It's a sad fact, but many of our kids today don't want to get married.
They want everything that a good marriage provides - companionship, security, love, and intimacy - but they're afraid to actually get married. Why? Because they've observed marriages around them and have decided that marriage just doesn't work anymore.
And to a degree, they're right. In California, where I was a pastor for 12 years, three out of five marriages end in divorce, and no one knows exactly how things are going in the other two. All around our kids today marriages are struggling and failing, and the result is a generation of kids who've become disillusioned about marriage.
But I am confident that the institution of marriage is not the problem. God created marriage; He ordained it, and it is still the best possible relationship for a man and woman to enter into.
So what's the problem? Why do so many marriages fail? And what can you do to ensure that your marriage is the exception - the marriage that really works?
To explain, I'd like you to think for just a moment about automobiles. Imagine that you don't know much about cars, but you walk onto a car lot and purchase a brand-new vehicle and drive it home. At first you're thrilled with it, but after a few months it stops working.
Why? Because you failed to provide some of the basic things every car needs to operate properly. A car needs gas to keep it going and antifreeze to cool the engine. Moving parts need to be lubricated. It needs periodic tune-ups and general maintenance to keep it running smoothly, and there has to be a place to take it when it breaks down.
Fortunately, most new car owners understand those basic concepts before they even drive off the lot. But many new marriages don't begin with that same level of understanding about what's needed to make them work.
Good marriages don't just happen. Every marriage requires effort, and there are a few basic elements that every marriage - no matter how well it starts out - is going to need in order to keep going.
First, every good marriage needs commitment. Commitment is a lifelong choice of unconditional love. It's a decision to love someone forever, no matter what.
That's the gas that gets a marriage going and keeps it going. Without it, you cannot develop the vulnerability, openness, and intimacy that are integral parts of a good marriage, for there is the constant fear that tomorrow your partner will be gone.
Don't let your marriage run out of gas! Don't allow divorce to even be considered as an option. Let your spouse know often that no matter what, you will be there. And in the security of that commitment, your marriage can grow.
Second, a good marriage needs communication. Communication is the lifelong challenge of learning to understand each other. And it's not just the words you use - it's also the way you look at a person, your body language, and your tone of voice.
Communication is the sum total of your entire being that gets transmitted to the other person with a message. And real communication only occurs when what's in your heart, mind, and soul reaches the heart, mind, and soul of the other person.
Communication is like a lubricant in your relationship. It helps keep your rough edges from grating on each other, and it helps cool you down when your emotions start heating up.
Third, a good marriage needs companionship. Companionship is the lifelong adventure of friendship. It's a continuation of what you did in courtship. It's dating, walking and talking together, and sharing common interests.
Companionship is what keeps your marriage running smoothly. The joy of companionship is what compels a working spouse to come home early rather than work late. It's a desire to be with your partner - to do things together.
And in being together and working together you learn about each other. You discover things you otherwise wouldn't have known, and that knowledge allows you to make adjustments - a tune-up of sorts - that deepens your love for each other.
Fourth, a good marriage needs a commission. A commission is a God-given vision to accomplish something in your lives together that is bigger than you are. It's a project, a goal, or a mission that goes beyond you and your spouse. It's a dream of serving others in a way that neither of you could accomplish on your own.
And as you minister together, a loving bond will be forged between you. You will grow closer to each other, and you will discover that there is real joy in serving others as a couple.
Finally, a good marriage needs counsel. No matter how good your marriage is, there will be times when it breaks down. You'll say something you shouldn't have said, you'll have a misunderstanding, you'll get stuck in a rut, or you'll encounter a problem that overwhelms you.
When that happens, you need to be willing to get help. You can go to God, read His Word, seek the advice of a trusted brother or sister in Christ, or pursue professional Christian counseling.
And there is no need to be ashamed or embarrassed about seeking assistance. Just like in driving a car, everyone at some time gets stuck on the side of the road. You may just need a little help to fix a tire or charge a battery and then you can go on. Just ensure that you are seeking wise, godly counsel - lest your problem become worse rather than better.
I sincerely hope that these insights will encourage you, whether you're currently married or considering marriage someday. Marriages today can work, and they can be great.
And with a little well-directed effort on your part, your marriage can be the exception-the marriage that thrives for a lifetime!
Excerpted from EdgeNotes , the bi-monthly newsletter of Living on the Edge; based on the series Broken Hearts, Broken Dreams. Used with permission.
Copyright 2004 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.
About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru