CW: In the section about how couples need to protect their marriage, you mention that some couples, some long-married couples even, become resigned at some point to letting go.  You mention that some had quit living as one and had begun living "separately together."  That was a phrase that really resonated with me.  What can couples who discover this truth do?  Are they at a point of no return or can they bring it back to where they are living in unity?

PT: I think this: Whenever a God of grace gives me insight, it is grace.  It is not condemnation.   It is grace.  He has given me an opportunity to look inside and look outside and say, "I've got problems, and they need to be fixed."  Jesus did not just die for my past or my future; He died for my here and now.  There is grace for this moment. 

One of the sad things I think that is all over is this state that I call "marital détente."  Couples get tired of screaming and yelling.  They get tired of fighting, but they don't solve their problems.  They begin to live around them.  And so they live in distance and alienation and silence.  It is not a marriage.  It is not a marriage in the real sense of what that means.  It is that separately-together cohabitation.  It is a sort of Cold War.  And you don't have to be there.  There is help.  There isn't a pit deeper than Jesus is deep.  That is just the way it is.

So I would say to couples, "Admit you need help."  If you can't do that together as a couple, reach out for help from somebody.  Is there a mature married couple or your pastor?  Find someone who can begin to walk through this with you, because you are not stuck.

CW: It may be true that we're not stuck, but what is so hard about marriage today?  Was it supposed to be easier than this?  Is it our culture?  You mentioned earlier a selfishness that keeps us from wanting to be intentional with marriage versus having this glorified, unintentional, everything-is-going-to-be-fine kind of marriage.  How did we get here?

PT: Well, I think there are a couple of things you can say about that.  If you look at Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve broke God's rules, it did not take long for them to be out after one another—you know, the blame game.  In the next generation, you have sibling homicide.  So things got bad pretty quickly.

CW: [Laughs]. Good point.

PT: So, there is that stuff in all of us, but I think there is something else happening in Western culture that is important.  It is how we have defined "the good life."  We don't define the good life relationally.  The good life is about career power.  The good life is about a big house, a nice car, and great vacations.  It is about eating in luxurious restaurants.  And so we are in pursuit of all of these idols of the culture that leave you with no time to invest in this principal relationship. 

I talk about having a work ethic in your marriage.  Marriage takes work.  It takes investment.  It takes time.  So you have got a husband working seventy hours a week and a wife working fifty, and they have got children.  They have little time left to do the daily things that are necessary to keep this thing healthy. 

I use the example of a garden.  You don't plant a garden and walk away.  Even if you have done a good job of clearing the land, weeds are going to grow.  You've got to till and water that garden.  In the same way, you cannot walk away from a marriage and involve yourself in all of these cultural dreams and expect to come back in five years and your marriage will be okay.  It won't happen.

CW: So it's clear there is hard work involved. And difficulty, such as when you mentioned situations like how much time each individual is spending at work and having children and other things that make it hard… and I am thinking these are the "realities of marriage" from your book's subtitle.  But you don't use the phrase "working on the realities of marriage;" you use the phrase "redeeming the realities of marriage."  Can you talk a little bit about that word you used, redemption?

PT: Sure, because the hope of this book is not that I am going to give you some insights.  The hope of this book is a Redeemer.  As Christians, we don't believe in a system of redemption, we believe in a Redeemer.  There is, as many people have said, a third person in your marriage.  The one who created marriage cares more about your marriage than you will ever care.  And He does not say, "Clean yourself up."  He meets you at your deepest point of need.

 When I realized that I was a deeply angry man, I had no idea how to fix that.  And I say to people that I prayed my most deeply theological prayer.  I just prayed, "Lord, help me.  Lord, help me.  Lord, help me."  And it was not a zap of lightning, but I was now a man with eyes open, ears open, and a heart open.  And it is amazing all of the resources that God brought my way.  It was like everything I encountered was speaking to that anger.  I felt tremendously helped. 

And I can remember the moment when I saw Luella from behind and realized I could not recall the last time I had experienced that bold, ugly, life-dominating anger.  Now, I am still capable of a minor moment of irritation, but that life-dominating force was gone.  That is the hope of this book, that for every need, there isn't just the wisdom of Scripture, but there is the grace of a Redeemer who sent His Son because He was unwilling for us to be trapped in this mess.

CW: Amen.

Article originally posted September 21, 2010.