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The world is exploding with problems. Much knowledge is available about most of them, but little understanding. The breakdown of marriage and the family is a classic example. Seemingly everyone knows it is happening, but no one knows what it means—or what to do about it.
Ever greater numbers of people are questioning the institution of marriage. Many are concerned about where current trends are heading. Some question whether marriage can even survive. Many get married on their own terms or only on a trial basis. Millions simply live together, unmarried—and increasing numbers now enter “same-sex” partnerships. Other millions have come to believe living single is the best state.
Why is all of this happening?
Religion, education, science and society do not know the true purpose of marriage. They do not even know if marriage has a purpose. And many couples do reflect that they are together with no purpose.
Most married people are unhappy—with many a virtual study in misery. They have no idea what to do about it, or where to turn for answers. Millions stumble along, bouncing from one marital problem to another, never knowing how to address them—let alone solve them!
How many really happy married couples do you know?—and are you even sure of these? Is your marriage truly happy? Are you enjoying the life that you anticipated? Statistics suggest the answer is probably “no.”
Married life has been the brunt of endless jokes, where traditional conduct and the roles of husbands and wives are ridiculed—and depicted as a bondage only the foolish enter. Great numbers have come to equate marriage with surrendering “freedom” to a lesser, unhappy state of existence.
Others choose to marry, sincerely believing they will find perfect bliss—will “live on love”—only to discover that true happiness is far from automatic. Some even conclude—often within days—that marriage was the worst decision of their lives.
Sadly, so many enter marriage with no understanding, no preparation, no training, and no idea of how to achieve a lifetime of happiness with their chosen partner.
Most couples spend more time planning for a one-day wedding than for the lifelong marriage that should follow. As a result, half of all marriages fail, ending in divorce, often with former partners becoming mortal enemies! Other couples are just as unhappy, but perhaps cannot afford a divorce, or stay together only because of the children or other social or business reasons.
How tragic! And how completely unnecessary!
Why have so few been able to find even a measure of the enjoyment they originally believed marriage would bring? Why have so many others decided to simply live together, avoiding commitment, thus artificially reducing the already skyrocketing number of divorces? Why do so many openly admit that they do not trust their mates? Why do over 80 percent of marriages experience adultery? Why such confusion about marriage and its purpose?
What has brought the once sacred institution of marriage to such a deplorable state?
What happened is no accident.
Consider how marriage is routinely portrayed in the media. Wholesome television programs from the 50s, 60s and early 70s about the family—such as Ozzie and Harriet, Leave It to Beaver, and Little House on the Prairie—have been replaced by All in the Family, The Simpsons, and The Osbournes, or worse.
Books and movies have also accelerated this decline, and in every way. Fornication, cohabitation, adultery, homosexuality and every other conceivable “alternative lifestyle,” now including same-sex “marriage,” have been depicted uncounted thousands of times in the media. Invariably, programs, movies and books have portrayed immorality as exciting, fascinating, mysterious—and the virtual “norm” for what is now the large majority.
Their impact on marriage has been stunning. In fact, marriage has become a laughingstock. Wholesome images of marriages, families and role models of the past have almost disappeared. Sadly, millions have copied new, modern role models, discarding traditional marriages and families as obsolete relics that history has properly scrapped.
Recent generations have been conditioned to believe marriage is better “the second time around.” By this logic, the third marriage would be even better!
Accompanying these trends has been a corresponding decline in traditional values and the importance of character. This trend is worldwide. Under constant attack, standards of right and wrong—good and bad—old-fashioned “righteousness” and “unrighteousness”—have been blurring and crumbling. How many people any longer even speak of character, once called virtue?
With the steep decline in the most basic character has come an unwillingness to remain committed to vows exchanged on the wedding day. With the near disappearance of ethics, standards and basic knowledge of right and wrong has come the assumption that when marriage difficulties arise—as they inevitably do with imperfect human beings—couples should simply take the easy way out—divorce!
The Author of Marriage
Why do so few understand there are great principles—transcendent spiritual LAWS!—governing what most think is merely a civil agreement? How many recognize that men and women have separate, different, God-ordained roles that must be understood for marriage to succeed? How many couples have been actively taught the real purpose of marriage? Most no longer even know the origin of marriage, let alone the vital answers to these and other important related questions!
