“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” -David O. McKay
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You’ve probably heard this quote. As a full time missionary on the staff of FamilyLife, it’s one that is at the heart of our ministry. Based on all the statistics I’ve seen regarding the state of marriage in our country, I think it’s also at the heart of our culture. If more father’s loved their children’s mother, the family would be the fertile growing grounds for children as God had intended.
Recently a young man with whom I got to know via Twitter and have continued to communicate via Facebook and email asked me about the many comments I make about my beautiful wife. His question was, “what are the top 3 things u think are the reasons for a strong marriage?” Now, let me preface this by saying I am not the greatest husband. I have a lot of foibles, warts and have done some pretty insensitive and hurtful things to my bride during our nearly 25 years of marriage. My biggest success has been not giving up on getting better. Additionally, after 5 years of working for a marriage ministry, I’ve seen my share of shattered marriages. And, unfortunately, I’ve experienced divorce through close family members and seen the pain that it creates. There are many things that contribute to a husband and wife having a vibrant marriage. But these were the things I shared with my online friend:
The top three things that I believe are critical to a long lasting and vibrant marriage:
1) Shared belief in Christianity – I know that there are plenty of “non Christian” marriages. But, since God created marriage (see Genesis), I believe that unless both husband and wife ground their relationship in a transcendent cause, selfishness ultimately abounds and divorce becomes too convenient. It’s important for both a husband and wife to keep growing in their relationship with God–not to be perfect but striving together. “Two shall become one”
2) Take Divorce out of the equation at the very beginning. My wife and I said right at the start that divorce was never an option. Therefore, we might kill each other but we wouldn’t divorce each other. It also means that when things have gotten tough, we knew we needed to figure out how to work it out TOGETHER.
3) Unconditional love. For too much of our marriage we tried the 50/50 relationship. It doesn’t work. You can never arrive at what that looks like because, in our selfishness, we always think we are carrying more than the 50% and our spouse thinks the same for them. It only works when you give your love without conditions (on how they act, what they do for you, etc) that true love can be exhibited between a husband and a wife. When you give yourself to someone without EXPECTING anything in return, you will eventually get back much more.
Well, there are many more things that go into a marriage to make it work (like learning how to deal with conflict in a positive way, discussing key issues about life before you get married (like how many children you’re going to have, is the wife going to work after having children, etc), financial concurrence, how to deal with children’s issues/discipline, etc…. the list goes on. But, without the three things I mentioned, it is very difficult to bring two very different people together and expect them to “make it work”. Especially in a very divorce centered culture.
For Discussion: What has happened in your families / marriage (good or bad) that supports the quote above? Other points that I didn’t make to the young man that you would have made? Share your insights.