Returning the Romance to Your Marriage
- Dr. Barry Leventhal, Ph.D. <i>Two Becoming One</i>
- 2003 2 Feb
Like most couples, Will and Megan began their marriage with stars in their eyes. Their engagement was chocked full of romance and great adventure--the entire year flew by in a flash. Their wedding and honeymoon were fantastic realizing every wish Megan had since she was a young girl. Yet, after six short months of marital bliss, the stars turned into sand. Will and Megan were wondering just what they got themselves into. “Will isn’t the man I thought I married,” said Megan. “He used to be so sensitive and romantic, but now all he thinks about is work.” Will’s response is similar, “Megan never used to complain. Our sex life was frequent and intense. But now it’s all retreated onto the back burner.” They both wondered how they lost the romance so quickly.
Any marriage counselor will tell you that Will and Megan’s story is not uncommon. Couples date for a season, fall in love, and then decide to get married. But within a short time, the romance of marital bliss has disintegrated into the work--and sometimes agony--of married life. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover:
34% of all marriages today are expected to end in divorce
33% of Christian marriages will end in divorce
50% of divorces happen in the first 7.8 years of marriage.
The problem is not that young couples lack the aspiration for a happy marriage. According to a recent study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, 94 percent of singles in their 20s who had never been married say they want nothing less than a soul mate, leading some experts to believe that our desires have surpassed reality.
But is it wrong to hope for a soul mate in marriage? Is it really possible to work through the agony in a marriage and recapture the romance? Yes it is. God not only created marriage, He has also given us the owner’s manual, the Bible, in order to know to make it work. And beyond that, He also desires to personally reside in each marriage. God’s written Word and personal presence guarantee that any marriage can recover the romance even in the midst of the agony. But first, each married couple must embrace two fundamental realities in God’s blueprint for marriage.
Reality #1: Marriage Is a Covenant Relationship
First, marriage is a covenant relationship. “[S]he is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). “[She] leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God” (Prov. 2:17). When God initiates a marital covenant relationship, marriage takes on a sense of the sacred, something uniquely set apart to Him. By God’s design, marriage becomes a binding, contractual relationship, into which He commits Himself to a nurturing role. Husbands and wives are not left alone to hack out their marriage. In reality, marriage is not a straight line with the husband and wife merely tethered together at the two ends of the line. No, marriage is a triangle with the husband and wife bound together at the base of the triangle as well as to God who is at the apex of the triangle. Drawing near to Him will draw them closer to each other. In other words, marriage is not merely the two becoming one, it is actually the three becoming one: a covenant arrangement of God, the husband, and the wife.
Reality #2: Marriage Is a Transformative Relationship
Second, marriage is a transformative relationship. In a certain sense every relationship is a transformative relationship, for better or for worse. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33). God has committed Himself to changing us into nothing less than the likeness of His own Son (Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Cor. 3:18). And that likeness is the likeness of a servant (Phil. 2:5-11).
Marriage is God’s ultimate training ground for Christ-like servanthood. Most couples are not prepared for the shocking experience of meeting such selfishness in the early months and years of their marriage. Assuming that such selfishness is in their mate, and not in themselves, they set out with a vengeance to change their mate, usually to no avail. That’s when the agony sets in. But we can only recapture the romance when we begin to realize that we need to be changed, not our mates. You see, God uses marriage to work out our selfishness and to work in His servanthood. This is often a slow and painful process. But God is faithful “who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).
The key principle for success in a Christian marriage is to move the relationship from performance--what you think your mate should do for you--to faith--what God has promised to do in your life and your spouse’s life if you focus on Him and His plan for your marriage.
Do you want to transform your marital agony into marital ecstasy? Then take the following steps:
Reaffirm your marital covenant relationship by committing your marriage to God and to each other in prayer and before another couple who are also living in a committed marital covenant relationship.
Confess to God that you have been trying to change your mate and that it has been a miserable failure. Also ask your mate to forgive you for trying to play God in your marriage. Ask the Lord to transform you into a Christ-like servant in your marriage, no matter what it takes. Move your relationship from performance to faith.
Finally, share your prayer requests with another couple who will not only pray for you, but who will also encourage and hold you accountable to these new commitments.
© 2003 Christian Family Life
2becoming1 is a ministry of Christian Family Life. Christian Family Life was incorporated by Don Meredith and Barry Leventhal on October 1, 1971. In 1972, Don and his bride of five years, Sally, began to give marriage seminars in many churches around the country. In 1975, Campus Crusade for Christ asked Don and Sally, along with others, to help start a ministry for engaged and married staff members. FamilyLife conferences continue today and have impacted literally thousands of couples over the past twenty years since its inception.
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