The answers involve revealed knowledge—knowledge men cannot themselves discern. God must reveal it.
In place of revealed truth, modern education has taught the great evolutionary lie—that life is continually evolving to a higher state. Scoffers, preferring to believe that human beings are a product of dumb luck, dismiss the biblical account that God supernaturally created two actual people—Adam and Eve—and then identified them as history’s first married couple.
Of course, those who believe the unproven, and in fact easily disproven, fiction of evolution must also believe that, at some point, men devised the marriage institution. Believing otherwise is incompatible with evolution. One cannot have it both ways. Either God created marriage—or men did.
But human beings did NOT create marriage! Therefore, apart from God, they cannot know its true purpose—or the KEYS to decades of happiness with the same person.
It is not our purpose here to prove God exists or that the Bible is His inspired Word. We have several booklets, brochures and articles that address these subjects. We start with the fact that the Almighty God, who designed and made the heavens and the Earth, also designed and created marriage.
Though marriage appears to be merely a physical union, starting with a wedding ceremony performed by a man, it is actually a divine institution. As the true Author of marriage, God understands what makes it succeed, bringing supreme happiness and joy—or fail, bringing divorce and broken lives. This same God clearly reveals this knowledge in His Word.
For every effect, there is a cause. When a marriage experiences all the right effects, it is because right CAUSES have been understood and correct principles practiced. When a marriage is filled with problems of every sort, right causes have been either unknown or ignored.
The Creator God designed marriage to be a source of great happiness, something for which everyone yearns. You can have an exciting, happy, successful marriage—but only if you follow God’s prescribed formula. This personal reveals the formula—the causes!—behind a happy marriage. It introduces the truth of how to build a wonderful, joyful marriage. There are basic principles unknown to all but a very few who are willing to truly study and believe God’s Word to see what He instructs.
The first reference to marriage describes Adam and Eve being brought together by God, forming the first marital union of a man and woman in history. Genesis 2 states, “The Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet [suitable] for him” (vs. 18).
God explains that men and women were not designed to be alone. People never work as well—are not as productive—when they are alone. Men were created—in fact, designed—to need an assistant, a help, a wife to stand beside them. Of course, wives are also aided by husbands in a variety of ways.
Studies show that the average person becomes happier after marriage. This increase has actually been measured, with studies revealing that, no matter the person’s prior level of happiness, he or she receives at least a small boost.
Genesis describes Adam inspecting all the animals God had created and finding none suitable for him. So God put him to sleep, took a rib from his side, and created the woman: “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made [the Hebrew means built] He a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Gen. 2:22).
Adam realized the woman was literally part of him—that she had come from him: “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (vs. 23).
Next, God tells Adam and Eve what to do once married—in His first recorded instruction about the marriage institution: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (vs. 24-25).
Married couples are to live together, forming a new household, apart from their parents. The phrase “and they shall be one flesh” is speaking of sexual relations. The verse is defining where sex belongs—within marriage!
This account establishes marriage as God-ordained! This institution was created, designed and presented to the first human couple as the way that God intended the two sexes to live together.
Now notice this passage in Ecclesiastes describing the advantages of marriage: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor” (4:9). And, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” (vs. 10-11). This is in addition to, “If one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (vs. 12).
Notice the phrase “a threefold cord.” This establishes the minimum number to be a family. One child makes any couple “threefold.” To be a rope—a “cord”—a minimum of three strands is required, making it possible to weave them together. Each additional child then further strengthens the marriage, makes the rope stronger, and binds the family more, making it harder for a couple to break up. God explains that producing a family is central to marriage. Adam and Eve were told, “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:28).
The most crucial New Testament passage about marriage and the specific roles of husbands and wives is Ephesians 5:22-33. These 12 verses introduce the most fundamental understanding that each partner must bring to the marriage.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (vs. 25). This emphasizes the importance of husbands showing real, sincere, deep love for their wives!
