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How many truly happy married couples do you know?—and are you even sure of these? Is your marriage happy? Are you enjoying the life you anticipated? Statistics suggest the answer is probably “No.”
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 off one marital problem into another, never knowing how to address them—let alone solve them!
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 that only foolish people enter. Many equate marriage to surrendering their “freedom” to a lesser, unhappy state of existence.
Others choose to marry, sincerely believing they will find perfect bliss—they 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 life.
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. Many couples spend far more time planning for a one-day wedding than for the lifelong marriage that should follow it. As a result, over 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 mate? Why do over 80 percent of marriages experience adultery? Why such rampant confusion about marriage and its purpose?
What has brought the once sacred institution of marriage to such a deplorable state of affairs?
This is no accident. The fact that marriage has been the subject of endless jokes is only the beginning of the story.
Consider how marriage is routinely portrayed in the media. Reflect on the many television programs that countless millions of people have been watching for decades. Gone are Ozzie and Harriet (the Nelsons), Leave it to Beaver (the Cleavers), The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie and similar more wholesome pictures of families from the 50s, 60s and early 70s. In their place came All in the Family (Archie Bunker), Roseanne, The Simpsons, The Osbournes, Friends, Will and Grace, Everybody Loves Raymond, Married With Children, That 70s Show and others too numerous to mention.
Books and movies have also extended and worsened this decline in every way. Fornication, cohabitation without marriage, adultery, homosexuality and every other conceivable “alternative lifestyle,” now including same-sex “marriage,” have been depicted thousands and thousands of times in the media. Invariably, such programs, movies and books have described rampant immorality as exciting, fascinating, mysterious—and the virtual “norm” for what is now the great majority.
Their impact on marriage has been stunning. Marriage has become a laughingstock. Wholesome images of marriages, families and role models of the past have almost disappeared. Sadly, many millions have copied the 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—all over the world. 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 basic character has come an unwillingness to remain committed to vows exchanged on the wedding day. With the near disappearance of ethics, standards, fundamental reality 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!
Why do so few understand that there are great principles—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 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 to these questions are revealed knowledge—knowledge that 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 blind, dumb luck, dismiss the biblical account that God supernaturally created two literal people, Adam and Eve, and then identified them as history’s first married couple.
Of course, those who believe the unproven 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 that God exists or that the Bible is His inspired Word. We have numerous booklets that address these subjects. Therefore, we start with the fact that the Almighty God, who 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, created by God. As the true Author of marriage, God understands what makes it succeed, bringing supreme happiness and joy—or fail, ending in 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, yielding happiness, it is because right causes have been understood and practiced. When a marriage is filled with problems of every sort, causing great unhappiness, right causes have been either unknown or ignored.
The Creator God designed marriage to be a source of great happiness, something every couple yearns for. You can have an exciting, happy, successful marriage, but only if you follow God’s prescribed formula—the causes—for producing a happy marriage.
The first biblical reference to marriage is in Genesis 2. It describes Adam and Eve being brought together by God, forming the first marital union of a man and a woman in history. The account begins in verse 18.
Notice: “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [Hebrew: “fit or suitable”] for him.”
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—designed—to need an assistant, a help, another person to stand beside them. Of course, the woman is also aided by the man in a variety of ways.
Studies show that the average person becomes happier after marriage. This increase has actually been measured, with these studies showing that, no matter the person’s prior level of happiness, it receives at least a small boost.
Verses 19 and 20 describe Adam looking at all the animals God had created and finding none suitable for him. So, in verse 21, God put him to sleep, took a rib from his side, closed it up and created the woman: “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made [Hebrew: “builded”] He a woman, and brought her unto the man” (vs. 22).
Now notice verse 23. Adam realized that 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.”
Here is God’s first recorded instruction about the marriage institution. Next, He tells Adam and Eve what to do, once married: “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 reference to “and they shall be one flesh,” is a picture of sexual relations within marriage. The verse is explaining where sexual relations belong—within marriage!
This account establishes marriage as God-ordained! This institution was created, designed, and presented to the first human couple—Adam and Eve—as the way God intended the two sexes to live together.
Now notice this passage in Ecclesiastes. Solomon, the wisest man of all time, describes why the joining of two people is better than one alone: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor” (4:9).
Verse 10 continues to explain the advantages of being married: “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.” Now notice verse 11: “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?”
Verse 12 adds, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Notice the phrase “and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” 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 further strengthens the marriage, makes the rope stronger, binds the family, making it harder for a couple to break up. God explains that producing a family is central to marriage. Adam and Eve had been told, “be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:28).
