It is natural and good that young people marry. This is the way that the ‘system’ works. Unfortunately, young people, by definition, are immature and they usually have not acquired enough wisdom to stay out of trouble. The flame of passion drives the couple together and later comes the realization of the immaturities of their spouses. Seldom do the individuals realize that ‘likes marry likes’ and it is what they have in common that has brought them together. It is usually difficult for such people to accept their part in any conflict that develops as each blames the other for their strife. For this reason, it is extremely wise for young people to defer marriage until they have acquired enough maturity, (through counseling if necessary and available) to be prepared for the inevitable realizations of immaturity.
A big part of the problems and the solutions of them is a good basic understanding of what marriage is to a man and what it is to a woman. The stance of an immature man is to ‘own’ a wife just as he owns a car, a boat, or a dog. This ownership entitles him to treat his possessions in any way that he chooses without judgment.
A woman usually and basically wants the love and support of a man. She needs the security of a safe place where she can ‘build her nest’ and raise her family. A woman will actually lay down her life in support of this ideal.
A few weeks ago I talked to a young woman who is a college student. She had a damaged fender on her car and I asked her how it happened. She said that she found the damage when she left her boyfriend’s apartment on a Saturday morning. Later in our conversation, I asked her if she wanted to ‘get married.’ She said; “I hope so but we haven’t talked about it.” I said;
“And you never will. Why should he marry you when he has everything that he wants without the liabilities and responsibilities of marriage?”
Remember the old cliché; ‘Men play at love for sex and women play at sex for love.’
Fifty five years ago I worked with a man who had a different problem. His wife gave him a work list and he had to get a certain number of jobs done before they could be together. If he was asked about his wife in casual conversation, his face turned red with anger. His religion would not allow him to consider divorce.
The word ‘marriage’ means a union or joining together. We sometimes use the word when we refer to merging two companies or even some kinds of materials. Marriage implies a blending together like the ingredients of a cake, never to be separately identified or separated. I like to think of marriage as two trees that are planted next to each other. In the beginning, they are two separate trees. As they mature, their branches intertwine until you can scarcely tell them apart unless one is removed. Then we can see just how each tree filled in the empty spaces for the other.
We often see older married couples who obviously eat at the same table as they have the same large waistline. They have shaped each other.
Once I had lunch with my brother and his wife in a restaurant. When we ordered salads, my sister-in-law told the waiter that he should bring their salads without dressing as she had brought ‘their favorite’ dressing, pulling a bottle out of her purse. My brother and his wife were so blended that they shared even their favorite salad dressing in common. Further, my brother refused a big promotion in his company that required him to move to another state and manage a division of the company. He said that his purpose was to serve his wife and family. You can draw several observations from that, can’t you?
A man from India, Ravi Zacharias, tells the story of how he found his wife. He and his father lived in Canada and his sister lived in India. He wrote to his sister and asked her to find for him a wife. He and his father sat around their dinner table and looked over pictures of prospects. Finally, he chose one lady and asked his sister to arrange for a wedding, including provisions for 1,000 guests.
Ravi was asked:
“But what if you don’t like her?”
His response was;
“It makes no difference. Marriage is about commitment and I commit to her my lifelong loyalty and support to supply all of her needs, (or words to that effect)”.
They were married and the last that I knew about them; they have a happy marriage and several children.
This example is entirely foreign to the western view of marriage, but it points out a vital dimension if a marriage is to be a good one that will last. He was committed to make his marriage succeed by serving his wife in every way that she needed. Commitment can’t be over stressed, especially in our current social climate that says, ‘for so long as we both shall love.’ It is virtually impossible for a man and woman to marry and later not develop issues that need resolution.
