I see marriages falling apart all around me. Each week I have a new story of someone I know whose marriage has collapsed. They are members of a church. They are somewhat regular though not every Sunday attenders. They seem to have decent marriages until I find out all that has been going on. . . and a lot can go on between the times that people come to church!
The following is not new news but it needs repeating. Husband and wife must be committed to the marriage if it will be one that is lasting and fulfilling. Marriage should not be a ball and chain but a launching pad to living better than you would if you were single. It should involve loving and being loved, serving and being served, caring for and being cared for. Intimacy should be shared both ways. Communication should be on more than a superficial level. It should get better with age.
Now, for my formula. I have never, ever done any marriage counseling for couples who did all three of these things. Do not neglect one of these and you will have a marriage that will last.
Mankind is tripartite. We are of three parts though the parts are not separated on this earth. We are body, soul and spirit. I have heard of "out of body" experiences but I have always suspected these were either people who had technically died or people who were a little nuts. As long as we are alive we shall have these three parts determine who we are. Who we are determines our actions. Each supports the other. Failing in one part of our lives will result in a deficit in another. So, we must relate to our spouses on these three levels.
The problem that most marriages have is that they start on the wrong level to get to know the other person. We generally start on the physical level, work to the emotional level and sometimes connect on the spiritual level. If this were a building, we are building the roof, then walls and finally the foundation. The chances of the structure standing are about fifty-fifty. Lay a strong foundation and your building has a much better chance of standing up to the storms life can throw at it.
This formula is for people who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
First, a couple should pray together. They shouldn't wait until they are married to do so. They should lift up their concerns for each other, for problems, for needs, for anything in which they need the Lord's help. Prayer is the most intimate spiritual activity that can be done. It should reveal the heart more than anything else that can be said. True prayer is cleansing. It is bold and yet innocent. It should come from the deep insides of the couple. It should knit their hearts together.
Second, a couple should be bound to a small group. (They may be a Sunday School class.) These are friends who also seek the Lord. They will share their sorrows and joys together. They will be the ones the couple can depend on when they have a need. They will do things socially, intellectually and recreationally together. They will give support and advice when things get tough. They will be like an extended family for the couple. They are peers to whom they can depend. These people will bind the couple together socially. They will support a strong marriage.
This is on the level of the soul. The soul involves the mind, will and emotions. Each of these is supported by this small group.
Lastly, the couple should have lots of sex with each other. (You probably started laughing here.) I have found that couples who did not connect spirits or souls soon stopped connecting physically. I have found that couples who were truly spiritually and soulfully in tune were (baring a psychological trauma) naturally physically intimate with each other. It makes the times of intimacy much sweeter than they would be otherwise.
All three of these are necessary. You can have a strong marriage which is the envy of your neighborhood. You can have a close relationship that truly makes the two of you one. It is a tremendous commitment.
But, isn't it worth it?