The husband’s first and greatest responsibility is to unfailingly love his wife! Initially, many husbands try to do this, but their effort wanes over time. Men often begin to take their wives for granted, not realizing they are to love them “as Christ loved the church.” This is the extremely high standard that God sets—an unending, boundless love, paralleling the way Christ cares about His bride, the Church. Christ never gives up on the Church, but rather forgives, understands, is patient with, and works with His wife-to-be.
What about wives? Let’s read their most crucial obligation—understood by so few: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). Society has completely reversed, and denigrated, the Bible. Yet, this is what God requires of the woman. Remember, the Author of marriage knows what works.
Most women are taught today that they are equal in authority to their husbands. Certainly women are equal before God as human beings. Men are not more important or better than women. But God places the man in charge of the marriage.
The Bible is plain.
The typical marriage counselor laughs at this, seeing it as archaic and out-of-step. Few brides-to-be enter marriage having been taught anything about being subject to their husband’s loving authority. Most would ridicule and outright reject this idea!
How It Works
Today, many men are unwilling to take the lead in marriage. Of course, many get married only to find their wives have no intention of letting them lead. These are separate problems, and both are very real.
Society has seen the near disappearance of strong leadership, with most men no longer knowing how to lead. This creates a crucial void in the marriage—and it frustrates women, who were designed by God to most naturally follow the strong but loving lead of a wise man. Women were designed to need to know their husbands love them, and will provide for and take care of them. A woman should feel that, if necessary, her husband will defend her with his life! (Reread Ephesians 5:25.)
Understanding these things leaves a woman much more secure and comfortable in the role of follower.
A woman married to a man who will not lead will spend her marriage frustrated, unable to know when to passively accept indecision or to speak up and take action because her husband will not. Many women are forced to step into a leadership void in their homes, because the man will not fill it—and somebody has to. Someone must take the lead whenever any two or more people do anything!
On the other hand, some husbands view their role like a drill sergeant over raw recruits. They try to drive their wives, bossing them around, frustrating and squelching them.
No woman wants to feel her opinions do not count—that her views do not matter, because the man “knows everything.” This is no better, and is even in some ways worse, than a marriage in which a man will not lead. For a marriage to achieve the peace and happiness that God intends, both extremes must be avoided.
Husbands should gently and lovingly lead their wives, drawing them out, asking their advice—and using it when appropriate. A wise husband knows that his wife is his best advisor—that she knows him best and knows how to compensate for his areas of weakness.
This verse repeats and adds to the husband/wife instruction: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:18-19).
The wife’s role is given first because family government must be established before anything productive can be accomplished. Again, the husband must lovingly lead the wife—and that is why God inspired Paul to record this twice. But if the wife does not submit, the marriage will not last. All the love in the world from the husband will not keep a marriage together if the wife is determined to be in charge. Also, all the family government in the world will not keep it together if the husband does not truly love his wife.
No successful marriage can have one—either one—without the other!
Another vital point. Since obviously the wife must also love her husband, the husband must also periodically be willing to yield to the wife’s wiser position or view on any given matter. He must be humble enough to take her advice when her plan is better than his own. Incidentally, feeling appreciated, understood and valued, the woman’s love for her husband then grows!
Husbands, be wise enough and willing to seek your wife’s counsel. Train yourself to want her ideas. Realize that two partially good ideas can become either one good, very good, or even wonderful idea! Your wife has much to offer, but you must be willing to receive it.
Miscommunication, bad communication, or lack of communication is one of the leading causes of divorce. The role of the husband is to take the lead in proper communication with his wife.
Husbands must understand that the wife has often been home all day with the children. She may be frustrated, and in desperate need of conversation with someone above the age of 12—or maybe even three. The husband who comes home from work not wanting to talk, but rather to just sit down, have a beer, read the paper, and watch the news, has effectively cut off his wife from communication with another adult.
Do not forget about her needs. Talk to her. Find out about her day. Allow her to open up. Show interest in what she has accomplished and what may have happened with the children.
Wives, be sure you DO open up to your husband. You may be by nature “more verbal” or “less verbal” than he is. Depending on which is the case, strive to do a little more listening, or a little more talking. The couple should strive to find a balance in communication, with each expressing an opinion about the things on their minds.
