to do things. It has become the important first step before marriage. Many after moving in together decided “Why marry?”
Only one way in this path to peace in a marriage will work: God’s way. He created the entire universe and everything in it. It makes sense that if we choose to do things contrary to His way that it will not work.
Beware getting involved with someone who is not a believer. For obvious reasons, this is trouble. What is not ever started will not have to be ended. If you are tempted to enter into a relationship with a nonbeliever, consider why. The reasons we get into relationships are very important. Pray about this.
Let’s say that you have entered a relationship with someone who initially says that he/she is a believer. As the relationship progresses, you realize that he/she is more of a nominal Christian, not following Christ. Again, beware. Many have been lead down a bad relationship path because they choose comfort over being obedient. Obedience might tell you this relationship cannot be any more than just a friend. Obedience is never easy but always leads to peace.
As you become a couple, go to church together. Pray and consider what church is the best fit for someone of your age bracket. Find a place that the two of you can possibly serve together. Many relationship disasters can be avoided because idle time was spent together doing local or foreign missions.
Learn to put the other person first. I fail miserably at this. I want to be first, and I want attention. This is not what Christ asks us to do. A great relationship starts with the right mind set-Christ’s mindset. He was a servant, obedient to the Father. You cannot have a Christ mindset and want your way.
In a disastrous relationship, individuals have gotten selfish. It is easy to begin to think “What’s in it for me?”. “Why is this person not treating me right-like a prince or princess?”. “He/She does not make me feel special. Someone else will.”. We can suck the life out of a relationship if we see it as a way to meet our needs. Only God does that. Our relationships are to glorify Christ, have someone to build a life with and serve God alongside, and possibly build a family with.
In a good relationship both individuals are growing in their relationship with Christ, allowing HIm to meet every need. They are in prayer, listening to the Holy Spirit. They are vulnerable, sharing their hearts with their partner. Vulnerability is difficult, but is a must in order for a partner to help you grow throughout your marriage years.
Be honest. Be in a relationship with someone who fosters a culture of honesty, not keeping things hidden.
Many relationships go south when one partner or the other begins to have feelings that are not shared. When difficult times hit, share your feelings so that together you can navigate through life. Only God can meet our needs, but your marriage partner should make you feel safe and comfortable in the relationship. You should feel that your partner can be trusted and be your ally.
So, you have found the right person, but because of past hurts, you are scared. Relax. Pray. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Be obedient to Him. The best relationships look nothing like TV. Those relationships are full of drama. TV relationships also show living together working out just great. Reality shows us an individual giving their heart to someone while feeling that “I am not important enough for you to totally commit to me by way of marriage”. A recent conversation validated what I knew to be true: kids from a relationship of two people living together feel that this commitment is not really a commitment, but something that can end at any moment. Children feel that one partner or the other can simply walk out the door and leave, never returning. This is many times true.
Marriage is difficult, and no one feels great and loving and everything is rainbows every day in a marriage. This begins the same. Not everyday in a relationship is roses and “I love you”s. Some days we rely on the commitment, not the feelings. It is this way in our walk with Christ also.
If Christ is at the center of our relationships, they work. Whether it be a marriage, dating or just friendship, we must love as Christ loved. This love is a sacrificial love, unconditional and committed through good and bad.
Faithfilled Family Magazine, February 2021