A story is told of a man who lived on a South Pacific Island. His name was Johnny Lingo and the story is told by a visitor to the islands. He had heard of Johnny lingo and wanted to learn more about him. He visited the island to find that Johnny Lingo was much respected for his bargaining skills but he paid 8 cows for a wife. The going rate was a maximum of 5 cows for a very exceptional woman and people thought that he had made a poor bargain. You can find his story on the internet, but to make this short and to the point, He paid 8 cows because he wanted an ‘8 cow wife’. When his wife knew that he paid 8 cows for her, she knew that he placed a very high value on her and it showed in her behavior and attitude. People are responsive to respect, aren’t they? Johnny Lingo was not foolish. He created his 8-cow wife by the way he treated her and how he declared her worth to the world. Now, if you would like to have an ‘8 c-w wife’, you know what to do, don’t you?
As I say several times in this book; the characteristics of immature people are ignorance, arrogance, selfishness and pride. This is always the case. These characteristics may not be thought to be objectionable as they may be age – appropriate behavior, such as in the formative stages of teenagers. Still, these elements continue to some degree until a person has matured enough to have adult ‘wisdom’.
At 93 years of age, I am still finding remnants of this immaturity in myself.
The practical side of this truth is; whatever ‘fault’ we find in our spouse likely has an equal companion in you, because likes marry likes. People tend to marry those with similar maturity levels. Spouses shape each other as trees do by growing close together.
Ruth Graham, the wife of ‘Billy’ Graham, was asked if she had ever considered divorce. She said;
“Murder, yes. Divorce, never.”
The most important single thing that you can do to make for a long and happy marriage is mutual commitment – whatever it takes.
Hopefully, you will both grow old together. This process reveals many unknown propositions that newlyweds are not able to consider. There is severe illness, severe economic distress, the separation of military service, special needs children, and a host of other ‘surprises’ come on the scene. Commitment is the glue that holds you together. Without it, the first ‘pretty face’ that comes along during a difficult time in your marriage can cause you to take ‘a better offer’. I have seen this happen so many times that I cringe.
The key things to remember are; don’t lightly jump into a marriage commitment. Take your time and get to know each other and your families. Discuss the level of commitment required to make you marriage last. Agree to disagree and still love each other.
Of course, there are many successful marriages that are built on ‘love at first sight’. Still, a long lasting marriage has to have commitment if it is to last.
Popularly, what we call ‘love’ is a feeling. Actually, real love is a committed attitude of loving service to the other and the ‘feeling’, (that can get stronger and weaker and will change a lot as we get older), is the ‘icing on the cake.’
How about the stereotypical responsibilities of the husband to ‘bring home the bacon’ and the wife to cooks and cleans? What is fair unless each does their share’? First of all, there is nothing ‘fair’ in a healthy marriage relationship. There is nothing ‘fair’ in raising your children alone while your husband is overseas in military service, is there? What if a spouse loses a limb or acquires a serious disease? Remember the ‘in sickness and in health’ part of the traditional wedding vows?
Marriage is a magnificent adventure in self-discovery and expanded horizons - or it can be if it is fortified with commitment.
People are different and their needs are different. A man may ‘need’ a wife to operate his household. A woman may ‘need’ a husband to provide an income. There are many variations of what people need in a spouse. Some women paint the house and some men do the cooking and baking – the reversal of typical roles. Still, compatibility and commitment provide for all of their needs.
A gross mistake is to carry into your marriage ’how your mother did things’, or how your father relaxed in the evenings after a hard day’s work, while your mother would;
“…wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away’
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An, make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board and keep.”
(This is from the poem, ‘Little Orphan Annie’ by James Whitcomb Riley.)
Who does what in a marriage is about commitment, as each does as much as they can to support the family’s operation. This should be done on an ‘as able’ basis and not ‘I took out the garbage last time’, as I have actually heard said. Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. It is more like a100/100 as each partner does all they can. This may not ‘fair’ by some standard and expectation. Marriage is not ‘fair’ – life is not ‘fair’ and a person who expects to experience fairness in life is very immature. Still, mature people regard marriage and family as a treasure that they would not want to live without.