Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

The Importance of the "Name Game" in Marriage

  • Barry R. Leventhal, Ph.D. Two Becoming One
  • 2004 9 Mar
The Importance of the "Name Game" in Marriage

When God created our first parent, Adam, He assigned him the task of naming the animals. This first task set man uniquely apart from the animals: his ability to identify, categorize, and designate. Putting a name to a thing is connecting with that thing, relating to it. We name our inventions and our creations. In this way we put our stamp on them. We identify with them forever. When we name a person, place, thing, or event, we actually bond with it: we are linked to it and it is linked to us.

In fact, this first naming assignment is directly related to the creation of the first marriage (Gen. 2:21-25). "But for Adam no suitable helper was found" (Gen. 2:20). From the very first naming assignment, God was preparing for His creation of the first marriage. And this naming game continues right on into the first marriage itself (Gen. 2:23-24):

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Even after the Fall, when sin entered the world, naming is vitally linked to marriage and the family (Gen. 3:20):

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

Did you ever wonder why we are so bound to naming things, especially in our marriages and families? Think about it. We name the various phases of our marriages (e.g., the honeymoon, the adjustment period, the enrichment years, etc.). We name our anniversaries (e.g., the silver, the golden, the diamond, etc.). We name our children. We name our pets. We even have pet names for each other, special names that are encoded with secret meanings that connect us to our love lives. I wish I could tell you why I call my wife "Pooky Woo Woo." But then I would have to kill you. Or, even worse, Mary would have to kill me! It seems that we are forever anchored to the naming game. Why is this?

Perhaps it is because of the fact that naming bonds us to the persons, places, things, and events that we name. And God created us to be bonded, first and foremost to Him and then to others. After all, what are the two greatest commandments? "The most important one . . . is this: . . . 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31). There can be no life with God or others without naming. In fact, in our Christian lives, God Himself is the great Namer, "Yet to all who received [Jesus Christ], to those who believed in His name, to these [God] gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1).

Naming in Your Marriage

God can and will transform our marriages if we learn how to cooperate with Him in the naming game. How can we do this?

• First, remove the negative names from your vocabulary and even your memories. For if naming can have a positive impact on your marriage, it can also have a negative one as well. All marriages have certain down times and experiences. By naming and falling back on them, you only bond yourself and your mate to the painful memories. So avoid going back to "the blowouts" or "the dark side" or "the day of the locusts."

• Second, confer loving and intimate, personally encoded names on your mate. Be careful how and when you use them (you never want to embarrass your mate). But use them nevertheless. I don't mean the cheaply granted and stereotyped names like "Honey" or "Darling." I guess these old standards are OK (they're better than nothing), but they just lack the personal and unique touch that each of us craves in our marriage.

• Third, give special names to extraordinary events and places in your marriage. These names are like memorial stones in your marriage, reminding you of God's special gifts to you. Do you remember a secret "hideaway" or special "rendezvous"? Give it a name and you're more than likely to return to it, if not in actuality, at least in your bonding memories.

© 2003 Christian Family Life


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