A married couple came by my office to talk about problems with their teen-aged daughter. After a few minutes, it was obvious the girl’s misbehavior was a cry for help. But why was an attractive and popular adolescent so miserable and afraid? Within half an hour, it was apparent that her parents lived their lives on two different tracks that never intersected except in worship on Sunday mornings. Even there Mom sang in the choir and Dad served as an usher! They were never together; but were satisfied with that. I warned them their marriage would not survive. They laughed. In less than a year, she discovered he was having an affair and filed for divorce.
Most marriages don’t shatter so predictably: the 50% divorce rate is demonstrably false. But too many marriages simply sour, growing tense and unpleasant when just a few of spoonfuls of tenderness and creativity could restore the sweet satisfaction. Here are the top 3 idiotic ways I’ve seen Christians cheat their spouses- and themselves.
3. Put your Kids first. There’s no doubt that raising healthy kids requires a lot of sacrifice. Your furniture doesn’t last as long, your car racks up miles more quickly, and your bank account is always drained. That can be expected, but what’s not expected is sacrificing your spouse. Spending all your time shuttling kids about, helping with homework, monitoring their social lives, and helping with Eagle Scout projects can lead you to forsake the only person connected to you by sacred vows: your husband or wife. Kids thrive when Mom and Dad love each other most. Marriages do too.
2. Demand commitment. Yes, marriage is about love for a lifetime, but love must be cultivated, fertilized and nurtured. A woman can drain her husband’s love tank by constantly making demands or by behaving as though his needs are a nuisance. A husband can reduce his wife’s heart to scorched earth through constant criticism and comparisons, or by always arriving home surly and unforgiving. Dating is about winning the heart of someone you love. Marriage is about recapturing that love on a regular basis. Smart couples never stop dating.
3. Make war, not love. Marriages go south when one flesh morphs into two foes. Suddenly every difference of opinion escalates into combat. Small mistakes are replayed as national crises. “We’ve grown apart” is the most common explanation, but that’s just face saving psycho-babble. It’s how selfish people spin the sad truth: “We broke our vows and abandoned each other!” So start over. You used to enjoy each other: discover each other again. Confess your sins and set aside some time to win each other back. This can even work if one spouse starts first.
A lot of Christians want to defend marriage from redefinition by gays and lesbians. That’s a battle worth fighting. But let’s not allow heterosexuals to redefine it either. Marriage was never about perpetual romance and self-gratification: it’s about pouring my life into someone else and merging two lives for something bigger than either of us. If you’re married, worship God by the way you love your husband or wife.
And lift up the Cross!