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These thoughts are strictly from the "outside looking in." Not being married, and having had very little interaction with women, all I have are observations as a single person, so I welcome all criticism (constructive or otherwise).
Perhaps I observe more than I should, but it's impossible to miss what you see at work, church, a restaurant, in your neighborhood, or even in the aisle of a supermarket. Sometimes the most powerful statements about a relationship are made in the shortest of moments, and smallest of details—the ones in which we think no-one sees.
Rob and Laura Petrie arguing in The Dick Van Dyke Show
(Season 2, Episode 9: "The Night the Roof Fell In")
Why do men and women sometimes seem to annoy each other? Why is there often a cynical attitude towards the way God made them—the things that make them unique—and that they cannot change? It's healthy to be able to laugh at ourselves and admit our differences—after all, they are real—but great care must be taken in what the underlying attitude is in all of it. The old saying, "often the truth is spoken in jest" can be very revealing. There's a fine line in humor; it's okay to laugh, but not at the expense of others. Never should a genuine concern or question be dismissed from either side. I've always been encouraged when seeing a married couple desire to understand and accept each other in the way God made them. I'm sure it's not easy to do, but setting aside pride, and being honest about ourselves and our attitudes will go a long way in minimizing potential bumps and needless arguments. I believe men and women can understand each other, even when the bottom line comes down to hormones (and in one way or another, every one of us are affected by them). However, it undoubtedly takes genuine effort and motivation to ask those questions.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NASB): "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Colossians 3:18-19 (NASB): "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them."
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB): "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."
1 Peter 3:1-7 (NASB): "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely externalóbraiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."
In His Word, God presents both the needs and concerns of marriage, but also the wonder and beauty of what He deems holy. Parts of Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians for example, deal with loving your spouse for who they are, while the Song of Solomon vividly describes the beauty of intimacy and passion. Throughout Scripture, it's clear that God intended marriage to be something very beautiful and honorable—not cheap, or second-rate as the world relentlessly depicts.
Rob and Laura resolving their differences
(Season 2, Episode 9: "The Night the Roof Fell In")
I wrestle with a growing aversion to marriage—not because of what it's designed to be, but rather how it all-too-often ends up being. With most marriages ending in divorce (due to finances, adultery, pornography, sexual refusal from a spouse, etc.), I have to honestly ask myself: "Would I fail? Is marriage worth the risk of potentially life-long frustration? If I met the right person, would I be the spouse that God commands me to be? Would she be toward me? Would our relationship survive the numerous attacks and challenges that surround and threaten marriage today? Would I find myself with a refusing spouse who could care less about affection and intimacy? After all, before she is married, no bride-to-be ever admits to her fiance: "By the way, sex disgusts me, so don't get any ideas about trying to enjoy it with me!"
The reality is that marriage is a calculated, but risky, gamble. Nothing is ever perfect, and some wounds can run very deep. Perhaps the greatest fear is committing ourselves to a potential lifetime void of intimacy with no guarantee that either husband or wife will (as God commands in 1 Corinthians 7) passionately cherish and pursue each other after the honeymoon is over. What pornography is to men, the battle of the mind is to women:
"I just want to encourage you to keep saying what needs to be said about sexual intimacy in marriage. I stand here as (a former) one of those wives that you are writing about today. If it hadn't been for people like you, Julie, declaring the truth, I would still be denying my husband and myself of the closeness we now share. We had been married almost 25 years before I realized my sin.
My husband used to tell me what my denial did to him. I didn't believe him. I don't know why. He never lied to me about anything before. It wasn't until I started reading Sheila's, J's, and Julie's blogs and saw that these were women saying the same things my husband always said that I finally was broken.
Keep telling the truth, Julie, even if you feel like you're "preaching to the choir." You never know the lives you may change."— Reader comment from The Sexual Sin No-One Will Talk About
Everyone agrees that a healthy marriage requires love, commitment, discipline, selflessness, and constant communication—none of which are easy, and certainly requires a lot of work! However, other than the anticipation of the wedding and the honeymoon, are there any benefits of this commitment and hard work? It seems after that (at least according to the media and even a number of people I've talked to) it's all downhill from there.
What are the benefits (extra link)? These basic principles—if followed in God's grace and strength—are designed to lead to a stable and enjoyable marital union:
I know it's all too easy for me to see marriage through rose-colored glasses, but if you really think about it, I often wonder if that isn't how God wants us to see it, even if it is easier said than done. We need to be realistic—problems will come—but without a positive goal in mind, what is there to strive for?
Marriage is a good and honorable thing. There are plenty of Scripture verses that talk about this, but here are just a few:
Hebrews 13:4 (NASB): "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge."
Proverbs 18:22 (NASB): "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord."
Deuteronomy 24:5 (NASB): "When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken."
Proverbs 19:14 (NASB): "House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord."
Proverbs 31:28-31 (NASB): "Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."
Malachi 2:15 (NLT) "Didn't the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth."
Non-biblical examples include selfishness, bitterness, lack of respect and love, and are evidenced by little or no physical contact, minimal eye contact, demeaning comments (especially in front of others), and no motivation to understand or resolve problems.
Biblical examples include spouses who strive to respect and understand each other and their differences, and refuse to make fun of one another at any time. Difficult challenges and problems are tackled with honest discussion, and without using each other as targets inside or outside the home.
Over the phone: explaining boundaries
(Season 4, Episode 5: "The Man from 'Emperor'")
The Dick van Dyke Show: Why mention a TV show? Because Rob & Laura Petrie worked through problems and misunderstanding, and sought to understand one another without belittling each other. They fought for the health of their marriage. Even within the show, there is a stark contrast between Rob & Laura's relationship, and the relationship between Buddy Sorrell (Rob's coworker), and his wife "Pickles." Most of the episodes were written by Carl Reiner, who based the relationship of Rob & Laura on his own marriage—pretty rare for a secular comedy show in the 60s. Rob makes a great statement toward the end (23m 11s) of The Man from Emperor (Season 4, Episode 5):
"Marriage, like a lot of other things, has boundaries. And to some guys, those boundaries represent walls, and that makes marriage a prison to them. But to other guys, those boundaries hold everything that's good and fun in life."
The world would have us believe that purity as God commands is living life in a straitjacket, but in reality, it's a Kevlar vest keeping us alive and whole. The practical translation of this comes in the form of love, sensitivity, forgiveness, respect, understanding, patience, honor, and is evidenced by: playfulness, frequent eye contact and smiles, physical contact such as hugging, kissing (and more), as well as enduring thoughtfulness, admiration, and motivation to resolve problems quickly.
I've been challenged and encouraged by those who have displayed trust and patience for their spouses, and who seek to understand motives and feelings instead of brushing them off. Married couples have the opportunity to demonstrate Christ and encourage others watching them more than they may think in how they talk to, with, and about their spouse.
I'm a firm believer in Genesis 2:18. In spite of not having found a wife, I always appreciate being able to learn as much as I can from others' experience and godly advice. From the single view, I want to say "Thank you!" to all those couples whose examples and testimonies demonstrate biblical love for each other in very tangible ways. I want to encourage you to continue honoring God, striving to love and understand your spouse, and seeking to have fun together. Always.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to Barb Stahly for her kind encouragement on this article, and great feedback to improve its readability.
Related links: The Alabaster Jar | Mystery32 | Christian Marriage Bloggers Association