As far back as the 18th century it was thought that if love and companionship were going to be the things that determined rather a couple would marry, those same things would be the reason why the institution of marriage would decline.  Love (an emotion) alone was to fragile for a marriage to last.  Love was considered a valuable outcome but not a good enough reason for marriage (Coontz, 2005).

When is love enough to sustain a marriage?  When love is a verb, an action word and when there is friendship.

In the 18th century the idea that marriage should be decided based on love was considered a radical idea. During that time people thought it was not a good idea for something as important as marriage to be based on feelings.   Marriage was a life changing event.

A life changing event is something that happens in your life that changes/shapes who you are, what you do and how you think. Occurrences like marriage, the birth of a child, serious illness, overcoming a trial, an addiction or the loss of a loved one, through death or separation are experiences that are considered life changing.

Unfortunately for many of these life changing events there is no preparation, we seem to have to learn some things the hard way. Many times these events bring you to a faith in God, or a power greater than yourself.

Wisdom is having the ability to think and act using knowledge and good judgement gained from someone else experiences.  Wisdom is having the ability to learn from the mistakes and life changing events of others instead of having to make some of the mistakes yourself.

There are numerous people who have experience in marriage and relationships who can help you not become a statistic.  Believe me, if 1000 people had a negative outcome, it will be negative for you as well.  There is a positive side to this as well.  If 1000 people made it, overcame, were victorious you can be too.

Everyone wants to think they are different and the result will be different for them, but statistically it appears that we are more alike than we want to admit.

A successful relationship doesn’t just happen, you have to plan for a great relationship.   People plan careers, trips, when to start a family and retirement.  We have long term and short term plans and goals. We should have relationship plans and goals as well.

Do you ever wonder what happened to those times when you and your spouse could not get enough of each other.  You couldn’t spend enough time together.  Ever wonder why things have changed so dramatically?  Did you have a plan to keep the fire going or sparks flying in your relationship or did you just think it was going to happen by itself?

How many goals in your life happen by themselves, with no effort from you?  When you earned your degree, got your 1st job or promotion, did you sit back and relax,  satisfied with where you were or did you start planning on the next degree or career goal?

Just as you think, plan, negotiate and compromise in your career, you have to do some of that in your relationships as well.  Unfortunately or fortunately you don’t get to come home and sit on the sofa and expect that everything in your marriage will just automatically, miraculously fall into place.

“Treat your marriage like a job you love. Sometimes it’s work, but it’s work you love” Crystal Dotson

Train up a Child

How to treat people and how people should treat them should be an ongoing conversation that you have with your children.  When watching TV and you see something inappropriate,

you should point out that what you just saw is or is not acceptable.  When parents sit down and talk to their children about the birds and the bees, puberty, the coming of age; whatever you call it, that is also the time you should be talking to your sons and daughters about self respect, what a healthy relationship looks like (even if you are not in one yourself).

It is true that children usually do what they see their parents do, but they at least need to know that there are other options. If you are the abuser or the abused, your sons and daughters need to know that this type of relationship is not normal, or healthy.

The Dating Game
What are you looking for in a relationship?  This is the time to enjoy meeting and learning about people.  This is the time to decide if you want someone who has a relationship with God or someone who just goes to church, or even learn the difference.

This is when you get to find out if people are who they say they are and do they have integrity.  Dating also teaches you things about yourself.  If you are looking for a great christian man, be a great christian woman.  Be what you are looking for.

Make a decision before you start dating regarding your stand on premarital sex understanding that pre marriage sex does not line up with the word of God.  Also be aware that sexual intimacy makes it more difficult to walk away from a situation that may not be right for you.

The purpose for dating is to get to know the other person and at the same time learn more about yourself.  Understand that good marriages do not start at the time you say I do, good marriages start from the dating stage. You start telling the other person how you want to be treated during the dating stage of the relationship.

Before You Move In Together

Living together is the biggest change that has happened in relationships in the last 50 years.  It is even now considered by many people as normal.  According to a study by Scott Stanley, cohabitation before engagement has consistently been found to be associated with an increased risk of divorce and marital distress.

The study  Sliding vs Deciding, Inertia and the Premarital Cohabitation Effect states that people who live together before they are engaged do not decide to marry, they slide into marriage. If they had not been living together many of those people would not have ever married, they would have broken up.

The study indicated that many men who cohabitate still consider themselves as single and still available and are leaving their options open for someone better. The problem with this is that it becomes more difficult to find Mrs Right when you are living with Mrs Right Now. Many women are thinking this is the next step before marriage.  The study also stated that a woman who lives with multiple partners and never marries, suffers from lower self esteem.

Importance of Marriage

The decline in marriage is attributed to the 1960′s and 1970′s when an interest in individual and womens rights prevailed.  Judge James Sheridan, who presides over a district court in Adrian, Mich. stated that “we have been slowly but surely suckered into believing a whole series of myths,”

The first myth,  is that divorce is not a problem, but a solution. The second myth is that children are resilient and will quickly get over their parents’ divorce (Christian Science Monitor, 2000).  Judge Sheridan also stated that if you tell a lie often enough, people will start to believe it and that now we have to keep speaking the truth as often as we spoke the lies. For men, marriage appears to be linked to improved survival rates. The more satisfying the marriage the longer men live.

The quality of the relationship is even more important in women. An unhappy marriage does not increase a woman’s survival rate,  but a happy marriage increases her survival rate up to four times.  So adding to the importance of marriage, a good marriage can increase your longevity.  Marriage is good for you, your children, society and your finances.

Andrew Cherlin author of The Marriage-Go-Round and a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University stated “It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged,” which is an additional benefit of marriage.

It’s been said for years that Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America. However, Professor Bradley Wright, author of Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, and sociologist at the University of Connecticut, states that Christians who practice their faith divorce rate is lower than the general population.

Christians who attend church service regularly and study and read the Bible or other spiritual information have a higher success rate in marriage. Why? I believe it is because becoming one flesh is a process. Have you have tried everything, when asked if you have tried God, consider if you are attending service or reading the word of God every now and then or if spending time with God is a daily part of your life.

In order to have a healthy relationship you must learn to communicate successfully. Do not respond to a negative with a negative. Tit for tat (negative reciprocity) does not work in marriage.  Learn how to resolve conflict.  The inability to resolve conflict is the main reason most marriages end in divorce.

That means even when you have a disagreement you have to respect and value your spouse. When disagreeing with your mate, neither of you should leave the other feeling wounded or devalued. Everett Worthington author of Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy stated that “negative reciprocity creates emotional negative feelings towards each other. Happy, healthy marriages have learned to break the pattern of negative exchange.”

You do not have to say anything positive, just don’t say anything negative. This is an opportunity to just be quiet. If you can’t say something good, then don’t say anything at all. Some things you cannot take back. If you feel bad after you say it, just think how the person you said it too feels.

After you voice dissatisfaction sometimes it is a good idea to wait to have the discussion. Now! is not always the best time. There will always be conflicts in relationships and some couples will have more than others. It is important to learn how to disagree to have a healthy marriage. It is crucial to learn how to fight fair in order to have a happy marriage. Worthington defines love as “being willing to value the other person and being unwilling to devalue that person.
“Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal — it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.

As you gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love”.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer