Love And Commitment: The Basis Of A Stable Marriage

Posted at 15:45pm on 15th May 2009

Last week, in my Friday series on Families & Parenting, which is currently focused on stepfamilies, I pointed out that if American author Charles Swindoll equated marriage to a house, then remarriage could be said to be like a conversion. I then went on to show why love, in terms of romance, is not always enough to get you through the grey days, and suggested that commitment – an act of will rather than emotion – was the answer.

Today, I’m going to continue with an outline of what traditional marriage and commitment have to offer. This will be developed into a full analysis throughout the coming weeks as we progress through the book. Please don’t be put off if you are not a believer. The fundamentals are of value to all. What follows is a freshly edited excerpt from my stepfamilies book.

CHRISTIAN BELIEF IS that when it comes to marriage, God is the expert; that it was he who designed marriage from the outset; and that it, therefore, stands to reason that he is the only one who really knows what makes it work. And so that his plan might be understood, he left a specification: the Bible. Irrespective of faith or creed, human experience has shown this to be a good basis to work from, and it is widely accepted by such eminent psychiatrists and authors as James Dobson, Rob Parsons and Charles Swindoll to be a reliable means of helping couples who run into problems in their relationships.

WHAT THE ARCHITECT ORDERED: LEAVING AND CLEAVING

THE GENESIS ACCOUNT of the first-ever marriage states that, although the birds and beasts had been formed from out of the earth, that method of creation had not produced a suitable companion for Adam. A different tactic was called for. So the first woman to be formed came out of his body, rather than the ground. However, it was not Adam’s act of creation (as in childbirth) that brought her into being, but God’s. She was essentially made in the image of God – but she was also bone of Adam’s bone, flesh of his flesh.

It was for this reason, says the Bible account, that Adam, and the whole human race who have followed him, are called upon to:

  • Leave their parents, and parental influence, in order to become independent, mature adults. Because only then can they truly . . .
  • Cleave (adhere to, or make a commitment) to a wife.

This is what is meant by the blueprint for marriage. To make our relationships work, it makes sense to take the following points on board:

  • Acknowledge that sexual attraction and romance on their own just aren’t enough.
  • Love one another at a deeper level than merely an emotional or physical level.
  • Accept (what every divorcee knows in some measure or other) that marriage truly makes us one flesh with our partner, and that however ‘bad’ the marriage, divorce tears us in two, and is a painful option.
  • Determine (by an act of the Will rather than allowing the Emotions to dictate our behaviour) to work the thing through. This is what is meant by making a commitment to stick together - no matter what.
  • Understand that commitment is the true nature of love and transcends feelings. This means that when we don’t feel loving, we can acknowledge our emotional condition (anger, resentment, frustration) and, because of our commitment, be willing to change.
  • Believe that only in commitment can we find security.
  • Know that the security that comes from that kind of love is the only thing that gives us freedom.
  • Benefit from the freedom to explore the skills and techniques of learning how to handle conflict - together.
  • Enjoy the freedom of being able to be ourselves; not having to wear masks or pretend to be some celluloid Hollywood ‘super star’.
  • Relax in the freedom of knowing that commitment continues long after beauty, youth and intellect are impaired and cease.

This, whatever our faith, is the best blueprint. The one that will ultimately see us through. It may be hard work, but the ‘pay-off’ is good and positive. And for those who want it, for those of who have laboured through first marriages only to have them break us, there is an invitation: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, says Jesus. That, surely, has to be good news?

But misreading the small print may not be the only mistake we’ve made. Next week we’ll look at why two halves don’t make a whole.

ALL PROCEEDS FROM MEL'S LATEST NOVEL, A Painful Post Mortem, ARE FOR CHARITIES BENEFITING CHILDREN WORLDWIDE. PLEASE BUY A COPY AND HELP PROJECTS LIKE THIS OVERSEAS OR THIS IN UK

Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

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