When the Honeymoon Is Over: How to Nurture Your Marriage
- Chuck Colson Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries
- 2005 6 Aug
A couple I'll call Tim and Janet flew off on their honeymoon, blissfully happy. Each thought the other was the perfect mate.
But just three months later, this couple was on the brink of divorce. They fought constantly over money. Janet wanted more attention, but Tim felt suffocated by Janet's demands. They even fought over whose turn it was to feed the dog. The tension had become unbearable.
Tim and Janet aren't alone. In his book Marriage Savers, Mike McManus explains that before the wedding, most couples experience a glow of romantic enchantment. Bride and groom see each other as perfect.
But after the wedding, a period of disenchantment sets in. Many couples are shocked by the conflict that erupts in their relationship.
In one survey, half of all newlyweds reported "significant marital problems." They never expected the changes that can take place after saying, "I do."
This is a critical period for marriages. On one hand, it can be the time when the seeds of divorce are planted. On the other hand, this period can be one of the teachable moments in a person's life when the Church can effectively intervene. Newlyweds are often baffled by the changes in their relationship, and they're eager for help.
One of the best programs available is ENRICH, a survey that gives a penetrating x-ray of any relationship. From a single half-hour test, a counselor often learns more about a couple than from weeks of informal discussion.
Christian couples generally score high on compatibility of religious beliefs -- which gives them a big edge over nonbelievers.
But even Christians often score low on relational skills: on ability to communicate, resolve conflicts, manage finances. Through its questionnaire, ENRICH highlights weak areas and helps couples work on them -- before the weaknesses become entrenched habits.
The couple then works with an older couple, who act as mentors. By candidly sharing their own problems and solutions, a mentor couple provides a vivid model of how to save a marriage.
The idea that newlyweds need special nurturing goes back to the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 24 says, "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." For a whole year newlyweds in ancient Israel were not to take on any stressful outside responsibilities.
Clearly, the lesson for us today is that the Church is meant to tenderly nurture its young couples.
The divorce statistics in America are shocking -- tripling over the past thirty years. What's even more shocking is that nearly three-fourths of those weddings took place in a church. Obviously, most churches are neither preparing couples before the wedding nor nurturing them afterward.
But you can help change that. Why not start a program for newlyweds in your church? If you're a mature couple, why not become mentors for younger couples?
You can help young couples like Tim and Janet and be a part of turning your church into a marriage saver.
Copyright © 2005 Prison Fellowship
BreakPoint with Chuck Colson is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Reston, VA 20190.