Husbands and wives should both always remember to discuss their problems with each other, while relying on God for ultimate spiritual understanding. All problems should always be discussed with God. Wives, in particular, should discuss their spiritual problems with their husbands, while never neglecting to remember that God is the One ultimately guiding and helping them spiritually. Your husband cannot grant you salvation.
Also, avoid arguing at all costs. NOTHING productive ever comes from heated exchanges. The devastating effect of this kind of “communication” lasts longer, and bites deeper, than the couple doing it even begins to realize.
If you are wrong, always apologize. Defending the indefensible is silly—and unproductive. Never store up feelings, and then dump them in a heated moment of release. The Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—is also the greatest rule of communication within marriage!
Manage Your Finances Together
Another point: all wage earners are paid a specific amount of money. Whether large or small, this is the amount they must live on. Financial problems—usually caused by couples living beyond their means—along with poor communication and sexual problems—form the “big three” causes for marital break-up.
A few helpful points:
• First, develop the habit of systematic, monthly saving early in your marriage.
• Next, avoid credit-buying. It is a trap far deeper than it appears. If you do use credit cards, pay them off immediately every month.
• Finally, plan your purchases. Develop priorities so that you do not try to buy everything at once. Then, determine to buy quality as much as possible. Practice patience. Be willing to wait. You will be glad you did!
God tells husbands: “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of [your] life” (Ecc. 9:9). For this to be possible, the wife must be doing the same—and this should be the daily goal of every married couple. None of the principles in this article will bring true, complete happiness unless both mates are diligently applying them. Successful marriages are always the product of two people working together toward the same purpose in the same way—with the same understanding.
If you have a wonderful husband or a wonderful wife, you are truly blessed—and are much more unusual than you may think. But if you do not have a good husband or a good wife, then strive to grow as much as you possibly can, understanding that your mate may follow your example.
God says this to husbands who have been blessed to have found a wonderful wife: “Whoso finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor of the Lord” (Prov. 18:22).
A virtuous wife is wonderful—“a good thing”—and wise husbands-to-be will diligently search for such a woman before getting married. Special favor from God is just one benefit that comes from marrying a woman of great character.
Wives, strive to be special in every way that you possibly can. Husbands, strive to be worthy of such a woman. You may discover that God has sent you one.
The couple that works at their marriage will find that their marriage works!—and far better than they had ever dreamed!
On your wedding day, you promised—probably vowed!—before God to spend the rest of your life married to the same person. Do not let this commitment wane or blur in your mind. It was “for better or for worse.” It is easy for a couple to remain committed when times are “better,” but not so easy during a “worse” phase. A close relationship with God, based on a deep recognition that He knows how to produce all the best and most wonderful things in both marriage and life, has no substitute. No matter what difficulty your marriage is facing, bring God into it. He has all the true and lasting solutions.
Commitment is the bedrock foundation of every strong marriage. Remember, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The rewards that flow from dedication to your wedding vows will bring joy beyond words.
Happiness depends far more on what you do than on what your mate or anyone else does. No matter the current state of your marriage, you can improve it. Take responsibility. You can grow—and it can get better. Remember, GOD instituted the marriage covenant—and the principles governing its success. Without them, real happiness is impossible! With them, you can experience a boundless joy you have never known!
The Restored Church of God, the publisher of this magazine, offers more helpful material—and truth—ALL FREE!—on marriage and the family than any other church on Earth. And this would have to be the case with wherever is the one Church that Jesus Christ built.
The place to start is our essential booklet You Can Build a Happy Marriage, we also have material regarding keys to childrearing, proper dating and courtship, the God-ordained purpose of sex, the family unit—and divorce and remarriage. Also examine our extraordinary magazine for teenagers, and another for families, plus seven Bible story books—and lessons in seven levels—ALL vital for teaching the truth of God’s Word to children and teenagers of all ages.
The family is under assault as never before. Take time to explore the vast cornucopia of truth we have available on every conceivable question you could ask about these subjects—but also many, many others. You will be so very glad that you did.