The most important New Testament passage about marriage and the specific role of husbands and wives is Ephesians 5:22-33. This passage describes the most fundamental understanding each partner must bring to the marriage.
Beginning in verse 25, God describes, through Paul, instruction to the husband: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” This emphasizes the importance of husbands showing a 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 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, tolerates and works with His wife-to-be.
The next several verses describe how Christ works with the Church—how a husband should treat his wife. This example culminates in verses 28-29 with this instruction: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church.”
These are powerful words, especially the end of verse 29. They show an undying, never-ending, outgoing concern for the wife on the part of the husband. He is to love her as much as he loves himself. That is a tall order, but it is a reflection of the fact that the first woman (as a type of all women) literally came from a man—from his flesh.
Verses 30-31 speak directly of Genesis 2. Here, Paul explains that his instruction about marriage derives directly from the passage we have already read. The New Testament supports the Old. Notice: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”
Now read verse 33. It summarizes the husband’s role and introduces the most important aspect of the wife’s role, what she must understand in the marriage: “Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence [respect] her husband.”
What about wives? What is the most important aspect—responsibility—that God requires her to perform in marriage? Let’s now read the most crucial obligation for wives. Few married couples understand this great point.
Notice verse 22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Society has completely reversed, even denigrated, what we are reading from the pages of the Bible. Yet, this is what God, as the Author of marriage and what makes it work, requires of the woman.
Most women are taught today that they are equal in authority to their husband. 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. This verse is plain.
The typical marriage counselor scorns this principle, seeing it as archaic, out-of-date, out-of-step. Very 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!
Some years ago, I performed a wedding where almost none of the audience was familiar with Ephesians 5. During the ceremony, as this and related scriptures were read, the wife vowed to submit herself—be subject—to her husband. We heard snickering from a number of the more “sophisticated” women in the audience. Afterwards, several approached the bride, kidding her and asking her if she “really meant it” or if it was “just for the ceremony?”
Virtually all were hoping that she did not really mean what she said—that it was mere formality. A couple of the women actually approached me about how “novel” and “sweet” it was that some women could still think this way. Of course, the implication in their voices was that it would certainly never be this way in their marriages.
What was most astonishing was perhaps not that these women disagreed with wives submitting to their husbands, but rather that they viewed the exchange of solemn vows to God’s command as little more than a formality—a statement made for show!
No wonder so many marriages do not last even five years. While all couples want to be happy, almost none follow God’s formula for achieving it. Then they wonder why they are miserable!
Now notice the next two verses in Ephesians 5: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (vs. 23-24).
This passage is also most clear. Not only is the husband the head of the wife—her leader—but, as with how the husband loves his wife, this also parallels the way Christ heads the Church. Certainly, the Church is not equal in authority with Christ. All who believe this verse must recognize that the woman is under her husband’s authority.
God leaves no doubt that the husband is the leader—pacesetter—in the home. His example must stand out as a leader—not just as one who is “in charge,” throwing his weight around, saying, “I’m the boss!” Remember, he is to love his wife. His leadership, as head of the home, must reflect God’s love. But the woman must submit herself to him. No man can lead a woman who will not yield to his authority.
Remember, verse 24 revealed that the woman is subject unto her own husband “as the church is subject unto Christ.” This leaves no room for both partners being in charge.
Try telling the owner or CEO of a company that his employees should have an equal say in decisions—or a President or Prime Minister that the citizenry should be able to overrule his government—or a football coach that his players should be able to take over the team whenever they see fit.
In every organization, institution, company, football team, nation, military branch or other entity, someone has to ultimately be in charge. The governments and organizations of this world all recognize this. No one would consider joining a football team where all the players were equal with the coach. That would bring chaos—and probably every game would end in defeat.
Why, then, cannot millions of people recognize that marriage is no different—that the most basic unit of all societies, the family, must have a final decision-maker? Someone must be in charge! As children appear in the family, they must know who is the leader and who is the assistant. In Genesis, God had said that the woman was the “help” to the man—she was his assistant, and was made “suitable” for him as an assistant.
Understand that this overall pattern for marriage must be accepted as God’s blueprint—the fundamental starting point for a marriage to have any hope of success. Again, the marriage “experts” and even the ministers of this world disagree. The terrible fruits of their instruction, that men and women are equals—both in charge—prove they do not know what they are talking about! Because most do not examine God’s Word to see this pattern explained, divorce is exploding in most of the countries and cultures of the world.
What you have read lays a solid foundation in understanding how to achieve true and lasting happiness in marriage. To learn much more, read our booklet You Can Build a Happy Marriage.